Simply Ferdinand Agu


BY Okey Ikechukwu

He had everything going for him. Deep knowledge of several subjects, from his core area of architecture to the most rarefied dimensions of Classical German idealism. He had incredible access and contacts, from the political, sociocultural and generational, to the profoundly academic and ethereal. I recall a conversation, during which I said, “Ferdinand, it is sometimes amusing how you go prancing about and calling yourself a mere architect. Yes, you belong to the physical and design sciences by training and academic learning, but you are a polymath with a deep sense of the present. So, in case you don’t know, and in case no one has ever told you this, you belong in the academia, but not as a conventional academic or scholar”.

He is no more today. He left the flesh yesterday, in a-yet-to-be-believed tale of departure without the slightest whimper of a warning sign. He was at a wine carrying event on Friday, which ended around 9pm. While at the event, he tried to speak with Victor Anoliefo; who called him from the US. They could not talk much because of the noise level in his wine carrying location. They agreed to continue, and conclude, their discussion some other time. Well, that conversation will not be concluded as planned.This brings us all face to face with the hard reality of earthly existence. You either live for something, or die unsung; notwithstanding your wealth and other matters. Just think of the many people now in tears and deep mourning because of this sad incident. They are not saddened because Ferdinand is no longer there to give them money, contracts or political leverage, no. They are mourning a great man whose greatness lay in what he lived and stood for and what he is remembered for.

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On that occasion of our conversation about his knowledge exposure, which I referred to in the opening paragraph of this piece, he had a good laugh, but with a mischievous glint in his eyes. He tried to respond to me, but burst out laughing again. Then he began thus: “Okey, please have mercy on yourself. We finished an earlier discussion about the behaviour of Elementary Particles. You were arguing, then, that their unpredictability is not a major determining variable of ultimate reality, since their agglomerations and motion ultimately lead to stable entities and the reality we know and live in. Is that not so? He asked. I answered in the affirmative.

He roared with laughter again and then continued: “You obtained a Ph.D. in philosophy after your first degree, without a Masters Degree. You are at home with practically any subject I can think of; from nuclear physics to climate change, political economy and global economics. So, my dear brother, in case no one has also ever told you this before, hear it from me: It does not make sense to common sense to behold someone who studied philosophy writing and teaching the sort of things you teach and write with appalling, or even contemptuous, ease. Look, I gave up on you, that is on trying to compartmentalize your capacities and capabilities, when I learnt you had started teaching Cyber Security and Cloud Computing part-time at the Nigerian Defense Academy (NDA) a few years ago. Biko, your guilt in regard to what you are trying to accuse me of is known everywhere”. His renewed laughter rang out loud and long.

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He was a great person to be with. Informed, poetic, self-sacrificing and self-effacing in so many ways. Many brilliant ideas he birthed exist in government and the public domain generally today; but without anyone knowing his involvement in it. He was exemplary as the Director General of the National Maritime Authority (NMA), now NIMASA. The reforms he introduced, the international linkages he established and his profile and reputation as one of the most forward looking.and most dependable Head of Parastatal in the then Federal Ministry of Transport put him in a class all by himself.Sauve, politically savvy in a decent sort of way and a relationship lubricant for many public office holders who either boxed themselves into awkward corners, or needed extra policy or political leverage to achieve their goals or ambitions. Ferdinand was never demanding of extra attention, pecuniary rewards or demeaning encounters. He was always frank about matters he could deal with and those he could not.

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He understood the difference between being in office and being in power. He would not mind anyone who cared to claim credit for some of his endeavours, provided it served the common good. In the midst of that, he would take you on various aspect of the physical sciences, climate change, the most abstract aspects of classical German idealism, the philosophy of Hegel, Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche. And, in all of this, his ability to navigate conversations about the gifted word and visual artist shone through unblemished.Just as rhat quite, clear-headed, dependable and unpretentious man of understated perspicuity and intelligence has left the flesh. So shall we all one day. All the wealth, glamour, big cars and false friends would be gone. Yes, but not for Ferdinand Agu. He was a true friend to everyone who knew him. That is why, with all sincerity, and with a deep sense of loss for the nation and Ndigbo, one would like to pray that The Almighty, Creator of all, welcome him into His Kingdom and give us more human beings like him. Ferdinand Agu was good in a way many will not understand. He was simply Ferdinand.

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