I love you Daddy…
You are my hero (and you always in my dream)
I love you Daddy oh Daddy
You are my superstar
Those are the lyrics of a 1980s hit song, I Love You Daddy, by legendary Cape Town musician, Ricardo Groenewald, and his band, Ricardo and Friends.
My Daddy, Mr. Ebenezer Nnodim Obia, was my hero, superstar, and much more. His courage, outstanding achievements, and noble qualities were well-known. They were also well-acknowledged by friends and foes alike.
Against all odds, but leaning on the Grace of the Almighty God, my Daddy made every effort to ensure the accomplishment of his best desires for all his children. Those are the noblest cravings of parents for their beloved children. They are aspirations attainable only by dint of hard personal rules and codes of behaviour.
My Daddy persevered through difficulties, and he attained his heart’s desire in the end. He trained up his children in the way they should go, in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Proverbs 22: 6, Ephesians 6:4), and he lived to watch, guide, and supervise them walk in the path. Daddy’s greatest joy was seeing his children stay in the way of noble intellectual and moral causes and overcome the temptations to depart from the way. That is the greatest joy of any good parent.
You will never find a man more faithfully committed to living his values than my Daddy. He was a teacher by training and calling, and he taught by example.
My Daddy was an unapologetic lover of education. For him, knowledge was power and the key to a fulfilling life. Like the American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer, John Dewey (1859 – 1952), my Daddy believed, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
For my Daddy, education was the greatest investment in a man’s life. From his humble income as a teacher, he made this great investment in our lives, and with all pleasure.
My Daddy’s love and quest for education led him to enroll at the College of Education, Port Harcourt, at an old age. He obtained the Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) from the institution in 1981.
He taught in some of the oldest primary schools in the then Ikwerre/Etche Local Government Area and the old Eastern Region. They included All Saints’ School, Rumukwurushi, Rivers State (1959); Teacher Training College (TTC), Rumuobiakani, Rivers State (1959 – 1960); Holy Trinity School, Umuopara, Abia State (1961 – 1962); Saint Andrew’s T. T. C., Nnewi, Anambra State (1963 – 1964); and Saint Mathias’ School, Okomoko, Egwi, Umuanyagu, Rivers State (1965 – 1967).
He also taught at Egbu, Odufor, Mba, and Akwukabi, all in the present Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State, among other places.
Due to his commitment to scholarship, he was honoured with the Award of the Best Headmaster in Etche Local Government Area by the former Chairman of Etche local government, Mr. Isaiah Choko.
My Daddy passed the Standard Six Examination in 1952 at Etche Central School, Okomoko (later Saint Mathias’ School, Okomoko, Egwi, Umuanyagu), and began his teaching career in 1959 at All Saints’ School, Rumukwurushi. He obtained his Teachers’ Grade Three Certificate in 1963 and the Teachers’ Grade Two Certificate in 1967, having sat and passed the TTC examinations at Saint Andrew’s College, Nnewi, and Saint John’s College, Diobu, Port Harcourt, respectively.
He retired as Principal Master Grade Two in 1994.
My Daddy served as Rivers State Treasurer of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners in 2014, and he was a former Chairman of the Union’s Etche Chapter.
A community leader par excellence, he was Secretary of the Community Development Committee (CDC) in his native Okomoko Town; Chairman, Okomoko Town Council; Treasurer, Okomoko Elders’ Council; and Second Eldest man in Umuonigwe village, Okomoko.
My Daddy was a great ambassador of peace. He helped to resolve many community crises in Etche.
For us in the family, Daddy’s character of living his values was like an elixir guaranteed to induce good conduct. Even under circumstances when you felt you had every reason to be cross, you always found yourself asking what Daddy would think or do in that situation.
This became the foundation of the family conscience.
Daddy’s method of teaching by example was part of a larger effort to mobilise all those around him for decent moral causes.
His philosophy was that whatever a man celebrated, honoured, and rejoiced over would surely find its way to the person, and whatsoever a man dishonoured, criticised, and despised would equally dislike the person greatly and consider him as somebody to be vehemently avoided or rejected.
Regardless of the situation, Daddy believed supporting or rejoicing over evil was anathema to any man who sought progress and a worthy life.
My Daddy never made enemies. While he certainly came across a few people who preferred rancour to amity, he approached them with the weapon of good, or simply avoided those who proved too difficult to manage. He was peaceful to the core, and he never believed violence could ever solve any problem.
Daddy’s generous spirit also manifested in material kindness. He had a big heart, with an amazing generosity that sometimes ended up hurting him and putting him in situations where people tried to take advantage of him. But he was never discouraged or bowed.
Each time you tried to advise Daddy to temper kindness with caution, his response was always that we should focus on the bottom-line. The bottom line, for him, was that you wanted to help somebody solve a problem and that should be the emphasis, as everything else was a distraction.
Perhaps, the best way to sum up Daddy’s life is to reflect on God’s injunction in Romans 12: 15 – 21 (NIV), which says:
“15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
“17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
“18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
“19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.
“20 On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.
“21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
My Daddy carried himself with dignity till the very end. Even as he nursed sicknesses that usually mark the arc of life, he never lost his cool. He maintained his quiet mien, never allowing anything to work him up. Any time you asked how he was doing, his answer was always, “God is taking care.”
Indeed, God took care of my Daddy to the end. By the grace of God, he put his house in order, and he left his house in peace.
––Obia writes from Lagos.