HON. A. C. MEZU
(October 7, 1935 – January 5, 2008)
by Dr. S. Okechukwu Mezu
Hon. Ambrose Chukwudi Mezu (popularly known as AC) was born on October 7, 1935 by Clement Ugwuezuonu Mezu and Rose Nlemdiuwaoma Mezu nee Akuta who were married a year earlier (1934) and Mr Clement Mezu, was then the headmaster at Imerienwe Central School. A precocious and brilliant student, Ambrose Chukwudi Mezu attended elementary school at Christ the King School (CKS) Amaimo in Ikeduru and later at Our Lady’s School, Emekuku, before proceeding to St. Patrick’s College, Ikot-Ansa, Calabar for his secondary education.
He was the first of the eleven children of Rose Nlem and Clement Mezu (seven boys and four girls, namely Hon. Ambrose Mezu, Engr. Leo A. Mezu, Dr. S. Okechukwu Mezu, Mrs Patricia Ishiguzo, Mrs Christiana Okwu, Mrs Bibiana Chukwu, Miss Stella Mezu, Mr. Augustine Mezu, Mr. Onyewuchi Charles Mezu, Mr. Cosmas Chiaka Mezu, Mr. John Mezu. With his meager teaching income and her earnings from sewing our Pa Clement Mezu and his wife Rose Nlem Mezu virtually labored to give each one of their children the best of education.
Unlike his school mates on graduation from St.Patrick’s College, Calabar, in 1955, he bluntly refused to go to a Teacher Training College and joined the Shell BP Development Company. He was later posted to Umumasi, Port-Harcourt. He would eventually work for the Nigerian Ports Authority. Restless and determined to make something of his life, he decided against family fears and worries to proceed to London, England in 1961 to study at the Institute of Transport, Univeristy of London with just enough money to cover his transportation and very little else. His younger brother, Engr. Leo Mezu sold his motor cycle to help complete the transport fair to London. The three eldest Clement Mezu children – Ambrose, Leo and Sebastian – worked together.
A. C. Mezu was scrupulous ly honest like his father, Clement Ugwuezuonu Mezu and like him disliked injustice. A. C. Mezu easily flares up in the face of injustice but his kind and generous spirit quickly dissipates this anger in minutes.
Fortunately within a month of Hon. A. C. Mezu’s departure for London, Dr. S. Okechukwu Mezu obtained a fully paid US Government Scholarship to Georgetown University, Washington D.C. and shared his monthly stipend with his brother in London. Together, they worked hard and brought their brother Engr. Leo Mezu to London to study Telecomms Engineering.
A. C. Mezu was scrupulously honest like his father, Clement Ugwuezuonu Mezu and like him disliked injustice. A. C. Mezu easily flares up in the face of injustice but his kind and generous spirit quickly dissipates this anger in minutes. A great instance of his honesty was in Ibadan, Nigeria before the 1967 civil war. He was the Manger of MDS ( Manufacturers Deliveries Services) a division of UAC (Nigeria) Limited. He was the only African Staff and Manager entrusted with the information by the expatriate management that within one week UAC would now require money deposits for beer and beverage empties. A simple columnar entry would have made him an instant multi-millionaire. He chose willingly to be honest. He was trusted and respected by all. There were millions of crates all over Nigeria under his control. He was scrupulous, he was meticulous, he was honest. He quietly received all the empties and crates into his various MDS depots all over Nigeria before the appointed Friday, inventoried and locked them up and by Monday, the Nigerian beer market was stunned with the news that there would from then be deposits for empties and crates and refunds for returns thereof. He was posted as regional manager wherever the company experienced losses and incessant fraud which A. C. Mezu fearlessly eradicated and straightened out with dispatch – Midwest Region, Northern Region and Eastern Nigeria.
