OBIADI MADUKA, for so was he named 69 years ago. Obiadi (the family line is restored) because he was the only surviving son of his mother, when it was beginning to look like the Maduka line was going to end. He didn’t also know his mother as she died when he was still an infant. He would get a MICHAEL to his name at baptism, as a catholic where as a boy he served as an altar boy.
He attended the primary and secondary school in his village located in Nigeria’s Southeastern region, before going on to be attached to a relative as an apprentice to learn the art of trading in ready made clothing. He had hardly started on this path when the Nigeria-Biafra War broke out, and he like many other youth of his day rushed to be enlisted to defend their fatherland. Though much of what he relayed to me about that war was comic in outlook (especially as regards how that war could have been speedily ended if only the Nigerians knew how largely unprepared and ill equipped the Biafrans were, eking victories largely from mistakes by the Nigerians and by strokes of luck), even as a child I felt that there was much so serious about his involvement than he’d rather want me to hear. The fear that he may have died in that war must have informed his father’s (my grandfather’s) decision, after the war to remarry and sire other children by his stepmother.
Lagos was the place to move to a few years after the war, and he couldn’t be left out as Nigeria’s Southeast had become waste and desolate, no thanks to the world’s powers that decided for that very rare occasion of the Nigerian Civil War to pitch their tent with a side, rather than do the usual of taking sides with contending parties and finding in such parties at war, the space to try out the latest from their military industrial complexes, which the Biafran side counted on but were roundly disappointed. Even the French that covertly provided some sort of support to Biafra, did so not wholeheartedly, nor because they believed that Biafra deserved to be a nation on it’s own (after suffering so much at the hands of their Nigerian brothers), but rather because their decision was based largely ‘pon the crude oil they could get, and then began to reconsider once it became apparent that Nigeria was gaining the upper hand, with the support from everyone else in the comity of World Powers.
I cannot say if the fact that my father wasn’t “settled” (something that continues to this day in the “master-boy” relationship in the Igbo commercial sphere) after completing his trading apprenticeship, contributed to his decision to abandon trading in ready made clothes totally, or that he simply was introduced to merchandizing and he fell for it hook line and sinker, but the fact that he never failed to recount that the very rare times he told anyone about his life, made me feel that somehow it may have played a role in his decision to switch paths, though I couldn’t sense any sense of anger towards his master (with whom he continued to relate, even after they had parted ways, and in fact had him as VIP at his father’s burial) for that action, besides my father when it comes to bearing grudges was like a child, hurt never stuck with him (something I should do very well to learn from).
He went on to marry my mother, a teacher and they had us children. He was the typical African father, who may not show love to his kids the way you’d see on TV today, but rather in many actions that us children easily misconstrued as not loving enough. For instance, my Dad may not buy us sweets, but we never lacked school books, bags and shoes (and while at it, he never attended any of our school’s PTA meetings). I doubt he’d have known my primary school if it hadn’t been on the same street as we lived back in the day. But we never starved, never had to buy food outside for whatsoever reason, in fact I only handled money for food (which I then spent on raw food to cook) when I was in the university because I couldn’t eat outside. He simply took care of the needs of his family, even though he didn’t think he needed to be emotionally attached to us, or he may have been but interpreted it somewhat differently than we expected.
He was a disciplinarian, a towering figure, so much so that once I was praying as a kid, I could swear that the picture of the God I thought I must have been praying to was in his image, because even the answers to most of my prayers came through him. My Dad didn’t spare the rod, none of us kids before him was a favourite, not even after bearing his name as is the case with me. There wasn’t even a place in the brain to reserve the memory of his punishments (that one could easily playback for experience, to make a newer punishment episode less painful) when we go astray, each one even if you had endured it before, was unique regardless of the number of times you might have been unlucky to have to bear it.
Soon enough, we began to grow and he also began to wane in his ability to apportion appropriate punishments to us for our wrongs. I remember how he was stunned when I defied him the first time, and he found that he couldn’t do anything about it. I had refused to put off the TV very late at night, because I was seeing a movie. I did apologise much later, but something happened that night that ushered in a different relationship between us, and I was just exiting adolescence. It will interest you that my apology was via a letter to him, not because I was asked so to do, but because just like now, it was the better way I thought to express myself than with spoken words. I think he started looking at me like an adult afterwards.
He was also beginning to leave the “Hardness” in him to a much softer person at this period. Many years back, a few years before I was born, he’d left the catholic church and become a Messianic Jew. He had been poisoned and claimed to be at the point of death, when his life was spared by prayers made for him at a Messianic Jewish mission in Nigeria’s Southeast. After his deliverance, he remained there, and besides my elder sisters, the rest of us were born in the faith as Messianic Jews. By my teenage years, he was already a pastor superintending over the branch of the Assemblies of Yahweh in Lagos, while still running his mercantile business, as unlike the pastors in nominal Christianity he wasn’t paid for heading an assembly. I think his softening approach towards us was in keeping with his profile as a pastor. That man, mentored a few men that would end up forming the core of Messianic Jewry, and a few others that embraced Orthodox Judaism in Nigeria much later.
