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Martin Ezedimbu Nwoko: A Life and Legacy of Leadership in Education

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In the Winter of 1955, an urgent telegram arrived to the President of New York University (NYU) advising him that H.R.H. Obi Justin Nkeze Nwoko had suddenly died. It was the request of the telegram’s writer that the President inform Martin Ezedimbu Nwoko of his father’s death. Martin, the fourth son of Obi Justin Nkeze Nwoko, was called to the President and given the somber news. For weeks, he wept alone, without family or friends for comfort. From his personal grieving came a firm re-commitment to live his life according to the teachings and expectations of his father.

Martin Ezedimbu Nwoko lived by this commitment until his death on June 15, 2020 at the age of 92.

He dedicated his life to education. He believed that the blueprint to a better life is an education for all; and to him there was no bargaining to this determination. He helped develop the concept of comprehensive education in Nigeria – a system that understood that everyone had a purpose in a society as we cannot all be doctors or lawyers. He implemented this academic structure at Awomama Comprehensive Secondary School under the support of Dr. B.U. Nzeribe, and at Idumuje Ugboko Comprehensive Secondary School with the support of his home community.

He understood the socio-economic conditions that must be overcome for everyone to benefit from a good education. He knew that for some parents, it was a choice between feeding and tuition. He marshaled his will to convince parents that to allow their children to go to school was to start the journey towards generational economic progress. Once at school he did all he could to keep the students in attendance. From his personal funds he paid school fees for extended family members and strangers alike. As principal, he gave parents more time to pay their children’s fees or simply allowed the parents to default on the fees without penalty. He would say that he had “seen noble examples of persons that confirmed that the human condition should not be cataloged based on economics”. Until his death, he continued to work tirelessly for a better society.

In 1962, he married Elsie Ezinwa Okwumabua, the second daughter of Chief F.O. Okwumabua, the Odogwu of Issele Uku. With her, he worked relentlessly to meet the obligations of their immediate and extended families. Their home was tantamount to a free hotel – for friends and family. He strongly believed that a good life is meant for all. Like the man to whom he is a namesake, he believed that “the mind is the standard of a man” but “I must be measured by my soul”.

As we grieve the end of a selfless and compassionate life, we take solace in the coming of age of his five (5) children and twelve (12) grandchildren – a generation committed to further propagating his life’s values and legacy.

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