By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
…Says ‘Give me the most beautiful woman and I’ll throw her back at you’
BORN in 1898, Chief Daniel Ukeredi, aka Ogbolomo, a retired staff of the Nigeria Railway Corporation, NRC, who clocks 114 years on September 16, is the oldest living person in Okpe Kingdom, Urhobo ethnic nationality of Delta State. However, by Guiness World Records, he is only two years away from the oldest living person in the world, Mrs. Besse Cooper, who celebrated her 116th years on the earth, on August 26. Cooper was born in 1896 in Tennessee, United States of America.
Nevertheless, there is currently a controversy over whether Cooper is world’s oldest person with the claim by Cuban Juana Bautista de la Candelaria Rodriguez, that she is 127 years old. Her February 12, 1885 purported birthday is, nonetheless, under serious doubt by Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group, which verifies longevity information for Guinness World Records.
Ukeredi, who became a chief of Okpe kingdom in 1973, is a member of the Esezi Ruling House, one of the four royal families in the kingdom. It was, nonetheless, palpable that he is sightless, perhaps due to age, as his 30-year-old son, Monday Ukeredi, led him to the sitting room for an interview with Sunday Vanguard in his modest residence at Orerokpe, the headquarters of Okpe Local Government Area.
As was later discovered, he has also become partly deaf and one had to shout into his ears for him to hear what you are saying. A peep at his bowl-shaped face and gangling frame will remind a kid of a scarecrow, but the Ogbolomo is an interesting personage. He is far from being the scary creature his image portrays.
Indeed, he is helping to resolve crises in the kingdom, including the protest by Ugbokodo women and the feud between members of Ugbokodo executive and community on matters of embezzlement. His son, Monday, served as an interpreter in this engaging encounter. Excerpts:
What is your name?
Chief Daniel Ukeredi
How old are you?
I was born on September 16, 1898. I am 114 years old.
Is there any birth record to show that your date of birth is true?
You came here with the secretary to the Okpe Traditional Council, Chief Charles Edemenaha. He can bear me out that I am 114 years old now
How can he bear you out, he was not there when you were born?
He would not have accompanied you to my house if he knows that I am not the eldest man in Okpe kingdom and you are coming to interview me for that purpose. This is a kingdom; we know who is senior to who and the eldest amongst us.
So how do you determine the eldest man?
My elder brother died recently, that was in 2010, two years ago, at the age of 121 years. He was senior to me by seven years. Before he died, he was the oldest person in Ugbokodo. I started my working career in 1933 in the then Nigeria Railway Corporation and retired in 1961, a year after our country’s independence. That should tell you that I was not born today. I am sure that you talking to me was not born when I retired from the Railway.
Who is your father?
My father is late Mr. Ofore Ukeredi of Ugbokodo in Okpe Local Government Area of Delta State.
Is that where you were born?
Yes, I was born in Ugbokodo, near Jeddo
How did you grow up as a child, what things did you engage in?
I was a fisherman, I used to cut palm fruits and went to farm for my parents. I lived with them in Ugbokodo before I left for Lagos.
What were those odd things you did as a child for which your parents flogged you?
I used to fight. I fought a lot when I was a child. At that time, I fought with those I perceived were oppressing other people. I was a very strong person and I took delight in fighting the cause of other people that were not as strong as I was.
Which school did you attend?
I attended CMS, Ugbokodo
What is your level of education?
I read up to Standard 3 and went to Lagos in 1929. Things were difficult for us then. In Lagos, I stayed with one of my elder brothers, who was a cook to a white man at that time and I studied at home under the tutelage of a home teacher. The white man, who was a chief mechanical engineer in the Nigeria Railway Corporation, NRC, then gave me a job.
Which department did you work in?
I worked in the mechanical department
What did you do to make the white man give you a job?
I told you that my brother whom I was staying with was his cook. Therefore, when they cooked for him, I usually took the food to him in the office and that made the man to develop interest in me.
From available information, you are two years younger than the oldest living person in the world, who is 116 years old. What is the secret of your long life?
(Surprised at the information that he is only two years away from the oldest living person in the world and laughs)
The secret of my long life is that I do not tell lies and I do not take what does not belong to me.
How do you know it is because you do not tell lies and take what belongs to others that made you to live this long?
If you have any doubt about my answer, then, God will answer you. However, I can tell you that God created me and He knows that reason. Today, I am alive and I still have more years to live by His power.
At your age, I believe you will be communing with spirits and not human beings. What kind of spirits do you see in your dreams?
As I am sitting here now talking to you, I see many things, which people around me do not see. Therefore, I take them most times as dream. Sometimes, I close my eyes, I, indeed, see spirits; I drink with them and chat with them.
Monday: We were with him of recent and he said he was seeing some chiefs and people in the room where we all were sitting. We told him we were not seeing anybody and that only two of us (my sister and I) were with him at that time, he got angry, asking us if we think he did not know what he was seeing.
(Interview with Pa Ukeredi continues) Are you a Christian?
In the beginning, I was a Christian but I also served juju. I am both a Christian and a traditional worshipper.
How can you serve God and juju at the same time?
I have told you that God created me and I serve Him
How are you sure it is the Spirit of God that talks to you in your dream?
