He was a man of style. Always asking for clarification which was his own stylish way of interrogating everything and everyone at all times.
He was entitled to that because, unlike many of us who hail from the same Edumoga backwaters, he went far to farm and must have accumulated the kind of experience that was not common. For secondary school education, he went to the Federal Government College, Enugu. In those days when things were by merit, that was a statement by a boy from the backwater. One can read him as saying no to the spatial boundaries that circumstance of birth placed on his road.
But he wasn’t done yet. For university education, he headed to Russia and came back with a degree in Architecture. That was another record in barrier breaking, again, for a boy from that background. If he went there on scholarship, it spoke to excellence. If he didn’t go on any scholarship, it spoke to an uncommon determination.
Lastly, he returned to Nigeria not to get entangled in the intrigue – ridden civil service or endure waiting for 30 days to collect salary that are rarely paid as and when due now but to set up private practice. He critiqued the civil service mentality in Edumoga District. He didn’t do badly at all.
Against this background, he was very accomplished in his own way. But he didn’t wear his accomplishment on the face. Though always stylishly turned out, sometimes conservatively by his sense of color, he never flaunted any sense of superiority. He seemed to revel in communal group mirth. It can certainly be said he was full of life, making his sudden death last month a big puzzle.
He didn’t lack the means for up to date medical check up although many of us don’t check anything until compelled to hospital admission. But doctors are even more guilty of this. So, how can those of us who did not pass ‘O’ Level Biology and Chemistry be blamed?
In the absence of more up to date information about the direct/indirect cause of his death, Intervention would argue that it must be Nigeria that happened to him. This is one of the newest expressions in town capturing the Nigerian paradoxes. Congestion, lack of electricity, uncertainty, pressure from those left behind by the system and who then become a burden on the individual, irresistibly. All these combine to create a state of permanent tension, keeping the adrenalin boiling. I hope no doctor is reading this.
But in the late Architect Larry Ada Ogbu, the Edumoga elite have a model with which to carry out mobilisation in the community. And the message is simply that things might be so bad for those in the neglected poverty belts across Nigeria, there is still no cause for despondency. If Larry could go as far as he went, then the younger ones of today can go five to 10 times more. When Larry went to Federal Government College, Enugu, there was no internet and the reality of ‘distant witnessing’ that is possible today.
In this context, Larry’s death should mark the political rather than cultural gaze to community work. Like the rest of Idomaland, Edumoga is also slipping into the grip of counter cultural practices because there are many young chaps who went to school but cannot find any employment and are falling into temptation. EDEMA cannot give them jobs but it can develop a banner of hope for them through creative messaging.
It is sad that, by this evening, April 21st, 2023, you are back to your ancestors. Architect Larry, please, greet our ancestors when you get there. Tell them we are not doing fine!