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BIOGRAPHY OF REV. FR. NWABAJU I. IZUCHI, CSSP, Ph.D, BCC
At that time, when Rev. Fr. Dr. Nwabaju I. (Baaju for short) Izuchi passed out with a very impressive West African Examination Council result in 1966, Izuchi family members and friends were in a state of perfect bliss. That result came from his Alma Mater, St. Mary’s High School, Ifite Ukpo (now Ifite Dunu) in Dunukofia Local Government Area of Anambra State. Later, Baaju as he chose to be called, indicated his desire to our father, late Pa Fred Obieme Izuchi to go into the priesthood. This information generated various reactions as going into the priesthood was unpopular in those days. However, our father was full of joy. He gladly went further to provide most of the items such as bedspread, pillow, pillow cases, bucket, blanket, exercise books, toiletries, money and other prerequisite items that were listed on the prospectus for admission into the Holy Ghost Novitiate Awo-Omamma.
The following morning as he assembled his personal effect, Baaju was heard humming hymn 266 from the Catholic Hymn Book: “Oh the future lies before me. And I know not I’ll be…” In a couple of days Baaju travelled from Port Harcourt to Awo-Omamma, full of joy and hope. This move in 1966 opened up to Baaju whole new vistas in the Lord’s vineyard.
Throughout the duration of the Nigerian civil war, he was in the senior seminary undergoing all sorts of theological formation and mentorship. Within this period, he supervised the running of relief centres in Ihiala and environment which catered for the needs of destitute and malnourished people who were victims of the Nigerian Civil War.
In 1973, Baaju successfully graduated from the Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu. On 5th May of the same year (1973) he was ordained a Catholic Priest by His Grace, Most Rev. Godfrey Okoye at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, Amakwa Ozubulu: a well-celebrated event. This celebration was crowned with a donation of a Morris Marina car by Ozubulu Catholic community. He was 24 years old at his ordination. Remember that primary school education ran for 8 years then as against 6 years which was introduced in 1964. He became the second Ozubulu Catholic Priest. Baaju’s priestly ordination in 1973 was the first to be held inside Ozubulu. This event seemingly opened up a floodgate of subsequent priestly ordinations in Ozubulu.
Next, his priestly placement took him to Parishes in Awo-Omamma, Azaraegbelu in Owerri diocese, Regina Mundi Catholic Parish in Mushin, Lagos, etc. Baaju later undertook Post Graduate Diploma Studies in Education at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and came out a valedictorian in 1978. He took teaching appointments at the Community Secondary School, Awo-Omamma, Imo State, the College of Education, Nsugbe, and later College of Arts, Science and Technology, Oko, in Anambra State.
Thereafter, he travelled to the United States of America for further studies. He successfully completed programs in MA (Phil) University of Pittsburgh, MA (Theology) (Boston College), M.Ed, (Duquesne University), and Ph.D. in Education at the University of Pittsburgh, USA (three masters degrees and a Ph.D.) in 1986 before returning to Nigerian. Whenever he visited Nigeria from the US, he spent his Sundays in various parishes assisting other priests in celebrating Masses. Church wardens had little work to do; his homilies were incisive and interesting and not exceedingly long. The congregations were always alert and eager to hear the next message from him.
On his return to Nigeria after his studies in the United States, he taught at Spiritan School of Philosophy, Isienu, Nsukka. He also taught in the Sandwich Program at University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Back home at Ozubulu, he established 3 secondary schools under the aegis of College of BASIC Studies in 1988. The secondary schools are: Comprehensive Secondary School, Ozubulu, City High School, Nza Ozubulu and Ekwusigo Technical School, Eziora Ozubulu. These schools became the fourth post primary school in Ozubulu after Zixton Grammar School and Catholic Girls Secondary School, Ozubulu, and Boys Technical Secondary School, Ozubulu, which existed before the Nigeria Civil War.
Next, because of his passion for youth development, skill acquisition and empowerment, he introduced the Ifemuonso Scholarship Program (ISP) in 1999 without much fanfare or noise. This scheme ensured that finance did not impede genuine ambition of some teenagers and the youth to further their educational programs in Medicine, Law, Engineering, Education and other disciplines. The studies were to be undertaken at any Nigerian University, Polytechnic and College of Education. Nearness to school was an added advantage to children who could not afford transport fare for school shuttle. Best brains at the secondary school level received handsome prizes and scholarship awards from him. Boys and girls who excelled in sports and marchpast were rewarded. Beneficiaries of these scholarship scheme who are now making their marks in all walks of life are attesting to the benefits of this program.
Along the line, Baaju developed a renal condition. This compelled him to return to the US for a medical attention. In the course of his treatment, he was still directing the affairs of his schools. His worldview is manifested in the motto of his secondary schools: Education for Social Radicalization. And as part of his School Anthem, he did not believe in failures. “Readers make good leaders” he often told his students. Time after time, his disagreement with some of his school Principals bordered on education malpractices and moral decadence. To achieve good results, he sometimes stepped on the toes of the management who were proponents of the so-called “Nigerian factor”. Baaju also believed in hard work and a paradigm shift from the orthodox. He used to work daily and late into the night on his computers.
Still in the course of his medical attention in the US, he held several pastoral appointments which included Director of Hospital Chaplaincy Services, Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Florence Colorado, and Lubbock Texas, USA. He encouraged and assisted over a hundred and forty Nigerian and East African Priests and Reverend Sisters and individuals to visit the United States and further facilitated their travels. In many cases, he offered residential accommodation, mentored and briefed them on how to get the US visa. Baaju was instrumental in founding the Association of Priests, Religious, Aspirants and Seminarians of Old Ozubulu Parish (APRASOP) including Ihembosi.
He wore a smiling face most of the time. He called people especially the youth by their first (native) names or titles. He liked to be called the Ifemuonso, African King or “Akpu Nku”. He is an ardent believer in culture and tradition. But he carefully avoided aspects of it that were tinted with any pagan coloration or idol worship.
All said, Baaju’s landmark achievements and social disposition found their root in his birth, early education and contact with people from various ethnic backgrounds. He was a native of Ozubulu in Ekwusigo Local Government Area and was born on 14th May, 1948, at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Ihiala. He started his education in 1954 at St. Michael’s Primary School, Eziora, Ozubulu and ended it at Port Harcourt. This was after going through some primary schools in Warri, Benin City, Sobe, Owo, Okitipupa, Ikom, Opobo, Aguleri, Oguta and Orlu. Owing to the nature of duty of our father, he was privileged to go through those old Nigerian Agriculture Produce – exporting towns and beaches in the former Western and Eastern Regions of Nigeria with his father who was a Produce Inspector.
Regretfully, on 14th August 2019, Rev. Fr. Dr. Baaju Izuchi, C.S.Sp passed on at Boston Medical Center, USA after a long struggle with illness. And that was after many American Medical Doctors tried with uncommon determination to save his life. However, his fine legacy will continue to announce his hard work to include his amiable disposition, his financial relief to the needy, his synergy and hand of fellowship to his fellow-priest and religious, his policy of evangelization through education and all that.
Baaju was a great man of God, an achiever, a trail blazer, a dogged social fighter, a strong character, the Ifemuonso, BASIC, the African King, ‘Akpu Nku’ and a computer savvy. Good bye.
Sir (Chief) V.E.D. Izuchi
ELDER, IZUCHI FAMILY OF OZUBULU