“Transformation” was the theme of our inaugural TEDxOguiRoad in 2018. We chose this theme to highlight what we hoped TEDxOguiRoad will represent: the beginning of a long process of transforming people to broaden their imagination and see beyond what they think is possible, in order to create a community that thrives. The theme for our November 2020 edition was “Reimagine”. To drive the conversation, we had asked, “what will our communities and the rest of the world look like post COVID-19?”
Looking back today at both themes, we see Innocent Chukwuma; a man who constantly used his various platforms to provoke deep thought on important issues that affect his various communities, using those platforms and the derived solutions to transform our society for the better, always searching, always helping, never tiring, never asking for anything in return other than for everyone to play their part.
As the Regional Director of Ford Foundation in West Africa, the TEDxOguiRoad team can unequivocally say that Innocent was one of our most dependable collaborators and sponsors. In his personal capacity, he was one of us, a coach, ally, partner, hands-on team member and co-host of the 2020 edition of our event.
At one of the TEDxOguiRoad team’s traditional lunch meetings to discuss the strategic directions of our various interventions (this was shortly after Innocent retired from Ford Foundation late January 2021) Innocent was asked the question, “What next?”. He discussed the fellowship he secured to teach and write his memoirs at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School. And then there was the Yellow Chilli event of March 27th 2021, where a host of Innocent’s friends came together to send him forth from Ford Foundation, oblivious of the fact that he will depart the world exactly a week later. To think that this was the answer to the “What next?” question is both bewildering and heart-breaking.
At his passing, a common refrain from all the tributes flowing in from various bodies and organisations is that “Innocent was one of us”, everybody claiming a whole or part of him. In truth, Innocent Chukwuma was one of those rare individuals that belonged to everybody and belonged to nobody. Driven by a relentless desire to improve people’s lives, he spent his life provoking deep discussions in matters that affect our community, determined to play his part in fixing a decaying system. All this he did with humour, humility, always wearing his heart on his sleeves.
Innocent was an inspirational figure and he will be fondly remembered and greatly missed at TEDxOguiRoad.
Our hearts go out to his wife, Josephine, and three daughters, Chidinma, Amarachi and Nkechi.
Paddy Anigbo, Uloma Ike, Jekwu Ozoemene