BY EMEKA NWOKOCHA
That day was Monday, August 31, 2015. The atmosphere was eerie as the chirping of birds rented the air. There was palpable anxiety as men, women, youths, boys and girls tried to unravel the news howling in the tensed air. Not long in time, the news was euphemistically broken, yet its thunderous bang could not be made lesser. Its effect descended like a shattering bomb, the news was truly real, my humble friend, my confidant, Ufuoma Lawrence Omokoro is dead. The peoples’ General has passed on. There was confusion as anxiety mounted; friends sobbed uncontrollably, family members wept bitterly. The people’s mood in Uvwie kingdom turned mournful. There was punctuation of business activities in Ugbomro, Effurun and environs, as residents received the news with quaking heart. “It is not true! It is not true!” the people voiced their minds in disbelief. The women clutched to their breasts, racing to Ugbomro community, the abode of the fallen hero. “Omogu, Omogu, Omogu,” rented the air as they wailed and admonished death.
I could recall the pensive mood I was entrapped in, on the day my beloved friend, Ufuoma, L. Omokoro was interred into mother earth. It was a day the stark reality of life stared at me in the face. At his funeral, speaker after speaker poured encomiums on the glittering life style of Ufuoma, a man of extraordinary talent. No epithets were spared in eulogizing his lifestyle. Ufuoma was truly an immeasurable star of societal acclaim. The soul lifting requelm mass conducted by the First Baptist Church, Effurun, moderated by Rev S.P. J. Odogboro was a testimony of the quality life and times of Ufuoma Omokoro.
Prior to his painful demise from this sinful world, I would recall that I had put a phone call to him on Thursday 27 August, 2015, to ask after his well-being, but he didn’t answer the call. Usually, he would put a call to me later in the day to explain why my calls were not given attention, then we would discuss family issues in our usual manner of fraternizing. But to my utmost surprise, I didn’t get a call from my friend throughout that day. Unbelievable, two days after, my friend, Ufuomski (as I fondly call him) didn’t do a “follow up” call to me. Quite unusual, I had thought. Then, in the evening of Saturday, 29th August, 2015, I had just arrived home from Asaba, looking tired and hungry. I had wanted to get some food to quench the hunger, but that move was halted by my phone which let out a continuous ring, showing incoming call from the President of Excel, Mr. Frank Emanovwe. I took the call, but he was prompt and precise in the manner he was speaking to me. He went straight to the point, “Emeka,” he called my name, “I hear say Ufuoma no well, dem say he get partial stroke”, he dropped the gist. “What!” I let out a shout, and hanged on my phone immediately.
With speed of light, in company of a friend, Christopher, I raced to Ugbomro community to see my good friend, Ufuomski. Truly, I got to his home at Ugbomro in couple of minutes, but was hit by the reality of the fact. He was really ill. One could feel it around his abode, as the atmosphere was moody. ‘Alhaji’ (as he was often called) was down, Omogu was down. It was unlike him as he would usually crack his usual rib breaking jokes whenever he is hailed and called ‘ALHAJI’. I was in a bad state of emotion; terribly frightened and shivering; my heart was heavy with thoughts. I inquired from my friend’s lovely wife, Ese Omokoro (Ese Clax, as I fondly call her) what the matter was. She too bore her pains but managed to narrate how my friend suddenly took ill on Thursday, 27th August, 2016, and the bout of medication he had been given to ‘arrest’ the illness. She was terribly worried and wished my friend could rise and walk immediately. I offered her words of encouragement as I said my prayer, asking God for his mercy upon my friend.
