The Scripture he taught me is still alive: “Let no man trouble me, I bear in my body, the marks of the Lord Jesus” – Gal 6:17. Good Night, my brother!
In 1968, the civil war was raging furiously and we were busy grasping First Aid skills in the Red Cross Society in Ovim, while the members of World Council of Churches were busy distributing Relief materials. Soon after, we took over from them, occupying the centre stage. Working with them was a handsome youth I always met on the road. One day, he came to our Post and I asked who he was and was told, “Obiora Ota, from Ezere, a Higher School student in Hope Waddell”.
In 1970, I entered the UNN, Enugu Campus and Obiora joined in 1971 at Nsukka Campus. He was born-again but I was not until April 16, 1972. There was hardly any person in Isuikwuato that did not hear it as I was ministering from one Methodist Church to the other at home, Aba and Enugu. My message was mainly on my salvation. One Sunday, I invited myself to the Christian Union [CU] Fellowship and gave my testimony. That year, Obi’s dad died. I was impressed deeply by our brethren’s love to him. Towards the end of that year, 1972, I attended the CU retreat at Awgu. That was where my bonding with him started and it grew beyond measure.
Earning a Bachelor’s degree in Geography in 1975, he did his NYSC in the North, a familiar terrain that boosted his evangelism zeal. He and some brethren were stoned one day, but he did not mind. After his service, he came to me in Lagos. God opened a door for him in the Federal Ministry of Works, Survey Department. He was later admitted in the Federal School of Survey, Oyo. If we heard a car horning at my gate late at night, it could only be him. I rebuked him for taking needless risks. His feeble defence that the roads were clearer at night and one could speed up at requisite, crumbled before him. ”If you have an accident, who will help you?” I asked him. He changed instantly. Obi believed in me and I believed also in him. One mid night, the appendicitis of his brother, Nkemdirim, living with me, nearly ruptured and I took him to LUTH for surgery. Some people would have accused me of breaking my law of night driving. Not Obi!
At that time, the fragrance of love had filled my house as I was waiting on the wings for the response of my marriage proposal to Sister Ify, a CU member in UNN, Nsukka Campus. Obi caught the plague. While I had the patience of Job to wait for eighteen months, he lacked that ‘anointing’. When Sis. Ijeoma, a nurse at Enugu, was delaying her response to his proposal, he gave her a deadline. Her mail came by post, meeting his deadline! I opened it, Obi’s letter, and read. I rejected her negative response. Obi arrived that evening, and told me that he would travel to Enugu the next day. I objected but, unlike him, never to argue once I had taken a strong position, he insisted. My fear was that Ijeoma would know from him that he had not read her letter and might disclose the content to him. At last, I accepted and gave him a letter for her, in which I pleaded with her for us to wait on the Lord over their relationship. I warned Obi not to read the letter. “I know the content. You want to wed before us. That’s why you are telling her to delay her response,” he accused me. I did not care, so long as he would not read it.
When Ijeoma came into the picture, she still turned down his proposal in a letter she wrote to me. Preparing my brother for the bad news, I asked him what he would do if Ijeoma rejected his proposal. “I won’t give up on her,” he assured me. I thanked him and gave him the letter. He went wild, and wrote his ‘famous ten-page letter’ to Ijeoma [as I wrote in one of my books] telling her that it was over between them. I told him that he was kidding. He then accused me of forcing him to marry her, but I did not care. God being God, at the end of the day, they changed their minds. In December 1978, God joined them at Presbyterian Church, Uwani, Enugu. Now they have gone but the children, praise God, are around!
Obi was always Obi, and being aware of our relationship, and also my relationship with Bro. Tunde Oladiran, he did not take chances when my wedding with Sis. Ify was close. “Sebi, I’m your Best man?” he asked. I acquiesced, though it could be him, it could also be Tunde. And he was!
A year after Ijeoma had passed on, I visited Obi in Makurdi and I was sad that the burial programme and various things about her death were still pasted conspicuously on the walls of their house. I insisted on their removal and they did. I interviewed their daughters on the need for him to remarry and they objected vehemently. I contacted Nomnso, their corper brother, and he took sides with them. Obi too, did not give a good response. Thank God that after some years, they did, and he also did! He, his new wife and baby, visited me in Lagos one evening before our sister went to be with the Lord.
A lover of people, even to his detriment, he was true to his name, Obiora – a man of concern for others! Nkemdirim, the last born of their Mum, was living with me and Obi was spending virtually all his weekends with us. After receiving his pay, he would distribute the last kobo to his siblings, not considering how we were feeding. When the financial burden was becoming unbearable, I reminded him that a child of God removes his tithe first and then his feeding and transportation money before disbursing what remains. I told him that he had never minded how we were feeding. He changed immediately and went to the extreme of sending us yams after earning his professional certificate and was posted to Makurdi and even when Nkemdirim had left us! Obiora!
We had many things in common, but our disposition towards them was different. All the years I was the National Treasurer of NIFES, his interest in NIFES was slim. When everything in me was Scripture Union, it was Obiora and NIFES! When we started Isuikwuato Christians Crusade Organization, to him, only NIFES mattered. When we were Elders in ECWA, we took delight in parading our branch Churches. In 1990, some of us left and started Evangel Pentecostal Church, he remained in ECWA. Thank God that I was the one, who left, as I still relate with that great Church.
After his remarriage, a wide gulf, unfortunately, seemed to have separated us, the two David and Jonathan, lasting till his death. A lover of God, I recall with nostalgia, his rejection of a chieftaincy title for the survey work he did. “What am I?” he asked. The Scripture he taught me is still alive: “Let no man trouble me, I bear in my body, the marks of the Lord Jesus” – Gal 6:17. Good Night, my brother!
For further comment, please contact: Osondu Anyalechi: 0802 3002 471; [email protected]