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Ayogu strived and strived

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Two questions one must do well to always ask oneself are: when this is over, what do I live with?, and, when this is over, what do I leave behind?

You may wish to render the first question as: when this is over, what do I leave with?

One is not likely going to go wrong if these questions and their variants constantly occupy one’s mind at all times .

My friend and boss, the just buried Senator Ayogu Eze lived and died with those questions ever present in his subconscious.
He strived and strived at those questions and at each station, where it ended, there were always somethings he left to live by and there were always somethings he left behind.

We first met as young men at The Guardian newspapers in 1985. I’d just joined the Art Desk straight from the Graduate School at Ife. He had joined a couple of years earlier , at inception of that great tabloid from the prestigious Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu. I was 24. And he was 27 .

Our friendship was subtle and understated . If you didn’t look well, you wouldn’t see it. And it remained so till his surprising and unexpected passing last month. He didn’t talk much, and I wasn’t the chatterbox that I am today.
There was, however, a mutual recognition and respect of each other’s capabilities and boundaries.

Ayogu was stoical; almost taciturn. You couldn’t read his intensity for the placidity of his visage. But oh yes, he was purpose driven and intentional in all he did. He would surprise you with an act of unexpected kindness one moment. And would not answer the door to welcome you another.

If you didn’t know Ayogu well, you are bound to be surprised that some praise his large heartedness and kindness, on the one hand, and on another, be taken aback that anybody could ever do him wrong!

And, oh, was he done wrong in some of his quests for happiness and attainment in life? Oh yes he was. Betrayed time and again by those who must do the will of their fathers as he did the will of his . Yet he was full of grace and elat.

I do not recall, now, which one of us preceeded the other to the Newswatch stable from The Guardian. But we parted ways and didn’t meet again till he was 50. And I was 47.

I had just returned to the country from a long period of family duties induced exile in Europe and America. In turn, within that period, Ayogu too, had left for further studies to Germany, graduated with distinction in Journalism, returned to the country and was a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

I got his number a day after I got back to this country and called him. He picked at first ring. I announced my name. His response was a low decibelled scream of my name and a question “…where have you been? Everyone has been asking and wondering what happened to you”.

I said I just came back to the country a day before and had no intention of going back to Europe as my tour of duty there was done.
He asked where I was. Abuja, I answered.
He said I should see him, in his office, at the National Assembly the next day.
It was a Thursday. I met him in his office Friday afternoon. It wasn’t a sitting day. He had no business being there that day except to see me.

First question he asked was after my son, Ururma. You see, when I had him in 1990, Ayogu was the first and only colleague from both The Guardian and Newswatch stables to come to the remote block of flats Kelechi Onyemaobi and I lived in, in remote Idimu, to visit.

After admonishing me for having been away for too long, he informed me that he had “a small” opening in his office which had just become vacant and that I could have it if I wanted. Oh yes, and of course, I wanted it .

Ifeanyi Ossai, the current Deputy Governor of Enugu State, where Ayogu hailed from, was his Senior Legislative Aide. He had just left that position for other endeavours.

I became Ayogu’s second Senior Legislative Aide. He was then the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information.
We ran that course until the end of his first tenure in 2011.

We would not see again, until this year, 2024. He was 65, and I was 62.

It was at the traditional marriage of his daughter to the grandson of Colonel Anthony Ochefu, the first military governor of the then East Central State. Not one for occasions and ceremonies, I knew I must attend that marriage ceremony.
Ayogu sent me multiple invitations and reminders.

In my mind, it was as if he was insisting.
And I am glad I did attend that function.
For I saw him, again, after 13 years. He didn’t recognise me when he came in. I didn’t blame him because while he remained as slim as we were when we were younger, I occupy about three people’s spaces now in group photographs. So I walked up to him. Tapped him on the shoulder and said, as he turned, “sir, this is Dili”. I think the video of that day may show the surprise and genuine happiness that effused!

How could I have known that just weeks after, a call from Goodness Mbah, his then Secretary at the National Assembly, would tearfully announce to me that “our boss is dead”.

Our boss was buried recently. But he is not really dead. For when it was time for him to leave, he left this world in a better circumstance than he came into it in Enugu Ezike 65 years ago. And when he left, he made his world much better than he found it for his children, family and community.

Dr. Ezughah is the Executive Secretary/CEO Nigerian Press Council.

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