I cannot say he was totally an agreeable person, but he had this clarity about things that allowed very little space for doubt. There was so much simplicity in his complexities, and that brought him quite frequently in conflict with those who worked with him in the “vineyard”, as we refer to things pertaining to the spiritual. We as children of the pastor were meant to live above board, and as holily as we could afford. So, our home was another “mission” away from the one we attend on Sabbath Day, on Tuesday to end the “fasting”, and on Wednesday night for “Vigil”. He must have taken literally the admonition in the Bible to “pray without ceasing” personally, because we bore the brunt of that, even when our spirits were strong, but our bodies barely managing to shed any outward appearance of weakness, as evidenced by the difficulty we experienced many a time when we must have been woken up by 3am to pray. Not a short one, but the longish ones with singing, bible passages like David’s Psalms, and remembering everybody, and everything, even countries beyond Nigeria in prayers…..and we still have to be up by six in the morning for morning prayers!
My Dad worked like that. He put all of him into everything he did, work (Monday to Friday), prayers, “assembly” activities on Sabbath days, house cleaning on Sundays (frequent visitors to our house noticed that every weekend meant that our settee were set differently), we even farmed at some point. Yes, in Lagos city, not in the village. We sowed and harvested yam and corn beside and behind my mothers’ retail shop under his guidance and supervision. He took up people’s cases and tried to help them physically, even spiritually with prayers.
Our home was a mecca of sorts for travellers on business from our village or from any branch of our mission outside of Lagos. The free accommodation while these pursued their business, or while in transit included free meals and drinks. Our fridge was always filled with assorted drinks, alcohol inclusive hence no need to go out for such refreshments. I have come across many of those men and women as I grew older who told of those days and my fathers’ kindness to them even though I was but a kid at the time and couldn’t remember most of them. I have also received favours of and by some of them because of my father’s past gestures towards them, as well as having some of my paths in several of my endeavours smoothened by people whom I met, who had encountered him earlier in their own life journeys, of which I will forever remain grateful to my Dad for.
Thirteen years ago, my Dad was diagnosed as hypertensive after he had slumped while at work. The doctor on call at the Accident & Emergency Unit was shocked that he was able to walk in (after recovery at work) that morning to see him, after checking his blood pressure. He was thereafter placed under observation in the wards and efforts towards dropping his blood pressure to acceptable levels set in motion. As usual with what was obtainable at teaching hospitals at the time, my Dad frustrated at what he termed inadequate care and nonchalance on the part of the caregivers discharged himself against Doctor’s advice. We never saw the consultant while he was there, one or two residents, some house officers, and medical students, some of which were my classmates only, came around to check on him for the few days he was on admission.
There was another angle to the story that my Dad was more willing to explore, which was that what ailed him was more spiritual than physical, in claiming that before the fall, he felt something like an arrow or bullet striking him by the side of his belly. It didn’t matter to him that he drank alcohol, or that he was overweight and the likes. So, he opted to pray, of course with support from members of his family and mission, and carry out to the latter prophetic instructions as is norm with “spiritual churches”. In that intervening period, he seemed to have fared a little better, until he suffered yet another attack, that saw him reducing much of his activities, mostly at work, though he kept on with his religious obligations in the mission. He returned to orthodox medicine again, this time under private care of a doctor that had been my lecturer.
He would give up many things this time around. There’d be no more drinking (of alcohol), reduction of salt in his diet became the routine, amongst other precautions. He soon stopped work, and focused more on the spiritual work in the mission and his family, but he met us all grown up and well, not so amenable to the kind of relationship he would’ve loved to have with us. He wasn’t one to give up easily, so he did the best he could to meet us halfway, and we couldn’t help but reciprocate. Unfortunately, his condition didn’t get better and despite all our efforts, he suffered his first stroke, which knocked off the left side of his body, but luckily twas mild and not the overtly disfiguring type. He had physiotherapy sessions, and appointments with the opthalmologist, as he was beginning to lose sight in the right eye.
At this point, he also had to reduce the church activities, even attending only feasts and holy days. All that had happened to him hardly dampened his spirits, as he easily made jokes of and about himself and his condition, followed the news and trends locally and internationally, prayed whenever he wanted to and felt like, sang hymns and songs and involved in chatter with us children, his grandchildren (whose noisome disturbance he welcomed), friends, and strangers. Unfortunately, with each attack or bout of stroke he suffered he lost some faculties, and this was despite our efforts at keeping his blood pressure in check, going over his diet to ensure that he was on the right course, even when he didn’t enjoy the food, and stemming the hyperglycemia that was silently creeping in.
