By Rebecca Adah
On October 11th, 2016, we lost Mr. Francis Umale Adah to the cold hands of death. He left behind ten children and his only wife, our own mother. Papa overcame and triumphed over so many obstacles that inhibited his mates with whom he fought the vicissitudes of their own space of birth. That space is what is today known as Idomaland which lies within the Cross River Basin and the Benue Valley. This situates Idomaland between Latitude 60o North and Longitude 80o East.
Born on April 10th, 1941 precisely in Ogene-Amejo of Edumoga District, Okpokwu LGA of Benue State, my father, Francis Umale Adah, studied and bagged an advanced certificate in Textile Production. This was what took him to Blackburn in the United Kingdom at the instance of the defunct Kaduna Textile Limited where he worked for twenty five years before quitting in 1985. That qualification must have been his greatest gain from the world of work because I grew up to find him able to explain many things that were complex to me. Now, I can see that such training was the source of that capacity because, it was puzzling that the higher I climbed educationally, the more he could put certain things better than I could. Since he did not have the benefit of university education, the training at Blackburn must have been a very thorough one. In addition to his being a manager at KTL, he could sustain such gap between the two of us.
His educational background in the context of his space of birth is of importance because he was somebody who could not quite complete primary school, his penchant for education notwithstanding. Within Empire, life was hard and going to school was not guaranteed for everyone, everyone who lost his father at an early age. He told us and we believe about doing some menial jobs like fetching of water for a token ‘salary’ in Makurdi in those days to support his education. I intend to emulate your steps, dad.
There is a connection I see. Even at death, dad is still teaching me, if not all of us. His burial which took place from November 17th to 20th was where I came to a new phase of learning. The numerous experiences I had from the burial of Okpani Adah which I came to discover to be his more popular name at home, cannot be exhausted in this piece. One of such good things I learnt was the production of local beer, a local method of making drinks in Idoma land, which was done by women either by using millet or guinea corn. It is used for burial and other social ceremonies. The millet is milled, blended into liquid form and put in a very large pot and allowed to boil after which it was kept to cool. It could be potent just as it could be another form of ‘kunu’. A lot depends on the brewer. It is a viable source of livelihood in that environment and derives its significance from that point. However one looks at it, it is a continuation of what has been there even in ancient civilisations such as Mesopotamia or Egypt where the significance, value and importance of ‘beer’ varied from continents, regions and societies.
The connection between the production of ‘beer’ and the socio-economic status of women of Idoma land and Ogene –Amejo women in particular drew my attention. There is a way in which it facilitated money flow from the men to the women in relation to economic independence and relative financial buoyancy to support their households. The issue, however, is the ability of women to grow millet and guinea corn. To do this, they need the men who could be either the husbands, laborers or age group. Each of these has a price. This is better left at this point for another day.
The final journey for Mister Illustrious began with the vigil Mass celebrated at St. Anne’s Chaplaincy Otukpo, Benue State. It was followed with the lying in State at his residence in G.R.A, Otukpo. On November 18th, the Otukpo segment gave way to taking the corpse home, the place of birth to which our dad was returning for the final time, never to come out again. He had completed his quota of moving round the world. Accompanied to his home town by his family members, relations, in-laws and friends from far and near, the convoy set sail from Otukpo by mid day. The internment was to follow after a few other church protocols in the village. And then followed by the dance groups and masquerades to entertain the guests and locals amidst eating and drinking. In my estimation, the burial was a huge success.
That success was the handwork of so many individuals and well wishers that I understand I may not have to list here. May Owoicho (God) in His infinite goodness, open the flood gates of heaven upon them and enrich them all, spiritually and materially.
The tributes that papa collected upon his demise is a source of happiness. He did not live as long as we expected or wished. Papa also took us unaware. We planned something good for him but sure, God would always have something better than any human beings could have planned for him, including his children. Rest on dad, you are worth been given a befitting burial. Again, we thank God that with the help of numerous actors, that has been done!
Miss Adah is a graduate student of History, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria