It is simply irresistible not to invoke the wisecrack of the Tiv soloist who defined Radio Kaduna in the immediate post-independence days with the song about if the dead could attend his or her own funeral. No other person is this axiom more applicable than Chief Michael Ogboji whose burial comes up December 28th to 30th, 2022. He would be such a spectacle were he to grace his own burial, being a showman always on the ready to enact a self-understanding as someone who must not do anything by half.
This preview is, therefore, not about his character because he was a many sided individual of his time. This tribute is more about his manifest attributes and what a spectacle he would be if he were to grace his own burial. Of course, no one graces his own burial and this is just an imaginative overstretch.
That notwithstanding, it is possible to imagine how regal in appearance he would be. He would dwarf anyone else in attendance at the burial, something corresponding to his overwhelming pride in the Ogboji Ofikwu family, one of the largest in Idomaland. Perhaps, no other person would be any less proud of a family that produced the Principal of Government College, Makurdi as early as the 1970s, Government College, Makurdi being one of the few such schools by the then Benue Plateau State in the Benue province. That was Honorable Simon Ofikwu who built the first real ‘modern’ hotel in a rising Ugbokolo township.
Beyond regal appearance, he would take charge of the entertainment and it would be superb. Chief Ogboji was not somebody anyone visited and left quickly. Before such a visitor knew what happened, food would have arrived, and it would come with chicken or full grass cutter or a similar variant of bushmeat. It appears his wives had internalized the mechanism for such rapid result entertainment.
He would carry the day if he were to speak at his own funeral. In fact, a former president of EDEMA (the platform of community elite of the Edemoga District in Okpokwu Local Government Council in Benue State of Nigeria) once told Intervention that ‘that one is a Philosopher’. He was referring to Chief Ogboji who was, indeed, a Philosopher except that we do not study our own cultural resources in much of Africa as to rate local knowledge bearers accordingly. His mastery of community ethos and the proverbs that convey them was certainly above average.
Lastly, he would speak his mind at his own funeral, irrespective of who would be hurt. The only difference is that he would be so analytical that those in disagreement might not be able to take him on immediately.
Clearly, he saw clan headship of Ugbokolo as a steppingstone to something higher. That was the Och’Idoma of Idoma stool. He did contest at a point or was preparing to, investing a lot of time and energy.
His burial is perhaps an opportunity to take another and a more critical look at him and all other individuals who make such a local space thick in their own different ways. As Achebe said, what makes a great family is the diversity of characters. And the problem Okonkwo had was that he saw only one side of life. Unlike Obierika, Okonkwo did not have the gift to see the different angles to any reality. So, a community needs for its own health to see what it could benefit from a Chief Ogboji as distinct from what to benefit from a Chief D. A. Adulugba, the late District Head of Edemoga, the largest District in Idomaland to this day. Or a Senator Ameh Ebute, an Emmanuel Akor (who is late now) or an Abba Moro. This is the way forward instead of unproductive bickering and enmity in a small place as the District in question. Of course, Edemoga is small when we speak of larger geo-cultural identities.