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A vulcanizer’s climb from grass to grace

By Felix Uka/Abakaliki

Most persons in the job of vulcanizing most times get into it owing to various situations beyond their control, other than by preference. Ordinarily, the repair of vehicle tyres is not seen as a lucrative business. But ironically, one vulcanizer in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, is affluent and now a key player in various sectors of the Ebonyi State economy and polity.

Chief Boniface Chukwuneke Ezeadikwa’s story of grass to grace is a reminder of the maxim that the height attained by great men is not an overnight flight, but a life characterized by the odds of nature. He was born into the family of late Mr. & Mrs. Godian Ezeadikwa in Ezineni village, Neni in Aniocha local government area of Anambra State. The parents sojourned in Abakaliki where Boniface was born. The brevity and enterprising bearing of Chief Boniface Ezeadikwa popularly known as Eze and Bros began to flourish in 1962 when he completed his primary education and enlisted into the vulcanizing trade to establish a stride that he hoped would foster his secondary education career.

Speaking to our reporter in his regal home in Abakaliki, Ezeadikwa explained that his success was a twist of fate, particularly for such seemingly lowly job. He explained that at the age of four he served as a baby nurse for a woman at Enugu. He narrated that the day he was brought to the woman she was to serve, he was given a plate of rice which by then was a rare meal that was for the rich or could only be eaten by average families during seasons as Christmas. So, he was happy thinking he had finally landed into his El Dorado only for him to realise shortly after that it was not going to be rosy.

As he advanced in age, he left for Jos??? in Kano State where he served as apprentice to a vulcanizer for four years. He later returned to Igbo land, precisely Abakalikli, located a vacant spot around Vanco Junction, a relatively busy district in Abakaliki.  He said that by then Abakaliki was a mere local council that recorded the upward status just after the creation of Ebonyi State in 1996. Ezeadikwa recalled that while in Jos he was able to save £1,300 and had his pumping machine, hence he could easily start vulcanizing. This was against the backdrop of a short-lived quest for a secondary school education due to the outbreak of Nigeria- Biafra civil war.

Not deterred by the 1967 civil war which cut short his enthusiasm for a higher education certificate, Ezeadikwa joined the Biafra Army as a soldier, where he rose to the rank of a sergeant. His experience as the Mess Sergeant of the Biafra Army Engineers Officers Mess galvanized his interest and foresight to assume the position of an industrialist, philanthropist, social crusader, politician, and transporter.

He has many friends in Abakaliki, most of them, in the academic circles. He said that his interest in education accounts for his choice of the academia as friends, noting that it helped him a lot in his business and social activities. Former Vice Chancellor of Ebonyi State University, Prof. Fidelis Ogah, explained that it was because of Ezeadikwa’s curiosity in education that made him ensure that all his children become graduates.

Another don, Professor Egwu U. Egwu, described Ezeadikwa as a consummate businessman who rose from ashes to pinnacle and became a millionaire by dint of hard work.

Recently, at Ezeadikwa’s seventieth birthday, Abakaliki turned a beehive of activities and festivities. It took off with Holy Mass at Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church Kpiripkiri, Abakaliki. The Catholic Bishop of Abakaliki Diocese, Bishop Michael Nnachi Okoro officiated at the mass. The Bishop in his message stated that, “the Bible says that the age of 70 and 80 is for those who are strong. By reaching 70 you have proven that you are a strong man indeed. Welcome to the club of the strong.

“At the age of 70, most men must have achieved most things they had dreamt of achieving in their youth. After 70, life graduates to a higher level, namely the spiritual level when we concentrate on deepening our spiritual lives, seeing things of this world through the eyes of the wisdom of the old which is based on years of tough experience and wisdom of God which surpasses gold and silver.”

The thanksgiving events that marked the birthday and family thanksgiving were most colourful with the children and family friends adorning uniform dresses of varied crests and designs. Cultural dances and assorted display were on various stands. Citation of the

Eze and Bros was reminiscent of a professorial excerpt. The session of special dance by the chief celebrant and family members turned to be a time of show of appreciation as people almost struggled to embrace the celebrants.

Chairman of the occasion, Ambassador Lawrence Nwuruku used the event to preach what could pass as a gospel for good neighbourliness. He said that the fame and prosperity so achieved by the celebrant was due to his good spirit of sharing with people around him. The Ambassador explained that the major essence of creation is for man to share love with neighbours and give glory to God. He called on people to copy such virtues as shown by Ezeadikwa while he advised him to sustain the good things that had endeared him to people. Governor Elechi in his goodwill message to Ezeadikwa said that in addition to the fortunes of a good family, Ezeadikwa’s life has been an eventful one characterized by many achievements. “Apart from your works of charity and philanthropy, you have remained an employer of labour, development-facilitator and important reference point in social relations. We glorify your maker for the sufficiency of His grace upon your life and for using you as a blessing to your generation. I urge you not to rest on your oars,” Elechi stated.

The deputy governor, David Umahi, in his message explained that having attained the proverbial age of ‘three-score and ten,’ he has deservedly joined the select list of men and women who are specially favoured by God at 70 years. “Yours has been an eventful life of service dominated by high profile achievements and legacies of honour. You are indeed an icon of high standing and blessing to your generation,” he enthused.

The Minister of Health, Professor Christian Onyebuchi Chukwu in similar choice of words added, “We salute your strength of character, your forthrightness, your determination to succeed in life, your sense of justice and equity, your industry and above all your belief in God and practical demonstration of love and fear of God. These are some of the hallmarks of your patently successful life.”

Ezeadikwa, also recognized as Ojinnaka, had explained that the Managing Director of Chidiebere Transport Limited, Umuahia, late Senator Victor Akan, Dr. C. O. Ezenwere, Colonels Udeaja and Nwariaku are his mentors and acquaintances whose lifestyles of diligence, commitment and philanthropy influenced his life.

‘Eze and Bros’ as he is popularly known by his associates, as a philanthropist and social crusader, has given out tippers from his haulage in time past and presented to Abakaliki local government area and other government agencies to dispose refuse during monthly sanitation exercises in Ebonyi

State at no charge on the government. Indeed, his business acumen grew into a rewarding partnership with Michelin Tyre Service, Odutola Tyres and Ugochukwu Tyres as its representative in Abakaliki, a partnership he capitalized on to carve a niche for himself in the same business. Hence it metamorphosed into a business empire, with his transport industry thriving, thus becoming managing director and chief executive officer of a reputed haulage industry. His confidants explain that Ezeadikwa’s track records assumed acclaim, complemented by the innate intrinsic appeal of his wife, Mrs. Rose Chinwendu who has enjoyed 33 years of marital bliss with him with the marriage favoured with children, who he described as colourful blessings of God.

Mrs. Ezeadikwa, an accomplished professional teacher, is a member of the Ebonyi State Universal Basic Education Board (UBEB), and accordingly a manager of her home and career.

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