“D.G Women Commission” he bellowed in that way only he could pull off to make everyone laugh. Good morning Uncle Sam she said shyly. He had watched her grow up and she remembers him for as long as she has known herself. Why he chose that of everything there is to call Odachi, only he knows. He was late again and got teased that he would have been left behind.
About time to set off and they got into the cars and left Zaria for a conference in Abuja. Uncle Martins made them stop at that ‘cos and doz’ spot in Kaduna, he always makes that stop on his way to Abuja, by now everyone knew to indulge.
Uncle Jenks’ jokes were always enough to send anyone into fits of laughter. Everyone remembers one of the characters he was in a play, he was called ‘chokali’. Although Prof. Oga Steve Abah was a character of his own, he is somewhat the quiet one, advanced in years and experience.
Together the four made a team. They had been for as far back as I can remember. A happy, interesting and extraordinary set of men they all were. Actors even, anyone could easily call them.
Aisha was a fast talker and anyone would fare better not challenging her to a verbal battle. The rest of the group all had a role to play one way or the other that made it all complete.
All pleased with the outcome of the workshop, interviews were conducted; they spoke passionately about their means of reaching out to the world – Theatre For Development (TFD). These four great men made everyone proud: family, friends, Faculty of Arts, Department of Theatre and Performing Arts, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria.
I grew up knowing every one of these men, daddy and his team mates have always been a part of my life. So much so that each one of them were called our uncles.
The next morning, 7th February, they had to return home to Zaria. The group assembled for one last meeting then they were on their way, but for Professor Steve Abah who was heading the opposite direction to Benue state.
Suddenly swerves, then a flip and the suspended feeling was the last thing, then darkness…Pain, screams, cries, dust, bodies! An accident happened and our lives have been changed forever.
Barely an hour after they left each other, Prof Abah was called. He made a quick stop at home, fingers clicking, rushed steps, panicking. All he was told was that there was a ghastly accident. He had no time to explain, he had to rush to the scene.
Unfortunately, Uncle Sam, Uncle Martins and Aisha didn’t survive the accident. Uncle Jenks and Dave had to be rushed to hospital in Abuja as it was closer to the hospital where they received first aid treatment but the rest of the people on the bus who had minor injuries were taken to Zaria. Aisha had to be buried according to Islamic rites so her family came for her while Uncle Sam and Uncle Martins' remains were transported to Zaria . Grief engulfed us, they were gone.
Uncle Jenks had to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. He said he could not feel anything from his chest to his feet. Scans, X-rays, tests were run. The result? He had a fracture on his spinal cord in the neck region and needed a surgery to be restored to good health. Daddy stood there and said “I cannot lose them all, Jenks has to live”. We went in to see Uncle Jenks, we looked extremely discouraged and he said like his usual self to Ogba, Odachi and I . . .‘how una dey?’.
We were hopeful, we waited, and daddy was doing everything he could to raise the large sum of money that was needed. Different people were helping in every way they could. Aunty Esther didn’t leave her husband’s side. We hoped he’d be taken out of Nigeria on Thursday, 13th February for this surgery. But Uncle passed away on February the 12th. His passing was another hard blow! Aunty is inconsolable. . . ‘My husband, my best friend, who will encourage me saying I can do it, where will I go? We had made so many plans. What a journey’. These words of hers and many more continue to ring in my head.
How could they all die? Just like that?!
If these people can die, death is right here with us. Anyone can die at any time. It’s dark, this hurt is deep, confusion, pain. Who can understand the many mysteries that happen in this journey called life?! Little did they know that this would be their last trip to Abuja.
This has been the darkest period ever for the families of the deceased and my entire family especially their team mate who has lost his brothers and friends. We have grieved but never this deep. It’s hard, extremely so.
The actors have left the stage, they have played their roles and gone backstage, the lights have gone out and the curtains have been drawn. Only this time, they’ll never come back on stage.
In daddy’s words, “thank you Jenks, Sam, Martins and Aisha for all that you have given to this world. You’ll be in our hearts always.”
Thank you for sharing your lives with us, the entire Ahmadu Bello University Zaria mourns, the Faculty of Arts mourns, the Theatre for Development Centre, the Institute of Development Studies and the Department of Theatre and Performing Arts mourn. Your families and friends cannot comprehend why this happened. So many unanswered questions but unanswered they will remain.
Life is a gift, use your time wisely. "Live everyday like it were your last".
Rest on, rest in peace. . .
|Professor Jenkeri (Jenks) Okwori
|Professor Samuel Kafewo
|Dr. Martins Ayegba
|Ms. Nana Aisha Ali
OTHER FRIENDS WE HAVE LOST
|Mrs. Gloria Onyeche Atanda
|Ms. Aminone (Mimi) Sifo
|Mr. Cyprian Obieje
|Mr. Daniel (Danosaur) Jibril
‘Cos and doz’ – Kosai and doya. A local delicacy of fried yam and bean cakes
‘How una dey?’ – How are you all?