By the time, more than two weeks ago when I was called up at work to come to my parents’, because he had once again suffered another stroke, in fact two episodes that day, he had already lost some hearing, was finding it difficult to stand for long. When I arrived he was restless, making a movement with his right leg and arm, such that he would move his right arm to the head, touch his stomach then his side over and over again. When he was struck by the third episode, I had felt there was no way he’d have recovered from that because of the violent way in which he convulsed. He gnashed his teeth, nay jaws like he was going to tear one off the other, and jerked with so much fierceness that I felt his blood vessels where going to just burst and spill its content. We needed no one to tell us to once again rush him to the hospital that night.
The General Hospital we took him to that night in Lagos responded quickly to him and managed to stabilize him, though the restlessness continued the whole night that we had to have a member of family stay with him by rotation all night to stop him from pulling out the needle on his right hand via which fluids was been passed into him. I learnt thereafter that he hadn’t eaten since the night before, and couldn’t even take his medication as nothing could be passed into him before the attacks which started in the afternoon, though in the morning he’d walked and made for the door like he was walking out of the house to who knows where.
While the doctor on call, and the nurses did their thing, my friend Tony, one of my brothers-in-law, nephew and mum (that brought him to the hospital) stood watching, some praying, others just helplessly watching and waiting for any news. The days after saw my Dad undergoing several tests including a CT Scan, blood and urine tests. The results were not very encouraging but we hoped for the best. For the next few days he became less restless, slept more probably because of the sedatives he was on. A few times he would make some movements, even utter some words though in languages we couldn’t fathom.
When I saw him last weekend with one of my sisters and mother he appeared to be responding to stimulus, especially when my sister pinched him by trying to push her finger away and muttering some of those words of his. The following day again, he slept most of the time we were there. I spoke with the doctor on call about his prognosis, and she said that all that’s been done, besides maintaining his blood pressure and sugar levels at manageable levels, was to perfuse the brain adequately, and hope that an attempt is made by his body to heal, and we will not know the extent of damage physically until he regains consciousness.
When my mother and another sister of mine, saw him move his legs and an arm, then opened his eyes two days after, at evening thirty minutes before visiting hours closed at six, they felt he was finally on his way to recovery, only for him to shut his eyes, with tears rolling down one of the eyes. My Mum, forced open the eyelids thereafter to find that there was no life in those eyes, and called the attention of the doctor on call, who went ahead to check his vitals before certifying him dead. I was rounding up for the day at work when my phone rang and it was my sister. I suspected the worst. It was exactly two weeks from the day we took him to that hospital, that he passed on.
Interestingly, the Sabbath before we took him to the hospital, I had in the message I shared in the mission in preparation for Passover, talked about the woman that anointed Yahshua’s feet with oil to the chagrin of the disciples who felt that the oil could’ve been put to better use, by selling it and sharing the proceeds amongst the poor in the book of Matthew chapter 26, and how Yahshua berated them for not knowing that the action of the woman was premonitive of His death. That evening after the Sabbath service, as I made for home, I shocked my barber whom I hadn’t seen in months and asked him to shave my locks, which though I had trimmed over the past few months, I hadn’t cut in years. Interestingly, in my culture, shaving one’s hair is a sign of mourning during bereavement and my Dad wasn’t even dead nor suffered the stroke, or at the hospital at the time. I only began drawing parallels to my message in the mission that last Sabbath three days after, when we had to rush my Dad to the hospital.
It also began to make a lot of sense to my Mum and siblings what my Dad had said severally to their hearing, urging them to be prepared for very soon, it will soon be over. It looked like initially, he resisted any attempt to have him leave us, but much later towards the end it felt like he succumbed, believing he’d instilled enough in us to help us go through life without him, but even after that he felt there was need for one last goodbye with his final gesture.
As I made my way to the hospital that evening, I thought about how to go about burying my father. Before now, I had advocated that there was no need keeping the dead for so long before burial, but I was beginning to soften my stance on that one, especially after I read about archeological finds in cultures where burial of the dead was almost immediate, and the position of some of the remains suggesting that they may have struggled to come out of their graves with arms and feet slightly raised, despite the fact that such cultures were known to bury their dead in supine fashion, and even if they sometimes buried some people alive, they knew well enough to bind such victims before burying them. I also remember clearly the case of the Iranian man who was hanged a few months back, and certified dead by a doctor only to be found alive when his family came to collect his remains. When his case was put before the highest religious decision making body in Iran, they ruled that a dead man couldn’t be hanged twice, and I said Ah!