Ufuoma’s sudden illness was no doubt a matter of great concern to me, but I was optimistic of his recovery very soon. There was no cause for alarm as hopes were high that he would recover from the ailment in no distant time. Everybody was hopeful. Sadly, on Monday, 31st August, 2015, at 06:15am to be precise, I had a phone call from Joseph, my friend’s elder brother, his voice was quivering, and he was telling me something I didn’t comprehend very well. I was enveloped with fear, my ears tingled as I became nervous, hoping the news was not about him (Ufuoma). I could hear Joseph crying, he was muttering, “Ufuoma don die.”As if I didn’t hear what he was saying correctly, I lost composure, my nose snorting. In disbelief, I put a phone call to my friends eldest brother, bros Roger, he spoke to me but couldn’t control his emotion, he was crying, calling, Ufuoma, Ufuoma, Ufuoma… I got up from my bed, held my breath from letting out a sob. I kept a sealed lip, not letting my wife catch the news. I quickly phoned some close friends to discuss the breaking news. At that very moment, I felt the hurt of loneliness, I felt the void, knowing my closest friend had gone to be with our Lord. I was completely shattered as the world seemed to have come to an abrupt end.
It is three years now that my bossom and humble friend departed this sinful world. Words are not enough to espress the pain I had felt even as I always remember the good and quality moments I had with him. In everything I had done while he was alive, I had always consulted with him. His wise counsels often times were very profitable to me. Ufuomski was a friend and brother to me. He was my confidant, a trusted personality who would sacrifice anything to give my life a philip. He was a dependable friend, too generous to a fault. He was by me during my traditional marriage at Umuoke community, in Imo state. In fact, Ufuomski provided the Volvo 244DL (his elder brother’s car) that conveyed me, my two friends and my younger sister, Juliet to Imo state. Ufuomski was the driver on that memorable day. I will always be grateful to him posthumously for his gallantry on that day of my marriage as he “piloted” us after the marriage, from Umuoke community near Owerri to my village Ubonukam, Mbaise in the night. It was a journey of about 1hr 30 minutes at a speed of 100km per hour.
I will not forget his brotherly role during the funeral of my late father. Ufuomski was with me in my village throughout the funeral. Ufuomski was a blessed and gifted child of God. He was intelligent, peace loving, and characteristically humble and honest. He played a leading role in promoting and building a healthy society devoid of rancour and strife. Small wonder, his popularity soared so high across Delta state and beyond. He was a perfect gentleman, a bridge builder, a staunch democrat and an advocate of good governance. He resolutely pursued the cause of humanity and gave his best without a whimper. His political life was exemplary in every sense of the word.
With rare show of simplicity and humility, Ufuomski distinguished himself as a democrat of high moral rectitude and distanced himself from the murky waters of Nigerian politics and never got into politics of bitterness, anachronism, and thuggery. It was obvious that his political vision was people oriented as he was determined to breathe a fresh air into the chequered political history of Uvwie kingdom. In pursuit of that goal, he vied for councilor in Uvwie local government area, under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Despite the huge financial loss he incurred during his political race, he was unbelievably unruffled, as he would always say, ‘God’s time is the best’, after he had been edged out at the primaries.
Ufuomski was a hard working young man who had a vision as regards where is heading. His knack for education was enviable as he began the chase for higher education at University of Jos, Plateau state where he obtained a diploma certificate. Subsequently, he proceeded to Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma and obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Administration.
Ufuoma’s internship at Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC during his NYSC programme, was outstanding as he proved himself a worthy ambassador of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma. Ufuomski is a goal getter. Any tasks assigned to him were diligently accomplished. He was a genuine family man and a loving brother to his siblings. He was a devout Christian. His faith in the words of God was testimonial in his committed role in the church. As a dedicated member of First Baptist Church, Effurun, Ufuomski played a vital role in development of Christianity using the platform of drama to venerate our Lord Jesus Christ. He was always available to run errands in the house of God. Thus he jealously held various positions in the church and proved his mettle as a seasoned administrator. Ufuomski never faltered in his determination to contribute his quota to the advancement of humanity while consolidating on his cordial relationship with his friends. This is evident in his enduring legacy as pioneer member of EXCEL, a social organisation.
31st August, 2016, painfully reminds us of the very day my bosom friend, Ufuomski departed us to be with our Lord. Ufuomski, Your lovely wife, Ese Omokoro, and your blessed children, Kparobo, Eloho, Ogheneyoma, Afure and Igbunu, are greatly missing you… your darling wife is saying: “It is 3 years that you had gone to be with our Lord but it seems like yesterday.” Words will not be enough to express how much we miss you. My lovely friend, “UFUOMSKI” we love and miss you so much but God loves you most.