1. We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of our friend, brother, father and colleague, Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma, SAN who left us suddenly and without farewells on Friday, 10 August 2018. At 56, having been born on 21 April 1961, Emmanuel’s life was just beginning when he passed on. He had barely worn his deserved rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria for 3 (three) years before departing to join the saintly ranks, having been elevated into the Inner Bar in 2015. The loss of a loved one at any age is always painful, indeed most painful. However, the loss of a young man of 56, at the prime of youth, with the future beckoning, full of promise and hope, such death is not only excruciatingly painful but extremely tragic and invariably fills and leaves the living with unsurpassable grief. That has been our portion with the passage of our late Attorney-General.
2. And yet, we celebrate Emmanuel Aguma life. Why and in what circumstance do we celebrate his life? We do so because, his life, short as it was serves as a mirror for us, the living, to ponder over and reflect on our lives. His life serves as an object lesson for us, the living. His life packed in so much positives, it was as if he knew that he had a short time to live and needed to cram in all he could. The lessons of our brother’s life are plenty, but I will, in the short time that I have, highlight but a few of them. First, the outpouring of emotions across the land tells us how much Emmanuel was loved by all that came across him and all that he came across. There are people who die un-mourned and unloved. Not Emmanuel. His passage has touched the core of all of us. Clearly, he affected people’s lives across all divides including but not limited to geographical space, gender and religion. How much of other people’s lives do we impact and touch? That’s one significant lesson that Emmanuel has left us with.
3. Turning to the legal community, Emmanuel’s primary constituency, his life was a lesson in service to the Bar. Yes, he had friends across board, but we of the Bar claim him the most and he served us very well, as Secretary of NBA Port Harcourt Branch between 2000-2002, as NBA NEC Member between 2000-2002 and 2004-2016, as Chairman of NBA Port Harcourt Branch between 2006-2008, as the Secretary of the NBA Section on Legal Practice between 2007-2008 and as a member of the NBA Prosecution Team between 2012-2015. Emmanuel was also a member of the Body of Benchers up to his death. In these various positions and assignments, he was not found wanting howsoever. His diligence was exemplary and so was his passion. The Bar mourns and misses him enormously.
4. And yet, he was a successful legal practitioner and not just a Bar politician – and that is Lesson No. 3 from Emmanuel’s life. In these days that we have some professional Bar politicians, whose practice center solely around Bar politics, Emmanuel’s life reminds us that it is possible to serve the Bar and still be an active and full-time legal practitioner who aspires to and attains the highest ranks of the legal profession – the coveted rank of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. He did not earn that rank through Bar politics; he worked assiduously for it and was duly recognized and elevated by his peers and superiors. Of course, he and I had and still have a mentor in our revered elder brother OCJ Okocha, SAN OON who has always shown us the pathway in combining scholarship and professional work with service to the Bar – may he, our dear OCJ live long. What rank has OCJ not attained? Is it SAN, Attorney-General of Rivers State, President of the Bar, name it! Same with our brother, Emmanuel Aguma, SAN, immediate past Attorney-General of Rivers State and consummate Bar man even if not the President. We will and do miss him.
5. The fourth lesson that Emmanuel’s passage reminds us is the need to take the issues of our health seriously. Of course, our lifespan is entirely in God’s hands and by His Grace and Mercies, but He has provided us with health-tips, some of which are contained in His Word, the Bible – the Holy Book which Emmanuel coveted greatly as the Deputy Registrar of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Diocese of Niger Delta from 2008 until his untimely passage. There are of course other health-tips that come from the fecund minds and intellect of medical experts and practitioners around us. We do need to take advantage of these health-tips and the medical experts and practitioners and their facilities, all around us. We all know how stressful a lawyer’s work, in the best of times could be not to mention in these unusual times that we live in, with strife and conflicts all around us. We need to take care of our health and be diligent in managing our stress levels while living a healthy lifestyle that would, by His Grace, lengthen our days. This we must do, not only for our own sakes but, even more importantly, for the sakes of our loved ones.
6. Indeed, our hearts go out to Emmanuel’s loved ones, his immediate and extended family. His wife, Inimefien, and children, Onyiyechi, Emmanuel (Jnr) and Ezekwesili must know that they’re not alone; we, the members of Emmanuel’s larger family, will always be with them. We must show them love and care. That’s what we owe Emmanuel. To HE Nyesom Wike, CON, the Governor of Rivers State and the people of the State who have just lost a devoted and trusted Counselor, we mourn with you and pray for Divine strength and fortitude for you all. And finally, we must all know and believe that Emmanuel, as his name suggests, is now with His Maker and at peace even as we continue to pray for his repose. May he rest well.
Paul Usoro, SAN FCIArb
Nigerian Bar Association