… Chukwu, Ohii Others Pour Tributes
THE remains of The Guardian’s Acting News Editor and Assistant Health Editor, Ben Chuks Ukwuoma, were yesterday laid to rest at his home, off Uratta/ MCC Road, Ebikoro Umuoba, Owerri North Local Government Council of Imo State, amidst tears.
The late Ukwuoma died on February 20, this year after a brief illness at the age of 49. A commendation service had been held in his honour at St. Titus Anglican Church, Uratta, in the same council.
Vicar and Archdeacon of Uratta North Archdeaconry of the Anglican Church, Venerable James Onyekwelibe, in his sermon, said the late Ukwuoma served The Guardian Newspapers diligently as manifested by the torrent of tributes, adding that God cannot be questioned over his untimely passage.
Quoting from John13, Revelation 20 : 13, he noted that death was a necessary end for every mortal, stressing that the most important thing was how everyone lived his or her life on Earth.
Onyekwelibe stressed that every activity of any human being was being recorded in heaven. Judgment, he said, is what everyone must face.
Speaking, the leader of The Guardian delegation to the burial and the Deputy Editor of The Guardian (Daily), Mr. Jewell Dafinone, said it was a pity that Ukwuoma, an “exceptional gentleman” cherished by many, died so soon, having served in The Guardian for 24 years.
He added: “He was a special character. We will miss him. We wished he never passed away. The Guardian shares the loss and pains with the family.”
In the same vein, the Acting Editor of The Guardian (Saturday), Mr. Felix Abugu, who fought to keep back the tears, but failed, while making his speech, stressed that himself, late Ukwuoma and former Features Editor of The Guardian, Mr. Collins Obibi, were very close.
He recalled how the diseased lost his wife about 10 years ago and would not remarry despite pressure from him.
“He was like light. He brought light and had a good heart. Ben was a good friend,” he stated. He also noted that his departed colleague maintained throughout his life a sound relationship with his in-laws.
He stressed the need to take care of Ukwuoma’s only 12-year-old son, Chima, and his aged mother.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, in his tribute at the graveside, recalled the cordial relationship between Ukwuoma and himself, which gave the deceased unhindered access to him.
The minister, represented by the Special Assistant (Communications) to the minister, Rakiya B. Zubairu, said the deceased was “greatly admired,” adding that the loss was a great one.
Onyebuchi, while condoling with the family and The Guardian, said the late Ukwuoma had a large “measure of love and respect.”
He also gave a message to little Master Chima Ukwuoma and the aged mother.
The Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Dr. Paul Orhii, represented by a Deputy Director, Public Relations Unit and Protocol, Alhaji Abubakar Jimoh, noted that the demise of the deceased had created a “vacuum, which is very difficult to fill.”
Orhii said the agency would maintain the spirit of solidarity, adding that his concern was on the welfare of the people the departed left behind.
He said: “For his memory to remain memorable, let us remember Chima and Mama.”
The President of Health Writers Association of Nigeria (HEWAN), Azoma Chikwe, raised hopes as he announced the decision of the body, to which late Ukwuoma belonged, to set up Ben Ukwuoma Memorial Lecture to be observed annually and Ben Ukwuoma Trust Fund in which members of the family will be involved.
According to Chikwe, the proceeds from the fund will be used to cater for Chima’s education to university level, adding that Board of Trustees (BOT) members and signatories to the account would be constituted to include those in private and public sectors.
Ukwuoma had both Bachelors degree and Masters in Biochemistry and was about concluding his doctoral work in the same field at the University of Lagos.