Kpean Community in Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State was thrown into mourning and gloom at the weekend as the indigenes and other outside sympathizers gathered for the funeral oration and final home call of one of its most illustrious sons, late Pastor Augustine Nwikinaka, who passed on recently.
Like a tidal wave, grief gushed through the hearts of the people as they battled with the sordid reality of adjusting to the incalculable loss.
It was a disconsolate lot for the entire community, the immediate family, members of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) and members of the Salvation Ministries, where the late Nwikinaka served as a minister before his untimely demise.
The final journey home of the veteran journalist and seasoned entrepreneur commenced with a service of songs held in his honour last Thursday at the Ernest Ikoli Press Centre, and later a brief stop-over and lying-in- state at the press centre on Saturday.
The two sessions witnessed emotional out pouring of tributes and eulogies by veteran journalists and other dignitaries.
Speaking at the service of songs, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, extolled the virtues of late Nwikinaka, describing him as an accomplished professional who pursued his work with “the deepest sense of commitment “.
Abe, a former Commissioner for Information in Rivers State, said the late Nwikinaka earned his respect while serving as the Chief Press Secretary to the former Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili, and later as the General Manager of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation.
In his remark at the service of songs, the Permanent Secretary of the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications, Pastor paulinus Nsirim, described late Nwikinaka as a thorough professional who contributed immensely to the development of journalism practice in Rivers State.
Nsirim, a seasoned journalist, and former colleague of late Nwikinaka said the deceased had a knack for excellence and unwavering commitment towards the service of God and humanity. He said the family and other sympathisers should be consoled over the fact that he lived a good life while on earth.
Chairman of the Rivers State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, (NUJ), Mr. Stanley Job Stanley, who spoke with journalists shortly after the service of songs, said late Augustine Nwikinaka served as a mentor to younger journalists while still in active service. He said those who worked under his watch will not lose touch with the virtues of discipline and professionalism which late Nwikinaka stood for. “The late Austine Nwikinaka was a senior journalist who adhered strictly to the tenets of the profession; he believed that a practising journalist must be properly trained to do his job. We will ensure that we instill professional discipline in the practice of journalism in Rivers State, this is the only way we can immortalize him”.
Addressing the mammoth crowd of journalists and other sympathizers during the brief stop-over and lying-in-state, at the Rivers State NUJ Secretariat, Port Harcourt, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Barr. Emma Okah, described late Nwikinaka as a “man of honour and diligence”.
Represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, the commissioner said the late Nwikinaka showed great enterprise and passion in his service to the state, and expressed his deepest condolence over his demise.
Other former colleagues of late Augustine Nwikinaka, who paid glowing tributes during the brief stop-over, include South South Bureau Chief of the Business Day Newspaper, Ignatius Chukwu, and former Chief Press Secretary to the Rivers State Government, Mr. Fidelis Agbiki.
While some people view the task of institutional and societal renewal as a burdensome responsibility, others see it as a call to service, late Augustine Nwikinaka was one of those that believed in service to God and humanity as a calling.
He was a seasoned executive and prime mover that combined authority with affability. He was both a strict disciplinarian and a huggable personality that had a way of rousing people from their inertia to respond to their fullest creative talents.
Late Nwikinaka’s successor, as General Manager of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, publishers of The Tide Group of Newspapers, Mr. Celestine Ogolo, attested to this fact, when he stated during the service of songs that, “Nwikinaka repositioned The Tide to a global brand and established a tradition of hard work and discipline which is now a policy in The Tide”.
It is on record that on his appointment as General Manager of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, late Nwikinaka revived the corporation from its state of comatos and rebranded The Tide Newspaper to be the first state-owned newspaper to go colour.
As the state Chairman of the Rivers State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Nwikinaka played pivotal role in the establishment of the Department of Mass Communication in the then, Rivers State University of Science and Technology, (RSUST) now, Rivers State University (RSU).
The vision was to create an enabling academic ground for journalists in Rivers State to advance their professional training.
Before then, most journalists in Rivers State had their professional training outside the state.
Late Nwikinaka’s personal philosophy of life, was predicated on the fact that, “real commitment to service is beyond shallow entreaties, driven by personal motive”.
Like Jean Anoulih, he averred that real service, should involve “sweating and rolling up one’s sleeves and plunging both hands into life up to the elbow”.
Like a piece of tapestry, his life was made up of many strands which, interwoven, made a pattern. He was an accomplished professional, a community leader, a Minister of God and a loving parent and husband. He will be missed in every facet of his humanly endeavour.
However, both life and death are part of the same great adventure worthily carried through by those who understand the essence of their being.
Such persons stand as torch bearers who illuminate their generation through their ideals and actions. They believe that values must be made to live in the acts of men, not on mere platitudes.
The late legendary reggae maestro, Robert Nesta Marley, in one of his lyrics defined the journey of life in its ephemeral nature, “one bright morning when my job is over, I will fly away home to Zion”.
He was simply alerting humanity over the reality that earthly life is often shortlived. And as Michelaugo put it, “My soul can find no staircase to heaven except through earth’s loveliness”.
Preaching at an open air service at the Kpean Central Field, a minister of the Salvation Ministries, admonished the people to live a worthy life and have the fear of God while alive, adding that we will all be remembered by our works after our earthly departure. He said the family should take solace in the fact that the late Nwikinaka lived a worthy life. The path of Glory leads but to the grave. Adieu.
By: Taneh Beemene.