By Chris Ogunlowo
For my family, this loss is intensely agonising. For me, it’s also intensely mysterious. Fate had made the paths of my family and the Lumors cross when my family moved homes. We were new occupants in a neighbourhood that seemed secretly tucked in the corner of a town that existed – and still does – in the minds of outsiders as the outskirt of Lagos. The town’s mentions, especially by cynical outsiders, seemed to evoke a type of backwardness as though its very existence was an embarrassment to the cosmopolitan character of Nigeria’s commercial nerve.
An untarred road separated our homes, but it was also our link, when, as teenagers, we crossed to the other side to perform the next evil from our bags of gambits. The home of the Lumors, by the standard of the time, was the most spectacular on the street, which made it attract more than enough curiosities.
The house preened like a diva under Lagos sun, with its fortresses of bougainvillea, palm fronds and carpet turfs which we occasionally assaulted with our football. Whatever we might have been up to during the day while our parents were busy eking out everyone’s survival, we were soon jolted to reality as soon as a car honk from the gate announced Daddy and Mummy Lumor’s arrival from work. There was usually a scramble, unrehearsed, among the boys to return the house to factory settings. I was usually the nuisance fixing the library, which I always sneaked into to discover new books. Having read almost everything on my father’s shelf, the Lumors’ library, diverse in subjects, neatly arranged, was heaven-sent. There was a lone computer stationed in the centre. It stood like sìgìdì, something best revered than disturbed.
In retrospect, I wonder if we really succeeded in covering hints of our mischiefs since every crime leaves a trace. I suspect that Daddy and Mummy Lumor, in their capacity for Christ-sanctioned forgiveness, ignored us, or perhaps, their children, especially the last two boys, fellow partners-in-crime, faced the music afterward. But what I know is that the Lumors’ house was always open to us.
And Daddy Lumor’s heart was open to everyone.
A caveat is necessary here. This is an attempt to portray a man who lived exemplarily by any measure, and I must admit what will become my eventual failure to do a thorough job in this regard. This failure will be my own inability to find the balance between depicting his life from my entirely personal lens and the readers’ capacity to suspend scepticism about what might seem overly exaggerated or unnecessarily effusive.
There’s a ritual of the Catholic Church that I’ve always found fascinating for both its ecclesiastical and universal essence. I speak of the church’s elevation of humans to sainthood. The criteria for candidature, I believe, include a rigorous test of character or some acts of heroism, held to the standard Christ expected from his followers. This human veneration is not part of the liturgy of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, the Pentecostal denomination Daddy Lumor belonged to. If it were, the roll call would have been updated to include him.
Dear reader, the caveat stands. If, at this juncture, my suggestion of canonisation doesn’t smack of exaggeration, then we’re not there yet. As in how saints – and apostles – are sometimes named in relation to deeds and virtues that defined their lives, I imagine the many possible ways Daddy Lumor’s legacy could be christened for qualities he demonstrated to superhuman extremes. St. Lumor of the Fervent Praise Dance? Of Impeccable Modesty? Of Immaculate Role Modelling?
Of the Fervent Praise Dance. I recall Daddy Lumor at Dominion Parish, Ketu, of the Redeemed Christian Church. It was time for praise and worship. The music started rather slowly until the choirmaster threw in a new number that turned on the heat. Daddy Lumor seemed to have expected the cue. Next, he punched the air, stomped the floor, charged all over the place in the way of a wildebeest stampede. It wasn’t a trance. There was something wholly joyous about the sight. His face beamed with a smile. Where the rest of the congregation was satisfied with maintaining the music’s tempo, moving predicably as church people do, Daddy Lumor stretched the room’s energy and the circumference of his dance estate. His necktie flailed like horsewhips. The dance moves didn’t seem familiar in any contemporary sense. It didn’t need to. The ways of the Lord and his genuine faithfuls are not always familiar. If God assigned blessings that afternoon based on dance performance, we knew who would rank the highest in the heavenly Forbes List. Also, I remember another occasion when Daddy Lumor launched into one of these performances. I caught his two daughters exchange looks in that familiar daddy-is-overdoing-this that every teenager must endure with a parent susceptible to occasional effusive public displays. And God knows how much his children have endured in their lifetime with a father who loved God unapologetically and unrestrainedly.
Of Impeccable Modesty. Intricately woven into the Yoruba culture is the overt demonstration of respect for the elderly. This is expressed by genuflecting to acknowledge an elder’s presence, matching courteous words with appropriate tones etc. One might say that the Yorubas, perhaps more than other Nigerian cultural groups, place a premium on these physical and tonal demonstrations of reverence towards the elderly. While there’s an equitable respect for younger ones, it’s uncommon to see an elder display it in the same manner received from younger ones. Enter Daddy Lumor. This man, either lacking the gene that sustains this uniquely Yoruba ritual or electing to test the limits of what’s culturally acceptable, had no regard for the top-down nature of this ritual. For anyone with a glimpse into his world, he accorded everyone equal respect.
On one occasion, while I walked alongside him on the long street we shared, he relentlessly dished out greetings, either to those who had noticed him or to those he had noticed first, genuflecting regardless of its receivers’ age or status. All accompanied by his characteristic smile. For perspective, it is worth mentioning that Daddy Lumor was an accomplished engineer with experience across Europe during his career at NETCO, the engineering design arm of the NNPC, Nigeria’s oil corporation. This bore no such value as to affect his conduct along the path of modesty and civility.
Of Immaculate Role Modelling. When we ask, “what would Jesus do?” we hold ourselves to be tested against the standard of Christlike behaviour. We evoke an ideal; one that stands outside our human limits and flaws but which we must strive towards as the acceptable moral option. Perhaps, it’s farfetched to remix the question into, “what would Daddy Lumor do?”. But the mere fact that the expression can be conceived in that manner is evidence of how Daddy Lumor lived. If one encountered him in the context of fatherhood, one leaves with a sense of what fatherhood should be like. In the context of being a husband, one is left with how a man should be a man to a woman. Daddy Lumor’s love and devotion to Mummy Lumor will fill volumes of books. In his pastor mode, one encounters someone with an intimation of the divine. Indeed, if I must add, he’s about the closest I’ve seen of one who emulated Christ’s injunction of the Beatitudes, despite his flaws.
It’s no surprise the kind words and recollections people shared at his wake-keeping. At the funeral ceremony, an officiating pastor mentioned how Daddy Lumor singlehandedly built parishes financially and in community-engagement capacities. I observed well-wishers even in casual conversations struggle to hold back tears while sharing fond memories of a truly good man. Not many people, across human spheres, can touch so much as to become a torch of standard and proper conduct.
Yet, Daddy lives on. We take joy in knowing that his wife, children and grandchildren – beautiful in every sense – will remain reminders of his legacy. We’re consoled that his soul is in a better place and his aura will be here with us to remind us that we’re capable of truly living exemplarily – even to the point of sainthood.
To my friends-turned-family – Yomi, Salewa, Funmi, Rotimi and Banky. As proclaimed in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God,” we’re comforted that your Daddy, our Daddy, Pastor Lumor, mummy’s evergreen darling, is in God’s company, dancing and rejoicing unapologetically and unrestrainedly.
Good night, Pastor (Engr.) Samson Lumor.
–––Ogunlowo is a writer, advertising creative director and culture enthusiast