For reasons I have been unable to decipher and also decode, this, I must confess, has been one story I’ve been finding extremely difficult to write. Even how to begin it has, over the years, equally been so herculean.
It’s the story of my best man and closest friend. His name was Ugochukwu Emmanuel Augustine Obienye Oranekwulu. Popularly known as Superstar, our paths crossed for the first time at OSISATECH Polytechnic, Enugu, where both of us obtained our ordinary national diploma (OND) in mass communication. The school is owned by renowned Catholic priest of the Elele Pilgrimage Centre fame, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Matthew Paul Edeh. We met for the first time at the Ogui Road, Enugu campus of the school where we had come for our registration. Both of us were on queue, and through what I want to believe was a divine orchestration, suddenly got talking, became friends and then brothers, until his untimely death.
Ugoo, like some of his friends affectionately called him, was an epitome of a true, loyal, dedicated and perfect friend. There’s still something that confounds most people that came in contact with him. Ugoo was just a colourful and fun-loving fellow who loved life and shared that life with all those he met. Ever ready to go the whole hog for his friends, especially me, there was nothing he didn’t and couldn’t do for me – whether asked or not.
Sincerely, I used to delude myself that married men don’t cry before their wives. But I knew better the day I got the horrible news of his demise. I was actually on my way home from work when one of our mutual friends, Nnamdi, called me from Enugu. He had asked whether we could talk, and without knowing the enormity of what had happened or what he wanted to say, I had given him the go ahead. And he dropped the bombshell: “Arinze, Ugoo is dead!” I first stuttered some incoherent words before hanging up. I managed to drive home. Of course, as I maneuvered my way home, I kept ruminating over and regurgitating what I just heard.
Finally home, I collapsed on the nearest sofa and the tears started raining. It rained so heavily that even my wife, Edith, had to join briefly without initially knowing the reason d’etre.
Fairly satisfied with the quantity of tears I had shed, I now broke the sad news to her. And jointly, we went into round two of the proper weeping and wailing.
Ugoo, by the way, was well known to my newly wedded wife then. He was my Best Man who was everywhere on August 6, 2005 when we wedded. In fact, prior to the wedding, I had taken my wife, then girlfriend, to him for approval. Memorably, days after our wedding, and while still at home with us, he dashed into my room to tell me that we needed to rush my wife to the hospital when she started exhibiting labour signs in the sitting room or so. Hours later when she delivered, he jokingly told me that he had initially left Enugu to Lagos for my wedding. But now that our baby had arrived, he was going to extend his stay by another two weeks to observe what the Igbo call “omugwo.” And that was exactly what happened. He stayed and stayed and stayed.
Ugoo was different in so many intriguing ways. Till date, I still wonder why this my extraordinary friend wanted my success, my joy and happiness more than his. As far as he was concerned, once I had succeeded, he too had. He harboured no pain or any atom of jealousy towards me, and no one that I knew. My little successes back in the day thrilled him to no end and sharing them with all those that knew us was one of his pastimes.
Ugoo and I understood each other like the back of our hands. We discussed everything freely and truthfully – from girls to money, etc. We never hid anything from each other – from the good to the bad and even the ugly.
I will share two incidents that are permanently etched in my memory – and for which I will be eternally grateful to him. The first was after our Industrial Training. I had confided in him that I may not be coming back for my HND at IMT, Enugu because I had begun making ‘small-small’ money from journalism, and also just secured automatic employment at Fame Weekly. But Ugoo would have none of that. He insisted that I buy the form, register and he would be covering up for me while I retained my job.
The second incident was in school, in our year one or two. My parents had drummed something into my ears before leaving for school. However, on getting to Enugu, he was convinced to bring me along. I remember breaking down in tears as he tried to convince me and together we both agreed we wouldn’t proceed any further. I don’t know, I may have caved in to pressure if he had insisted, but he respected my wishes.
Unknown to many people, I was older than him by two years, but Ugoo was taller, bigger and more outspoken and known. A ladies’ man, he always served as my shield and adviser. Ugoo was my everything good in terms of friendship and brotherliness.
Then everything ended on Saturday, March 3, 2007. So, so sudden. On a sad day. One ugly, unfortunate and unforgettable day.
He had attended a friend’s traditional marriage in Akokwa, Imo State. And on his way back, all alone in his Mercedes Benz, which he inherited from his late father, Chief Emmanuel Oranekwulu, Snr, owner of Ejemco Oil, the devil struck, in Awgu, Enugu State. According to the tale I got, he lost control of the car, it veered into the bush, somersaulted, caught fire and my friend, my closest friend and darling brother from another mother, Ugoo died.
It took days for what was left of his remains to be found. I flew down to Enugu immediately, we gathered it and finally interred it in his hometown of Achalla, Awka North LGA, Anambra State.
The village quaked. Enugu, particularly Emene, where he was based, shook to its foundation. His mother and siblings are still in tears. And I, Azuh Arinze, his Aruba, like he used to hail me, have remained inconsolable ever since.
I remember him always. But as I prepare for my 50th birthday, his memories have continued to envelope me. Especially as I think of what he would have done and above all said about me on that day.
Adieu Ugoo! ❤️❤️❤️
Adieu, ezi oyim!
Adieu, Ugochimalueze n’Achalla!
I love you. We all love you. But God, obviously, loves you more.
Notwithstanding, we can never, never forget you!
– Azuh Arinze is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine and author of the bestsellers, The CEO’s Bible and Success Is Not Served A La Carte