Jacob Ukeje Agwu
    ( 1925-2008 )

    A Brief History of His Life

    Jacob was born in August, 1925, in Agbakoli, Alayi, to his parents Ukeje and Virginia Omamma Agwu. He started school in the Catholic Primary School at Alayi and after the death of his father, he went on to stay with the priests and he continued to stay with the priests when he moved on to secondary school at Umuahia. At the end of his secondary school he went to St. Charles Teacher Training College in Onitsha.

    It was at St. Charles he met Professor Dr. Fabian Udekwu, his life long friend. They both graduated in 1947 and stayed on as faculty members. They both taught arithmetic and geography and left together in 1950, one for the United States of America and the other for Freetown, Sierra Leone. In October, Jacob entered Fourah Bay College, now University of Sierra Leone, to do a degree course. At that time Fourah Bay College was the only University College in West Africa and therefore there were several other Nigerians in the college and he became friends with the late Robert Odinkemelu, Victor Anigekwu and the late Ifeanyi Ogbue. There were several female students too, but he was a bit shy to be close to any one of them. He graduated in June 1954 with a major in Geography and Economics.

    Before he left Fourah Bay College, he had decided he wanted to do further studies and had applied to the University of Ghana to do his Masters degree in Economic Geography. So on returning home, he left in October to enter the University of the Gold Coast (now University of Ghana) at Legon. He did his course work and graduated in June 1956, and finally returned home.

    Whilst in Ghana, he had met his wife Europa Wilson, who as teaching at Achimota Secondary School, located not too far from the University. In December 1957 he went back to Ghana and they were married.

    On his final return home, he was appointed in the Civil Service and was posted to the Public Service Commission. Thus it was that in 1959 he was posted as recruitment officer for the Eastern Region to the Nigerian London Office. He traveled all over Europe and even to India, recruiting people to go to work in Eastern Nigeria. He also helped with placement of several Nigerians in colleges and Universities in the United Kingdom.

    After three years of service in the United Kingdom, he returned home in 1962 and worked in the Chief Secretary’s office in Enugu and later became Permanent Secretary for Rural Development. This entailed traveling all over the region assisting farmers to increase their production as well as producing better and quality products.

    Then the civil war started in 1967 and he worked closely with Ojukwu helping to recruit soldiers and making provision for their upkeep. Towards the end of 1968 his wife and children were evacuated to Sierra Leone, the wife’s home country, and he was left by himself. But he was not by himself alone. As usual he took in children of friends and relations whom he assisted in giving education either at Secondary School or at University. At the end of the civil war when Gowan took over the presidency, all the permanent secretaries who had work with Ojukwu in the Eastern Region were asked to go on pension and they all returned to their different states as new states were created. He went to Owerri in Imo State.

    With his zeal for work, he just joined the company SAMEK which was a construction company that had contracts to build houses for Civil servants in the Reservation area in Owerri. When that was completed he returned to Umuahia, his home town and set up his own company JANES. He had ordered an oil mill and a nut cracker from Japan and finding that they worked well, he decided to order some of the parts and others he produced for the machines. He had his factory at Bende Road. He also decided to do poultry and these activities were very successful, so that when Onu was Governor of Abia State he gave him a contract to produce oil mills and nut crackers for several villages which was a relief to the women who had been doing this manually. Unfortunately, he took ill in 1990 and had a stroke, so the factory closed down but the poultry was kept going.

    When he was pensioned he had decided to be going to Abuja for his pension but when he took ill and couldn’t go, he stopped receiving his pension and had to depend on his savings for his business and what his children could give to him. As from 2000, he depended solely on his children.

    The restriction on his movement and activities affected him emotionally but being a strong man he tried his best not to show how he was feeling. Unfortunately too, due to health problems, his wife could not come to live with him in Nigeria, but they kept in touch all the time. This was the life of a very strong and active man. He will be missed by the many he touched with words, actions, and advice as well as the many he helped with their education and training.


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