By Sunny Igboanugo
If you have obsession for the things of the world, particularly money and what money can buy, avoid him. But if you wish to live a fulfilled life devoid of its excessives, he’s your man to be with any day.
Yes! You’re more likely to go to heaven, relating with him than you would, making money. Regardless of which religion your profess and even if you do not belong to any religion you’ll still make it provided you don’t abhor decency.
No single man I know embodies the elements of humanity like Chinedu Nebo – Professor of Meteorology Engineering, Fellow Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE).
Here, I’m not talking about what is there in the public domain – former Vice Chancellor of two federal universities in Nigeria – University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) and Federal University, Oye Ekiti (FUOYE), Archdeacon of the Anglican Church, eloquent speaker and a man who has devoted a substantial part of his life in spreading the word of God in the nooks and crannies of the society, even to the remotest villages.
No! This is not the man I’m talking about. I write about Chinedu Nebo, the man I worked with at close range for almost three years as an aide, during his days as then Minister of Power – the man who changed my world view totally.
It is all about his persona – one captured in all the virtues of quality life -integrity, credibility, patience, kindness, humility, accessibility, humor – the list is extensive and inexhaustible.
How is it possible that a man is never angry, never bangs the table and never barks out orders, a boss and a Minister for that matter? But that’s him. I never saw any occasion he flipped his tops, despite the flaws he had to deal with on daily basis, including from some of us who he employed to work with him.
Few samplers: Imagine me dozing off intermittently in the middle of an important interview inside his office. It was actually the effect of malaria drugs I was taking. But who cares? I had expected a serious scolding at least. But there wasn’t even a hint that he noticed, even though I’m sure he did. What kind of man is this, was what I kept asking myself after the disaster.
Incidentally, a friend, also an aide to one of the principal officers at the National Assembly, told me that the same fault, earned one of his colleagues instant sack from his big boss.
On another occasion, we had travelled to Lagos, where he was scheduled to ring the bell at the Nigerian Stock Exchange. I wasn’t fast enough to join the convoy and when he inquired and discovered that I was not in any of the cars, he had to order the convoy to stop, so that I could join. Again, I expected some scolding. But, it never happened.
There were other cases, where I expected an outburst, as any person including myself is wont. But never did he raise his voice. Each experience was to burnish you rather than hard words. Today, I’m a different person in terms of patience.
The only time Nebo indicated that at least he’s human, was in Anambra. It was at the burial of Chinua Achebe, the author of Things Fall Apart, at Ogidi, his home town. Because the President, Goodluck Jonathan, was in attendance, and due to the huge crowd, there was complete chaos, so much that we had to park and walk a distance. This nearly proved fatal. At the end of the event, we had stepped out to wait for the convoy when this reckless okada from nowhere hit him. You would expect an end of the unfortunate rider. But all I saw was a momentary flash of shock that disappeared quickly. Even when like Peter drawing his sword to slice off the ear of the chief priest’s servant, I had went for the boy’s jugular, he forced me to sheathe my sword back to the scabbard.
I was confronted with a scandalous scenarios during a media tour in Lagos. The second newspaper we visited, as we set off was virtually deserted. Only one or two editors were on hand to welcome him. No fault of mine, because I’d made what I thought was clinical arrangement, a week before. As I sweated it out, he just sat calmly in his car, while frantic calls were being made to pull the editors from their homes or wherever. He only warned calmly that he won’t stay here for another 30minutes. Thankfully it didn’t take that long eventually.
The matter was never even discussed again, because as it turned out, he had a swell time eventually with his hosts. It took Nebo’s unique large heart and his extreme capacity for patience that he quickly got over the obvious embarrassment, unlike many others in his capacity.
But don’t get it twisted. This does not translate to excusing indolence or non-performance. It was just his exemplary expression of humaneness in accepting that things could go south sometimes. Indeed, some of the events happened at different times and far in-between. There were many other rewarding and positive outcomes during the period that could hardly be blighted by them.
Do I write about Nebo, the singer? On one of his birthdays, all his aides and top ministry officials, had made it quite early to the office, decorated his office and waited. Immediately he stepped in the entire room reverberated with a birthday song. Come and hear the sonorous tone with which he sang his own version of the How Old Are You Now?
Do I write about Nebo, the preacher of God’s words? Welcome to Okpara Square in Enugu, during one of the activities marking the burial of the late Amaka Igwe, one of Nigeria’s foremost Nollywood producers, who was his student at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT). I saw many of the Nigeria’s high profile Nollywood stars practically coming down in tears, with his gripping message.
Do I write about Nebo’s humours? So many. One of them was his childhood fascination with truck-pushers, who he saw in Kafanchan, where he was born, and his wish to be like them because of their huge biceps.
Is it Nebo, the workaholic? Better be fit and ready. Only very few people kept up with his pace. I couldn’t on many occasions?
What about the orator? Well, this is better experienced than narrated. He was a reporters delight and it was clear that those of us who made his media team, had very little to do. He remembered everything, answered every question to the delight of his hosts during interviews that the Talking Points usually prepared during his outings, were completely inadequate if not useless.
How could you be hungry and a palatable meal is being prepared for you, you’re perceiving the aroma already and when the meal is about to be served to end your hunger, you decide to go to another house where you’re not sure of food? This was the question he put to Nigerians in the run to the 2015 election, when the change mantra was raging. Was he a prophet? Well, the jury is out.
It’s on record that for the five years he was the VC of UNN, there was no single strike and the cult activities that made it one of the most dangerous institutions in Nigeria virtually disappeared.
The Power Ministry, which was a hotbed of intense agitation and a battleground over labour issues, became calm with all crisis he met, solved as easily as a hot knife on butter, as all issues were resolved, leading to the ultimate goal of the privatisation of the nation’s power sector. That’s Nebo, the negotiator!
Even when pipelines were being burst each time there was appreciable generation peek, by vandals believed to be sponsored, Nebo’s response was always measured without any sign of fretting.
An extremely successful man both as a scholar, teacher, administrator and preacher, who is currently next to Bishop in the Anglican church, ask him the magic and you get a straight answer – God.
That’s an area he never jokes with – his religious matters and affairs of God. That is why you must never go near him for or with anything that is untoward or corrupt. You’ll certainly not be pleased in the end.
Outside God, the next in line to his heart is his wife, he fondly calls Ify, whom he fell in love with at the age of 19, married at the age of 25, and has lived with now for 44years, with children and grandchildren as the result.
Ositadimma Chinedu Nebo, Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), born, born June 3, 1952, turns 70 this Friday, a fulfilled man. If indeed, as the Romans wrote on their walls thousands of years ago – vox populi vox Dei, the voice of the people is the voice of God, he has etched his name permanently across the pages of history, as a man who came, saw and conquered. Congratulations! Thanks for all you taught me!