Late Stephen Ugbaja Buried In Tears, Testimonies

Late Mr. Stephen Ugbaja

By Christopher Okolie-Oji

It was mixed reactions as late Mr. Stephen Nwanzu Ugbaja, was buried in tears and testimonies at his home town of Ubulu-Uku, Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State.

That fateful day, May 17, 2024 will remain indelible in the minds of people who gathered from different walks of life to celebrate the life and demise of a hero in his own right and bid him farewell.

The renowned philanthropist, catholic faithful and retired career public servant was celebrated by all and sundary both at home and in the diaspora. The final journey to the great beyond became a reality to his family members, friends and admirers when mourners started paying tributes on him at the Christian service of songs on May 16, at St Charles Catholic Church Ubulu-Ukwu, before family members and guests relocated to his resident at Ogbeani Quarters in the same Ubulu-Ukwu for social wake keep.

                            Comrade Chris Oji and a friend

It was a night of dance and testimonies as people spoke on his life time particularly those he positively affected their lives in his life time. Interestingly, some of them who were not even present at the ceremony put up phone calls or did WhatsApp messages to express their gratitudes to a man who they described and acknowledged as a hero.

One of them, Mrs. Anthonia Ugegbe Emordi (nee Ojeogwu), who spoke from Germany, described “Nnadi Ugo” as he was fondly called as a man of peace , wisdom, understanding and a real family man who respected everyone who encountered him.” He was a philanthropist, who lived a godly life. He was too good to have died. He was my elder sister’s husband, who treated my siblings and me as his blood brothers and sisters. He sent me to Nursing school.”

“When I got married and wanted to join my husband in Germany, he called me and said, “My daughter, I have heard what women do overseas. They go there and start imitating white people, but I trust that you are going there to change the narratives. Live like Indian women who know where they come from, and treat your husband as an African and train your children as African children. His words of advice is my guiding principle as I am training my kids to be Africans . They know that they are from Ubulu-Ukwu and they live their lives as Africans . I am glad that when I brought them home, Nnadi Ugo gave me a part on the back. For the disciplinarian to praise me ,I knew that I have tried.

For Anthony Amaechi Ojeogwu, “On behalf of the entire Ojeogwu family, I say a big thank you to Nnadi Ugo for the fatherly advice, care and support to us and the impacts he made in my family. For all he has done, the family of Ojeogwu will not abandon his family, for you were good. Though you are gone, your legacy lives on. We love you but God loves you best. Continue to rest until the trumpet sounds. Adieu, my great in-law”.

On her own, publisher of, Philomina Ngozi- Christopher Oji, who also spoke from the diaspora,” said words could not describe the legend. He was Christlike who went about doing good. He will be missed. I could not believe my ears when I heard the passing away of a hero, who trained me in the University. What more can I say than that heaven needed a warrior like him. He was like a father to me and my husband. He became my husband’s mentor because of the love he had for me . What more can I say than to ask God to forgive his shortcomings, because no one is perfect, but Nnadi Ugo was a near perfect man who went about doing good like our divine master, Jesus Christ did. May his soul rest in perfect peace.

Mr. Kenneth Emordi, who also spoke from the diaspora, said he met the great man through his wife, Anthonia, ” My wife is a younger sister to Mr. Ugbaja’s wife. Since I met that man, he took me like his younger brother and I learnt serious lessons from his wealth of experience
wisdom, knowledge and understanding. I missed his powerful education and knowledge on life experiences”

For Comrade Christopher Oji, a professional journalist and former president of the Crime Reporters Association of Nigeria( CRAN), Mr. Ugbaja was a colossus of knowledge and an enigma,who had seen many sides of life and would always say things the way they really were. He was a teacher, legend and an enigma,who wanted peoples’ progress. I will always remember his powerful and meaningful insight on life. His experience and philosophy of life were so insightful that I will always remember him as a reformist. He was too tactical and truthful”.

Although, his immediate family members were mourning but they also took out time to eulogise the man who they saw as a reformist. His younger brother, Mr. Peter Ugbaja, described him as a man who knew the importance of of brotherhood. I will miss him a lot. He was a true brother who showed love to everyone that was close to him. He was a beloved brother, friend and best companion on earth.”

