| By Osita Idemili |
A CHILD IS BORN
Chief Pius Udeka Idemili was born on April 26th, 1934 into the family of Chief Nnaedu Idemili and Madam Enebechi (Enechi) Idemili of Umuoli Village, Umuoji, Idemili North Local Govemment Area of Anambra State.
He was born on Afor Market day hence his first name was “Nwafor” Idemili. He was the last child of six children; one female and five males. His father Chief Nnaedu was a successful farmer and community leader while his mother Enechi was the village Midwife and women leader.
God Almighty works in mysterious ways performing His wonders. Nobody knew that Nwafor was destined to bring light through education to many families. This child was to shape the lives of many young people in Umuoji and beyond, particularly in Western Nigeria.
We are told that his mother Enechi did not realize early that she was pregnant as she had passed the child bearing age more so when her last child, Nwoye was nine years old. Nwafor was loved by his parents and siblings especially his most senior brother Late Mr Clement Maduawana Idemili.
At an early age, he started his school career at Our Lady’s Primary School, Abidi Village, Umuoji where he was baptized and named Pius after Pope Pius XI whose Papacy began in 1922 and ended 1939, when he died.
At the end of his Primary education, he gained admission to the prestigious Christ the King College, C.K.C, Onitsha. At CKC he excelled in both academics and sports, representing his school in boxing and football.
While in class four, death took away his mentor and most senior brother, Mr Clement M, Idemili, who was responsible for his education. By sheer determination and his never say die ‘Spirit, he managed to complete his secondary school education at CKC successfully passing the school certificate.
BRIEF STINT AT UNITED AFRICAN COMPANY, UAC, PORTHARCOURT
On completion of his college education, he got a job as an Accounts Clerk in UAC, Port Harcourt. After a brief training, he quickly settled down to his job and became very proficient, discharging all assignments ahead of time.
JOURNEY TO AKURE AND THE ROAD TO BECOMING A TEACHER
Young Pius was ambitious and wanted more, so when he saw an advert in one of the Newspapers asking dynamic young persons with school certificate to apply for vacant teaching position at a certain St Thomas Aquinas College, (ACA), Akure. He applied and was invited for an interview. He hurriedly applied for permission from his immediate boss and travelled to Akure.
At ACA, he met Rev Fr Oshea, the Principal who interviewed and employed him. So he began his teaching career that spanned over three decades in Western region.
Early 1960, Armed with his School certificate, he became one of the first black teachers in Aquinas College Akure, one of the best colleges in Western Nigeria.
Pius did not rest on his oars; he began to study for his Advanced Level (A ‘Level) certificate while teaching. He cleared his A level at first attempt; Rev Fr Oshea was so impressed with Pius that he encouraged him to further his education. In 1962 Pius gained admission by direct entry to study for the Bachelor of Education (B.ED) in the first indigenous University in the country, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, V.N.N., barely two years after arriving Akure.
By sheer determination, yet again, hard work, personal sacrifices and part sponsorship by Rev Fr Oshea, Pius Idemili graduated in 1965 with B.ED honors in English Education.
Naturally, he kept faith with Rev Fr Oshea and came back to Aquinas to continue his teaching career now as a fully qualified Professional Teacher. As a young teacher, he developed close friendship with a number of Nigerians in Akure. Some that come to mind are: Mr and Mrs Emmanuel Onuh, of Top Health Chemist, Chief Dike of Eziowele, Dandy Photos of Obosi, Dr Sijuade his doctor all through his stay in Akure and Miss Elizabeth Belonwu, etc.
His residence was home to so many students especially those from the mid-East and Western regions. By 1966, his nephew Osita Fidelis Idemili joined him atACA. This was the beginning of influx of students from the East to Aquinas College.
THE NIGERIAN CRISIS, 1967 – 1970
In January 1966, the Nigerian crisis took a different dimension following the January 1966 coup and July 1966 counter coup.
By 1967, he had to move back to the East where he continued his teaching career at Agu-Obu boys High School, Agu-Obu Owa, Enugu State. He worked with a great educationist Chief P.N Chukwurah of Abatete. The Country was now at war with itself following the secession of Eastern Nigeria.
When the Federal troops overran Enugu and adjoining towns and villages, Pius moved home to Umuoji. He became involved with organization and mobilization of his people of Umuoli village to face the fresh challenges posed by the war. He served as the Executive Secretary of Umuoli Community using his administrative experience to maintain peace in the Community. He was also involved with distribution of relief materials to refugees, sick and vulnerable persons. He worked with CARITAS, a Catholic Church organization, providing and distributing relief materials in Biafra. His kitchen jointly managed by Late Madam Ann Onyedika was adjudged the best in the entire area.
Pius and Madam Onyedika ensured that meals, milk and other relief materials were equitably distributed as instructed by the Catholic Church. Their effort brought succor to so many families securing their lives from starvation during the war. Pius protected his family throughout the war. I recall the grief he displayed when Egyptian pilots flying a Nigerian MIG fighter Plane bombed the market at Uke (a nearby town), one early morning in 1968 and 9 years old Stephen, one of his nephews was hit by shrapnel. He carried Stephen to the nearest hospital some fifteen kilometers away at Oraukwu where doctors battled in vain to save the boy’s life. I saw the pain and anguish in his face. Pius loved his family so much, doing all within his powers to protect everyone.
