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Tribute: Manpass, our master saxophonist goes home today

By Onochie Anibeze

IN one of your moves to check my naughty escapades you spanked me really hard and out of anger I grabbed a kitchen knife nearby, charged at you and you took to your heels.

I went after you in a hot chase. It was a village setting and everywhere was serene. Only the stamping of our feet on the ground cut the air. Suddenly, I thought of myself, a kid chasing my senior whose massive frame ought to be enough to scare me stiff. It became funny to me and I stopped chasing you and started laughing. How can a little boy like me scare such a senior? I knew I was full of mischief but I didn’t know I could make you run. But I paid for my naivety and seeming rascal tendency. You quickly turned back, grabbed the knife from me and spanked me even harder. And when I had finished crying you comforted me and admonished me over my wrong doing.

These are some of the interesting memories I have of our growing up. We were in the village where we sought refuge during the civil war. And when the war ended it was time to return to the city. Our father was one of the victims of the pogrom in the North. So mama trudged on, catering for us all. She had taken others to Enugu but you were mandated to go and bring me from the army barracks in another area far from our village. Was I in the army? No. You were not even of age to be in the army what more myself. And that was why the officers considered mama’s request to release you when you were conscripted into the army. They probably mistook your stature and took you for an adult and conscripted you into the army. But mama made them release you and everybody was happy that you returned to safety. Joining the army then probably gave one 30 percent chance of living.

Late Thomas Anibeze
Late Thomas Anibeze

Your frame earned you the sobriquet MANPASS, a short word for man pass man. In one way or the other we all fought the war and suffered it in one way or the other. And that’s why John Pepper Clark wrote that “the casualties are not only those who are dead, they are well out of it,” in his poem about the civil war, “The Casualties.”

You went through difficulties to get me out of the barracks where I was serving an officer, who eventually did not return from the battle front. But the war had ended and we looked forward to a bright future. How we arrived Enugu from Aguobu Owa was unbelievable. A bike here and there and the long trek to Enugu in such difficult terrains that would not make anyone dream of war again what more considering it as an option for any cause. War is not good.
Growing up under the care of mama was challenging but she was an amazon and we all developed in our different ways. You pursued different endeavours and ended up in the entertainment industry. I was not surprised. Mama always told us how eloquent our grandfather was with the drums or gongs. When I saw you play at Nicon Hilton Abuja, I was proud of you. You played some tracks from James Brown whose saxophonist, Maceo, gave character to his music. And you truly played like Maceo. James Brown simply couldn’t do without Maceo. There were times James Brown would cut off lyrics and many other instruments and call on Maceo to take over. And his performance would send one to a different lane. You were our own Maceo. And when I told Chisom, my son that I would, some day, take him to where you played at Lekki in Lagos, he looked forward to seeing you play. Chisom is only 14 but he is good on the keyboards and has started playing guitar. That promise will never be met.

You have played in many cities but never at home. You thrilled when I saw you play on NTA and I hoped that someday you will play in our home town so that our people will appreciate the talent from Aguobu Owa and begin to hope that we will have another Mike Ejiagha who is also a distant relation.

On Saturday, January 30, all the hopes and dreams about you were shattered. You lost the battle with respiratory failure at Lagos University Teaching Hospital. It is with heavy heart that we, today, commit you to mother earth in our Ogwushia Onu-ata, Aguobu Owa, Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State.

We are still in shock but we give glory to God for we are sure that you are resting in the Lord. We will sorely miss you. We know that it will never be the same for our mother, Cordelia Ogbonne Anibeze, Moses, Charles, Professor Chike Anibeze, Vivien Iwuorah (nee Anibeze), myself, your wife and children. And we pray God to grant us the grace to bear this huge loss and always serve Him for He is the Alpha and Omega and we BELIEVE IN HIS SUPREME ABILITIES. REST IN PEACE BROTHER!


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