By Azuh Arinze
First, let me confess that I had to delay this because I was hoping that you would somehow come back to life. But alas, the reality is gradually dawning on all of us – especially after 24 hours.
Yes, you told me quite alright that you were not feeling too strong when we spoke about two weeks ago. As a matter of fact, I still remember you telling me right on your hospital bed to ‘talk to Joy’.
We fixed an appointment for Friday or so, which as I write this, I am still trying to arrive at exactly what eventually happened, and why ultimately we never got to meet.
Yeah! It would have been our last meeting. And, of course, would have also been permanently etched in my memory. But I bungled it. Not you! Even Joy was waiting for my call as both of us were equally working on something else.
Fresh from the Christmas Mass of Friday, December 25, 2020, I noticed I had too many missed calls. And as a rule, I decided to return them, one after the other. The first was to my brother and colleague, Charles Nwagbara, who served me the sad news and thus my day was ruined. In fact, annihilated.
I still haven’t recovered from the shock, and even without being told I know that I will never.
And the reason is simple – you were not just special to me, but also touched my life in innumerable special ways.
Meziakpono, my friend and brother, I owe you a special and proper tribute. But in the interim, permit me to excerpt a chapter, devoted to you in one of my new books, ENCOUNTERS – LESSONS FROM MY JOURNALISM CAREER, just so that many can see where we are coming from and perhaps understand why I am immeasurably pained by your shocking and sudden demise. It’s entitled JUST SAY IT and goes thus:
‘Notwithstanding how long ago it happened, I can still remember vividly how I met and ‘fell in love’ with Mr. Chico John Meziakpono Ejiro, the maverick filmmaker I decorated with the sobriquet, ‘Mr. Prolific.’
‘It was at his elder brother and mentor, Mr. Zeb Ejiro’s office, somewhere in Aguda, Surulere, Lagos, and not long after Messrs Kunle Bakare and Femi Akintunde-Johnson, then owners of Encomium Weekly, deemed me fit to handle the Nollywood column, a two-page banger which I christened ‘Celluloid’.
‘Very much on top of my game and ruffling feathers every week with my no-holds-barred stories and ‘gists’, I had sauntered into the office unannounced. Of course, I had my little notepad and pen, capturing and recording events as they unfolded and unfurled.
‘And from nowhere, he approached me. First, he reminded me that I could no longer sneak in and out of the vicinity as some people had already given me away ‘as the small boy that’s shaking the industry every Tuesday with his write-ups’.
‘Smiling, he asked me to follow him to his car, a gray Mitsubishi Gallant; opened the boot and handed me a VHS tape which he wanted me to review for him for the upper week.
‘Innocently, I informed him that I had neither a television set nor a VHS player as I just moved into a one-room apartment on 13, College Road, Ogba, Lagos. Hitherto, I had been living with my parents.
‘In his characteristic pidgin English, he exclaimed: ‘Haba! How big boy like you no go get television and video for house? Any way, I wan go Idumota now go see Infinity (Mr. Dozie Eriobu of the Infinity Merchants fame). You go follow me make I go buy television and video for you…’
‘We jumped into his car and minutes later were sitting face to face with Mr. Eriobu. And true to his promise, Mr. Chico got me the two items, which upped my status as a bachelor, if you know what I mean. That singular act of generosity, above all, solidified our relationship, placing him on another pedestal in my life.
‘To say the truth, Mr. Chico Ejiro, unknown to him, contributed a great deal to whatever I have become today by also becoming along the line one of my go-to-persons back then as a movie reporter for anything about the industry. I can’t count the number of times I passed the night at his Festac Town, Lagos home; the number of briefs he gave me to handle as well as the exclusive stories he obliged me.
‘While he was still wooing his highly industrious wife, Mrs. Joy Efetebore Ejiro, Mr. Chico would ask me to accompany him on his frequent visits to the University of Lagos to see her. I equally travelled with him to Delta State for their traditional marriage, after all the other contenders had lost out. I was equally there for the registry angle in Lagos.
‘And perhaps in fulfilment of that popular saying that one good turn deserves another, Mr. Chico and his wife followed me to Nnewi, Anambra State, when it was my turn to quit bachelorhood. They didn’t miss the church wedding too.
‘Sincerely, Mr. Prolific and I have come a long, long way, and I could go on and on talking about our multiple and memorable encounters. But my primary lesson from them, however, remains that we should not be too shy to seek help or assistance. To paraphrase the renowned sports outfit, Nike, I say, ‘Just Say It’ and then leave the rest to God.
‘Yeah, some people may laugh you to scorn, but it doesn’t really matter.
‘In my case, I disclosed to Mr. Chico that I had no television set and video player and ended up not only getting those two items, but also gaining a friendship and relationship that has benefitted me significantly. And this, of course, is still going strong.’
My heart goes out to your darling wife, Joy Chico Ejiro, your four wonderful children, your two elder brothers, Peter and Zeb Ejiro, the entire Nollywood family and all your fans and followers.
Fare the well, my dear friend and until we meet to part no more.
Adieu, Chico Ejiro! Adieu Mr. Prolific!
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