By Emeka Nwokocha
Tears flowed freely as the remains of Barrister Andrew Ukpebitere, a 38-year-old educationist, politician and civil rights activist, were buried in his home town, Evwreni, Delta State, on Friday 5, February 2021.
Ukpebitere, who was until his death the Chief Executive Officer of Galaxy International Schools, Warri, died recently after a brief illness.
Following an elaborate burial schedules rolled out by his friends and family members to give him a befitting burial, his funeral began with a night of tribute put together by committee of friends in Warri, on Tuesday 2 February, followed by a Vigil Mass at St. Thomas Catholic Church, Otokutu, on Thursday 4 February. On Friday 5 February, his body was borne in a coffin and accompanied by a motorcade from Grace & Mercy clinic, Ughelli for a brief stopover at Galaxy International Schools, First Marine Gate, Warri, and then to the school’s permanent site on Stadium road, Warri. This was followed by a funeral mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Warri. The large auditorium of the church was filled to capacity, even as an overflow of sympathisers formed a complementary session of the funeral mass.
Immediately the mass ended, his remains were “ferried” to his home town, Evwreni, Ughelli North local government area, Delta State. As the motorcade snaked through the streets of Evwreni heading to his father’s compound, a crowd of mourners lined the streets, wearing a mournful look. From there, his remains were taken to the grave side for interment.
The funeral saw family members, friends, and colleagues of the deceased wearing long faces and eyes full of tears as they came to pay their respect.
Speaking at the funeral, Comrade Benjamin Amioku, described late Ukpebitere as a man of distinctive honour. He said, “everyday, the kind of man he is keeps expanding my horizon. He was a fitting comparative of the likes of Thomas Sankara and Che Guevara. He was a social crusader; he stood for the oppressed and invested his time, resources and intellect to advocate for a better society. He was very a shrewd business man and very innovative. To sum it up, he was a very generous and kind hearted man. I had a robust relationship with him, in business, politics and civil rights activism. His death was a catastrophe to say the least.”
In the same vein, Mr. Alexander Onuoha, another close associate of late Andrew Ukpebitere, described the latter as a great entrepreneur, stoic politician and an advocate of an egalitarian society.
Continuing, he said, “late Andrew Ukpebitere, was an embodiment of talent, full of energy, very innovative and resourceful. At his young age, he was very influential and had a company of young men who looked up to him as a role model. He was a charismatic leader, and very special in so many ways. He was an enigma of a sort; he was a roaring lion, but on the other hand, full of compassion and love. He was a motivator and maker of men. He would always encourage the upcoming youths to exploit their talents and creative ingenuity to do great things. I cannot find any adjective good enough to qualify him. In a nutshell, he was a man of the people.”
Another bossom friend of late Ukpebitere, Mr. Ese Umukoro, lecturer at the Delta Staty University, Abraka, described him as jolly good fellow, whose brief stay on earth was very impactful to humanity. He recalled the good times he had with late Ukpebitere in the past years, noting that their friendship was a mix of an adventure and charting the right course to becoming great personalities in future.
He said, “the sudden death of Barrister Andrew Ukpebitere is a huge shock to me. He was a vibrant young man and very hard-working. His demise is a great loss to us (his friends), family members and the society at large. l commiserate with his family and pray that God gives them the fortitude to bear the irreplaceable loss.”
Dignitaries from all walks of life attended the burial.