IT had all the chilling elements of a funeral: guests decked in black dresses, eyes heavy with tears and moving songs.
But despite the gloom, the choir master rendered tunes of adoration to God in a mix of Igbo and English languages.
There were popular tunes such as: Kpo ya ome nma, kpo ya ome nma, kpo ya ome nma, ome nma … Ikariri ihe a si ni bu, Jehovah, ikariri ihe a si ni bu; idi ebube, imara nma, ikariri a si ni bu… Lord, You are good, Lord, You are nice, Lord, You are wonderful, my Lord, You are excellent.
The memorial service, which began at about 11am on Saturday at the Akesan-Igando parish of the Christ Deliverance Church (also known as Healing Sanctuary), was in honour of Ikechukwu Omonogor Sidney Ochonogor, 35, who died in the Dana Air plane crash.
The service had “Ike lives on” as its theme.
Photographs of the deceased in various postures and sizes were on display in the church for as long as the service lasted.
When The Nation inquired about the remains of the late Ochonogor, the youngest of his five siblings, Chidi, said: “We have really tried but could not retrieve his own body yet. It has not been found among all the bodies we had gone to check. Yet, we supplied all that were demanded for by those doing the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) matching. We will, however, collect the body if they eventually get the real body for us to accord him the last respect.
“But for now, we have to move on since we are not mourning but thanking God for Ikechukwu’s brief life, but one that was well-spent. However, we would really love to give him a befitting burial if we can get his remains. He deserves that from his own family.”
Chidi, who also co-released an audio CD entitled: “Iyke, we love you” and played at the memorial service in honour of his departed brother, noted: “Iyke was so much loved by us all. He gave love and that was what he got in return. He loved everybody he met. And people truly loved him too… So, my cousin and I did the song as our own way of making sure he lives on in our family…”
The aged parents, Mr and Mrs J. N Ochonogor, were absent at the service. (Both parents are aged 67) So, was Tolulope’s mother, who had been staying with her daughter since the incident occurred on June 3.
Tolulope sat with her sibblings throughout the service. She was consoled. She said said in a tribute: “My darl, my love, my best friend, I thank God for bringing us together. I bless God for the happy home we shared. You are a responsible son, husband and father. We shared together, prayed together, laughed together, and encouraged each other to be the best. You are a star. God was always with you through thick and thin. I have peace knowing that you are now with the Father.
“My darl, you are a man of distinction, excellence, a motivator and mentor. You impacted lives. You lived a purposeful life. Ikechukwu Omonogor Sidney Ochonogor, I celebrate you. I can picture you saying: ‘Tolu, be strong. You know I love you my darling wife. All the dreams we had for Binichukwu will come to pass. I love you darling’…”
The Managing Director of Fed Ex Express, where the deceased worked for about ten years, Mr. Sule Umar Bichi, said Iyke, as they all fondly called him, left a footprint in the company.
He noted that despite Iyke’s background in the sciences, he coped well in the various units where he was assigned.
He said: “When we first employed Iyke, we were confused about where to place him. We are a courier company. And this man was a science graduate. So, we all felt awkward asking one another if we should place him in the development arm of the company, training or other fields that we consider right within the organisation. Then, we settled down for training. We put in place what he needed function well. And within a short time, Iyke proved to us we did not made a mistake in employing him. He displayed a dedication and passion for the job plus the way he conducted himself, we quickly noticed that he was a guy to be encouraged.
“With the way he worked hard, it was not long before he became an executive member and overall training coordinator all within a short time. And then, when it was time to search for who would be in charge of the maintenance of our service standards, to ensure quality control to our teeming customers as certified by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), we looked round and asked ourselves, who has the capacity, the will and the passion to get the job done. And the majority said it was Iyke.
“So, we all said fine, and handed him the position with the responsibilities. And of course, he performed well, to the admiration of everyone of us.
“And it was so amazing that for a man who studied to combine personnel training with other functions so comfortably, and the company was moving forward, even when he had to do such tasks from wherever he travelled to, Iyke was one person who would personally see through whatever it was he that started.
“I can stand here to talk on and on about the late young man, whom, if death had not snatched from us, could conveniently be called ‘the future of our company’; because he had so much qualities that cannot be spoken of exhaustively here.
“I can only pray to God to bear the wife, Tolulope, in His hands and strengthen her as she passes through this painful period of her life. Iyke was a true example of a good character and how a person should be among his fellow men and women.”
To a childhood friend and schoolmate, Obinna Uwazurike, the deceased was “a man with a special drive and inner force.”
He said: “I have never seen a man like Ikechukwu, I confess.
“And he has impacted every one of us in terms of his enormous energy, drive and initiatives. Iyke was always urging me never to stop moving on in life. It was to the credit of Iyke that I was able to leave my rented apartment in Ikeja to now become a house owner. Iyke was the person that encouraged me to pursue my Master, Business Administartion (MBA) programmwe. I was just settling down at the job I was doing, but Iyke would not let me remain there. Iyke supported me with money and materials when I was to do my wedding when all the people I had relied on let me down.
“He took me as a member of his family and they loved and accepted me as a son. I simply don’t know how somebody like me can cope with Iyke now gone. He encouraged and mentored me when I was writing my project and taught me lots of things I have come to know in life today. I know I am not the only one Iyke impacted on. He was just something else.”
A cousin of the deceased,who pleaded for anonymity said: “He taught me so many things. You would almost think he was in a hurry. Now, I think I may just be understanding why he seemed to have rushed things. I will use all he taught me to develop myself And as you always turned the light off, I say ‘goodnight’ and then, to turn it on again, I say good morning Iyke, for you live on in our hearts”
A neighbour who also spoke anonymously, said of the deceased: “Ikechukwu was one man you would know lived on your street, but whom you barely see. He would gladly shelve additional responsibilities in the residential area because he had his hands full of tasks already. But at some point, we forced on him the task of being our auditor in the residential area. He took up the job, did it so well and in fact, we are still in shock to accept that he’s no more among us. His death was painful. I just find it hard to cope with.”
The deceased’s sister, Mrs Darlene Dimeji-Shopeju, read the first Bible passage taken from I Thessalonians 4: 13-19. The second text, taken from I Corinthians 9 : 24-27, was read by Ifekam, the deceased immediate younger brother.
In the words of the officiating minister, Pastor Biodun Soderu, to the filled church auditorium, “the eulogies, tributes and various words of admonition given at the service were more for those still alive than for the dead man.
“What story is each of us writing with our lives in terms of service to God and humanity? How would each person want to be remembered? The good life, lived by Iyke, as many had testified showed that he would live on in the hearts of those he loved and who loved him in return. So, I charge all us to live our lives in such a way that we would add values to others rather than deplete them.”
Born on October 9, 1976, Ochonogor, as the third of six children, attended the Command Children School from 1982 to 1985. He concluded his elementary education at the Greater Tomorrow Primary School, Benin City, in 1987. He then went to Greater Tomorrow Secondary School between 1988 and 1993.
In 1999, he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Benin (UNIBEN). In 2005, he got a Post-Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Chemical Engineering from the University of Lagos (UNILAG), where he acquired the MBA in 2009. He was an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM). He was a recipient of the 2008 edition of the Professional of the Year Future Awards and the FedEx management award among others.
He got married on January 19, 2008. The marriage was blessed with Binichukwu on November 3, 2009.