Chief Onwuka Kalu, the famed Okpuzu of Abiriba, is no dead. He lost his four-year battle against cancer Monday night in a London hospital, his family has announced.
Onwuka Kalu, one of the best known Nigerians of the 1970s and 1980s, achieved fame as a teenage millionaire trader who went into manufacturing of Rocket Nails and motor parts through Onwuka HiTek Plc, the first Nigerian company to be quoted straight on the first tier of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
The Okpuzu was a foremost promoter of Made-in-Nigeria goods and popularised Aba as the Japan of Africa. A man of big dreams, he was one of the first set of Nigerians to obtain a banking licence. He founded and chaired the board of Fidelity Bank but later exited in the heat of a boardroom squabble.
A great lover of children, Onwuka Kalu was passionate about promoting the welfare of African children. This moved him to set up the Children of Africa Foundation, with which he organised the Children of Africa Charity Concert that brought the global musical giants of the time to perform in a globally followed show in Lagos in 1991.
The Okpuzu also forayed into politics. He was a member of the 1988 Constituent Assembly. He later ran as governor of Abia State in 2003 on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) but lost to the then incumbent governor, Orji Uzor Kalu.
Onwuka Kalu was one of the victims of late despot Gen. Sani Abacha’s iron-fist reign. He was detained as a political prisoner for about a year at Alagbon, Ikoyi, Lagos, losing one of his eyes in the process.
An obituary announcement posted on his Facebook wall by his family this afternoon reads as follows:
“The family of Chief Onwuka Ogba Kalu – the Okpuzu of Abiriba OFR, Abia State, Nigeria – are saddened to announce that, just before midnight on 23rd February 2015, the Chief passed away peacefully in his sleep in hospital in London, UK, with his loving wife, Nelly Onwuka Kalu, at his side. After a long battle against Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, the Lord called Chief home to be with Him.
“At 60 years old, our father was a young man who had lived lots and loved many. Chief will be missed by many people around the world but he will especially be missed by his wife of 35 years, his six children (Kelechi Kalu, Ukegbu Kalu, Patience Nwanne Omokhodion, Okechukwu Kalu, Chika Kalu and Nkem Kalu) and 2 grandchildren. Our father was also a devoted son and brother and is also survived by his mother, papa and siblings.
“We are so grateful for the kindness and prayers received from family and friends as we have walked with Dad through this time of great trial. We are very grateful to the hospital staff at UCH who fought hard to heal our father and who have been compassionate and skilful. We are also forever grateful to the stem cell donor and numerous blood donors who helped Dad to combat this awful disease.
“At this time, the family asks for privacy as we grieve this loss and make practical arrangements. We ask for your prayers for the whole extended family and for your patience as burial arrangements are made.