The words of Anne L. de Stael that “We understand death only after it has placed its hands on someone we love” was really alive within the Bigard Chapel as the Bigard family in collaboration with Bigard Medical Team and the family of Late Dr. Chike Akunyili congregated on the 3rd day of November 2021 to pay a last respect to Late Dr. John Chike Akunyili. It was indeed a day of mourning, silence and deep reflection as everyone tried to understand the reason why God always takes the best. The death of Dr. Chike Akunyili was indeed painful, especially when one considers the manner in which he was murdered in cold blood on the 28th of September 2021. However, the tributes and testimonies of all close to Dr. Chike reaffirmed that good men must die, but death cannot kill their names. Dr. Chike lived a good life and has handed a legacy down to the generation coming after him. Our only obligation now is to pray for him and to imitate the good life he lived.
The Bigard family on the 3rd of November 2021, organized a requiem Mass for her head doctor. At the Mass presided by Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Peter Damian Akpunonu, the homilist Rev. Fr. Dr. Cletus Umezinwa preached about the pain of the loss, the generosity and kind heartedness of Late Dr. Chike Akunyili. According to him, very many people, families, relatives etc. were direct recipients of the magnanimity of Late Dr. Chike. In fact, Dr. Chike had always treated indigent people either free of charge or at a subsidized rate. This, for him, is enough gospel for all of us gathered for the requiem Mass because just as Paul VI says in his Evangelii Nuntiadi, “Modern man [should] listen more willingly to Witnesses than to teachers…” Dr. Chike witnessed greatly with his exemplary life and now calls us to follow his footsteps.
The tribute session was also full of wonderful testimonies of the wonderful life this rare gem lived. In fact, his achievements as were x-rayed by Medical Team of Bigard St. Luke’s Clinic, Rev. Fr. Dr. Peter Damian Akpunonu, Bigard Medical team and Akunyili’s son Dr. Obumneme Akunyili eclipsed the pains people felt at the death of this wonderful hero. The Bigard Clinic in their tribute made it clear that Dr. Chike’s generosity was never restricted to only offering free medical treatment to Seminarians and Priests or sacrificing private times to be available in the Seminary, but also extended to being an active benefactor of many indigent Seminarians. In fact, Chike dedicated his entire life to serving many people. The Bigard Medical Team represented by Professor Chukwuemeka Anisiuba was also on the same page as the Bigard Clinic. According to him, whereas he is angry at the barbaric way in which Dr. Chike lost his life, he acknowledged that the barbarians who murdered him just hastened his journey to a well-deserved rest after long years of arduous work as a doctor and Surgeon. Though we have lost someone who shows us the way to being kind, heavens have gained back one of their own.
The tribute to Dr. Chike Akunyili reached another height as his close friend, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Peter-Darmian Akpunonu gave a testimony of a more-than-fifty-years of friendship and love. It was indeed a difficult task for him to give a tribute to a person whom he had scheduled an appointment with. However, he was convinced that the good life he lived would be his passport to the promised land. Speaking on the generosity of Dr. Chike which are made manifest in his achievements in Bigard, Fr. Peter Damian gave a brief history of the Bigard St. Luke’s Clinic. For him, after late Dr. Udeorah established the Clinic in 1977, it was Dr. Chike who donated the first set of equipment used in the clinic. He also made mention of the impeccable availability and prompt response of Dr. Chike to emergency situations. Dr. Chike never seized to amaze him with his dedication to duty and his quick and willing response to emergencies. Dr. Chike was father not only to his biological children but to the Seminary family.
Responding to all these eulogies, Dr. Obumneme Akunyili who represented his family members was pleased at the good gestures of the Seminary in organizing the ceremony. In fact, he made it known that his siblings who were watching the event live on Facebook were grateful for what the Seminary has done. He then expressed his grievance at the manner in which his father was murderd. He made it known that his father had fully accomplished all that God sent him to do on earth and is now resting in the bossom of God the Father. In all Dr. Chike Akunyili was an icon of goodness to all. He was a pillar and fount of kindness and trained his children to follow in his footsteps. He lived a life which will be hard to replicate, but God knows why He called him at the time He did and in the manner He did.