BY IKEDDY ISIGUZO
A tribute to a deceased who was more than a father
IT is challenging for me to write about my father, Hilary Nmerengwa Isiguzo, in the past. It is more frustrating still not feeling that he is dead. I returned to the house after his passing, at 82, expecting a surge of emotions that would have pressed the message home – there was none.
These have to do with the type of father he was than any detachment from him. He prepared us for the future, he trained us, mostly relying on resources that were not immediately within his reach. He sacrificed for us, suffering humiliation for the sake of his children. He endeared himself to us with his sense of service. He protected us at times we never knew we were in danger.
Life for him was about his family which he led with incredible examples of selflessness and the larger human community that watched a simple man who simply got things done, a man who stood by his word, at great risks to him.
My best memories of papa are those of a disciplinarian who rewarded hard work and academic excellence. It was in pursuit of these that he made some of his greatest sacrifices for his children, starting with his return to Mobil in 1974.
Before the war, he had been Depot Manager in Enugu, Makurdi, Jos, Zaria, Kano, and had other roles in Apapa and Port Harcourt. He had bought a car; he had built his first house by 1963, installing showers in it.
In 1974, he made one of the biggest sacrifices of his life – returning to Mobil as a casual labourer in order to fend for his children. He stacked drums at the facility in Apapa for four years before he was returned to the staff list, to serve under his juniors. He took it all in his strides.
The clarity of his thoughts flowed through his speech. When he wrote, the cursive was a delight. I cannot forget waiting for his letters, while in school, for the advice they bore and his goodness that each word radiated.
A former teacher, he was strict, so strict that I never knew he was acting for our good.
I am immensely proud of papa. I could not have had a better father. He led me through life, watching every step. He supported me. When I went to the seminary against his advice, he let me be. Only a year in the seminary, I told him I was leaving, he ignored me for a while, then advised that I concluded my education there, an advice that served me well.
At 17, I decided to be a journalist. He was the one who, through Engineer Awojobi in Mobil, got me a note that I took to Mr. Sola Odunfa, who employed me at The Punch a year after. He bought me a portable typewriter for my work and even a pair of sunshades when he noticed that my work entailed being outdoors. He read anything I wrote and told everyone about his son, the journalist.
Papa offered everyone respect and courtesy. Though my mails came through his office, he opened only two of my letters and apologised – the first was my GCE result and the other my admission letter to IMT. On both occasions, he explained that he could not contain his excitement at knowing the content of the letters.
He rewarded me – a leather suitcase for the GCE result and an air ticket to Enugu, the first time I travelled by air. All his children have instances of his kindnesses, peculiar to each child and each circumstance. He celebrated us.
Papa never preached, the message was in his own life, which was an admixture of challenging circumstances. He had his stock of setbacks, but he kept walking with his head high. He married his first wife Patricia Nwanyeze (nee Orji), my mother, in 1956; she died in 1962. He married Eunice (nee Nkoro) in 1963; she died in 1998. Four years later, he married Rosemary Uloma (nee Onyerionwu) with whom he lived until he died.
I would like to use this opportunity to thank our mother Rosemary for the exceptional care she provided for papa. I think she was part of God’s way of rewarding papa for his care for people.
Papa is gone. We will live with memories of a man, so organised, so thoughtful, so caring, who would never tell anyone of a good he did to another. I will miss him and I know anyone who knew him would too.
His life calls for celebration, which is why I am not crying.
* Isiguzo, Chairman, Editorial Board, Vanguard, wrote this tribute to his father who will be buried in his native Umuokegwu in Abia State on Friday, 18 November, 2011.