From a distance, you may mistake Rotarian Odii Ngozi Hyginus, President of Rotary Club of Tincan Island, for the Great Ikemba Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. His luxuriant greying beard, receding hair and ample frame were the trademark of the late Ikemba. All the same, Odii’s mien and ready smile were welcoming and assuring. He led the cream of Rotarians, family, friends of the late Dr Ben Anyene and members of Anambra Alliance to a valedictory fellowship in honour of Anyene in Yaba, Lagos.
Notwithstanding the ever suffocating and gruelling Lagos traffic, members turned up in good numbers to pay their last respects to the late Anyene who was a former President of the Club. It was indeed an evening of eulogies for him as speaker after speaker described his life and times in glowing superlatives.
The official valedictory statement by Ebere Nwokoro read in part: “We are here to honour the memory of a loving example of an inspired individual for the tremendous contributions he made in the service of humanity through Rotary while he was a member of this great club. We are here to pay tribute to an honest, sincere gentleman for serving above self. We remember Ben as a polite, pleasant and positive person. He was soft spoken and always had a pleasant word to say about every Rotarian and everything about Rotary. With a brilliant medical background, it was unsurprising that he was highly intelligent with a scientific, logical method of thought and reasoning.
We cannot honour Ben without also mentioning his involvement in the Polio-Plus programme. Ben was so passionate and enthusiastic about this flagship RI Programme that during his active Rotary days, he would take the programme Chairmanship year after year and did terrific job mobilising Rotarians and Rotary partners and volunteers to get the job done. Ben certainly positively impacted our club and our community but he significantly impacted the Nigerian health sector by championing and supporting health sector reforms that were aimed at advancing health and development of Nigerians.
As we honour the memory of our dear Rot Ben this evening, we join his amiable wife , lovely children and entire Anyene family of Ubaha, Ndiowu, Orumba North LGA in thanking our Lord in Heaven for the life of this great Rotarian-Rot (Dr) Benjamin Chukwudum Nnamdi Anyene.’’
Thereafter, they sang a hymnal like song titled ‘’Poliomyelitis’’ our own fault, during which I was lost in thought and imagination of how Ben would have worn a solemn and smiling face if he was present; as the reduction of high polio prevalence was one of the medical challenges he committed his expertise to reducing to the barest minimum.
Joe Anatune who came with a contingent of members of Anambra Alliance of kelechi Ozuzu, Leo Chigboka, John Nwankwo, Ugochukwu Onwubiko etc and also a close associate of the late Ben, thanked the President and members of the club for their support, condolences and prayers since the demise of Ben assuring that the family will remain ever grateful and strengthened by these and particularly, for the well organised valedictory. Anatune also invited the club members to join the family for the funeral ceremony earmarked for his passage from 11-15 March 2020 at Ubaha, Ndiowu.
Before his passing on at 68, Dr Ben ran a robust medical practice in Lagos, was commissioner for health in Anambra state and was actively involved in the health sector reform policies in Nigeria. He was a close associate of the late Dr Alex Ekwueme from who he underwent his political tutelage. He was deeply involved in the political process especially those of Anambra state and Old Aguata Union and at some point, became a rallying point and mentor of sort to young and aspiring politicians. He was a leading member of the Iwuanyanwu committee that raised funds for Nigeria’s first participation in the 1994 USA FIFA Football world championship.
In the final words of PAG Ebere Nwokoro’ eulogy, ‘’we are grateful for the time we knew him although we are saddened that the time was short as it was. May his gentle soul continue to rest in bliss.’’