Archive for June 2012

Sir Sebastian Igbokwe : Lessons from a golden father

June 22, 2012

My visit to Dionye Memorial Hospital mortuary at Ekwulobia in Anambra State left me dumbfounded. Not that I have not seen a corpse before; but the sheer number of dead bodies, lying in their full nakedness, set me thinking. Among these bodies was my father, Chief Sebastian Anagoba Igbokwe, Ezeugo of Isuofia and a Knight of St. Mulumba.
“So, this is Ezeugo! So, this is life,” I muttered to myself. What is the worth of this life? Why do people kill one another? Why have evil men not learnt some lessons about the nothingness of life? I was still pondering over these when news broke that some gunmen had murdered my uncle, Mr Donatus Igbokwe, in Maiduguri! I will return to this.
Life is as unpredictable as the English weather. One moment, you are all smiles. The other moment, one tragic event can change those smiles to bouts of depression.
Like every mortal, Ezeugo did not bargain on coming into this world. He was only told he was born on January 20, 1934. His father, Igbokwe Muobolum, died when he was about six years. His poor mother, Maryann Akudogwa Igbokwe, of blessed memory, struggled to nurture him and his siblings.
When he was about the age of 14, he entered what was then called Infant 1. Being a brilliant student, he was promoted to standard one shortly after. By the time he finished his standard six in 1954, the young Igbokwe had come first in the whole of Achina Parish and indeed, the whole of Onitsha Archdiocese.
The wave of life later pushed him to Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, in 1955. That year, he was offered a teaching appointment by an Irish priest called Father Simeon Marcormac, who posted him to Ofurugbudu Catholic School, now known as St. Patrick’s Catholic School Kpirikpiri – Abakaliki. He later obtained a higher qualification from St. Thomas Teacher Training College, Ogoja. Afterwards, he taught in many other schools in Abakaliki. Some of his pupils have grown to become very important members of the society. He retired in 1990.
Even as a primary school teacher, Ezeugo towered above most of his peers. His family never lacked the essential things of life. He cultivated subsistence crops even as he built a storey building at Abakaliki and another bungalow elsewhere in the same town. He had some other landed property, a feat even some rich businessmen couldn’t achieve. He also saw his five children through higher institutions. He did nothing illegal, only prudent management of resources with the help of my mother, Bridget, who pledged her salary and endured some other deprivations so that their children would prosper.
My father’s love for his family was such that when I gained admission into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, he took me to the school himself and went through the registration processes with me. He followed it up with constant visits to the school to see me. I didn’t see it as anything until some girls in my class started making fun of me. I had to tell him to stop the visits.
Ezeugo did not just cherish his family. He loved humanity. When he had a car, he always gave lift to people. He was a philanthropist who touched the lives of the poor and the needy in so many ways.
Besides, he was disciplined, hard-working and religious. His daily activities started with an early morning prayer. He had a bell he would always ring at 5am. Once that bell rang, all of us, his family members, must wake up for prayers. Whoever failed to wake up risked being roused from sleep with a cane or some splashes of water. The prayer would last for about one hour, after which, he would go for morning mass. In the night, the same bell would bring everybody together for night prayers.
His urge to serve God and humanity also pushed him into the knighthood of the church. He rose to become the Grand Knight of the Order of the Knight of St. Mulumba, Abakaliki Sub-Council. He was later made a 4th Degree Knight, the highest degree of knighthood, by the Ekwulobia Sub-Council. He was also a patron of the Catholic Men Organisation, Awka Diocese; a member of Nze na Ozo traditional society of Akulu Isuofia and patron or leader of many other organisations both in the church and in his community.
Ezeugo bubbled with life until mid 2010 when he fell ill. It started like a headache. We took him to a hospital where he was treated of malaria and typhoid. He didn’t get better. We took him to different other hospitals in Enugu and Ekwulobia all to no avail. At a point, he became bedridden. On Monday, January 30, 2012, he lost the battle as he died quietly in his country home.
Sadly, while we were still planning his burial, some unidentified gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram, shot dead his younger brother, Mr Donatus Igbokwe. It was on March 15, 2012, in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. Until his death, he was a Maiduguri-based businessman.
No doubt, all of us will leave this world one day. The questions remain, how will we die and where will we be after death? Are you an evil person who cherishes the suffering of others? Are you too full of yourself and always threaten to crush whoever you think is a threat to your ambition? Are you the type who beat their chest and say, “Do you know who I am?”
Well, just pay a visit to the morgue and discover who you are! Ezeugo Igbokwe left worthy legacies behind. May his soul and that of his brother rest in peace!