TRIBUTE: I am unable to say goodbye to Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu – Chief Dr. Chekwas Okorie

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It was about 41 years ago when I met Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, a brilliant, self-effacing, and consummate academic, when he was a member of the Board of Directors of Nigercem Nkalagu, now in Ebonyi State. Our friendship remained unbroken and waxed from strength to strength. I am deeply pained that I have to write a final farewell to my bosom friend at this time when there is so much more he still had to offer to a country he loved so much.
Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu was born on 1st December, 1951, to the family of His Royal Highness Late Eze David Aba Onu, Eze Adu of Uburu in Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, Nigeria. The academic brilliance of Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu manifested very early when he obtained Grade One with Distinction in his West African School Certificate Examination at Izzi High School, Izzi, Ebonyi State. He went further to obtain distinctions in Physics and Chemistry at the Higher School Certificate Examination at the College of Immaculate Conception (CIC), Enugu graduating as the best overall student. In 1976, Dr. Onu graduated with a First Class Honors Degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Lagos (Unilag). He later obtained his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Chemical Engineering (without passing through a Masters degree program) at the prestigious University of California, Berkeley, California, USA, in 1980.
On returning to Nigeria, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu taught at the University of Port Harcourt as the pioneer Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering. On several occasions, he served as the acting Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, University of Port Harcourt. Dr. Onu was also elected as a member of the Governing Council of the University. Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu did not limit himself to acquiring high-grade certificates in academic institutions. He had time for extra-curricular activities where he excelled. His capabilities as a leader of his peers and others shone like a thousand stars. A few examples will suffice. While in the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Onu was president of the Nigerian Association of Northern California incorporated (Inc.). Back in Nigeria, Dr. Onu served as the President General of the Old Boys Association of his Alma Matar, Izzi High School, Izzi, Ebonyi State.
While in Port Harcourt, Dr. Onu became the President of the Rotary Club of Port Harcourt. He was also the Chairman of the Nigerian Society of Chemical Engineers of old Rivers, Cross River and Akwa Ibom States’ Chapter. Dr. Onu was a pioneer National President of Raw Materials Society of Nigeria, which metamorphosed into the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) and Dr. Onu served as a member of the first Board of Governors of the Council.
Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu was the author of many books and garnered so many awards and Chieftaincy titles. Dr. Onu was an exemplary family man.
On the basis of my friendship with Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu spanning over 41 unbroken years, I wish to state that he was a quintessential gentleman, whose word was his bond. Any understanding reached with Dr. Onu was bankable. There was no difference between written and unwritten agreement as far as Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu was concerned. Dr. Onu’s integrity, sincerity and honesty were incomparable. His humility was disarming. Betrayal and inordinate ambition were vices that were alien to Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu’s persona.
May the Almighty God forgive him his shortcomings and admit his soul into His Heavenly Abode.
Adieu my friend.

Chief Dr. Chekwas Okorie.
Ojeozi Ndigbo. 12/04/2024.