PERHAPS my time seemed all too brief.
Don’t lengthen it with undue grief.
Lift up your heart and share with me.
God wants me now, He set me free!”
THOSE soothing philosophical words and phrases in the above quotation were conspicuously inscribed on the front cover of the funeral programme handed to me at the burial ceremony of a very bosom friend and business associate, the late Engineer (Dr.) Ralph Chuka Ike LAE, LSAET (1945-2020), popularly nicknamed ‘Tiger’, at his country home in Agbariji, Inyi, in Oji-River Local Government Area of Enugu State, on Thursday, August 20, 2020.
Frankly, that quote quickly reminds one that as mortals and human beings, two specific dates are uniquely remarkable and significant in the historical perspective of man’s earthly sojourn – the date of one’s arrival into this planet (birth) and the date of one’s exit or transition (death). Like every orthodox drug in the pharmaceutical store or other manufactured products, and indeed, virtually everything under the sun has an expiry date; so do all living things, including human beings.
Hence, as we go about joyfully and excitingly savouring the sweetness of life or gnashing teeth for the bitterness and sadness precipitated by the stark realities of the prevailing circumstances surrounding us, one needs not be reminded to keep fate and steady focus and never to lose sight of the incontrovertible fact that one day, definitely, everything will just snap and come to complete halt – when the bell tolls! That is to say, in other words, that once the creator decides to send the guardian Angel to fetch or ‘arrest’ any one on earth, according to a time-tested axiom which pontificates with strict affirmation that “…(In) God’s case, there is no appeal,” then nobody can resist or refuse to answer such divine summon or invitation. No doubt about that.
This actually sums up the kern of the Christian faith anchored on strong belief that life eternity lies ahead of all genuine adherents of the creed who live their lives in accordance with the commandments of God. And that also explains why the Holy Scripture implores us not to cry or sorrow or mourn too much like people without faith (and hope) whenever we are
bereaved. But notwithstanding the sooth biblical injunction, nobody can afford to withhold tear-drops and grief when a beloved one is suddenly snatched away by death.
So, for yours truly, this is not the best of time to be happy because of the agonizing and very painful loss of two bosom friends, who were both personal pals and allies in the pen-pushing profession. It is really devastating and sorrowful to part with people we hold dearly whether as close relatives (parents, siblings and members of one’s nuclear or extended family) or friends and acquaintances at school, office or co-tenant or distant admirable personalities, such as president, governor, senator, minister, commissioner, etc. when death suddenly snatches them away while in active service. For instance, the late President Musa Umaru Ya’Adua, the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola, together with his wife, the late Alhaja Kudirat Abiola and our own Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu (Ikemba Nnewi and ‘Eze Igbo Gburugburu’) whose lives were snuffed while their ovation was still very loud.
‘Tiger’ Ralph Ike and ‘Eagle’ Forster Igboanugo meant so many things to so many people during their lifetime, but two of them share certain things in common: both of them were seasoned and ferocious writers and frontline veteran journalist of no mean repute.
A proud holder of the title of ‘Obinakueze’ in his home town, Okija, the late Chief Forster Chukwunenyengozi Igboanugo (‘Eagle’) was the Entertainment Editor of an Enugu-based newspaper, the Outlook, owned by the late Chief Arthur Nwankwo of Fourth Dimension Publishing Company Limited fame, while the late Engr. (Dr.) Ralph Chuka Ike LAE, LSAET (‘Tiger’) was a London-trained aeronautic engineer and aviation consultant, who was also a publisher of the Knowledge Pursuit Magazine based at Nnewi industrial city of Anambra State. During the years of his stint with the Outlook as the Entertainment Editor with chauffeur-driven official ‘Peugeot 505’ and other goodies attached to the portfolio, ‘Eagle’ traversed the length and breadth of Nigeria in search of popular musical artistes and Nollywood actors and actresses whom he featured regularly in his column and entertainment page.
The late Chief Arthur Nwankwo of Fourth Dimension Publishing Company Limited fame, while the late Engr. (Dr.) Ralph Chuka Ike LAE, LSAET (‘Tiger’) was a London-trained aeronautic engineer and aviation consultant, who was also a publisher of the Knowledge Pursuit Magazine based at Nnewi industrial city of Anambra State. During the years of his stint with the Outlook as the Entertainment Editor with chauffeur-driven official ‘Peugeot 505’ and other goodies attached to the portfolio, ‘Eagle’ traversed the length and breadth of Nigeria in search of popular musical artistes and Nollywood actors and actresses whom he featured regularly in his column and entertainment page.
Until his sudden demise that fateful night of Monday, February 17, 2020, this ‘Eagle’ was anchoring the ‘OLD SCHOOL’ column for the National Light and had written series of articles highlighting the exploits of Nigeria’s super musical raves of the past generations as well as other famous personalities in the entertainment industry, combined with travelogue on various interesting tourism resorts and fun spots around the country, having widely traveled to all parts of the country in the course of plying his professional duties as an entertainment writer.
One experience that would remain indelible in my memory during the long years of my acquaintance with ‘Eagle’ professionally, was a trip to Enugu for a scheduled interview with the former Director-General of the Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mine and Agriculture (ECCIMA), Dr. Sam Nwekeke, who asked us to wait and he kept delaying us until late that night when he (DG) quietly melted away through the back door of his office around 9.15 pm. On discovery of the tricky behaviour of our host, ‘Eagle’ flared up and verbally lambasted the DG in absentia and when the reception tried to pacify him, his angst shifted to the poor lady whom he accused of ‘conniving’ with her master to ‘dribble’ us. Ironically, we could not get a vehicle back to Awka and had no option than to stay in the open trade fair arena in the chilly harmattan cold till dawn.
On retirement from active service in August, 2014, one had ample time at one’s disposal and along the line, hobnobbed with ‘Eagle’ (as a senior citizen) on more regular basis and together, we tramped the streets and major roads in Awka and neighbouring towns in the course of scouting for newsworthy materials to fill our columns in National Light with him packaging the ‘Old School’ (Life) page while yours truly anchored the ‘Rural Development’ page. That way, we conducted a number of interviews and field assignments together, but one thing quite remarkable about him was that he would neither tape record nor take notes like other journalists, but would astonishingly, end up reporting the event even more accurately than most other media colleagues who took notes during such media interviews, which always stunned and left our colleagues wondering what type of person with sharp brain he was. Again, without ego, he would always introduce me to anybody we came across as one of those ‘senior’ journalists that he always regarded in high esteem as ‘worthy’ superior veterans before him.
Talk of ‘Tiger’ Ralph Ike, a British-trained aeronautic engineer and aviation consultant, I came in contact with him during my sojourn to Nnewi industrial nerve centre of Anambra State, when I took an appointment with The Christian Outlook, published by the Catholic Diocese of Nnewi, after my retirement. As the Editor of the diocesan religious tabloid, many media practitioners were coming to me with news materials and write-ups for publication. Engr. Dr. Ralph Ike was one fellow whose articles always captivated my attention and keen interest due to the vast scope of topics and diversified professional issues he wrote about, ranging from road safety, fire prevention and emergency management strategies, motoring and aviation related topics, etc. Along the line, our relationship grew stronger and more intimately to the extent that we struck a partnership accord to work collaboratively in organising workshops and seminars for schools and town unions to propagate safety/preventive measures against fire disasters.