His distraught wife, Beatrice, though in excruciating pains, said, ” if there is reincarnation, I will still marry Stephen, who loved me and our children unconditionally. He was the best thing that happened in my life. Even in death, I will continue to love him”.
For his only begotten son , Gabriel Ugochukwu, who described him as a real husband and father, said he created a vacuum that would be too big to fill;you were a bold and selfless man ,who stood for the defenceless; the needy, ophans and oppressed. He was a sacrificial lamb, who sacrificed for others like our divine master, Jesus. He provided for the family and made sure that all who came close to him never regretted meeting him . He was a philanthropist,who gave all that he hard. I have no doubt that he would make heaven “

For Vivian Chuks Abili,” apart from being your first daughter, I had special bond with you. The reason I love you so much is that even in my weakness, you still loved me. You were just indescribable that words can not qualify who you were. You were the best father and grandfather that ever existed. I will always be proud of you”.

At the requiem mass held on May 17, 2024 in his at the same St. Charles Catholic Church, the officiating priest, Reverend father Calistus Nwadiolu, in his homily said that with the mammoth crowd in the church, he was convinced that Pa. Stephen Ugbaja, lived a good Christian life.

According to him “these days, people do not attend funeral mass, but the church is filled today by people from all walks of life . Heaven and earth can bear witness that he lived a good Christian life.

“Today he is not celebrating his birthday, where we can extol his virtues, but to pray for him to see the Lord our God. To the foolish, he is dead, but to the wise he lives because death is a transition . He is not dead but has transformed and transmitted to see Jesus Christ in the place where he has prepared for him. His family should cry no more. If he was not a good Christian, you and I would not be here. He has lived above the required age of 70. By living up to the age of 77, he has shown that he was strong and did not die a premature death.
” I must let people know that everything we acquired today, will cease to be ours tomorrow. If you like, live 100 years, you must really die one day and you must face God to give account of your life. Be good and struggle hard to be able to face the final Judge. I want to advise that you should understand that today may be your last opportunity to repent. Those who lived 20 years, wished to be successful and to live long life, but did not live up to expectations.

Whether you like it or not you must answer for yourself. This world is too empty and meaningless to make us lose heaven at last. His death is a wake up call to everyone of us to change our ways, make amend before it will be too late. Remember that one day ,you will die just like Mr. Ugbaja did . What will be remembered about you is the legacy of good life”.

Mr. Stephen Nwazu Ugbaja was born to the family of Pa. John Okafor (Awolo-Ukwu) and Adaolie Mary Ugbaja in 1946.
He lived his early childhood days in Ile-Ife, in present-day Osun State, with his uncle, the late Pa Michael Ugbaja. There, he attended primary school and obtained his first school-leaving certificate.

Afterwards, he proceeded to the renowned St. Anthony’s College, Ubulu-Uku, Delta State, where he obtained his West African School Certificate (WASC).
After his early education, young Stephen moved to Lagos State and secured his first employment with Elephant Insurance Company.
In his quest for excellence, he sought and gained employment in the federal civil service and was deployed to the Federal Ministry of Finance, where he was seconded to the Federal Ministry of Education as an auditor.
His continuous pursuit for more education and knowledge saw him being offered admission to the prestigious Michigan State University, United States of America, which he deferred for family reasons. Despite all odds, he decided to do short courses in communication, leadership and management. He acquired so many skills from various disciplines through training and seminars that he became unparalleled in many departments where he worked.

His career in the federal civil service availed him the opportunity to serve in different ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), including, but not limited to, the Nigerian Coastal Agency (now known as NIMASA), which saw him serving in different states of the federation. He also worked in the Ministry of Police Affairs and was deployed to different state police commands as Police Pay Officer (PPO). The states included Imo, Anambra, Ogun and Ebonyi, where he served as the pioneer PPO.
His sojourn in the Ministry of Police Affairs linked him up to many commissioners of police and other senior officers of the service, and some of them, like retired Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Sir Mike Mbama Okiro, went on to attain the highest office in the police. His exemplary and disciplined disposition endeared him to the officers and civilians who consulted him for advice even after retirement.

