Senator Uche Chukwumerije: 1939-2015 | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Senator Uche Chukwumerije: 1939-2015

Posted: Apr 23, 2015 at 12:28 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

A detribalized man whose love for the masses was incontrovertible

Nigeria, on April 19, 2015, lost an elder statesman and a three-time Senator, Uche Chukwumerije, to the cold hands of death in a Turkish hospital at the age of 75. Last December, Senator Chukwumerije refuted the death rumour being peddled about him when he had the privilege of reading his own obituary. But he was not second time lucky last Sunday as he lost the battle finally to lung cancer. The country will miss him gravely at this crucial period when somebody like him is needed to join hands with other well-meaning Nigerians to rebuild the nation politically.

Chukwumerije was an astute organiser of men and at various times, a leader of notable movements such as: Movement for African Union, 1962-1965; Socialist Agit-Prop Group, 1964-1966; and Progressive Thinkers Forum, 1965-1966. In 1961, his socialist inclinations made him join the Socialist Workers and Farmers Party, SWAFP, led by Dr Tunji Otegbeye. Earlier in 1960, his pan-African nature had propelled him to found the Pan-African Volunteer for the Protection of Patrice Lumumba, the Congolese leader murdered by Mobutu Sese Seko and his accomplices. It was a way of protesting the conspiracy that led to the Congolese leader’s death.

Chukwumerije was a consummate journalist. He was a feature writer in the Daily Times in 1961 but later, he joined Radio Nigeria as Head of News Talk. Between 1966 and 1970, he was appointed Director, Biafran Directorate of Propaganda in the Biafra Ministry of Information. After the civil war, he founded Afriscope magazine, a publication which circulated all over Anglophone Africa. He stopped publishing the magazine in 1983, but not without making a mark as one journalist who succeeded in interviewing Presidents and Heads of State of all independent African countries. He even spearheaded a successful media campaign for Nigeria’s recognition of the regime of Dr Augustinho Neto of Angola.

A detribalised man whose love for the masses was incontrovertible, Chukwumerije joined Aminu Kano’s Peoples Redemption Party in 1983 and became the party’s Publicity Secretary. Between 1992 and 1993, he served as Minister of Information in General Ibrahim Babangida’s government and thereafter, in Chief Ernest Sonekan’s Interim National Government. He became a Senator under the PDP umbrella in 2003, representing Abia North Senatorial District. He defected to the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), in 2006 after a disagreement with the PDP leadership over the Third Term Agenda. He was reelected to the Senate in 2007. He rejoined the PDP and contested the Senate seat again and won in 2011. He was Chairman, Committee on Education. Chukwumerije deployed his wealth of experience as an accomplished journalist and politician in serving the country conscientiously. We share with the President-elect, General Mohammadu Buhari, in his tribute to the departed soul as he wrote: “Senator Chukwumerije has played an exceptional role in the business of legislation and we will all dearly miss him as an outstanding politician and elder statesman.”