On December 24, 1989, 30 years ago, my family arrived at my parents-in-law’s house at Enugu. I shared God’s Word. Mama, being born-again, Papa was my target. On December 27, going back to Lagos, we went there again. “Osy, what is born-again?” He asked me, a question that made my day, and also, much sense for our passing through Enugu again.
I knew his problem, a man of high moral tone, who did not drive away his tenant that hired a lawyer, instead of using the money to settle his unpaid rent. He could not reconcile also, the poor lifestyle of some of his born-again tenants with their faith, as well as that of a top pastor, and an elder in the church. Being a school teacher, before joining the Nigerian Railways, I used it to remind him that, not every student, who sits an examination passes, so it is with those who profess Christ. “But Papa, a person, who didn’t sit the exam will not expect any result as his fate is determined already,” I concluded. He got the message and thanked me. We prayed and left. That night, he told Face, his second daughter, in the presence of Mama, to lead him to Christ. And she did! After a month, he became sick and four months after, he left us for Heaven. Imagine if he did not make that decision!
“How good and how precious it is for brethren to dwell together in unity,” Psalm 133 tells us. Describing what he meant, the psalmist likened it to the precious ointment on the head that flows to the beard and from there to the various parts of the body. From Mama’s side, Iya, her dad, as we called him fondly, planted a palm plantation and somebody destroyed it. He knew the man, but never asked him. It was not weakness but strength. He lived over hundred years and knew when the game was coming to an end. For two nights he kept on worshipping God until Heaven received him! Papa and Mama deposited this unusual ointment on the heads of their children, the Onyekeres, for them to cause it to flow down to their spouses, children and grandchildren and I am sure, if Jesus tarries, to their great, great grandchildren!
Papa has gone but Mama will be 90 next year. She is still strong, reading without eyeglasses and travelling to the US, not for treatment, but on vacation! Last year, we celebrated Emeka, a Mechanical Engineer, and their oldest child, who was 70 years. In June this year, we celebrated Aunty Ngo, the last born, for her auspicious visit from the US. Some families gather to settle disputes. Not the Onyekeres! Some gather to bury. Not the Onyekeres! We gather to celebrate! Praise God.
Papa was a great personality. He might not have counted billions of dollars but he had, and also did, what many people with billons of dollars in their till, neither have nor do. He was respected for integrity, a commodity not found in the market. I was persecuted, when I was born-again, but it stopped when the rumour spread that I was going to marry Ify, his first daughter. Who would dare to persecute his soon-to-be son-in-law? One of our top men merely gave me a letter from a retired British missionary to peruse. The priest was pleading for forgiveness for condemning one of the traditional festivals he had thought to be fetish. “What do you say?” To test me, he asked. I detailed the fetish practices, such as, the sacrifices before the mask was worn, the peculiar tree it dances around, and gives offerings by shedding off some leaves, which someone must collect. The man mused.
Papa gave us training in accountability. “Where did you go today?” He would ask, each time Ify and I or Face and I, went to visit some of our friends and family members, and would return home with suya we bought for sharing. Papa, on his own, would go to his mill every evening and when he returned, we would render the account of where we went and the time we returned. “So, you spent four hours visiting only five people?” He would ask. During our next visit, we would ‘repent’, by spending fewer hours outside and he liked it.
He was concerned on our dressing. “Papa Onyi said that you should tell your husband that this dress does not suit a chartered accountant,” that was Mama, passing Papa’s message to Ify, who would tell me. I would change it. That was great concern for us. Ify and I knew that he liked us to be staying with him, chatting. That was why we never slept outside his house, not even when my friend, the late Dr. Icha Ituma, the then Deputy Governor, would like me to be staying with him at the State House, when I visited Enugu.
Papa had his ‘gospel’. “A couple can’t bathe together,” he told us in 1978. As it contradicted the marriage counsel, we obeyed only at Enugu! Would you say, ‘No’ to Papa, a man trusted in prosperity and in adversity, as he would not abuse one nor collapse under the other? He handled issues with great aplomb! Democracy in his house was acceptance by all and not by majority vote. We copied it in our house. In July 1977, Ify returned from UK with her wedding outfit for our wedding in December. Everybody agreed, except Papa’s two last born, Oge and Ngo, as they would return home on holidays only a day to our wedding day. That was why we changed our wedding date to March 1978. To him, prosperity is not how much his child makes but how much every child of his does. Ify and I copied it also in our house.
The love Papa handed over to us is far beyond revelry. It is for us to be interested in the well-being of one another. It is the love that gives interest and liberty to all of us, in discussing personal issues. Papa’s DNA must be seen in my children as well as in the children of my wife’s siblings. My children must relate intimately with their uncles, aunties and their children and so must theirs to my family members.
Above all, loving him includes making heaven like him. On deathbed, a man bade ‘Goodnight’ to his three children but ‘Goodbye’ to the fourth. “Why?” He asked his dad. “Your siblings are born-again. We will meet in glory, you are not, it is ‘Goodbye forever,” he told him. The son gave his life to Jesus. May we live in Jesus, so that we will meet Papa!
Papa was blessed to see all his seven children graduating from the university, almost all on government scholarship. Respecting spiritual things, he approved our marriage on the spot when he received our letters, seeking his consent. He saw that they were written at different dates and were posted from different places, Ify from the University of Nigeria and mine from Lagos! He saw God behind it. Papa, KWONGO!
For further comment, Please contact: Osondu Anyalechi: 0802 3002-471; [email protected]