Evang. Jonah Ekpone Chujor
By Samuel O. Onungwe
I may have known him in my hometown Ogale in the eye of a little boy. I heard he once contested as Councillor to represent Ogale Ward 3. However, I had an uncle, father and friend in him during my secondary school at Birabi Memorial Grammar School when I joined Engr. Ishmael Onungwe, Dr. Abel Olaka and Mr. Sunday at Bori Ogoni.
A mi mbe onwi nsisan Eleme. Mpio ra a’oro kor nmasan Eleme. Ngadala abee Eleme ebo ekarabe o’on rin kin dor.
Njeje ekerabe o’on rin kin ngwain. Rimba jira kor nno one njeje nno o’on yen a-churi enu jun-ebo abee Eleme, njeje afain rin abee Eleme lor.
Nnoni be ejira rima jira win ga na kor nsewine rekarajueken a yani
we gwan ade ro Obari awii mi
Aton ayornEVANGELIST JONAH EKPONE CHUJOR
At that time, he was the Accounting Secretary of the Khana LGA under the Rivers State Primary Education Board. In the innocence of child, we would call him Ekpone as common in Eleme then. He schooled us politely, when he made us to understand that elderly men and women in the area and beyond show respect to him when they addressed him. Since then, we all switched to call him Sir until he passed on.
During those days, Sir, Jonah lived with his friend Mr. Maate who was the director or manager of Risompalm Guest House located along 22 Gokana Street Bori lived together in a duplex apartment also, along Gokana Street. Their house became home to us as we went there for recreation – a place where we watched matches even when there was power outage in the entire Bori and of course refreshed ourselves as in item seven.
Sincerely, Bori was a strange land but with Sir Jonah’s shoulder to lean on, it was home away from home. Ever since, the relationship with Sir, Jonah blossomed even after our days at Bori.
In 2011, when the ASAMA Eleme Organisation came into limelight, Evang. Jonah E. Chujor was the Leader. He would stop at nothing to assert that Eleme is a distinct ethnic group in Nigeria. At that time Eleme was being subsumed by neighbouring communities and perhaps our relatives.
Evang. Jonah Chujor launched a search for documentary evidence to prove his point. There was never a library or institution believed to have such information that he would not be willing to spend his last Kobo and time to search through.
He sacrificed a lot for this cause and at some points, he was punished or rather disciplined by his employer for choosing to speak or defend his people against land encroachment by the neighbouring communities and daring to challenge them on Eleme being a distinct ethnic nationality but he would not deter. It could be recalled, how he was posted far away land and riverine lands to frustrate his access to his people and dampen his drive to publicise it. However, he could not give up. Never would he trade his pride and heritage for diamond or gold.
This coincided with the time Sir Jonah had already become an Evangelist of the Gospel hence, fasting and praying had become his routine in order to counter the spiritual attack that trails such battles. Like the story of the Shepherd who abandoned 99 to seek for 1, Evang. Jonah Chujor became fulfilled only when he found the said document as published by the National Population Commission decades ago.
Elated at the fulfillment of Matthew 7:7 in his search, he visited prominent Eleme indigenes including Archbishop Nwator, the Oneh Eh Eleme, His Majesty, Emere Dr. Samuel Oluka Ejire, the Council Chairman, Amb. Orji Ngofa and Elder Gomba H. Osarollor to celebrate this feat.
Soon, Asama Eleme Organisation would launch an independent newspaper to facilitate the dissemination of information primarily, to educate members of the society who were oblivious of the true Eleme historical story, cultural values and the challenges bedeviling a people who despite being highly endowed with rich loamy soil and their dependence on agriculture for survival, the discovery of oil in commercial quantities in 1956 immediately after the same discovery at Oloibiri in Bayelsa State has lost their land to pollutions or poisons occasioned by oil and gas exploration and exploitation.
The oil and gas resources in Eleme land and the hospitality of its people attracted the two Port Harcourt Oil Refineries, PHRC, a subsidiary of NNPC, Nigeria Gas Company, NAFCON, now Notore Chemical Industries Plc Onne and Notore Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority, Onne, Indorama EPCL and Indorama Fertilizer, Onne Ports, West African Headquarters of Daewoo among hundreds of oil and gas and allied companies to the land yet, Eleme people have continued to lack basic infrastructures such as uninterrupted electricity, roads, water, schools and hospital.
Before the inauguration of the Asama Eleme Newspaper, being the Clarion Newspaper whose one of its objectives was to make known the true story of Eleme as told by Eleme people and their friends, to avoid the truth being edited out or watered down with falsehood propagated by her enemies, Evang. Jonah Chujor contacted me and others to work as a Senior Correspondent. He said that I was a talented writer and wondered why I did not take that as a career.
Though, I was not shocked at his comment, because I had already published my first compendium titled Beauty in the Ugly, and featured on some media in Rivers State, I believed I should not delve into an area I was not formally trained to practice having been trained as an Engineer.
Evang. Jonah Chujor persuaded me and made me to understand that I am not limited by law to practice as a Journalist provided I was willing to do the right things. Remarkably, it I did not disappoint him. Next, I was issued an identity card and that was the visa to launch out with. Barr. Osilaka Abbey, now Ogbu, Chief Mike Osarogomba and (Sunny Factor) Mr. Sunday Okpa, were the Directors of Asama Eleme.
During his leadership at ASAMA ELEME ORGANISATION, he operated an open door policy and carried every member of his team along. He was not bossy but a leader – team player who would take no offence if you dare to challenge some of his proposals or policies with superior views. I know I actually did that at some points. He had so much confidence in us and I was encouraged to confide in him when the need arose.
Evang. Jonah Chujor having served Asama Eleme Organisation excellently grew to become the immediate past President General of O’ela Obor Eleme, the apex socio-cultural organisation of Eleme people.
Dissatisfied with the progress made amidst several challenges that affected his performance, including meagre finance and sometimes misunderstanding among the traditional, elites and political leaders of the land, he must have been motivated to move into partisan politics. His dream was to represent Eleme people in the Rivers State Assembly which would have given him greater opportunity to make laws that would benefit not just Eleme people but the entire people of Rivers State and law abiding citizens of Nigeria.
In 2015, during the general elections, he was to fly the All Progressive Party’s flag in this regard as he inaugurated his campaigns across the land. Although, this dream was not realized, his friend and former Governorship aspirant, Dr. Dakuku Peterside identified his resilience and desire to improve the society and took him along during his reign as the NIMASA boss.
I had made plans with my friend and former colleague at the Clarion Newspaper, Mr. Ogbiogbi Maate to meet with him to ask about the current status of Asama Eleme Organisation and the need to launch the junior wing of the organisation but it has always been overtaken by events.
While we were awaiting many good things from this globally known mouthpiece of Eleme, like his mentor, Emere, Godwin Chuma Chu (GVC), the cold hands of death has snatched him from us untimely and our heart bleeds again.
Evang. Jonah E. Chujor was godly but not infallible and we have prayed the Lord to accept him into his bosom. May the Lord comfort and provide for his immediate family, restore our displaced Ekporo Clan back to their fatherland and grant us the opportunity to benefit from the good things He has blessed us with which where the reasons why Evang. Jonah Chujor rose to fight for his people.
Until resurrection when we shall be reunited, we shall continue to miss and remember him for the principle of egalitarian society he stood for. For now and always let us #LightUpEleme.