By Ikeddy ISIGUZO
Not many knew that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu was friends with his Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Solomon Ogunji who passed on Saturday. Those who did only realised the depth of the relationship from the Governor’s emotion-drenched tribute to Ogunji who he called “my best friend”.
The Governor said he had friends with Ogunji since he was 13. The friendship endured for 40 years until death severed it on 23 May 2020. It was his closest personal relationship. “With Solo’s death, things will never be the same again for me,” he said.
In a tribute that chronicled their relationship through their secondary school days to date, Ikpeazu attested to the character of Ogunji as a dependable and reliable friend who he met “when we were young boys”.
“We grew up together, attended the same secondary school where we were classmates. I cannot remember any other person that shares with me the kind of relationship I had with Solo,” the Governor said.
He recalled when their fathers died years ago, and thee burials were scheduled for the same day. Ogunji, Ikpeazu said, left his father’s burial in Ohambele Ndoki to be with Ikpeazu in Umuobiakwa, the Governor’s village. Ogunji told Ikpeazu that his two elder brothers could manage his father’s while Ikpeazu as the first child and first son would need psychological support.
He commended the role Ogunji played in securing the World Bank loan that would be used in re-constructing major roads in Aba. Ikpeazu promised to ensure that the projects were completed, another way of honouring his departed friend.
Ikpeazu prayed for the repose of his soul and for the Almighty to comfort his family and all who knew him.
Ogunji was Deputy Secretary-General of Ohanaeze Youth Council Worldwide which in a tribute said Ogunji was dedicated to the organisation. It asked that South East Governors should assist Ogunji’s family. The organisation said that its library when completed would be named after Ogunji.
Abia State Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi-Kalu, said Ogunji died on Saturday at the Abia State University Teaching Hospital in Aba “after a brief illness, relating to high blood pressure”. Ogunji was a senatorial aspirant in the 2019 general elections, seeking to represent Abia South on the platform of the PDP. He was appointed Special Adviser to Ikpeazu on Urban Renewal in 2015 and later Commissioner for Environment.