“There is something infinitely painful about death that when it strikes down a parent, relative, a friend or a child grief becomes our company for some time.”
These were the opening lines of Sunny Chris Okenwa weeks ago when he penned a moving tribute in honour of his late elder brother, Sylvester Chukwuemeka Okenwa. One can imagine the shock when news broke days ago that the great disciplined writer himself, Sunny Chris Okenwa, had passed on to the great beyond after a brief illness.
Sunny was one of those rare breed disciplined writers whose inks flowed consistently for more than a decade (sometimes back to back in days),he wrote on everything that pertains to society; politics, entertainment, culture, global affairs, history and many more.
A staunch critic of bad governance, he wrote without bias to any leader irrespective of tribe, religion, nationality or popular opinion. He could praise the president today and tackle his policies tomorrow with well researched facts. He was not a writer who betrayed emotions in his writings, he focused on the subject scientifically. Yet, in his tribute to his late brother, he came out of his shell, as if writing a succinct autobiography for himself unwittingly in the process.
Continuing from his tribute to his brother……
“Early last week my only surviving elder sister based in Benin City had called me to inform me of the passing unto glory of our elder brother, Sylvester Chukwuemeka Okenwa (Mekus)
The sad news temporarily left me speechless, dumbfounded! Unable instantly to come to terms with that, I had asked Lovina to drop the line, promising to call her back. My wife and daughter were crying as I retreated to my study to gather myself together.
Thirty minutes later, still smarting from shock, I put a call across to her and we spoke in detail about the circumstances that led to Emeka’s untimely demise. She told me he had complained of cardiac-related pain weeks prior but he died peacefully in his sleep.
Still shocked, I demanded that I be given a few days to recuperate before deciding the way forward. Three days later I called back to inquire about the burial arrangements and I was told that they would be concluded in the village during the Easter celebration.
Ordinarily, I do not like talking about my family issues since they are private. But sometimes it is good to tell it publicly if only to pay tribute to whom it is due. My beloved brother lived a good worthy life and his social deeds impacted on the lives of others in Lagos and our village in Ihiala, Anambra State.
Death, where is thy sting? has been the generational question asked by philosophers and hard thinkers around the globe. Why and how the grim reaper strikes remains a mystery from time immemorial.
Yet death remains an inevitable (even necessary!) occurrence no one can wish away, rich or poor! Without death there would not have been procreation (birth). As we die so are others born and bred. From the cradle to the grave is our natural burden!
If my late father (the great one) did not die then yours truly (the one in the great one) would not have been. Though I was born when he was alive he had surrendered himself to the ultimate levelling fate that awaits and befalls every Adam and Eve.
Perhaps if Adam and Eve did not eat from the forbidden fruit as opposed to the divine exhortation as found in Genesis death would have not existed! Yet, it goes without saying that if man does not die life would have been something else.
Just imagine if man does not die how many Methusellahs and centenarians that would have been with us ‘begging’ God to end it all! Seeing them bed-ridden and crawling on all fours would have been unimaginable.
Born in a particularly difficult genocidal period in Nigeria in the middle of the Nigeria/Biafra civil war, Emeka, according to our late mother, survived the odds. Sometimes in those days of pogrom (1967-70) he would be breast-fed inside the jungle or uncompleted buildings as mother took cover whenever the enemy bombing aircrafts hovered around searching for locations to drop their bombs!
Sometimes, too, in that period of military madness mother would strap Emeka on her back as they ran for dear lives inside the market as sounds of gunfire boomed! When malnutrition and hunger became part of the war strategy to conquer the great Igbo spirit my mother told tales of privation and want leading to folks eating lizards, rats and cassava leaves for survival!
Emeka did not live a rough life. Unlike me who smokes and drinks, Emeka never smoked nor drank much. He drank moderately and concentrated more on his business and family. As a breadwinner like me he took his family life very seriously playing his role as a father responsibly and with dignity.
Like me Emeka detested hypocrisy and like our late father we both love the truth believing in the same as a healthy and liberating act once spoken no matter whose ox is gored. Like me, too, he had not claimed to be perfect; he had his human weaknesses like every mortal!
We are believers in one universal God, the Maker of man. The omnipotent power of Jehovah and His begotten son, Jesus the Christ, was recognised by both of us.
We might have had our differences but we shared a certain blood bond as brothers would. Like Jacob and Esau in the Bible my late mother (who had a soft spot for my brother) would have done exactly what Rebekah did in the Isaac ancient days by snatching the blessing due me for my brother!
As an intellectual my brother and I often clashed during our extended family meetings during the Yuletide festivities in the village. Often his ignorance could come into play but we managed to understand each other’s position on issues of the day at the end of the day.
Like the English royal family and their clashes of interest (the heir-apparent, Prince William, and his brother, the Spare, Harry) we often disagreed to agree but we never fought each other nor insulted one another. Though the difference here is that we are not from a royal family!
As teenagers the family had decided that Emeka should proceed to Lagos to learn a trade and me straight to Benin City to further my education after the completion of our primary school in the village. While Emeka was my late mother’s look-alike, I am my late father’s double!”
Sunny is gone, but his numerous letters in his over a decade of writing will continue to speak timelessly. May his soul find rest and divine comfort be accorded to his family and friends.