Posted by News Express | 19 May 2018 | 2,200 times
A year ago, precisely on May 19, 2017, my family lost our patriarch, Pa David Eleke (Snr). He was a man whose entire life could serve as a lesson to all. A lowly man who had neither father nor mother (lost them at a tender age), he also had neither brothers nor sisters biologically (he lost them all). He hadn't formal education too, but he was determined to succeed, and to succeed, he deployed what he had. Skill; that was all he had, and this was in palmwine tapping. In the entire Ogoja province where he plied his trade, you couldn't lay claim to tasting the best palmwine if it didn't have the David Eleke imprint.
On May 18, 2017, I had called him at 10pm, and his phone rang out without answer. I needed to remind him that he needs to be in the village to continue his supervision of a small project we had at hand then. He did not take his call, and I figured he may be so tired after the day’s activities. But of course it was unusual for him not to take his call at 10pm. We had an agreement to always speak at that time, and even when I called earlier, he would always say to me; ‘let’s talk at that time we usually did.' Between us, we knew the time, and with time, it became a part of us to speak about everything we can remember at that time and it became the last thing we did every night before going to bed. Since the death of our mother three years earlier, and Papa's refusal to take another wife, I and my siblings made it a point of duty to always call him as we were all in various towns, leaving him in Ogoja (he had no objection about that).
On the 18th, when he didn't take my call, I sent a message on our family WhatsApp group, asking if anyone had spoken to him that day, and one of my sisters said she did, and that as a matter of fact, he just came back from the market (Okuku) when she called him. This was one thing we always encouraged Papa to do, since we forcefully retired him from tapping palmwine years before. We always encouraged him to visit his friends, especially in the market, where he can relive old memories, and he always did.
I woke up with a start at about 2am on 19th when I felt my phone vibrate(my phone never rings out, I hate to hear people's phones jarring nerves in public places because of loud ringtones), behold it was Eze, one of my younger brothers. Eze has an uncanny habit of calling people at odd hours, so I got upset when I picked the call, asking him not to call me again at such an odd hour. When I dropped the call, I noticed I had over 30 missed calls already, all from my siblings, my father, and one hidden number.
I was going to start returning the calls, beginning with my dad's when Eze called back, "you have not heard Papa is dead, he shouted over the phone." For some seconds, every part of my body seized functioning. When I was able to take a hold on myself, I told him I would call back, let me speak with Papa who had called me earlier. Of course, I’d called Papa’s phone number, and some skunks, who I suspect may have been responsible for Papa’s fate took the call, but refused to talk. The chill that went up my spine can only be compared to a freezing winter's as my fears were confirmed.
The story however was that some idiots, who probably were high on something that elevated their senses above normal reasoning broke into Papa’s house and attacked him. What the reason for their action was still remains unknown, except if probably they intended to rob him. Being a very brave man himself, it was not unexpected that he put up a fight and died in the process. Papa was found in the pool of his own blood after the criminals contacted us (his children), using his phone, which they made away with. It was by so doing that we contacted neighbours who moved in and met his door ajar, while he laid there in the pool of his own blood; his fist tightly clenched, an indication that Pa David Eleke was no coward.
Words cannot exactly express our grief, but even if action could, it would not come with the full weight of the loss we felt and still feel. Pa Eleke is gone, but I am sure those responsible for his death have not known a penny piece; that is if they still exist.
For a man who lived 45 years of his active life in one small sleepy community (Ishibori, Ogoja), where everyone knew everyone, where he voluntarily objected to being a member of the community's age grade because he enjoys a quiet lifestyle, it is still a surprise that the community feels comfortable, unperturbed and unfazed about the brutal murder of 'one of their own'. It remains a shock that neighbours of a man who was brutally murdered in his room after a hot fight, in a compound habited by others could feign ignorance of it and claim not to have even heard a pin drop. If our shock over the actions of leaders of Isbibori community is high, then the actions of the Ogoja Division of the Nigeria Police Force, where officers tried to extort us over claims of setting out to investigate the murder is even higher. A community that abhours violence will continually reap violence.
Pa Eleke has long gone to be with his creator, and even though it was not his wish to leave this world at the time he did, I am sure he is happier where he is, as besides joining his creator, he has reunited with his wife, Ma Mary Eleke. Sleep on Papa, say me hi to mama too, but the wicked and their collaborators will continually reap what they sowed.
•David-Chyddy Eleke is first son of deceased Pa Eleke, a journalist with THISDAY Newspaper.
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