Friends, associates gather in Enugu to celebrate Mbanefo
THE life and times of former National President of the Nigerian Institute of Architects, the late Chief Frank Nwobuora Mbanefo was relived at the weekend as friends, family members and associates gathered in Enugu to remember him.
The well-attended occasion began with a church service held at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Independence Layout and a reception at the Dome Centre Enugu, where members of the Nigerian Institute of Architects, Enugu State Council, old boys of the Christ the King College (CKC), Onitsha, Knights and Ladies as well as several other dignitaries, attended.
In his homily at the ceremony, former Vicar General of Catholic Diocese of Enugu, Monsignor Obiora Ike, challenged Christians on the purpose and value of life without a place for God.
He stated that Jesus Christ demonstrated the “purpose and value” for life during his ministry on earth by coming to the help of the needy, giving the people hope and sharing with one another.
He said: “What constitutes life is how much those privileged in the society can live exemplary lives and help those in need as well as contribute to the development of the society.”
Fr. Ike noted that many Nigerians were suffering because certain privileged few have not known the real essence of life.
“People are creating kingdoms on earth, building houses and putting them under lock and key when there are many who don’t have a place of abode.
There are people who have continued to acquire resources for their fourth generation and this is giving rise to corruption in the country. Certain persons think that life ends here on earth, but let me say that it does not end here.
There is life after here, especially for those who believe in the Biblical injunction ‘giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked and ultimately using their life for the service of God.” “Jesus forgave a criminal on the cross for the simple reason that the criminal realised his inefficiencies and came to him at the point of death.
We should try as much as possible to embrace God, no matter the situation”, he said. Speaking about the late Mbanefo, he said his riches while he lived, did not prevent him from worshipping God, stressing that he used his resources to serve God and mankind.
According to Ike, the late Mbanefo was always pleased to be in the presence of God and had, during his last days, pleaded that his remembrance be marked in the Christian way devoid of the traditions associated with his people of Onitsha, Anambra State. “He was a shining light and illuminated the qualities of Christ whereever he went.
No wonder God helped him to see the Second World War, the coups in Nigeria; he lived beyond 80 and was a man who took a visible sign where others failed. Frank has gone to a good place and no one will snatch him away again, not even death”, he said.
He called on those he left behind to emulate his life, saying he gave his all to humanity “as even his home became a place for all.”
The National President of the CKC Old Boys’ Association, Chief Joebilly Ekwunife, who succeeded the late Mbanefo in the association after over nine years of leadership said: “I couldn’t have felt more elated than I feel today.” “He led a very good life; he was a very good old boy. He helped Nigerians and worked to keep the old boys together.
He left a big legacy and we are celebrating his life today because we know and even through his Christian background, that he is occupying one of the rooms in the Lord’s Paradise, we are very sure of that.” “He has left a big vacuum in the organization by his death. But the Lord who created us knows when we are going to die. As painful as it is, we feel that he has transited into greater glory.
We are going to feel the vacuum but we can never question the Almighty God. We believe to God’s glory he is in a better place. We are working very hard to filll the vacuum he has left”.
Ekwunife added that following Mbanefo’s love for the association, he enrolled his son, Chris into the association, stressing that there were very few persons who could allow their son have the same level of education they had during their time.
He said the organization would support any kind of foundation that may be set up by his family in his name as a way of showing their appreciation for the services he rendered to the group.
Second Vice President, Nigerian Institute of Architects, Adibe Njoku, said: “I have the honour of having worked under him; that was the last firm I worked before establishing mine and I knew him as an astute architect, very intelligent, who knew what he was doing and a stickler for details. Frank from inception to the last nail he would put on the building, would tell you, “this is what I want.’
I remember while working with him, you will miss a very little thing, he would call you and scream, how can people know there is a difference if you don’t put it? Specification was his greatest area of strength; you must put everything right. “He trained us well to step in and having passed through that, you would always know what to do at a given time.
We miss him as a father, he was 87 years old and retired before he died. So some of us had successfully taken over before his death.
I won’t say a vacuum has been created because we were readily prepared to continue from where he stopped.” “I am telling upcoming architects that it is nice to work under such great man.
There are so many little things that make a great architect and you have to know them. It can only be done by equally toeing the footsteps of those who learned from him.”
In the same vein, Arthur Nwandu said: “Frank Mbanefo was truly a great man in every sense of the word. Akunne as he was fondly called was a man who had touched various lives.
When I was a very young Architect, who just came back from the United Kingdom, that was when I had my first contact with him and since then, I have been close to him and his family. He is a man after my heart and I pray that the Almighty will receive him in heaven”.
Earlier, the only son of the deceased, Christopher had described his late father as “a strict disciplinarian”, whose strength laid in service to humanity, stressing that he left indelible marks in the heart of his children and wife, Alice, whom he referred as the “love of his life.”
He chronicled the journey of the life of Mbanefo from the CKC, Onitsha to various parts of Europe, his trainings that qualified him as an Architect and back to Nigeria, where he established his firm. Born on Nov 27, 1927 in Onitsha, Anambra State to the family of Isaac Aniegboka Mbanefo and Ezelagbo Mbanefo, the late Architect died last year.
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