Father’s Day: Tribute to a Loving Father
Today, I remember my Father with special fondness. He is Late Chief Fabian Ntime Ellah, the Utal 1 of Ndoh, Ibil – Ogoja, Cross River State. Late Chief Ellah left indelible imprints in me.
Although he left us eighteen years ago, memories of him would remain evergreen in my heart and in the hearts of my brothers and sisters. I imagine that Roselynn, Peter, Lawretta, Mary, Elizabeth, Reverend Father Bobbitem, Moshe and Moshede remember him today, as passionately as I do.
My Dad was also a father of several persons who had no biological relationship with him. I feel proud of him whenever his children from other fathers share testimonies that show that memories of my Dad would also remain evergreen in their lives.
I met some of such persons some days ago. They were mostly my Dad’s former students, when he served as pioneer Principal of Nkum Secondary School, Ibil Ogoja, Cross River State, from 1978 to 1984.
Although I have gotten accustomed to the fact that my Dad’s former students usually reminisce about him whenever they gather, I often miss him more, whenever such reminisces are spiced with drama.
In that respect, Kyrian Monjok, a staff of Federal University Lafia, Nasarawa State, has a peculiar style of mimicking my Dad.
When he visited Calabar some days ago, he narrated how my father repeatedly imparted lessons on “politics without bitterness”, when violence started creeping into elections at the advent of the current democratic dispensation in Nigeria.
According to him, my Dad constantly said in Ibil dialect that “politics agba shang”. It means “politics isn’t boxing”. I saw my Dad speaking, when Kyrian spoke about him and demonstrated like him.
It is a credit to my Dad that although he has left us, people remember him whenever “politics agba shang” is employed as a phrase to calm frayed nerves during moments of political tension in Ibil, my homeland. That is one of his legacies.
My Dad was a humble man. Although he was highly revered as a retired school Principal, former member of Governing Council of the Polytechnic Calabar as well as Community Leader respectively, he never considered himself as superior in status to those who looked up to him for guidance.
He was accessible to all. All my friends were his children. He treated them in the same manner that he treated me.
My father was a loving Dad. I recall that whenever we made him angry or feel disappointed, he often told us that:
“All my struggles in this life are for your sakes. I am trying to lay good foundations for you. Don’t disappoint me”. He often added that if necessary, he was ready to sacrifice his life to ensure that we got proper education. He never shirked his responsibilities as a father.
When I was young, I thought that Fathers don’t cry. That was because I never saw my Father’s tears. I only saw drops of tears in his eyes when we received news of my mother’s death.
I was ten years old at that time. I didn’t know how to cry over the death of a loved one because I had never lost any loved one. I only knew how to cry when I saw those tear drops from my Dad, when we were informed that my mother had gone.
I first cried spontaneously for my Dad’s tears before I cried my first deepest cry in life. I cried for Dad before understanding that the real cry was for Mom.
The next and only other time I saw teardrops from my Dad was when I told him my final result as a university graduate.
I recall that he was relaxing with his friends when I met him to announce that I had earned a Second Class Upper Division degree.
I vividly recall that he kept quiet for some moments before standing up to tightly embrace me. His eyes were filled with tears of joy, after he unclasped me. On that occasion, I loved and appreciated him more than I had ever done.
My Dad was a strong man. He always gave us the impression that he had no weakness. For this reason, he always told us that God would not allow him to be a burden on us.
Dad always prayed that he should never get ill to the extent that we would need to carry him around like a weakling, when his time of death approaches. Although we would have done everything for him, God answered that prayer for him.
On the eve of his death when Elizabeth and I noticed that he was getting very weak, he kept assuring us that he was fine. At that time, he was in the home of our Uncle, Mr Francis Ganyi, who had brought him to Calabar, for medical attention. Mr Ganyi is a lecturer in the University of Calabar.
On that day, Elizabeth and I were concerned that Dad’s wristwatch had suddenly stopped ticking. As far as we could recall, Dad’s wristwatch was always in his wrist and never stopped ticking. But he told us not to worry, when we drew his attention to that fact.
He distracted us from focusing on that issue by sending us away on different errands. While he asked Elizabeth to get something in town for him and return with it the next day, he asked me to get current newspapers and take to him the next day too. According to him, he was getting bored and needed to catch up with current affairs.
We reluctantly left after some time, because we believed him when he added that he needed adequate rest. He seemed truly asleep, when we left.
Unfortunately, that was our last interaction with him.
God took him peacefully the next day, before we could return to give him what he sent us to get. Although we initially blamed ourselves for leaving him, we later perceived that he didn’t want us to bear the sight of his final moments. He must have seen that he was leaving but tried to ease the pain of that moment for us.
I am almost crying, as I write this. But I am now a father of three children who arrived after their grandfather had departed. I need to stay strong for them and try to do for them, even more than my loving father did for me.
I miss you, dear Dad. We all miss you. May God caress your soul.
Facebook: Cornelius Ellah