When cometh such another?’

All the struggles of this great man ended in the early hours of February 12.

Friends and foes, men and women, children and adults could not believe the news which spread quickly by cellphones.  It dominated conversations in homes, at markets, in churches – everywhere, every time.

Ten years have passed since Lejja, the hometown he loved so much, lost its great son to the cold hands of death: Mr Fidelis Oguejiofor Ozota breathed his last shortly after 7am on Thursday, February 12, 2009. Cursed be that day!

In Ozota I had a trusted friend, a business partner, a political mentor, an adviser-in-chief. He was a master strategist in the game of life, business and politics. He called me a pessimist; I called him an eternal optimist. He had me as a true friend – perhaps his first true friend – for our friendship began in 1978 as he was entering STC, Nsukka. Both of us believed that not even death would end our friendship.

He was my alter ego — one not moved by money or what it could buy. A friend in need, he was untainted by the ills of Nigeria. He was a revolutionary. He was creative. Natural. Honest. This was a good man; when cometh such another?

I regarded him as the equivalent of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama rolled up in one. The only problem was that he was born a Nigerian and an African – a citizen of this dark continent that kills dreams and frustrates geniuses.

What is life? Why are we here?

Fidel used to confide in me that it’s not easy to find even one true friend. That realization came when he was building his political structure and was recruiting his core foot soldiers early in this Fourth Republic. They were to be trusted friends, not fair-weather friends who would switch allegiance at the first sign of misfortune.

Together we sought friends polling booth by polling booth, ward by ward, and LGA by LGA in all of Enugu State.  By 2001 another master strategist in the game, Mr Ugochukwu Agballah, had found him. “Oganiru Enugu” was formed – and a political party named All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) was born east of the Niger.

A decade without Fidel, I can now understand better. The last discussion we had together in private was late in January of that year. We talked about the uselessness of life: When I suggested it’s better for one to live to 70years at least, he said it’s still meaningless, for “whether one died at 40 or 90, the life they lived was meaningless”. We quoted Ecclesiastics: “Vanity of vanities…/All is vanity.”

Then, we celebrated Obama’s inauguration over beer and “nkwobi” at a joint on Anglican Road, Nsukka. Part of the conversation that day also dwelt on three or four books he had written: he was urging me to get to work with editing the manuscripts.

The next day, I returned to Nigeria’s capital city and we continued our conversations on the phone.

On February 9, I received a phone call from another friend telling me that Fidel was being taken to Enugu from Nsukka in an ambulance. I called his line; it was ringing but he was not picking the call. Then I called another number, his sister’s, and she gave him the phone while they were still in the ambulance. He told me what had happened: a fire accident…

Fidel had fought off a huge fire sparked by ethanol that leaked on a working generating set. By so doing, he saved perhaps hundreds of lives in the crowded Ogige Market, three or four motor parks, residential houses and hundreds of street shops in the university town of Nsukka, Enugu State, Nigeria.

He received first-degree burns and was rushed from Bishop Shanahan Hospital to the National Orthopaedic Hospital in Enugu, 65km away.

On the phone, he was giving me almost-hourly accounts of progress with medications. Both of us were unaware of the degree of danger around, so we even laughed when he told me they dressed him exactly like Lazarus [Jesus’ friend that he raised up from the dead] as illustrated in the children’s Bible.

About 7:13am on Feb. 12, 2009, just 15 hours after I had landed in Enugu from Abuja and met him in the hospital, a phone call from his sister left me half-dead. Fidel had requested her to call me about 2am but she refused. Five hours later, he kissed us goodbye after his last struggle with excruciating pains.

The world came crashing down on me. My faith fractured. My humanity was debased. All around me turned doom and gloom. Until then, I didn’t know that a tragedy of such magnitude could befall anyone and at any time. I turned a coward, a fool, a cynic, a pauper, a paper, a recluse, a lonely creature left in the dark — thirsty, hungry but unable to eat.

The story of this man who gave up his life to save many will be told in a future book. I had hoped to publish his own books by this 10th anniversary of his transition. But armed robbers had attacked his family and torn the manuscripts. The hard disk of the computer on which they were typed had also spoilt. Now it seems the material can’t be retrieved anymore.

Fidel loved to write, even when he worked with the defunct Allied Bank of Nigeria after his graduation from UNN in 1990. Then he became a businessman with interests in many ventures.

Politicians would remember Fidel as the first chairman of APGA in Enugu State — together with Ugo Agballah and other chieftains, he led the party to victory in the 2003 governorship contest; never mind the massive rigging of that year.

After the funerals — I couldn’t have been present during the burial, of course — I wrote a piece entitled “Ozota: The Last Sacrifice”. [Google it and get good results, especially on allafrica.com.] It was published in LEADERSHIP, March 1, 2009, and later in Enugu-based Starlite newspaper.

Fidel left behind both parents [his mom just died in August 2018), a wife, five kids and a foetus that is now growing into a handsome look-alike son. His first son will be 20 this year.

Of course he had numerous friends. Dentist Aik Mba of Aku, Ugo Agballah of Udi, Christian of Opi and Uzor of Edem-Ani have felt the way I have: like a fish thrown out of water, like an orphan, like a cripple.

Lejja lost a star.

Nsukka lost a gem.

Enugu lost an icon.

Ndigbo lost a progressive mind.

Nigeria lost a great thinker.

Africa lost a genius, and so did the whole wide world.

With the way good people have been going, it seems to me the RAPTURE, which the Bible talks about, has already begun. Maybe we should stop mourning loved ones. For I still don’t understand why Fidel Ozota (August 13, 1961—February 12, 2009) would disappear just like that.



  1. Well done, the great writer. You have succeeded in immortalizing your great friend. It’s well with you. Continue with the good work and ever remain blessed.


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