Though he was a decent, cordial and jolly good fellow, he never joked with his work, so much so that those under him knew that, like the popular adage, “the teeth which the dog uses to play are the same that it uses to bite,” and they were always on their toes.

Mr. Ugbaja, as he was fondly called, was respected by those with wisdom and understanding, but feared by lazy and indolent workers, whom he would lambast but would not issue them with queries as he believed in giving people a second chance. He believed in the teachings and exemplary life of our divine master, Jesus, who went about doing good and forgiving sins.

He would always make reference to Jesus Christ who forgave the adulterous woman after which he threw the challenge that those who had no sin should cast the first stone. He would reprimand but forgive and give a second chance. The same attitude he had in the office was the same at home. He would reprimand his children, discipline them when necessary, but would still forgive and admonish them to turn a new leaf. He loved his family, both nuclear and extended, and did his best to make them comfortable. Moreover, he believed that in-laws were brothers and sisters; that was why he extended his generosity to his in-laws and those who were married to people from his in-laws’ hometowns.

He was a father figure to his daughter-in-law, sons -in-law and to those married to his wife’s siblings. He offered them assistance when necessary and admonished them when the need arose.
His Christlike nature turned him to a philanthropist in his little capacity. We remember vividly when he visited a family and saw a young boy (names withheld) who had been struggling to walk. Like Jesus Christ, he looked with compassion and said that, if he had the power, he would have been as merciful as Jesus and given the boy’s legs strength. After a successful surgery on him and, today, the handsome man who Nnadi Ugo, as he is fondly called by family and close relatives, paid his medical bills is living a happy, productive life.
Anywhere he went, people rejoiced because he was light that illuminated the way for all and sundry who came across him. His philosophy was “Never say no to people who look up to you, especially the needy, do the little you can.”

That was why, when he served in communities where there were higher institutions, his house became a mecca of sorts to Ubulu-Uku students, who came for one form of assistance or the other. His wife, who keyed into his way of life, would not complain whenever he was doing good for people, as her parents were also philanthropists in their little capacities. All the good works he was doing were not strange to her and she was very happy that her husband replicated what her father was doing and offered her the opportunity to serve humanity as her mother, Cecilia Blacky Ojeogwu, was doing.

He was dedicated to serving humanity. He assisted many in paying their rent, giving employment, paying school fees and giving moral advice to them. In all these, he would insist that his beneficiaries should keep sealed lips, but some of them would still spill the beans about his kindness.

His philanthropy cannot be contained in this booklet, but we give the thumbs-up to our daddy for the good works that he did during his short stay in this sinful and absurd world. He believed that the only thing that would be left when we depart from this world was our good deeds. He hated betrayers and ingrates, as he would always tell us to be grateful to our benefactors. Even on his sick bed, he told us that “those who bring ill returns to their benefactors are not fit to live.”

He loved peace and hated proud and arrogant people, as he would always quote from the Bible: “There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

He would also warn that God would not spare a murderer, as he would always quote, “He who lives by the sword must also die by the sword.”

Our daddy loved football, especially the European football teams. He was a Chelsea Football Club fan. He loved Chelsea so much that he wouldn’t eat or drink until he finished watching their matches. He would be sad and mourn whenever the club lost to another. Whenever his DSTV bouquet finished, he must recharge it the next minute or he would be restless. In fact, his sitting room was an auditorium for arguments by football lovers and fans.

Nnadi Ugo was married to his beautiful wife, Beatrice Ugbaja (née Ojeogwu), and they had over four decades of uninterrupted blissful marriage.

As a parting word to his adorable wife, he said that, if there was reincarnation, he would still love to tie the nuptial knot with her.

Stephen Nwazu Ugbaja retired from the civil service in 2006 as State Director, Federal Ministry of Employment, Labour and Productivity.

As a businessman, he was the chairman/CEO of St. Benedict Cooperative and Investment Company. He was a strict disciplinarian, an excellent family man, a philanthropist and an ardent lover of God.

Until his passing, Pa Stephen Ugbaja was the Diokpa of Ụmụ-Ugbaja family, Ubulu-Uku. He is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren.

Daddy, we love you, but God loves you most. We are consoled by the fact that we shall meet again during the resurrection hour. Adieu, Dike di ora nma!

Written by: Frank Oshanugor

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