The impactful life of a personage warmly wrapped in the grandeur of quiet service to others and community, is often not given the complete evaluation deserved at the time they bid their world farewell.

The Natural Dignity Of A Heart Of Service – A Tribute To Asagba Prof Chike Edozien

4 weeks ago
3 mins read

The impactful life of a personage warmly wrapped in the grandeur of quiet service to others and community, is often not given the complete evaluation deserved at the time they bid their world farewell. This is sometimes because of the degrading noise of the weak, who mistake chicanery for strength, and who grab for power as an end in itself and invariably leave a trail of social misery and broken lives as monuments to their ambition. The latter often ends up as sad footnotes to history when they are remembered at all but the former are caressed by immortality in the hearts of men.

As the world says travel well to the ages to the Asagba of Asaba, Obi Professor Chike Edozien, we are comforted that the nobility of his dignified service ranks him among the former and that good fortune caused our paths to cross.

It used to be one of the more fulfilling tracks of my travels to stop by the Asagba’s palace in Asaba and visit the Royal father to banter on matters light and those sometimes heavy but always to play sponge and absorb wisdom from his recalls of experience, counsel, and despatch to errands for the community.

In the last five years, those visits dwindled because my causes have doubled and my paths scattered to directions further from the homestead.

When a little over a year ago, as the campaigns for the 2023 elections brought me calling with a candidate, the Asagba nicely told me he missed our chats.

I promised that the vectors of my pursuits were pointed back home as retirement beckoned and that my time to be spent more around ancestral hunting grounds would yield more time for visits. I did not realize it would be my last visit to him.

In the days of those earlier visits, I learnt plenty about good judgment and duty. A sampling may further illustrate the point.

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When many years back it was the turn of the Anioma people to produce a President General for Ohanaeze he challenged me to show the way. He had been approached for anointing to pursue the position by a great good friend of mine. What did I think of the request?

In his presence, I called that friend. I pointedly asked the friend who he would consider more fit for the position, himself or myself. The pleasant response was that the cap would fit me better. I then told the gentleman that I did not think myself appropriate for the position and so he should see himself as further removed from being fit. My friend conceded.

The Asagba watched in amazement. I then offered to draw up criteria for fitness and return to him for his blessing of the process.

The criteria I drew up included Inclusion, character, past accomplishments, sobriety in the face of crisis, and growing a sense of belonging among dialect groups on the margins of geography and tongue.

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I then began to visit those on my short list none of who had indicated interest. They did not realize they were being interviewed and then headhunted for a job they did not apply for.

I in the end closed in on Chief Ralph Uwechue who I persuaded to accept to be our mantle bearer.

Following quite an effort I reported back the end result to the Asagba who flew to Lagos to host an Anioma elite meeting at which I reported on my assignment. There was consensus.

Ambassador Uwechue would ascend by the most rancor-free election of a PG of Ohaneze Ndigbo in the history of the body.

But I enjoyed the Asagba’s company chatting on matters far less weighty. One such gisting went into the realm of discovery in science.

Prof Edozien was probably the second professor of Medicine appointed at the University of Ibadan. He joked about how many of the students back then were admitted as twenty-something-year-olds who according to the science had reached the height peak. They however noticed growth spurts in these medical students that technically should not be adding inches to their height. They then realized that exposed to better nutrition than was available in the villages the young men began to move up not only in social standing but in their elevation when standing. The taller men thought all lesson

Such were the variety and range of subjects we chatted about.

I am honored that his path to immortality brushed by me.

The Asagba was an example that rich thinking and quiet prodding accomplished more, much more than thunderous belching of authority.

May his journey to the resting place of his ancestors be a peaceful ride through the maze of rivers, seas, hills, and valleys where Angels are escorts.


Patrick Okedinachi Utomi is a Professor at the Lagos Business School and Founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.


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