Saturday July 28, 2018 was a special day in the life of my family. On that day we hosted a ceremony in honour of Audu Daniel Abah, who was my father. This ceremony was held in my village, Agaliga-Efabo, Imane district in Olamaboro local council in Kogi State. As is customary, there was so much to eat and drink. On Sunday July 29, we proceeded to St. Paul’s Catholic Church for the thanksgiving service. No day passes by without remembrances of my father. When I am invited for wedding ceremonies and I see old men give their daughter’s hand to the groom, I go doolally: I wish he lived. Times without number, you know, I just wonder whoever loves me and believes in me more than my father. I worry to this day, and get scary spasms, that life is so short and fleetingly passes on, so much that many have died without living their dreams. I appreciate every day now as a blessing by the Heavenly Being.
Today I struggle to achieve many things that he did achieve and for reasons that I can’t explain I just think time is against me. I am still far away from achieving what he did achieve: he had ten children, but never worried about how to take care of us. He never fretted openly. I have two children and worry constantly. My father’s knowledge of the arcane was deep. Many times, when some insects began to fly weirdly around him when we were young and on our farms (we had many), he paused and thought deeply, “a relative in the village is dead.” It turned out to be true. How he knew beats me. His death makes me remember my sense of mortality and impels me on to the realization that what matters in life is the quality of life one lives, not how long one lived. I try hard daily to be like Audu Daniel Abah who had a very strong memory, so strong that he gave us accounts of our family tree without difficulty. His rapid quips, when I asked about things I didn’t know, his bravura performances as a young man and in the Army are parts of my childhood I will never forget.
With him you can hear something and can take that to the bank. He didn’t have money in the maddening sense of the world today, but he made sure we were never hungry, I can’t remember missing a meal and we had shelter, I could follow the Gulf War (Operation Desert Shield) in 1991 while I tuned in to BBC on our Conion Stereo player with the big wooden speakers) and he bought us ‘Christmas clothes and shoes,’ sometimes from Bata and Lennards and boy! That was something! Talk about Christmas, we reared animals, but he bought fat goats which he slaughtered all by himself, without contracting it, you know as most folks do today. You would think he was in machismo heaven. How he skinned those animals and knew where the intestines were, the good parts and the bad parts which he discarded was nothing short of amazing. I have yet to ever slaughter a goat by myself.
Once I slaughtered a fowl and it was a struggle. Those goats were never eaten by the Abahs alone for he believed in the power of community. Large slices were cut and given to us to take to folks as presents during festive periods. He belonged to tribal associations and hosted multitudes when it was his turn to do so. I learned from my father how not to insult people’s intelligence as human beings, how to respect people but never to allow people to cross the Rubicon by being disrespectful when and however they deem fit.
He taught me to see myself as royalty. On occasions, when I went into his room to say the customary, “baba olodudu” literal translation Igala meaning, “daddy good morning, “I saw him staring at the ceiling and asked, “is anything the matter?” “Nothing, a man has to reflect and plan the activity of the day because time waits for nobody,” he would say. “Time waits for nobody,” was my father’s favourite quote. Is there a man that believed in Nigeria as much as my father? It wouldn’t be bogus to say no. I believe strongly that most children end up doing what their parents enjoyed barring experience gotten outside boyhood homes. He was interested enough in and spoke a bit of many languages even if it was passable. From the Zuru language, to Tiv, Idoma, Yoruba etc., etc., and even named my sister Augustina after a lady friend he met in Enugu before the civil war broke. She had a kind spirit he would say, he never saw her again.
Thanks to him I don’t evaluate people and put them in the box car of tribalism, on our first meeting, as dyed real-black bigots do. Not surprisingly, I followed his lead. For emphasis and for education I settled for the University of Ibadan instead of one in the Northern block. Were he alive when that happened, he might have applauded the move and seen it as a Phi Beta Kappa for travelling that far and besides getting the chance to study in Ibadan is no fluke. Philemon, my boyhood friend, once let drop with pride that my father bought him a beret. Hell knew no fury for I galloped all the way to mother to ask her why he should do that, for I had no beret. Father told me that Philemon asked him to buy him one, and he had to look after other people’s children, when necessary, besides us. For sure that didn’t make sense to me then but it did later.
Life should never be about us but also about other people and efforts geared forward to care for people should not be in words only but in action. Who is prouder of his Igala roots than my father was? It amazes me to see fellow Igala men and women pretend to be Europeans in Nigerian cities. Even with tribal marks, they pretend not to be Igala when you speak the Language to them. Same with the Tiv, Idoma and Langtang women I have met in this city. However unfledged our villages are for no fault of ours, they remain part of our roots.
Friendship was everything; he looked forward to seeing everybody with that ready smile. Desertion of friends and people were never his forte. Who taught me the importance of common sense? You ought to know now. You can never catch me dead in a place of donnybrook. Many friends in my days inside the University of Ibadan tried making me look like a gutless fellow in Ibadan but failed many times. I also try to avoid being at people’s doors unannounced without warning. While I still remember, in 1982 when I barely knew the importance of newspapers, father brought me one. The only time he ever did. I can’t remember if reading it made any sense then, but like I mentioned earlier, he had a massive knowledge about the arcane. Could that be the reason why I manage to wield a pen now? I appreciate Audu Daniel Abah, who was my father and his successes whilst here, in more ways than he would have ever been of mine.
Abah wrote from Abuja