PROFILE: Late Sir (High Chief) Lazarus Agonmuo Mbamara Ekejiuba, (KSJI) (Akuruo-ulo 1) - A Brief Biography Extract
Before Birth, Sunrise, & Early Life:
Sir (High Chief) Lazarus Agonmuo Mbamara Ekejiuba was born on July 7, 1923 to late Nze Duruojikeyeme Mbamara Ekejiuba and Lolu Dibugwu Omasiridiye Mbamara in southeastern Nigeria. That Sir Laz (as he is fondly called) was of a special breed could be traced to events from the time when he was in his mother's womb as well as after he was born. It happened that his mother was asked to take an oath because of a contentious issue in the community. The tradition excused pregnant women from oath-taking but the father of Sir Laz refused to excuse the pregnant wife from taking the oath. Nze Duruojikeyeme Mbamara Ekejiuba, being an honest man of the highest repute, insisted that his wife (Lolu Dibugwu Omasiridiye) must take the oath so as to leave no doubt as to her innocence. He would rather lose both mother and child than live with a woman tainted with the slightest allegation of improper conduct. She took the oath and survived the duration of the oath. When she gave birth, the child (Sir Laz) was named AGONMUO, meaning "exonerated by the deity" because the deity at which his mother took the oath did not find her guilty of the accusation. And so the birth of Sir Laz was celebrated with pomp and pageantry. His mother's safe delivery despite taking a dreaded oath was a thing of pride for the parents and the family, and a validation of his father's honor and integrity. The life of Sir Lazarus Agonmuo Mbamara Ekejiuba went along that line and was filled with so much testimonies of God's greatness and this led Sir Laz himself to write a couple of books sharing testimonies of such numerous unique experiences of God's hand in his life. One of such books titled, "Life Testimonies of Sir Lazarus Mbamara Ekejiuba," is still in circulation.
Coming of Age & Community Life:
Sir (High Chief) Lazarus Agonmuo Mbamara Ekejiuba's father, Nze Duruojikeyeme Mbamara Ekejiuba, was a great and renowned healer as well as a titled man (Nze) who married seven wives and comfortably catered for a large family. He was very fond of Sir Laz. Yet this did not make Sir Laz rest on his oars or take life for granted. Instead he started at a very young age to explore life. He was one of the first to get on board the education train and graduated in 1942 with the Standard Six Certificate, the highest general academic attainment available then within his area of the Southern Protectorate of Nigeria. He went on to serve as a teacher for some years before going ahead to join the Nigerian Police Force and graduated from the Police College in 1945. He was a Police soccer star and earned accolades and trophies both in the soccer pitch and in the field of police work. Nevertheless, his desire for greater attainments nudged him to move ahead from the Police Force and into merchant business in 1954.
Sir Laz was a man with foresight and had a knack for pioneering ventures and he was at the forefront of developing his community. He built the first shop at the village Station in 1956, which gave rise to the present business hub. He fought to see that the then Holy Rosary School in his community was not closed down in the 1950’s. He initiated making the girls’ School co-educational under the prevailing circumstances then. He was active in the Community and in the Church, and also served as the Chairman of the Development Union in the late 1960’s.
Family Responsibilities, & Duty to His People:
At the end of the Nigerian-Biafran war, Sir Laz was among the Ibos who lost several of their investments and property in neighboring Nigerian States under the deplorable "Abandoned Property" saga. He was also among the Ibos that the Nigerian government seized their monies and released only £20 each regardless of the millions that such Ibos rightfully had in the banks and financial institutions. Being a true son of his father and a proud Ibo man, Sir Laz started again from the scratch and soldiered on and was soon excelling in merchant business in Cotonou, Republic of Benin (then Dahomey). His success and financial recovery was evident when he became the only African in Cotonou then to own the magnificent stylish French Classic car called CITROËN.
No doubt Sir Laz was a prudent and successful businessman but he was also very caring and a family oriented man who never ignored the plight of his friends and relatives. By the time his father, Nze Duruojikeyeme Mbamara Ekejiuba was approaching the time he would pass from earth to the beyond, he summoned his wives and children and told them that when he eventually passed on, they wouldn't have to weep for him because they still would have a father alive in the person of Sir Laz, and that Sir Laz is the only one among them who may need to weep. This declaration was borne by the character of Sir Laz to care for everyone around him from his family, his extended family, and distant relatives. Sir Laz went ahead and made sure that any of his relatives who wanted to study got their education. This is besides his outstanding contributions to community development including the introduction of missionary schools and churches into his community. He managed to become an ardent Christian and also made sure the Church flourished in his community without offending his father who was a renowned traditional healer and member of the Ozo title holders in his community.
Traditional, Community, & Religious Leadership and Service:
Sir Laz was a member of the Council of Chiefs in his community. In his characteristic nature, on many occasions he performed as a bold and fearless peace mediator who helped in settling several community tussles within the Kingdom. He was the founder and Life-Patron of the Ibo Community association in the Republic of Benin where he was also the President of the Ibo Catholic Church Community for several years before he retired and returned to the Village.