When the Nigeria-Biafra War broke out, the three eldest in the Clement Mezu family were abroad, Ambrose in London undergoing a UAC Senior Management Course, Leo in Nottingham, England as a Telecomms Engineer, and Sebastian Okechukwu at the Universite de la Sorbonne completing his Doctoral dissertation for a Ph.D from The Johns Hopkins University. Hon. Mezu’s wife, Beatrice nee Onwuemenyi, whom he married in 1964 was also a Nursing Sister in London. Nigeria blockaded Biafra. The family abroad discussed and Hon. Ambrose Mezu elected to travel back to Biafra via Paris and Douala, Cameroun. Then co-director of the Biafran Office in Paris, Dr. Okechukwu Mezu arranged his flight home in the company of six Nigerian fighter pilots of Biafra origin trained in Germany. From the Camerouns, he made the tortuous one week journey through the creeks of Bakassi to Calabar and home to Owerri. Hon. Ambrose Mezu was always courageous in the face of extreme difficulties. His presence at home during the Nigeria-Biafran war (1967 – 1970) meant a lot to the greater family and relations.
Prominent sons and daughters of Emekuku and beyond camped and were fed in his sprawling estate. Many slept on the floor of his living room. Hundreds were immediately given employment as managers, clerks, executive officers, drivers, plant, forklift and loader operators, cargo handlers, security officers and gate men in various UAC depots across the country. He helped rehabilitate as distributors most of the major beer marketers, supermarket operators in Aba, Owerri, Enugu, Umuahia, Benin and beyond.
At the end of the civil war in 1970, UAC Nigeria Limited sought for him and rehabilitated him, brought him to Lagos immediately and quartered him at the Mainland Hotel and eventually posted him to Aba to revive the Company’s operations in the Eastern Nigeria and the Midwest and assigned to him immediately the luxurious Margaret Avenue extensive colonial estate which Hon. A. C. Mezu eventually bought. He would later build an additional storeyed Guest House on the property. Prominent sons and daughters of Emekuku and beyond camped and were fed in his sprawling estate. Many slept on the floor of his living room. Hundreds were immediately given employment as managers, clerks, executive officers, drivers, plant, forklift and loader operators, cargo handlers, security officers and gate men in various UAC depots across the country. He helped rehabilitate as distributors most of the major beer marketers, supermarket operators in Aba, Owerri, Enugu, Umuahia, Benin and beyond.
He set up Stonehard Construction Company, large scale poultry farm, and cold storage facilities for frozen chicken and fish to create employment for others. Around 1978, Hon. A. C. Mezu was invited to Lagos to head the operations of the entire MDS division of UAC. This also coincided with the advent of the Second Republic. As Secretary of NPP, his younger brother, Dr. S. Okechukwu Mezu, needed a strong candidate from around Emekuku for the Owerri Northeast Constituency seat in the Imo State House of Assembly seat. The only candidate from Egbu that showed up did not meet party requirements and expectations. Godwin Nwankwerre was the GNPP candidate, D. C. Opara was the NPN candidate and Mrs Oparannadi of Azaraegbelu was the Action Group candidate. It took some time to convince Hon. A. C. Mezu to resign from a lucrative career with UAC and to face the uncertainties of a tough fight for the Assembly seat. On the final day for the nomination which took place at the house of Mr. Oleru at Egbu, Hon. A C. Mezu finally made up his mind. There was a big sigh of relief when he arrived from Aba and offered himself as a candidate. A balloting followed and he overwhelmingly won the NPP (Nigerian Peoples Party) party endorsement as the Assembly candidate. And a very strong candidate he was.
With the same assiduity and dogged determination, Hon. A. C. Mezu set up a formidable grassroots organization that spanned Emii-Emekuku, Obibi Uratta, Alaenyi and Agbala, an organization that held sway for many years after. When the real votes were counted on election day, ALL the other candidates virtually “lost” their deposit as Hon. A. C. Mezu won over 90% of the real votes above the party average of 60%. He repeated this performance during the 1983 re-election.
The era 1978 to 1983 was the Golden age of politics in Emekuku, Dr. S. Okechukwu Mezu was State Secretary of the Party and in fact installed Governor Sam Mbakwe, Dr. Rose Ure Mezu was a Commissioner in the Government of Mbakwe and Hon. A. C. Mezu was a powerful member of the State House of Assembly….. This was the Golden Age of Emekuku and Hon. A. C. Mezu was a significant leg in the tripod that brought these amenities.
