Dr Offia Nwali, whose corpse was discovered inside a pond behind his home in his village last weekend, was likely a depression patient. Doctors say the ailment (depression) could drive many sufferers to suicide.
Who wouldn’t be depressed after losing his entire family in a plane crash? The air tragedy of November 28, 1983, was one that hurt Nwali deeply. His wife and four children were among the casualties. After the calamity, he decided to relocate to his home village in a bid to abandon city life. To Ameza (in today’s Ezza South LGA of Ebonyi State) he packed to.
Yet, he was not the kind of man you would find in a village. Nwali was perhaps the first Nigerian to obtain a doctorate degree in Computer and Analytical Studies from Harvard University, USA. From 1972 when he returned to Nigeria, he held several appointments in the then East-Central State. He was a senator in the Second Republic.
There is a spiritual explanation for the troubles that had afflicted Nwali from the early 1980s.The story is still being told in churches in the south-east how Nwali, as a government functionary in the 1970s, once broke a symbol of the Cross of Jesus Christ. When the then Catholic bishop of Enugu Diocese, Godfrey Okoye, got wind of the “blasphemy”, he invited Nwali. The bishop was said to have warned him that “God’s anger could be very hot”.
Did Nwali not show remorse or seek God’s forgiveness then? Bishop Okoye died in 1977.
The Forker-28 plane crash that happened near Enugu, which also claimed then Governor CC Onoh’s first daughter’s life, was the first known major tragedy that struck Nwali. Thereafter his two-storey house in Enugu also cracked and collapsed. Then, he relocated to his village and hardly stepped out until much later. Later, he remarried and had children who have survived him now.
The police in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, are investigating the cause of Nwali’s death. Did he drown? Did some people kill him? Some churchgoers who have heard the story of Nwali and the Cross are likely to attribute his death in this strange circumstance to the same “jinx”.
Nwali was a chieftain of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. Aged 74, he was the foremost agitator for the creation of Ebonyi State until the dream materialised in 1996.
Governor Dave Umahi said his death was a monumental loss to the state and Nigeria. Condolence messages have started pouring in from the high and mighty in Nigeria and overseas.