By Patrick Dele Cole 
I
T is best for someone who is   110 years old to speak about a 90 year old – he could then tell you that person’s early life – the rascality or good behaviour; that the person never came first in class as all the older people tell their children. (One bright child asked once – if you all came first, who came second?)

Again I like the short biography – the mother, the father, the royal pedigree – a traceable history. Sisi was born to greatness.

She went to the best schools – a pioneer in every sphere. Most importantly she had, unlike many of our leaders,  classmates – she could name well over five of them!!

Many of our leaders cannot remember the schools they went to, the schools cannot remember them, they have no classmates; attended universities whose towns they do not know; Toronto seems to be a favourite. The alma mata of Governors and Speakers of the National and State Assemblies! Auntie Kariba’s schools are all here, mentioned proudly. In this day of mass information, I  Googled then and yes, she was there. No Tori.

Sisi’s House was full of all kinds of people: if it was a dog’s kennel, it was full of all kinds of stray dogs. No one was ever sure where any one else came from: Ibibios, Ibos, Ogonis and even me – the enigma – no one ever knew how I got there. If I was a dog, I would have been a stray dog that followed another dog home and never left. I had a friend who used to be called nee Bingo. He never knew how near to the truth he was!!

In such a melee, I’ve had various characters – some true, others where either economical with the truth or full of stories. Our favourite is our belief that if this particular person was telling a story of how God created Adam and Eve, that story will only gain vibrancy and the greatness of God – only when God created him.

You know some people who cannot tell a story without that person being part of the story. So in our friend’s rendition, the story of creation would go something like this: God created the world and was busy doing this and that but one day, God decided to create our friend. Before God did that, He went to the Assembly Room where all the characteristics of all humans were stored. God took His time to select the best qualities and put them together in one mould and created him.

God also looked for the best family in the world and the best town in the world that would be worthy of this extraordinary fellow. Well he was one of us.

But seriously, no one would doubt that Auntie Kariba was specially created by God to come and bring joy and happiness. She is not one of those people you forget after meeting her because her presence is so strong it affects all she comes into contact with.

Her discipline is legendary. Most of us would go to her husband to report ourselves rather than wait for someone else to report us to Sisi. The reason is that even if she was about to tear you to pieces and her husband was around, once she started, he had the commanding influence and presence to say to her – Igibite; it is enough. Meni woriso: leave it alone; it is ok. And there the matter would end.

I cannot end without a word or two about our women: they have achieved where their men folk may have not. As early as 1931, my own mother was No. 3 in the registry of midwives in Nigeria, spending over 50 years serving her profession all over Nigeria. Mrs. Graham-Douglas even surpassed my mother’s modest achievement first at the teaching Hospital in Ibadan, then to London University, then back to Nigeria to start a School of Nursing; then reading degrees culminating in BA, Ph.D and DD. Yet not once has she puffed up herself to be called Dr., Prof. All her gifts she devoted to her service to God who had mightily blessed her.

Today her serenity is God inspired and blessed. She manages a very rare ability of discipline and extraordinary generosity.

Apart from Commander Princewill, no Kalabari man has ever been a governor but here again our women have been first ladies. Apart from Princewill’s wife, we had first ladies during the civilian administration – the incomparable Gov. Donald Duke – the beautiful fashionable womanhood of brain and beauty – Onari Duke, now followed by the equally exceptionally brainy and beautiful Mrs. Godwin Obaseki of Edo. Our deputy Governor Mrs. Banigo is also of Kalabari extraction; Kalabari men, take heart, your turn is coming!

Let us celebrate greatness when we see it; let us celebrate  humility when we meet it; let us celebrate piety when it is so apparent; let us celebrate these great attributes without the slightest hint of arrogance.

 

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