Old age hath yet his honour and his toil; Death closes all: but something ere the end, Some work of noble note, may yet be done, Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.”- Alfred Tennyson, Ulysses
I was at a wedding of the sister to an associate of mine, angry at the non presence of palm wine, I was obviously bitter as I had earlier served notice on this associate of mine that one would care for the drink of the gods as I wasn’t agreeable with the green bottles he lavishly supplied to my table even when we were on the cusp of seeing the Old year off and welcoming 2022 when I received a call informing me of the demise of a one time Member of the Old Anambra State House of Assembly, commissioner for information and present Chairman of the board of the Federal Polytechnic Nekede, a father and a man who was like a friend, Chief Charles Amilo. Udobodo Enugwu Ukwu.
I was immediately jolted by such news as I had earlier planned to go and pay him a visit in the new year, he had been sick and after seeing him in October last year where he had gifted me another big box of Coffee, we discussed a number of issues including his health and how he was pulling through, little did I know that such a day would be my last to see him.
I pay homage to one of Anambra’s finest politicians, scholar, encyclopedia of knowledge and image maker. I like Mark Anthony over the pyre of burning wood, much akin to the sorrows of losing such a man, yet but seek to extol the man, Chief Charles Amilo, sorry he was not a mere man, he was one of the Titans, the last of them, a model even in the cold ground.
Amilo was born in 1945 and like every young lad had his primary and secondary education in the Eastern Nigeria region.As a brilliant mind, Amilo was to attend the University of Nigeria, Nsukka from 1967 to 1974 where he obtained a degree in Microbiology. Seeking further the golden fleece,Amilo went on to obtain a Masters Degree in Rutgers University from 1976 to 1978.
With the first stanza of the retirement of soldiers to the barracks, Amilo was elected as a Member of the Old Anambra State House of Assembly during the 2nd Republic under the platform of the National Party of Nigeria., NPN. One of the shining lights of that House, Amilo was to distinguish himself across party and legislative lines that he was gifted with another term. Using the gift of garb, oratory and a rich knowledge of the nation’s history, Amilo, effusively weighed in on several debates and helped the House pass numerous motions and bills.
Again, in the botched Third Republic, Udobodo participated in the politics of that era, ensuring that the likes of Chukwuemeka Ezeife emerged as Governor of Anambra State. By 2005, with the heightened battle royale between Governor Chris Ngige and his estranged godfather , Chris Uba, there was the general consensus that the gains of the then Ngige administration was not been marketed positively to the public. A quick search of capable hands were sought and within days the name Amilo was all over the place, his nomination was to follow suit and Ndi Anambra began to feel the difference.
I will always remember my first meeting with Chief Amilo in Awka,circa 2009. Amilo candidly listened to my request to join the Chris Ngige Media Machinery that was been set up for the 2010 polls, that was after he had read some of my articles then in the dailies. Amilo not only ensured that I was appointed into the media committee, he also sought to give me the neccesary encouragement then as a young man,
Today, I am a voice heard because of the opportunity he gave me, I recall how I would reach out to Amilo and he would bellow ” Ah, I just read your column in the Nation, well done Arinze” I can only say that it was his words of encouragement over the years that landed me such an opportunity and many more because he, Amilo believed much in me.
Amilo was an encyclopedia of knowledge; history and politics were at his beck and call, I still remember the numerous times he would regale us with stories of the 1st Republic’s politics, the alliance between the NCNC and the Action Group to form the United Progressives Grand Alliance, UPGA and the Civil War. I recall the day, he and ECJ Nwosu had a fierce but yet friendly and enlightening argument on who won the 1983 guber elections in old Anambra. Amilo against all voices present that day and entitled to comment vehemently insisted that it was C.C Onoh’s NPN, his party that had won; much to Kpakpando’s angst who countered that it was Jim’s NPP that actually won.
One key trait of Amilo was his loyalty to causes he believed in. Amilo’s loyalty was not only to those who occupied offices as is the present trend, nope, Udobodo would always stick with his principles as well as his friends, both young and old. A clear example was his relationship with Chris Ngige, who after leaving office saw a huge majority of his lieutenants seeking new camps, Udobodo stuck with Ngige, despite the latter’s notoriety for clannish politics and even when it was not favourable to him (Amilo). This makes him a shining example to our youth,for in an era where many switch parties at the speed faster than light, Udobodo in his Herculean manner remained steadfast to his principles.
As I write this piece, I mull over our last meeting, where I had frank discussions with him, I shudder that he is no more, that sonorous voice and gentle soul that would always seek peace even with his identified enemies. I yet again recall the numerous times he would call me to admonish me on some of my exuberances, particularly that quick temper or righteous anger as I would style it and he would simply say, “I did not teach you this way”. Indeed, he was like a father figure to many and a man of many parts, Amilo was an enigma and it is my hope that he will find peace with his creator.