My father Honourable Frederick Sunday Uduzeli died on August 25, 2016 and was buried September 9, 2016 at the age of 76. Not so young yes but it was a shock. Not only because he wasn’t a sickly person, a fact my husband and I always thanked God for but the fact that his mother is still very much alive. And because of my grandmother, we always assumed her son would outlive her. But well, man proposes…
In the immediate aftermath of his death I was consumed with the needlessness of it all and the big role Nigeria had to play. Barely a month before his death, he along with my stepmother had travelled from Lampese to Benin-City for one big verification exercise. That was the 5th or 6th though. Previous ones had taken place, sometimes for days on end at Igarra, the Akoko-Edo LGA headquarters. They promptly fell in on their return because of the horrible nature of the road especially from Ekpoma to Benin City. And he never quite recovered until he died.
My father along with other pensioners was (is) being owed pension of over 12 months by the Edo State government presided over by Adams Oshiomhole.
In the early hours of August 25, 2016 when my father took ill, they were turned back from the nearest point of help, the Ibillo General Hospital due to lack of drugs and/or doctors. Two days later when we were discussing plans to move him, Irrua Specialist Hospital which would’ve been the best wasn’t possible because doctors were (and might still be) on strike.
However, in trying to put things in perspective, I think my tribute read the funeral service best captures how I wish to remember my father:
“Growing up as a child, I felt your love through the stories my mother told me. As I grew older it became clearer just how much you loved each of your children. You took your responsibility to us very seriously. With time I’ve also come to appreciate that you did not bring me up to be hindered by my gender because you always wanted me to get to the very top.
In fact, your plan was for me to have a ph.d even before marriage. You named me Priscilla (after Prof. Mrs Priscilla Aletor) for a reason. You always gave me examples of women from around us who were doing well in academics. I didn’t know how revolutionary this was for any part of Nigeria. Yet, you were doing this at a time many hadn’t yet seen the light. All this in an environment with different values.
You were a ‘live and let live’ man. Nevertheless, in your own quiet way, you were unflappable in your beliefs. How else would you have withstood all opposition and married my late mother, Margaret Olufunmilayo ‘Ilayo’ Ajulo (as she then was) over 50 years ago? Neither the fact that she was older or had been previously married nor the fact that she had had children could deter you. And to those who said she could never have children, you said you were not marrying her because of children! Even in these ‘modern’ times, it would still be difficult to do. If not for your dogged determination to marry the woman you loved, I would probably not be here as your proud first child.
Papa, you were a man of dignity and integrity. You were also a very grateful man. Anything anyone did for us your children, you thought it a debt you owed them.
We cannot question God. He alone knows best. But in our grief, we are happy to discover that unknown to us, you were a pillar to many. The legacy of integrity you are leaving behind is good enough for us. The Uduzeli name is valuable.
Paul and I will miss you, especially your phone calls.
Sleep on Papa as you are reunited with my mother.”