You died, but you live on: Elergy for my late Brother and friend -By Chief Mike Ozekhome

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High Chief Pius Enakhumhe Abu Ozekhome, you died last week. But you live on. Oxymoron? Yes. I will explain. We loved each other dearly, to no end. We were not just brothers, but very close friends, confidants and soulmates. As Mark Anthony once famously put it concerning the Roman warrior, Julius Caesar, in William Shakespeare’s epic by the same title, Julius Caesar (Act 3, Scene 2), late Pius Ozekhome, aka Manager, my immediate elder brother, “he was my friend, faithful and just to me”. My late brother was said to have foreseen and foretold of my birth. Our mother told us that when she was heavily pregnant, Pius as a kid would touch and caress her bulging tummy and declare, “Agbedor is inside here”. Whenever he was eating or drinking in our then rusty Iviukwe village rural setting, Manager was said to always pour some food particles and water on the ground and proudly declare, “Agbedor, eat your food and drink your water, so that you will get fat in the belly”. Our mother and neighbours told us that on the day I was finally born, the unusual happened. Manager was said to have suddenly jumped up, thrown up his hands in joy, ecstasy and with the boisterous celebration of a child, he started exclaiming, “Agbedor has arrived; Agbedor has arrived; Agbedor has arrived…”. This was how my late brother, the Omegbha (Wise One) of Weppa Wanno Kingdom, gave me my personal name, AGBEDOR. This is the name I bear till date. My father, late Chief Abu Ozekhome, however, gave me a name, as fathers must do to their wives’ newborn babies. My father gave me the name EMOEPO (there is no more quarrel; there is peace). That name never stuck. Manager’s name for me, AGBEDOR, melted it. The name Agbedor has since become glued to me forever.

What is so significant about the name AGBEDOR? Why did my late brother insist on the name even before I was born? In Weppa-Wanno, Etsako and Afenmai language, Agbedor means “BLACKSMITH”. A blacksmith is one who fabricates objects out of iron by hot and cold, forging them into shape on an anvil. A blacksmith forges raw iron into hoes, cutlases, knives, daggers, shoes for horses called farriers, etc. The first evidence of smithing by hammering iron into shape is a dagger found in Egypt, dating back to 1350 B.C; the likely product of a Hittite tradesman.

It is traditionally believed that people named Agbedor are strong, resilient, patient, compassionate, enduring and always insist that due process be followed. That is why he forges raw iron into a shape he desires and which he believes is beneficial to the people. I decided to dig more. Nameecho.com was quite illuminating. Analyzing the letters, A, G, B, E, D, O, R (Agbedor) separately, Nameecho.com states:

“The name holds the vibration of an independent leader, someone who wont change their mind under other’s pressure…having the power to be thankful for what one has been given in life…has an empathetic nature, and is predominantly emotional; this person is expected to be affectionate, compassionate and warmhearted; replicates the mindset of successful people…having life principle to guide by…likelihood to complain; has a mannered and inclusive approach social experience in life. In the case of the name Agbedor, this person understands where his focus should be in his relationships, the life challenges speaks of accepting and respecting the opinions of their friends”. In name numerology, Nameecho.com states “Destiny (so-so); Love (descent); Health (very high); Money (very high); Family (decent); Friendship (high). I am happy with this name, Agbedor.

