By Jackson Ude
Goodbye my dear father, Mpam. My prayer warrior, my handsome gentleman father. Ge nke Oma!
My father was a great storyteller. His stories were always funny. For the few times I spent around him, he would entertain us with stories that left us laughing all night and into our sleep. My father was good at it-a funny man with deep ties to his family. It didn’t matter how poor we were, we were rich in his funny stories and we laughed in millions!
My father loved his family. He was a family man to the core. Once he is back from his day’s work, and after dinner, he would tell us funny stories that make us laugh. We would laugh all night. Our apartment on No 13 Ijiir Tarzoho street, formerly Jos Street, opposite GSS, Gboko South, was our comedy theater. I enjoyed my father’s joke until his death.
Since I was born, my father had taken a special interest in me. He spared me from punishment anytime I am wrong. I am the only child of his he never laid his hands on. He would often tell me how he sees me as a special breed and how God has destined me for greatness. I didn’t understand what he meant growing up. Even when I became more recalcitrant, the gentleman would often look at me with a smile.
My father would go borrowing, just so I can pay my school fees, buy books and uniforms.
He was a businessman who sold secondhand clothes otherwise called Okrika. He sold them in almost all the markets in Benue state. From Buruku, Ihugh, Tyonwanye, Anune, Jato aka, my father was in all the bush markets selling clothes. He would sometimes carry his “Obioma” sewing machine on his shoulder and walk the whole of Gboko, with his trademark smiles, mending torn clothes of people for a token. He was well known in Gboko South.
While schooling in Ikorodu, Lagos state, during the holiday, I would return to Gboko, Benue state, to spend the holiday with my parents. My dad would take me to all the bush markets.
He taught me the art of selling. He would show me how to convince people to buy. And to convince the female customers, he had a skill. “O foto ye, ngu ne dough kpishi,” (Where is the Camera, this one is beautiful), I often hear my dad tell female customers. They get convinced and a sale is made. My dad with a smile will tap me on my back and say “na so you go dey tell them so that dem go buy.” I learned that skill from him and I became a better marketer.
My father struggled for me. He worked his very best to see that I and my siblings were fine. He prayed and preached to us. He encouraged us to go to school and promised to do his best to see us through. He taught us to be good Christians too.
In 2002, I went to my dad to announce to him that I was going to the United States. My dad was sitting in front of the window in his house, reading his bible when I walked in and broke the news to him. He looked me straight in the eyes, walked close to me, and asked me to repeat what I just said. I repeated that I was going to the U.S.
He gently placed his hands on my head, with a smile, he said, “God go lead you.” He prayed for me for almost 15minutes. When he was done, he walked into his bedroom, came out, and handed me a One Dollar note.
My dad told me he found the one dollar bill inside a secondhand (Okrika) shirt he sold. He said he kept the money believing that one day, one of his Children would need it when going to the U.S. He was a man of FAITH. Even though he didn’t know the value of the One Dollar, he believed it was big money compared to the Naira.
I took the One Dollar from my dad with teary eyes, I gave him a hug. As I walked out of that house, I kept remembering how my dad had suffered for me and my siblings to give us food and make us comfortable. I wondered how I can ever repay him. I headed straight to Lagos to catch my flight at the MM international airport.
It was my first international trip. I didn’t know the protocols involved. My aunt who lives in New York had asked me to bring her some foodstuffs. They were all packed in a bag. I got to the customs check and the unthinkable, the unexpected, the most shocking thing happened.
A customs officer checking my luggage insisted I wasn’t going anywhere with my luggage if I don’t bribe him. I begged and begged him. I told him I don’t have any money with me. Told him I am poor. He told me poor people don’t go to America. He asked how much I have. I told him I only have One Dollar. He smiled and stretched forth his arm “give me that money or else you are not going anywhere.” Out of fear, I handed the one Dollar to him.
The Customs man collected the precious One Dollar note my father gave me-the One Dollar my father had saved since the mid-eighties. I cursed that money before handing it to him.
As I departed, Inside of me, I still had my Father’s One Dollar. That money is what has transformed my life in the U.S and made me the man I am today. My Father blessed me with that money and secured my future and that of my siblings with that singular act. I will never forget!
I will forever love him and he would forever remain in my heart. He sacrificed a lot for me, he was a gentleman to the core, who was slow to speak, not easily angered, and very content. He wore his Christian faith like a badge of honor. He was an honorable Christian and was very proud of his faith.
I miss you Mpa, sleep well. Till we meet again!