I never thought, IK, that there will be a time I will take my pen to write a tribute after your demise, at least not so soon, not when your stars were still shinning this brightly. As I do so today, it is with tears and agony, as I find a better part of me, separated, shockingly and unexpectedly. It was news difficult to take even though we are supposed to be ready for death anytime. We had spoken a few days earlier, and there was no such inkling that you were going to leave me, or your dear family or your colleagues in various vocations and professions, old school mates but above all, those who live by your litany of infectious joy and peace. I praise death, for being so fierce and forceful in snatching you away so soon. The 11th May 2020, is a day that will remain sadly indelible in my memory.
Our life has been intertwined in the last fifty years when we first met in 1970, as students of Mechanical Engineering, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and barely six months after, you and I struck a rare friendship, that took me to celebrate the Salah public holidays with you and your family members in Kano. Being of different faiths, we exchanged our most respected and cherished holy books, the Koran and the Bible. That episode over the years, has led me into a deep but relentless study of comparative Religions. No doubt, we respected each other’s faith and have since lived comfortably within these boundaries. Anytime you slipped out of a meeting to go and pray, I recall the words of St. Francis de Sales that ‘’ prayer is to the soul what air is to the lungs.’’
Yes, we were classmates, but those who knew us, call us twin brothers, because we reasoned along the same path, particularly on issues concerning our profession and the Nigerian Society of Engineers in particular. I was not only the Chairman, Benin Branch, during your presidency but also, Chairman, Committee of Chairmen. You were my role model and driver to being the President of our great and noble Society, five years after you.
I have no words to thank you for the leadership you gave the NSE as President when in the shackle-hold of our debt on the National Engineering Centre, Lagos, with Banks threatening to take our building from us, you pulled the greatest string and caused a momentous restoration of peace and jubilation. Nor can we thank you enough for the two year dynamic leadership that saw you, build on the strength of those before you, but taking us to all nooks and crannies of this nation, as the number of branches, divisions and membership grew astronomically, just as our influence with government was at all-time high. We thank you for not leaving the NSE behind after your tenure, for you served and indeed chaired various constitutional amendment committees, directed to enhancing our practices. You stretched your able hands to embrace our regulatory body, COREN, not just as President but as regular adviser thereafter on so many issues. Engineering and Engineers in this country at least, can never forget you for your landmark achievements through your choreography of inclusiveness, diversification, and broad-based human relations.
Have I ever seen you angry? Yes! many times, but against evil, oppression, narrow mindedness, for your heart was large enough to accommodate many and still remained white as snow.
I cherish your friendship, which was wide, transparent and all embracing.
I cherish your generosity which had no limits, including your gifts of babariga and white wrist watches that still dot my wardrobe.
I cherish your prosperity which was to the glory of God.
I cherish your punctuality and promptitude which mattered at all the events you were engaged in.
I cherish your humility, whose fragrance spreads to those who know that this life is simply a breath.
I cherish your knowledge, which effaced from hard work, openness and understanding.
I cherish your listening ears that know that there is not one answer to issues.
I cherish your courage, that brought you out from the “lonely North” at the NSE Council meetings and propelled you to our leadership at forty years of age.
I cherish your smiling face where your bright teeth and chubby cheeks reveal harmlessness.
I cherish your sincerity for one always knew where you stood.
I cherish your simplicity for you never went beyond the ordinary. and above all
I cherish your love, boundless love, extended to the young or old, male or female, tribe or tongue, clubs or creed. You were a melting pot of love. I am sure God took you at your finest hour, where your saintly soul is now shinning with unabated effervescence. Like St. Therese of Lisieux ,that charming soul of love, let your life in heaven be spent serving this world, raining prayers on us so that at the appropriate time, we shall meet you with our Creator who rewards all according to their deeds. I know it will take time before my tears dry up but I am so well consoled that our paths crossed in this world in more ways than one.
Adieu our “General”, a position never contested with you by your co-fighters!
Adieu IK, who breathed Engineering all his life!!
Adieu a reliable, dependable and affectionate friend!!!
Adieu my twin brother—although tribe and tongue differed, in brotherhood, we stood !!!
Engr. Dr. Joseph E.S. Uujamhan, KSG, PhD, FNSE, FAEng, NSE President 1996 & 1997