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Published On: Tue, Jan 14th, 2020

Francis Ewherido Pays Tribute To His Father, Pa Umode:1932-2019


LAGOS JANUARY 14TH (URHOBOTODAY)-Our Christmas Day festivities were first interrupted in the morning with the news that “daddy broka jovwo” (daddy was behaving somehow earlier), but a doctor had come to attend to him and taken samples for tests.
By evening when the doctor came back to administer treatment, based on test results, he gave a yawn and gave up the ghost. That ended the earthly sojourn of Pa Joseph Omovidonor Umode, my father-in-law.
Our paths crossed about 22 years ago when I met my wife. Throughout the courtship until the marriage preparations, his face was expressionless and he gave nothing away by way of words.
The only reason I knew he approved of our marriage was that he did not oppose it. But I never knew what was going on in his mind much as I would have wanted to. My wife was his first daughter.
He was ill when I met my wife and for much of our courtship.
But I remember praying to God that if actually my wife was from God, He should prove it by healing my father-in-law so that he would walk my wife to the altar. Shortly before our wedding, his health improved tremendously and he actually walked my wife to the altar during our wedding. He also oversaw our traditional marriage a day earlier. During all the marriage ceremonies, he never gave anything away by words or expression beyond the usual marriage rites.
But my wife continuously assured me that there was no cause for alarm. There was, however, something I did during my visits that endeared me to him. I always requested that we prayed before I left. My father-in-law loved it, so my wife told me later. She said, “You take prayers to win them over, carry their daughter.”
Then, my first child arrived. Naturally they were very happy at the arrival of their first grandchild. My mother-in-law must have nudged him to join her on the trip from Delta to Lagos to see their granddaughter.
He was probably reluctant to make the trip because fathers-in-law in Urhoboland rarely stay in the houses of sons-in-law. I do not quite know the reasons for the practice, but it looks like it is born out of pride and ego. My father-in-law must also have been reluctant because he was not sure of the kind of living space that was available.
He certainly did not want to inconvenience us if the accommodation was small. When they came into our residence, the first question he asked was, “is this room and parlour?” I assured him it was a three-bedroom flat.
Then they came into the inner corridor and he saw a heap of office stuff. “What are these?” he asked. I told him they are my office stuff. I explained to him that I had a disagreement with my partner, so we shared the office and working stuff and parted ways. “So you have no job,” he probed further. “For now, I am working from home,” I assured him. But he was not impressed.
The next thing I heard was murmuring: “You have no job, how do you intend to sustain a wife and a daughter.” I was hurt.
They stayed for a while and left. About a week later, my mother-in-law was back with a vehicle load of foodstuff. That was even more hurting and humiliating.
In their first trip, they came with foodstuff as is the practice when going to see your daughter, who just had a baby. But for me, this second vehicle load of foodstuff was to confirm my father-in-law’s position that I was jobless and could not sustain my wife and daughter. Love was thick in the air and I remembered the advice my elder brother, Fr. Tony, gave us when we were preparing for marriage: “you must respect each other’s family.” So I kept my peace.
Not too long after, my parents-in-law were back with more foodstuff. This time around, I decided to take my father-in-law with me on some of my hustle. It was during those trips that we struck a friendship that lasted till he died. The foodstuff they brought lasted for over six months.
During this time, we only bought perishable items like bread and egg. Over time, I came to realise that it was just the nature of my mother-in-law. Habit or not, their gesture was symbolic. It showed me they loved and cared deeply for their daughter. Unconsciously, how the family you came from treats you sometimes influences how your spouse treats you. My parents-in-law never left me in doubt that they loved and cherished my wife.
I learnt two valuable lessons from my father-in-law’s life.
The first one is for young people to know what they want at an early stage. It gives them a head start over their contemporaries. At a young age, my father-in-law already knew paid employment was not for him. By age 37, he resigned from paid employment, went into business and made a success of it.
Staying in paid employment or going into business has fundamental impact of your financial situation decades after the decision is taken. Some people who made mistakes in their choices are still groping or unfulfilled 10, 20, 30 or even more years after the decision is taken. It is something I always knock into the heads of my marriage course participants. If you see most job vacancy adverts in the newspapers, the maximum age they ask for is 45 years.
Only in special cases, when special skills are needed, do they go beyond that. Before 40 years, you should know which side of the divide you fall into: paid employment or self-employment/business ownership. Thirty to 35 years is even better, so that if you made a mistake, you will have time to retrace your steps before you are 45 years.
My father-in-law also had vision even with his limited education by today’s standard. He invested heavily in real estate. In doing so, he deliberately or accidentally prepared for his retirement. Since I knew him 22 years ago, he never did any new business. His investments sustained him. Even when he took ill, he was not a financial burden to anybody. He did not have to wait for his children or in-laws before he fed or sorted out his bills.
That is the kind of old age we should all work towards. Old age is a delicate period of your life and you need to make adequate financial arrangements. Some of these old people you see dying are as a result of hunger, lack of proper medical care and suffering, not old age.
Adieu, Pa Johnson Omovidonor Umode. You came, you saw, you conquered. You were resilient and beat the odds. Ultimately, you had to pay the ultimate price all mortals must pay. Rest on, daddy. Akpokedefa.
Francis Ewherido, a columnist and an Insurance magnet writes from Lagos

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