The era 1978 to 1983 was the Golden age of politics in Emekuku, Dr. S. Okechukwu Mezu was State Secretary of the Party and in fact installed Governor Sam Mbakwe, Dr. Rose Ure Mezu was a Commissioner in the Government of Mbakwe and Hon. A. C. Mezu was a powerful member of the State House of Assembly. Appointments flowed evenly and gracefully across the constituency. Mr. W. K. Anuforo from Emii was made Chairman of Owerri Local Goverment and when he was moved to the Board of Education, Mr Fidelis Okereafor of Emii replaced him. Sons of the soil werre appointed Chairmen of various government boards, Golden Guinea Breweries, Umuahia (Dr. S. Okechukwu Mezu), Glass Industry Aba (Ambrose Ejiogu), Dr. Nicholas Onyewu (Imo Newspapers), etc. For the first time in Emekuku several individuals were appointed distributors of Golden Guinea products. Amenities flowed. There was water everywhere, reticulated from Egbu to Azaraegbelu, from Ihitta Orgada to Emii and from Owalla Uratta to Naze. The Water Tower at Emekuku was commissioned, a booster surface tank and pump house was commissioned at Egbu to enhance water supply to Emekuku, Electricity was extended to Emii, Ihitte Orgada and Uratta as well as other parts of the constituency; sub-standard water pipes in Ezedibia were replaced with six-inch lines just as the low tension lines that supplied Ezedibia light were upgraded to High Tension lines. An airport road was designed and constructed by Mezu International Limited linking Orji, Owaellu Owalla, Ezedibia, Emii and Ulakwo; projects were started at Achara Ubo, a bridge was built across the Oramiriukwa River at Umuocham linking Umuocham and Uboegbelu, Emekuku, eletric transformers were supplied and upgraded at strategic points in Emekuku and other areas, schools were rehabilitated and the Emekuku Town Hall renovated, More roads and amenities were projected. Above all water flowed twenty-four hours a day from the central overhead reservoir at Emekuku mission. This was the Golden Age of Emekuku and Hon. A. C. Mezu was a significant leg in the tripod that brought these amenities.
Never had Emekuku or the area witnessed such a fearless and consummate politician as Hon. A. C. Mezu since the death Mr. Bernard Njoku of Ezeogba and Chief Anii Ibegwam of Okwuemeke. Just as Barrister Raymond Njoku was the Minister and Bernard Njoku, the political strategist, Dr. S. Okechukwu Mezu was the political strategist and Hon. A. C. Mezu the master politician that held the sinews together. Hon. A. C. Mezu had great socializing abilities. Hon. A. C. Mezu had easy ingress into and egress out of the joints where the voters and common people resided. With equal ease, he could discuss and argue, when occasion demanded it, with queens and kings and leaders. He was exceptionally generous and good at maintaining friendships and contacts. He was ever helpful to the needy and ever willing to speak on behalf of the under-privileged. His door was physically and symbolically always open to all, especially those in need. And many a time did he come to the aid of the sick, the poor, the penniless, the unemployed and the suffering. Even after he had a stroke five years ago, he bounced back defying odds and drove his car to visit other stroke victims, visit poor and aging relatives, attend church services and important social functions from St. Patrick’s Old Boys Association meetings to Town Union functions. His opinion was always sought on issues involving Emekuku and when he could not attend such meetings, many a discussion centered on his particular stand on the matter in question.
He remained socially and politically relevant all his life. After two illustrious terms as the undefeated Honourable member representing Owerri North-East constituency, following end of the military regime, he bounced back into politics playing a pivotal role in the election of Chief Achike Udenwa during his first term as Governor of Imo State. He was appointed a member of the Imo State Executive Council first as Special Adviser on Chieftaincy and Local Government Affairs and later as Special Adviser on Legislative Matters. He worked very hard till the last few hours of his life and enjoyed every moment of it. The stream of condolence visitors to his home is a testimony of his all-encompassing life that embraced both Governors and the governed.
His loss is irreplaceable, yes but his eight children – all University graduates – constitute a testimony to his life just as his properties and investment underscore his managerial ability and business acumen. While mourning his passing away let us all thank God for granting him seventy-two successful years that touched the hearts of all that knew him. May the good Lord treat him with the kindness and love he showed to others during his life time.
Dr. S. Okechukwu Mezu
Mezuville, Emekuku, Owerri – January 15, 2008