By Chukwudi Ekezie
Chief Onuora Nzekwu, the founding General Manager of News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), has died at the age of 89, the family confirmed on Saturday.
Nzekwu, the author of Eze Goes to School, a novel, died at 4.30p.m. on Friday in his home in Onitsha, Anambra, where he had been living in retirement, a family member, Mr Louis Chuke, said.
Nzekwu joined the Federal Civil Service as an editorial assistant at the Nigeria Magazine Division of the Federal Ministry of Information.
He worked as an editorial assistant from 1956 to 1958 when he took over the position of editor-in-chief of the magazine.
In 1966 when the Nigerian civil war broke out, he transferred his services to the Eastern Nigeria Public Service and returned to the federal service at the end of the crisis in 1970.
He served as General Manager of NAN from 1979 to 1985.
Nzekwu wrote Troubled Dust, a novel that recounts the experiences of the civil war.
Meanwhile, the Anambra Central Traditional Rulers Council has extolled the literary and editorial virtues of late Chief Onuora Nzekwu, the first General Manager of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
The council’s Chairman, Igwe Chukwuemeka Ilouno, who spoke on behalf of the council, told NAN in Enugu on Saturday that Nzekwu’s death was a great loss to the nation.
Ilouno said that it was a great loss to the literary and editorial world, especially to the younger people that should have benefited from his wealth of knowledge and experience.
“Oh, what a sad information this morning; Nzekwu the great literary and editorial icon is gone.
“We will miss him and on behalf of the traditional rulers, I commiserate with his family, friends and the entire NAN family.
“Oh, it is a great loss indeed to many people who his life had touched in so many ways.
“Nzekwu was a great man, who knew his job as an editor and general manager of NAN, where he helped to build bridges of understanding among Nigerians.
“He also stood out in the literary circle of the early post independent era,’’ the monarch said.
Ilouno, who is also the Secretary-General of Iri Dynasty Traditional Rulers of Anambra State, prayed to God for the repose of his soul.
Nzekwu joined the Federal Civil Service as an Editorial Assistant at the Nigeria Magazine Division of the Federal Ministry of Information.
A traditional ruler in Anambra State, Igwe Victor Awogu, said Nzekwu`s death was a big blow to the country.
Awogu, the Atamanya of Ossamalla, Ogbaru Local Government, said he worked under Nzekwu at the Federal Ministry of Information and News Agency of Nigeria.
“As young men, he took us as his children, managed us very well accommodated our behaviours. His passing away is a big blow and may his soul rest in perfect peace,” he said.
In the same vein, former Minister of Information, Prince Tony Momoh, said Nzekwu contributed immensely to making NAN what it is today.
“We cannot easily forget his contributions to the development of the Agency from its beginning to present day.
“He contributed in making NAN a great institution. His pioneering efforts made NAN to present objective, reliable and untailored reports.
“As an editor of Daily Times (1976 to 1980), I witnessed the change in pattern of news gathering and dissemination by the Agency in its formative years.
“We were used to getting stories from the colonial masters perspective from the foreign News Agencies,” he said.
Momoh, presently, Pro-Chancellor, University of Jos, said Nzekwu led NAN to change news to Nigerian and African perspectives.
“Nzekwu pioneered the Agency to give us news from the Nigerian and African perspectives. News gathering and dissemination pattern changed,” he said.
Mrs Justina Nzekwu, Onuorah`s wife, told NAN in Onitsha that her husband died in their family house.
“The family will meet to announce burial arrangements,” she said.
Joseph Onuora Nzekwu was born on Feb. 19, 1928 was a Nigerian prolific writer and editor from Onitsha.