I also recall another occasion when he set out looking for me, following my deceitful conscription into the Biafran army as a child soldier. When I escaped and came home he felt a deep sense of relief and gratitude to God. God used him to ensure that our family suffered minimal casualty during the civil war. So many children suffering from malnutrition and kwashiorkor had their health restored by this man.
At the end of the war in 1970, Pius moved back to ACA, Akure, with some students (Ossy & Clement Idemili, Ebele & Austin Erojikwe, Nnamdi Okoye, Silas, Anthonia and Dorathy Moughalu, etc). He had so many children at Aquinas College, some are not mentioned here. They were all referred to, by other students as Awon omo Idemili, (the Idemili children). Under his mentorship and guidance most, if not all, have turned out as great Professionals. Pius was a very committed and dedicated teacher whose passion for impacting knowledge was unparalled. He showed total devotion to his students at ACA. He woke up early before his students; made sure they woke up at the right time and made it in good time for morning Mass. He taught in the day, supervised their prep during the day, and at night, ensured that they retired at the right time in their dormitories.
He was a very good and active sports teacher. For instance, when he was made the Hall master of St John’s Hall, he turned the fortunes of the hall in sports in ACA during this time. He was one of those teachers that made sure Aquinas remained a dominant force in sport (athletics, football, etc) and in academics in the Western region. In 1975, Pius was promoted to the status of Principal and transferred to Okeagbe Secondary School, Okeagbe. He did so well there and was promoted to a Grade A principal and then, transferred to St Patrick’s College Iwaro OkaAkoko division of On do State.
He was a great Principal who took this College to a greater height mentoring so many students, some of whom are here to pay their last respects to him. At St Patrick, he took with him another set of young Umuojians-Emma Idemili, John Aghanu, and Silas Moughalu. Sylvester Idemili later joined the “Idemili Children”. From here, he was sent to Igede Ekiti and, finally to St Ambrose Secondary School, Ondo where he retired in 1986.
CHIEF Pius Udeka Nwafor Idemili was a man who loved his extended family. They came first in all that he did. He believed that poverty can only be banished through education. He was a man who felt challenged by the poverty in his extended family. His most senior brother, Mr Clement Idemili and his wife Mrs Kate Ifeoma Idemili taught him early in life in Port Harcourt to carry everyone along. He saw his brother and mentor carry all his siblings under his wings and was devastated when his mentor Clement Idemili died leaving dehind his wife and children and himself in class four at Christ the king College, CKC Onitsha.
He set a goal for himself to take care of his nephews and the ldemili family as a whole. To succeed in this difficult task, he relegated marriage to the background and pursued this self-given assignment with God, selflessness and dogged determination. You could then imagine his joy when in 1979, his nephew Ostia (Ossy baba) graduated as a Pharmacist from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
He rejoiced with gratitude to God, that he was no longer alone in empowering his family. It was a great day of happy celebration at Nsukka in the home of the Erojikwes that 17th December, 1979. Ebele Erojikwe (Nee Onyedika, Aka Lilly Sweet) also bagged an honors degree in Education. You needed to have seen dance moves of late Lady Victoria Chigbo (Sister Vicky) and Uncle Pius.
The graduation of Osita, marked a turning point in the history of the family. Pius would now give a listening ear when you raised the issue of marriage. He was confident that Pharm. Osita would carry the task of bringing up the family to a logical conclusion, History will judge whether Osita succeeded or not.
In 1981, he met and married his beloved wife Florence Ifeyinwa Aghanwa. Together God blessed them with four beautiful children — Chimdinma, Kenechukwu, Chukwubuike and Chinedu. As a father, he dotted over his children, teaching them to fear and respect God.
Pius was a thorough bred Catholic. As a bachelor, he devoted his time to God and his work. He lived a simple life devoid of ostentation and extravagance. He loved God and loved the church, loved his family (extended inclusive) and loved humanity. He also loved his work, teaching, so much that several years after retirement, he joined the De La Salle Brothers in Ondo assisting them in both teaching and administration.
He was a very upright man and a strong member of many religious societies, such as the Catholic Charismatic Movement in Ondo, His Church, St Joseph Catholic Church recognized his contributions and rewarded him with a Merit award of Father of Faith. He was a man who served God in all aspects and ramifications.
Pius was a man who equally believed that the good aspect of our tradition and culture should be encouraged. In 1971, he took the prestigious Ozo title in his home town, Umuoji with the title, EZEKWESILI. He also sponsored the Ozo title for his then only surviving brother Omenyi and his nephews.
In conclusion, here was a Teacher who was:
– Selfless; lived for others
– Kind to a fault
– A great disciplinarian
– A Teacher Par Excellence; ONYENKUZI DI NGHO MI (Teacher worthy of emulation), Teasha Waa
– A Rare Breed
– My HERO
Ezekwesili, we celebrate you by remembering the words of Jim Collins: “A culture of Discipline is not a principle of Business. It is a principle of Greatness”. You were indeed a GREAT MAN!
He is survived by his immediate loving family:
Mrs Florence Ifeyinwa Idemili, Wife
Mrs Chinma Chukwuanu (Nee Idemili), Daughter
Mr Kenechukwu Francis Idemili, Son
Mr Chukwubuike Cyprian Idemili, Son
Mr Chinedu Gregory Idemili, Son
And also by his very affectionate extended family and a host of other family members and friends.
You will always live in our hearts.
— Feb 15, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT