Fate was at work to ensure that my last meeting with Alhaji Abdulaziz Chivuzor Ude happened after he had been to an art exhibition.
The devoted art patron was walking alone, without attendants or courtiers or whatever in the open courtyard of Freedom Park, Broad Street, Lagos during the Lagos Book & Art Festival (LABAF) after having just gone to see the art exhibition entitled “And The Centre Refuses To Hold” curated by Krydz Ikwuemesi that paid homage to Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart at 60.
When he saw me Alhaji Abdulaziz Ude beamed with a beatific smile and asked for my phone number. I called out the number and he duly stored it. Much later, when I had all but forgotten everything about our encounter, I brought out my phone and saw a missed call. I called the number. It was Alhaji Ude at the other end.
Alhaji Ude was the financier of a newspaper, Financial Post, I once worked for. The maverick “Motor-Park Economist” Ashikiwe Adione-Egom was the publisher.
He used to host lofty end-of-the-year parties for the staff in his Mekuwen home, off Queens Drive, Ikoyi. I once told him he was making me live above my means as a poor poet, and he jovially directed me to Publisher Ashikiwe to increase my salary!
When one took ill, there was the benefit of comprehensive medical care in the hospital on Moloney Street, Lagos Island belonging to his personable wife, Philomena (Memuna).
His office at 59 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi always teemed with all kinds of people asking for assistance. He was the financial chest behind the classy Chic Magazine published by Eddie Iroh out of London, England. He served as chairman of Newswatch and director of Tell magazine etc.
Born on September 30, 1940 in Abor, Udi LGA of Enugu State and christened Bertrand Ude, he was the first Senior Prefect of College of Immaculate Conception (CIC), Enugu and was nicknamed Shawcross after the legendary English lawyer, Lord Hartley Shawcross, who defended Britain at the Nuremberg Trials and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe at the Foster-Sutton Tribunal.
Educated at Oxford in England and Columbia in the United States, he was employed as an editor with the renowned American publishers Doubleday.
He founded Nok Publishers in the United States and Nigeria, publishing radical books such as The West and the Rest of Us by Chinweizu.
His close association with the iconoclastic first president of Guinea, Sekou Toure, led to his conversion to Islam.
Married with children, Abdulaziz Ude enjoyed tennis, meditation, reading, walking, and was the brain behind companies like Tanhigh Holdings Ltd, Tanhigh Finance Ltd, 150 Estates Nigeria Ltd, Trans-Sahel Airlines Ltd etc. He played a founding role in the African Business Roundtable and the African Development Bank. The creation of Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Imo and Delta States owed a lot to his patronage.
His support for the arts and popular culture was immense such that highlife musician Oliver de Coque immortalized him as “the mighty masquerade.”