Shima Kaimom Gyoh (SKG) and the recently departed Paul Iorpuu Unongo (PIU) are by all intents and purposes, sages amongst us.
When I read the news of PIU’s passage, I muttered a silent prayer for the repose of his soul and comfort to his family and friends. PIU lived a long and fulfilled life, as he not only blazed the trail in various aspects of life, he left indelible footprints never to be eroded. His, is a celebration of life.
Surely the Unongo Kwaghgise and Ugba families are bereaved and the larger Tiv nation has, perhaps, lost one of its patriarchal voices. This is the point where my memory serves up the relationship of SKG and PIU and this to me is one of those persons who has perhaps, suffered the greatest loss here and while mine here in no way seeks to diminish anyone’s sense of loss, this is an ode to one who was with PIU before he morphed into the legend we all came to know as Wantaregh!
SKG and PIU met as teenagers, attended the great Government College Keffi in the 1950s and went on to live various worthy lives. While SKG left Government College Keffi to read Medicine at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, culminating in a remarkable career as a surgeon. SKG held several positions in government as well as with several international bodies and over time describes himself today, as “one changing from a colonial subject to a free republican citizen.” This can be seen in his liberal but incisive commentaries on contemporary matters.
PIU on the other hand, also held several political and public offices and served as Minister of Power and Steel in the 70s and was until his death Chairman of the Board of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC.
At the Federal Executive Council Meeting of Wednesday 30th Noovember, 2022, Chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, a 3-minute silence was observed for the fallen PIU who was awarded the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) in recognition of his services to the country, Nigeria.
SKG and PIU remained close friends and kept tabs on each other in a lifetime of companionship. To me, they both stood out not just with their accomplished lives, but with their big Afros which has marked time by evolving from the thick energetic black to a white salacious fur of wisdom.
As we mourn PIU, my heart goes out to his family and friends and perhaps, specially to Dr. Shima Kaimom Gyoh, SKG, a sage amongst us.
Madaki contributes this piece from Abuja