By Daruwana Daku and Vivian Ononiwu
It was a day of grief and eulogies on Friday, November 3, 2023, at Madonna Asumpta Catholic Church, Agulu in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State as the remains of Chief Emmanuel Ukoh, JP, were finally laid to rest.
The funeral which gathered friends, family members, politicians, businessmen and women; all whom are connected to the deceased, began with an Episcopal Mass that was presided over by the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor.
During his homily, the bishop reminisced on the good times of Chief Ukoh, even as he pointed out the need for living a good life, which, according to him, was exemplary in the life and times of the late Chief Ukoh.
The Catholic prelate also anchored his teachings on the need for praying for the dead so as to aid those in purgatory to receive eternal life. Bishop Ezeokafor added that the significance of the month of November was centered on all souls not living, which, according to him, was a moment for special prayers for the souls in purgatory. He also added that the soul of Chief Ukoh needed the prayers of everyone present.
The deceased who was a political ally to the former governor of Anambra state and the presidential aspirant of the Labour Party in the just concluded presidential election, Mr Peter Obi, was also respected even in death by Mr Obi as he honoured him with his presence at the funeral.
Speaking with Fides Media, Mr Obi attested to the goodness of Chief Emmanuel, who, according to him, lived for the community during his life time. He added that the sacrifices and goodwill he had for his people encouraged many to be present at his funeral. Mr Obi also prayed for God to grant the deceased enteral rest.
The Parish Priest of the Immaculate Heart Parish, Neni, who is also an uncle to Chief Ukoh, Rev. Fr Ignatius Ukoh, while speaking with Fides, described Chief Ukoh as kind hearted noting that he would be greatly missed as leader of the family.
The first offspring of Chief Ukoh, Ifunaya Ukoh, who spoke with Fides, highlighted the father’s contribution to the growth of the Church, both at Madonna Asumpta Parish and Nkitaku, his village. She also noted that her late father’s contribution to the Church was evidenced by the presence of the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, priests, and religious, that attended the funeral Mass. The first son, Chief Emmanuel Ukoh described his father as a man of integrity and honesty who is God-fearing and loving; and one who would be highly missed by the family and community.
In the same vein, Hon. Kene CSP Ezejelue, former Deputy Chairman of Anaocha Local Government Council and who is part of the family described the deceased as a father and a man of compassion and as the person who assisted him to become who he is.
Fides gathered that Chief Emmauel Ikemefuna Ukoh was born in 1947 to the family of Lawrence Ifenayo Ukoh in Agulu. Chief Ukoh attended St. Mary’s Practicing School and St. Patrick’s Primary School in Agulu where he obtained his First School Leaving Certificate.
The early demise of his father halted his education at the primary school level. However, due to his doggedness and ambition to succeed, Chief Ukoh veered into business, first as an apprentice in a motor mechanic shop where he served his master diligently and honestly. This gave him an edge and as such elevated him into becoming a loved apprentice. He practiced the art of sales in the motor spare parts by owning an established business known as Emma Ukoh (Nig) Enterprise. The business enterprise majors in transport, haulage spare parts and real estate. Chief Ukoh is a popular name at Toyota and Volvo Spare Parts. He rose in his business and lived to become the chairman of the new Auto Spare Parts Market, Nkpor in the 80s.
He was also a community mobilizer, negotiator and pace setter and held series of leadership roles, both in his native land and in the diaspora where he showed leadership dexterity. He also showed interest in contributing to the growth of the Church. His contributions to the building and growth of Madonna Asumpta Parish, his home parish; and Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Omagba in Onitsha, were evidence of his good contributions to the church. Chief Ukoh was also involved in politics where he played a vital role in the formation of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA.
This was even as he aided the emergence of Peter Obi as Anambra Governor in 2007 through his grassroots mobilization at word 10, Omagba, Onitsha North Local Government Area of the state. His contributions to his party had him chair APGA at ward level and later became a party executive at the local government level. Known for his integrity and aversion to injustice, Chief Ukoh was a model to all who sought the path of truth, faith, community engagement and business.
Chief Ukoh died at the age of 76 and until his death, was happily married to Chief Mrs. Gladys Ukoh (Social Umuagbala) and was blessed with 7 children – four males and three females, who included: Lady Ifunaya Ukoh – Adah Harmony (first daughter); Chief Emmanuel Ukoh, Nnanyelugo (first son); Chief Celestine Ebube Ukoh (Mmiri N’Ezoluoha) and Chief Onyedika Frank Ukoh (Ochiri Ozuo). Others are: Mrs. Chioma Chiedu (Nee: Ukoh); Mrs. Chisom Okafor (Nee: Ukoh) and Mr. Uchenna Ukoh.
The funeral and condolences were also graced by the Senator representing Anambra Central in the National Assembly, Sen. Victor Umeh, as well as the member representing Anaocha Constituency I at the Anambra State House of Assembly, Hon. Nkechi Ogbuefi, among other politicians.
As Pa Ukoh’s remains were finally laid to rest, priests and religious educators, politicians, businessmen, and women, family members, all of who gathered to pay their last respects to a man of repute as described by mourners, all testified to his kind deeds while on earth and prayed for his soul to rest in paradise.