I know, the Spirit of God came to meet me.
Can you describe yourself as a Christian?
There is God and Jesus Christ is the first son of God
Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?
I have accepted God
Has Jesus Christ appeared in your dream asking you to follow Him?
He has not appeared
Have you had any revelation of heaven and hell?
How many wives and children do you have?
I have four wives; three were late before I married my fourth wife.
My eldest child is more than 70 years old and second child was born in 1944. My last child is 28 years old. My first wife gave me six children, second wife-2, third wife- 2 and fourth wife- 4.
I am sorry, I see you are blind and partially deaf, how do you recognize when they come to visit you?
Monday : If somebody that comes to this house before comes, he will know it is the person, but if it is somebody that is new, it will take him after several visits to know that person. Once he has developed a little acquaintance with you, he knows you by instinct.
How did this problem of blindness and partial hearing come about because it was not there from childhood?
Oh, there is nothing wrong about that. That is how it runs in my family. When you cross 100 years, blindness and partial hearing come. They have to do with age. It affected all members of my family that lived above 100 years. Doctors also confirmed that it has to do with old age.
At 114, what are the peculiar health problems you are facing besides blindness and partial hearing, which are normal?
God has given me good health; I am living in good health
What is your best food?
(Laughs) I like pepper soup with fish and unripe plantain/yam
Daughter: He likes Banga soup and pounded yam for breakfast
What is your best drink?
(Laughs) I take all drinks, but I love a particular brand of beer.
Why is that so? What do you like about it?
The beer enables me to urinate and makes me stronger
Are you saying that you still drink beer at 114 years?
Try me with it, as I told you, it makes me to urinate and it is good for somebody of my age. Secondly, it makes me strong.
What is your advice to younger people who want to live long?
They should not tell lies, they should respect their elders, be honest and do not steal.
Do the present leaders of Okpe kingdom seek counsel from you?
I hold meetings with them, they take some of my advice, and they reject some.
What of the Orodje of Okpe kingdom, does he listen to what you tell him?
King is king. He is my son. He relates with me constantly and is always bringing me gifts.
To have married up to four wives means that you love women, do you still like them?
(Laughs) I still like them-o.
Can you still perform; I mean can you still carry out your marital role of sex?
About sex! Hmmm…! Even if you throw the most beautiful woman to me as a gift now, I will throw her back at you.
Generally, what will you say about your life?
I am enjoying life, I do not have problem and I am enjoying my beer.
Appeal to God
However, I am begging God to extend my days so that I will drink and drink my beer.
Turning point in my life
Life is full of difficulties. My turning point in my life was at my old age. It is at this stage of my life I have come to realize the essence of life. Before now, I did not know or understand certain things, but I now know what life is all about.
What is the hardest decision you have taken in your life?
The hardest decision I had taken in my life was my resolution not to fight anymore.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
I will like to say that I have seen so many strange things in life and I will tell you about some of them. One was when I saw two snakes making love. I saw them with my naked eyes in the mangrove swamp. I was going for fishing then and, to tell you the truth, I was shocked.
Another strange thing that I have witnessed in life was the day I saw two spirit beings – each with one hand and one leg, male and female in the bush. The female spirit was removing lice from the head of the male; when I saw them, I took to my heels. They burst out laughing at me as I ran the race of my life.
How many more years would you want God to give you to enjoy life and drink more beer?
(Moves and sits back more relaxed on his chair in a reflective mood) I will want God to give me 20 more years. That means I want to live up to 134 years and enjoy more beer.
Ukeredi is our Methuselah – Col. Edemenaha (rtd), Scribe, Okpe kingdom
COLONEL (Chief) Charles Edemenaha (rtd) is the Secretary to the Orodje of Okpe, Orue I, and the scribe of Okpe Traditional Council. He affirms in this interview that Chief Ukeredi is the oldest man in Okpe kingdom. Excerpts:
As the secretary of Okpe kingdom, I want to find if it is true, that Chief Ukeredi is the oldest man in the kingdom and how old is he?
There is no falsification about what he has told you regarding his age. Oral history at our disposal confirmed by our elders, some of who had passed on and others alive, show that he is actually 114 years old.
Honesty is his virtue
I also had the honour of living in his house as a young man and I can attest to his integrity. He is my in-law. Actually, he is married to my auntie. He is an honest man, hardworking and truthful. He hates lies.
He worked in the Nigeria Railway Corporation, where he retired and returned home. He contributed to the formation of Okpe Union in 1931 while he was in Lagos.
Ogbolomo is a known bridge-builder. Many years ago, there was an Okpe chief residing in Ghana. He had problem with Okpe Union and was to be ostracized. He intervened by leading a delegation to Ghana and, to his credit, the matter was amicably resolved.
This is his kind of life. He was made a chief as far back as 1973. Indeed, he is in the third set of our old chiefs. He is the oldest person in Orerokpe, as each community in Okpe kingdom has its oldest person, but we know he is the oldest man presently in the entire kingdom.
Traditionally, meetings are held in his house and, as the oldest man, he usually settles local issues. He has many grand children, great grand children. He enrolled in CMS, Adesa, Ugbokodo in 1927 and worked in the Nigeria Railway between 1933-1961.