AMAOKWE ITEM, ABIA, Nigeria — Elder John Opara Ogbonnaya Agbaeze, the cherished father-in-law of Chief Francis Anyakwo, a billionaire business magnate, and Valentine Ozigbo, the respected Nigerian business leader, was laid to rest in his hometown of Amaokwe Item, in Bende Local Government Area of Abia State, this past weekend.

The funeral rites spanned from November 3 to November 5, 2023, marking the final journey of a man whose life was celebrated for its enduring impact on his community and family.

Elder Agbaeze passed away on August 10, 2023, at the age of 89. He was remembered not just as a patriarch but as a profound influence on the lives of his family, including Florence, the eldest daughter and wife of Francis, and Ojiugo, Valentine’s wife.

*A Solemn Mass and a Gathering of Esteemed Personalities*

The burial ceremony, held on Saturday, November 4, 2023, was a somber yet grand affair. The funeral mass was officiated by His Grace, The Most Rev Dr Valerian Maduka Okeke, the Archbishop of Onitsha, and His Lordship, Most Rev Michael Kalu Ukpong, the Catholic Bishop of Umuahia Diocese, who was represented by Vicar General Rev. Msgr. Dominic Ibe and over 40 clergy members from Onitsha, Umuahia, Ekwulobia, Port Harcourt, and Warri Dioceses. The presence of such notable clergy reflected the deep spirituality and faith that Elder Agbaeze espoused throughout his life.

Dignitaries who attended the funeral include His Excellency Peter Obi, the Labour Party Presidential Candidate and a former Governor of Anambra State; His Excellency Governor Alex Otti of Abia State who was represented by Prof. Kenneth Kalu, the Secretary to the State Government; Dr Ngozi Okoronkwo, the Abia State Commissioner for Health; Dr. Clifford C. Agbaeze, the Senior Special Assistant on Agriculture to Governor Otti; Nnaeto Orazulike, the Chairman and CEO of Genesis Group; Chief Dr Tony Offiah, a Labour Party chieftain; Chief Benji Ubah; Fidelis Anosike, the Founder of Folio Media Group; Dr Vincent Okpala, a former Anambra State Health Commissioner.

Many captains of industry in the oil and gas sector from NNPC and Shell Petroleum, and top banks were present to commiserate with Anyakwo.

Many members of the Catholic community from the Lagos Archdiocese were present, namely members of the Divine Mercy Parish in Lekki Phase 1 and the Catholic Church of the Transfiguration, Victoria Garden City.

*A Tribute to an Irreplaceable Father Figure*

In a heartfelt tribute, Valentine Ozigbo extolled his father-in-law’s virtues. He described Elder Agbaeze as “not merely a man, but a phenomenon—a generous soul whose wisdom permeated the very fabric of our existence”.

He recalled that his father-in-law’s life as one that symbolised profound love and the importance of family unity.

“His daughter, my radiant wife, Ojiugo, is the jewel of his generosity to me,” Mr. Ozigbo shared in his tribute. “She is a living testament to his enduring values, a woman whose character mirrors his own—vibrant, kind-hearted, and forever generous.”

“I wish also to use this occasion to acknowledge the role of my senior brother-in-law, Francis Anyakwo, who introduced me to my wife. Without him, I would not have been here today.”

Despite the grief that permeated the air, Mr. Ozigbo’s words provided a comforting reminder of the legacy left by Elder Agbaeze—a legacy visibly alive in the virtues of his daughter and the love that binds the family together.

*A Community Mourns and Celebrates*

Elder Agbaeze was a figure whose absence will be profoundly felt, not only by his immediate family but by the broader community. In his tribute, Mr. Ozigbo acknowledged this shared sense of loss, stating, “In this moment of loss, the pain feels insurmountable. Yet, we find solace in the legacy he has left.”

*Continuing the Legacy of Love*

As the community, friends, and family of Elder Agbaeze came together to bid farewell, the ceremonies over the weekend were not only a testament to his life but also a poignant reflection on the values he cherished—values that will continue to live on through those he touched.

Elder Agbaeze is survived by his wife, Mrs. Comfort Agbaeze, children – Michael, Florence, Anthony, Ojiugo, Ori, Francis, Arunma, UK, Mba, Onyinye and Ndidi, sons and daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. The Thanksgiving Mass on Sunday offered a moment for all present to reflect on the gratitude for the time spent with Elder Agbaeze, and for the profound lessons he imparted.

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