Newark, NJ, Saturday, Nov. 10 – Yesterday, my boss called me and told me that there was going to be a big to do event at the famous Robert Treat Hotel in Newark, New Jersey, where most Nigerians used to have their event. But I think this was broken when my boss had his event, the Nigerian Achievement Award at the Symphony Hall also in Newark, where Prof. Chinua Achebe and others were recognized. Any way, that’s beside the point. So my boss said, if you have time, you can stop by. I laughed and said, you mean I have to be there don’t you. Well, he replied, “I said if you have time, please stop by.” “Okay, it means I have to be there, and what’s this big to do about,” I asked?
Julius Sea’s 70th birthday is being celebrated. “Oh, wow,” I said, “so two of you are both Scorpions.” Then he said something to the effect that I knew he didn’t care for the Star business. For your information, Julius Sea is better known as Onowu Dr. Julius Sea, the Onowu is for New Jersey I understand. Anyway, I am not from Anambra, so I don’t know what the title stands for. “That’s so great to see people celebrating this big man when he is alive; we seem to always talk nonsense when the people don’t die,” I said. “Okay, I will try come, no I know this is a command performance. Since you are going I will be there too.”
So, today I got dressed in a short skirt and blouse, I didn’t want to look like all those big women with all that big head ties. Before you enter your car, you have to talk true and might break your neck trying to fit in. I got to the Robert Treat Hotel, it is now known as Best Western Robert Treat Hotel, just a little after 8:30 pm. Well, just like any Nigerian party or African party, the event hadn’t started. In fact, it was supposed to be held in a smaller room but was moved to the bigger ballroom because so many people, I was told, were coming. True to form, by the time the celebrant came in, it was almost 11 pm and the hall was almost filled to capacity.
A program book filled with felicitations on his 70th birthday was handed to guests. This party was being together for the Onowu by the family, his wife, Dr. Joanna Okafor-Sea, the well-known pediatrician who has delivered so many of Nigerian children in the Essex County area and environs, and his three sons. Tributes galore were paid by all kinds of people.
What really impressed me most was when people that the Onowu were asked to come out to the hall and acknowledge the man who helped and made it possible for them to come to America, almost 25 people stood there. It was a moving site, you see normally you bring some of the ingrates and they never acknowledge you, like my sister who doesn’t even talk to me now, though I suffered to pay for her to come here.
Later on, I said to my boss, Dr. Onyeani, why did he ask him and his wife to sit with them, rather than all his other friends. “Listen,” he said to me, “I have known Julius for a long time.” Then he proceeded to tell me this story about the first time that the Ikemba Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu visited the U.S in 1976. “Well, at that time, a lot of Igbo were still afraid of being seen in his company because they feared what would happen to their families back in Nigeria. Well, I didn’t care and the onus of bringing the Ikemba to New Jersey for a reception was entrusted to me. Then I drove with the late Tobias Chukwu to Long Island where Ojukwu was staying to pick him up. We came back to my house where my wife had prepared great food for Ikemba’s entourage. After that, it was Julius who agreed that the reception should be held in his own house where he lived in East Orange. He didn’t care either what the other Igbo were saying.”
When he told me this story, I said to him, “Ehn, two Scropios, two birds of the same feather.”
I very much applauded Dr. Mrs. Joana Okafor and his children for celebrating their husband and father, that they didn’t wait until his passing before letting him know how they appreciate him. That’s how life should be. Congratulations, Onowu Dr. Julius Asokwu Sea.