Despite his financial and social comfort in his business stations far away from home which saw him touring the world from Germany, Holland, China, Hong Kong, and more, Sir Laz never forgot where he came from, home. In his style of always being a pioneer and leading the way, he built the first two-storey building in his community. His successes moved the people to pronounce him “Akuruo Ulo” at the dedication of his house in 1985. Before then, in the early 1970s, he allowed his cemented compound to be used by the community youths as a common ground for recreation, moonlight gathering, soccer pitch and venue for local competitions, keeping the youth busy and out of trouble. When he eventually retired to the village in his later years and settled in his VILLA, Sir Laz continued to champion the course of the less-privileged and made himself available to the younger generation willing to tap into his vast knowledge of ancestral knowledge and community history. During the course of this time he wrote and published four books, and several other papers aimed at informing the world and curing the ills that exist in society among men. They include: (1) CHRISTIANITY AMONG US - A brief history of the Catholic Church in Umunachi as handed down by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Shanahan in 1918. (2) FREEDOM IN JESUS CHRIST - A reflection on OSU CASTE. (3) WISDOM OF THE HEART - A reflection on THE HOLY TRINITY AND DEVOTION TO MARY. (4) LIFE TESTIMONIES of Sir Lazarus Mbamara Ekejiuba (KSJI). It was this penchant for the truth and honorable transmission of history that led him to agree to serve as a member of the Eze’s Council of Chiefs (or Eze's traditional advisory council).
Sir Laz served as a cultural and historical adviser in and outside his community and to many scholars of the younger generation. It was no surprise that one of his sons, Judge Oliver O. Mbamara who is also a filmmaker had to tap into the vast repertoire of Sir Laz's knowledge of history going back to the slave-trade era to write and direct the epic/classic historical film based on true-life events and titled, SLAVE WARRIOR (www.Slavewarrior.com). Not only did Sir Laz help bring to live such a true story by serving as the "Historical Adviser" to the film, he (at 84 years old then) also auditioned and played an acting role in the film as "Ichie Nkowa" making him one of the eldest actors to star in a major speaking role in a Nollywood feature film.
Sir Laz understood the importance of history in the understanding and sustenance of truth and peaceful living among men. Therefore he was always willing to share his knowledge of history and the days of old to everyone who asked or when the occasion called for it so the truth would prevail. Yet, he did encounter those who would oppose the truth because it did not favor them or those who would seek to distort the truth so as to exploit any given situation or suit their whims. To such people who shy away from history because they are scared of the truth that history may reveal, Sir Laz has this to say:
"It is not my intention to awaken dormant and ancient grudges but to ignite in my children and others, the flame of love for God and fellow humans. To hate is to keep oneself far from all good radiations that come from the above."
Following his performance in the Church community and his philanthropy some of which have been highlighted above, Sir Laz was admitted to the Ancient and Noble Order of Knights of St. John International (KSJI) in the Okigwe Commandery 479, under the Owerri Grand Commandery, in 1990.
Achievements, Accolades, & Recognition:
Sir Laz reached out to many in various works of life whether at home or abroad, and whether in high or low places. He often cared about the welfare of others ahead of his own and his philanthropist gestures has earned him many accolades in his life such that his honorable reputation proudly precedes him. It is no wonder that he has served and been recognized by various establishments and organizations in and outside his community. They include: Membership of the Ancient and Noble Order of Knights of St. John International (KSJI); Certificate of Merit as Contributor to the Growth of the Catholic Praying Community of God Outreach, Okwelle in 2003; Certificate of Merit from Guild of St Anthony of Padua, Nigeria in 2006, Certificate of Honor by Block Rosary Crusade Council of Nigeria at St. Anthony's Parish, in 2006; Certificate of Honor of Substantial Donor at Harvest and Bazaar in 2007. High Chief Status (Akuruo Ulo 1) conferred by Late Eze Charles Onuoha, Eze Udo III in 2008; Member, Ezinna Group of St. Anthony's Catholic Church.
Sir Laz often stated that his father, Nze Duruojikeyeme Mbamara Ekejiuba repeatedly wished and blessed him with a healthy long life as a reward for his being a good son to his father and for being fair to others. True to those words, after Sir Laz retired to his country home he remained active and healthy enough to spend his last years writing books as he gracefully aged. He lived to be quite old and by far the oldest in his village (survived by several children, grand children, younger siblings, and great grand child) when he passed at the ripe age of 93, a most fulfilled life in every aspect, a journey with such memorable strides, an exit of a giant among men, a sunset for now, yet a joyfull reunion with God Almighty.
As Sir Laz stated in one of his books:
"If we are to reflect for a moment on the evolution of the nature of humanity from the embryo, it becomes evident that man owes much gratitude to his creator."
Excerpt From The Biography of Sir Lazarus Mbamara Ekejiuba (KSJII)
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