The Frontlines By Joseph Ushigiale Joseph.Ushigiale@thisdaylive.com
During the week, the sleepy agriculture town of Ibil, in Ogoja local council area, the only province in the entire Nigeria that did not metamorphosize to a state, came alive as people from all walks of life converge to give a fitting farewell to a nonagenarian, Pa Leonard Agom Jarigbe popularly called Ndah.
Ibil lies on the fringe of Ogoja, about 40 minutes drive from Igoli connected by a dusty road which is currently being revamped, courtesy of House of Representatives member from Ogoja and Yala constituency, Hon Jarigbe Agom. The people are largely farmers and are blessed with arable land stretching up to the boundaries of Ebonyi state for the cultivation of yams, rice, beans and other cash crops.
All that stopped briefly as the entire community stood still to acknowledge and celebrate the passing of an illustrious son whose impact and contribution to their community remains not only unparalleled but also invaluable to date.
Speakers after speakers heaped unflattering encomiums on a man whose footprints throughout his 90 years dot different the spheres of human endeavor. He was a technocrat, educationist, humanist, devout Catholic, a community builder and a dotting father who sired 11 kids.
In a very elaborate all COVID-19 protocol compliant ceremony, the burial kicked off Wednesday, February 3 with a requiem mass at the St. Benedict Cathedral in Igoli and vigil in Ibil. The following day, an open air mass conducted by the Catholic Church held at St. Michael Primary School, Ibil followed by interment at the family compound.
The Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, Governors Ben Ayayde, Duoye Diri and Nyesom Wike of Cross River, Bayelsa and Rivers states respectively poured encomiums on the late nonagenarian.
From the National Assemby, Senator Sandy Onor of Cross Central senatorial district, House members Ita Mbora, Daniel Asuquo and hordes of community leaders and party stalwarts across the divide were on ground to commiserate with Jarigbe Agom who has gradually transformed to a ‘man of the people’.
In his condolence message, Gbajabiamila, acknowledged that it takes God’s grace to bear the loss of a loved one.
The Speaker who was represented by Hon Agbo from Ebonyi state, said it is high time political leaders learnt from the qualities of the deceased who lived for humanity.
According to him, “It is never easy to lose a loved one, especially a parent who has been there from the start. One whose hands have raised you and whose words have charted the course of your life in ways both obvious and subtle.
“It takes the grave and mercy of God almighty to bear such a loss and carry on”.
Governor Ben Ayade, described the departed as “respectable gentlemen, fine administrator and community leader”.
According to him, the Late Leonard Jarigbe rendered dedicated and committed services to his fatherland and prayed for the repose of his soul.
In his remarks, the Chief Mourner, Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, said the deceased made the best of his active days.
He added that he taught them service to the people and promised not to disappoint him even in death. According to him, “You remain a role model , because you were imbued with so much knowledge that could make a man achieve whatever he wanted in life . I remember you said to me ‘my son, sacrifice pleasure ,in order to have pleasure that would last’. You thought me service to my people and I promise not to disappoint you ,even in death ,” he assured.
In the words of Francis Bulem, a community leader, “From the gathering of creme de la creme here today, it shows Pa Jarigbe was a community leader and a devout christain whose legacy speaks volume.
“We, therefore, enjoin everybody who came here to bid Papa farewell to always remember what he did that kept him on for till the age of 90.”
In his Homily, Rev Fr Francis Eworo, prayed for the soul of the deceased and urged all who attended the funeral mass to emulate the exemplary lifestyle of Pa Leonard Agom Jarigbe, who dedicated all his life to the service of catholic church. He called on all leaders to always seek the face of God in all their dealings, saying any nation that abandons God’s injunction shall not progress.
In recognition of the doting nature of their late father, one of his sons, Akaseng Jarigbe recalled that “in 2014, dad and I were at the hospital where he was admitted & receiving treatment.I drove out with the intention of returning before he realizes but some other business kept me out longer than expected.
I returned to the hospital and dad said to me; “Igri, Meyor akpi lem nor?” meaning, Igri, am I the one you are treating like this? Those words broke me. It brought back memories from childhood (his love & attention).I felt like I was stupid, I felt really guilty, I felt like I disappointed him. I was sad for the rest of the day.”
Another mourner, Hilary Uchiche described Pa Leonard Jarigbe as “a perfect gentleman in all ramifications. He was a seasoned educationist and a technocrat who impacted so much virtues on not only his children but on those who had the rare opportunity to interact n worked with him.”
The ceremony was rounded off with a fund raising for a new Catholic church building in Ibil where over N10m in cash and promissory notes was raised.