In turn, and in reciprocity, I gave my late brother his now famous name by which he is known and called by all and sundry: “MANAGER”. I gave him the name when he was managing my law firm in Lagos in the late 1980s up to early 1990s, after quitting the Nigeria Police Force as a Sergeant and crack detective. How can I ever forget such a dear brother and friend?  NEVER! NEVER!! NEVER!!!  So, in September 2019, upon falling ill to cancer of the bladder, I brought him, his wife and some of his children to live with me in my Abuja home, caring for and nurturing him. God Almighty made it possible with the means and wherewithal that enabled me to send my dear brother to the best hospitals in Nigeria and Dubai, as advised by medical experts. This has been on since September 2019. I thank God that I gave my dear brother the best of health and medical care that modern science and medicine could ever offer. Manager appeared to be stable, recovering fast, and doing better; for on three occasions, he actually visited our Iviukwe community back home, albeit, briefly. He was received with warmth and jubilation.  Even with his lingering pains, he steadfastly held on to the Lord till the last day. He made the Holy Rosary his companion. In his dying days, he was, as a Catholic, administered with the Sacraments of Penance, Anointing of the Sick and Viaticum (the Holy Communion administered to a dying person). And guess what?  Two Catholic Priests did this at the National Hospital, Abuja. Another revealing aspect of his last moments on earth was when he pointedly told his wife on the day he died (September 10, 2020), that he would be “checking out of the meeting at about 7pm since the meeting was over”. Prodded on by his passionately faithful wife, Roseline, who was with him all through thick and thin, as to what he meant by “checking out of the meeting at about 7pm,” Pius simply smiled and drooped his head. But, he did not answer. But, guess what? He gave up the ghost at about 7.50pm!  So, my soulmate, I know and verily believe you are ensconced in the warm bosom of the Lord. You well knew you were joining Him. Manager, my dear brother and friend, you were so many things rolled into one: mine and Ozekhome pillar of strength; community leader; uncommon unifier; peacemaker;  agriculturist; farmer; entrepreneur; trader; sportsman; centre referee; football commentator; helper of the poor; role model; extraordinary journalist and exponent of the famous ‘Ogidigba’ masterpiece programme on AIT; High Chief; former chairman of Weppa Wanno Council of Chiefs; fine Police Officer and a gentleman;  shrewd politician, political leader and master political strategist. Wait, I have not finished. Omegbha, you were a Cultural Ambassador and a repository and custodian of Weppa Wanno native laws, customs, traditions and culture. You were a father figure to me and members of the Ozekhome Ukpi Drum lineage. You were the pioneer chairman of the Ozekhome Descendants Union (ODU); and the Home Commander in the “war” front. You were extremely sartorial, gregarious, humble, effervescent, kind-hearted, generous, hardworking, caring and quite loving. We cannot forget that you were a great artist, actor and comedian who acted lead roles in many home videos. Community masquerade? You were there. You bubble with the sap of life like a yam tendril in the rainy season (thank you, Chinua Achebe – “Things Fall Apart”).

To say your death is a big blow to me as a person is a great understatement, perhaps, for want of better grammatical exactitude. But, who am I to question God’s decision? He loved you far more than all the mortals in this world combined. More importantly, in the words of Ecclesiastes 3, “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born a time to die”.

Iyokpamhe lagi  ikuekhia mhe, you were therefore, destined and primed to die when the Lord called you. This is my greatest solace. The loss of a loved one, though quite painful to those left behind, must be countered with the lyrical words in Romans 14:8, “For if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s”. Ikhumhinebe, you “have fought the good fight, you have finished the race, you have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7). So, glory be to God Most High.

In my humble estimation, Manager, you came, you saw and you conquered (veni, vidi, vici). Your loss is not just mine. It is an irreparable loss to your lovely wife, dear children, the entire Ozekhome dynasty, the grieving people of Iviukwe, Weppa-Wanno lands, the three Etsakos, Afenmai and Edo State in general. Ebibinoze, you have thrown our land into great mourning, because “when beggars die, there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of Princes” (Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, coran Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife, Act 2 Scene 2). Let me borrow the words of the great orator, Mark Anthony, in the same Julius Caesar, Act 5, Scene 5: “His life was gentle, and the elements mixed so well in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, ‘This was a man.” Ozaomhe, you left your golden footprints indelibly in the sands of time.

Yet this is the towering figure that the cold hands of death simply snatched away. Just like that! But death itself must die one day. Said John Donne, “Death, be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. Why swell’st thou then? One short sleep past, we wake eternally And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die”.  Yes, death thou too shall die.

In the words of Buddha, “even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely”. Death, where is thy sting? Death, thou art ashamed. Enakhumhe, you have gone to rest with the Lord, free from the daily stress of this vain-glorious world of iniquity, impunity, lawlessness, vanity and futility. Yes, in the words of David Mazzuchelli, “life is stressful, dear. That’s why they say, Rest in Peace”.

Adieu, Manager. Farewell, agene no zaza. Goodbye, Enakhumhe, my eternal brother and friend. Rest in the Lord, Pius, till we meet again to part no more. So, you see? You died, but you live on.

 

Thought for the week

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” (George Eliot)

“Through Adam and Eve we received death. Through Christ we received life…” (Jackson Ponzio) 


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