The accounts are still very sketchy but it is confirmed that Mr. Uchenna Okpara, aka ‘General’ is dead. He died in Ibadan this afternoon but not of COVID-19.
He was called ‘General’ even as he was never a military officer. Rather, he got the name from his proximity to military officers on the campus when he was a student and it has followed him. The truth though is that Uche was not more familiar with military officers new in the city than others. He cut across so many spaces and fronts on the huge University of Ibadan campus. It used to be said that if there was the position of the Mayor of Agbowo, (where UI is located), he would be the unbeatable candidate if he were to contest. Having taken his First Degree in the Department of Political Science at the University of Ibadan, he had come to know the geography of Ibadan so well as to be so functional.
His social media, especially Facebook, postings in the last one week did not drop any hint that he would be no more today. As compiled by another UI graduate student who has followed him on Facebook, he was mourning a military officer, Brig-Gen Saidu Bello on July 10th, 2020, ending his lamentation with “God, why now?”. On July 14th, 2020, he posted his wife’s picture with the caption “my sweetie”. On July 14th, it was himself beside his car with the caption “To God be the glory”. On each of July 17th and 19th, he had one posting or the other. What all these suggest is that he manifested no hints of death by ordinary standards of reasoning.
Friends in one of his circles in Ibadan told Intervention that he looked pale last Thursday which made them escort him to the hospital but there was nothing threatening from test results.
This is one death of someone who never held political appointment but who would be mourned across many Nigerian homes. There is hardly anyone Uche manifested discomfort with on the ground of his or her ethnic identity. He went along with everyone even as outspoken as he was. He was consulted by many for being more realistic or pragmatic and, for most of the time, he got it right and was thus an invaluable but unpaid consultant to those of his friends who tend to be ‘idealistic’.
A Masters Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies followed a First Degree in Political Science and he decided to make Ibadan home. A PhD programme was not totally off the card but a brief stint in politics also came up in his home state of Imo recently before a return to base.
Of late, he had become unusually sensitive to the Church although it was specifically the Chapel of Resurrection at the University of Ibadan where he went almost solely to listen to a particular Professor whose sermon he classified as electrifying. He spent considerable time telling whoever cared to listen what the Professor said and how he said it every Sunday that he was around.
With four very young children led by a super intelligent first daughter just about 10 or so years, there could probably be no worse case of death than his recently. But as he wrote for Gen Bello slightly over a week ago, so might many of his friends end up doing now: God, why now?’. How far this would cushion the reality that some people would never see Uche again is what confronts many who knew him.