IS THAT ALL?

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Peter Ishaka pays tribute to his elder brother, Samuel Ishaka, who died at age 68
It was 6.45am, Saturday, September 3, when the telephone rang. Even though he had been in and out of the hospital, particularly in the last one year, it was not the kind of news I expected. Less than two weeks earlier, the wife, Anna, had called to inform me that I should not bother to send money for his drugs because the husband had little money. Four years after retirement, the Delta State Government has refused to pay his gratuity and other entitlements.

But even more heartwarming for me was the news that he was getting better and could walk all over the place and he may not even need the routine insulin injection. I advised that they confirm from the doctor. My elder brother, Samuel Onomrobarakpo Ishaka, had been battling diabetes in the past few years – an ailment that has sapped his energy and reduced him to shadow of his former vibrant and restless self. So when they took him to the hospital the previous day, I thought it was just one of those many trips. But I was wrong. He did not make it back. The call from the son, Anthony, was to inform me that he had passed on. I was numb. Is that all to the struggle? Is that all?

Here was a bright young man with a bright future beckoning. He had recorded an outstanding result at St Paul’s Secondary Modern School, Okpara Inland, Ethiope East Local Government Area, Delta State where he finished as one of the best graduating students in 1965. He got admission into St Joseph’s Teaching Training College, Ozoro, now the headquarters of Isoko North Local Government Area of Delta State. Sadly, on the eve of leaving for school, he took ill, an ailment that dramatically changed the course of his life. The odds were overwhelming. But he did not give in to this monumental health challenge. He was determined to live. He fought the ailment with all his resources, but above all, faith in God. When he was eventually well enough, he picked up the pieces and moved on. He needed no pity or compassion.

He worked hard. For him there was hardly an idle moment. He was an honest worker who did not believe in short cut to riches. He did any genuine thing to earn money. For him, there is dignity in labour.

In 1971, he travelled to Sokoto in Sokoto State and was hired as a storekeeper by Nigerian Roads and General Works Ltd, a road construction company. A year later, he was moved to the Nigerian Roads Plant Yard at Gwadabawa also in Sokoto, where he used to write letters to me, describing the settlements and their way of life. But he eventually returned home, mainly because of the harsh weather, to continue his business.
Fortunately, he was still determined to go back to school. His life was that of persistent striving. Thus, more than a decade after the initial setback, and after seeing me out of school, he returned to St Joseph’s College, renamed Eluaga Teacher Training College where he earned his Grade Two certificate in1979. He did some other certificate courses culminating in the award of an NCE certificate in 1994.

Throughout his working career –from a class teacher to a headmaster, he did his work of imparting knowledge to the youths and moulding their character with undivided attention. He retired in 2012.
Married to Anna in 1980, the marriage was blessed with children.

Samuel was a social recorder of history. His photo albums were a journey into the history of the immediate community and beyond. Dated and neatly arranged, the pictures included the military burial of one of the foremost soldiers of Okpara Inland, Captain Smart Otite, killed during the civil war and was buried on October 13, 1968; picture of four armed robbers first to be publicly executed in Warri in 1971, to the ordaination of Rev. Isaac A. Aganbi by Rev. L. Nwazeapu, former Bishop of Warri at Sacred Heart Catheral, on March 24, 1979.

He was a committed and a devout Catholic. He was baptised by Rev. Father E. Casey on December 24, 1963 at All Saints, Okpara Inland and took his first Holy Communion on Christmas Day, 1963. He got his confirmation on March 17, 1964. He served God with his whole heart. He loved his neighbours until his last breath. He did no evil and spoke ill of no one. He lived a simple life, a life of prayers and service.

At 68, he did not live long enough to join the old people’s club. But he did leave us a lesson: Don’t ever give up, no matter the odds.

As he is committed to mother earth today, November 11, 2016, I remember with thoughtfulness his middle name – Onomrobarakpo- Urhobo for “who sees the end of the world?” He did not see it. But he did his best. Good night, Onomrobarakpo.