EPISTLE TO DIMGBA IGWE, MY DAD IN HEAVEN

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    I was fifteen when I experienced for the first time the true meaning of death and what follows: the pain, sorrow, tears, loneliness, helplessness, the eclipsing total darkness of losing a father so dear, so kind to all, so loving, who pampered me to a fault, being the last born.

    Seven-plus years after you left, I am trying to look back and capture it all from the perspective of a writer’s son. On that dreadful day of September 6, 2014, I was writing my GCE Exam. But unknown to me, the worst had happened. I was coming back home from Ire-Akari Grammar School in Okota when I noticed a lot of people in the house. In my mind, I was saying: “What could have happened?” I met a crowd and nobody was saying anything. I went to my room.

    That was when Aunty Gloria and my sisters took me to the sitting room and told me what had happened: that you had gone jogging as usual that Saturday morning but you never came back. A hit-and-run driver had knocked you down and cowardly fled the scene of crime. Courageously, you wrestled with death for hours like your name Dimgba which in Igbo means master wrestler. You were rushed to one hospital to another hospital to another for hours, till you bled to death from Okota to Ikeja. Amidst the chaos of Lagos traffic, you arrived dead on arrival at LASUTH, Ikeja! I did not pass that exam because I had to write dealing with the stress and trauma of your death. By the time the results came, it was terrible.

    From then on, I had to move on and face the reality of life without a father. Seeing how my mother struggled every day inspired me to double down all my efforts to succeed in life.

    I talked to myself: “You are not a child anymore. You really have to take care of your mother, take care of your family. It doesn’t matter that you are the youngest.” Your death seriously impacted on my mother’s health. But in turn, it made her stronger, having to be the father and mother, having to struggle to pay our school fees at the university. As you know, mum is kind to a fault, a woman with a soft heart and a forgiving spirit. You can stab her and she would hug you back. I know she has forgiven whoever it was that drove the mystery car that killed you and disappeared forever.

    When I saw the array of political giants like Baba Buhari who later became President Buhari, then Tinubu, Fashola and many other political juggernauts blowing their sirens on our street, all coming to pay condolence, I was surprised that I am your son. It was like I did not know you at all. I said to myself: “Chinazam, you are in trouble. How are you going to surpass this man now?”

    dimgba-awoyinfa
    Late Dimgba Igwe and Mike Awonyinfa

    Seven, eight years down the line, you are still remembered. People remember how you helped them. I hear all kinds of stories about your generosity, your kindness, your goodness and your faith in God. Everybody you meet has a Dimgba Igwe story: how you helped them, how you gave them a job, how you mentored them, how you impacted their lives. I tell my mum: “Your husband did not make it easy for me to surpass him.”

    Thank you daddy, for the legacy you left. I inherited your big library, I inherited your speaking ability and I stole your writing ability too. I hope I took your heart, your kindness, your Good Samaritan spirit—which ironically played out when you were lying down, hit by a moving vehicle and needing help. You who can give even the clothes off your back just to assist someone. The way you lived your life influenced me a lot. The purity of it all.

    There is no way I will go astray because you trained many policemen to police my life. I know you are in heaven and over there, you have been disturbing God over me, saying: “Heavenly Father, see my son Chinazam, help him. You know you took me to be with you. Now you are taking over the role of his father, guardian and protector.”

    Daddy, things have not been easy for mummy. You probably know the situation in Nigeria today with many of our youths leaving Nigeria or dreaming to go abroad in what is called “Japa”. Mummy has done everything a mother can possibly do to train the four of us at the university. All her business investments were diverted towards our education to the point where she has nothing substantial on her. Please, continue to bother God to help her. As you probably know, I studied at Covenant University for my BSc degree in Economics. For my postgraduate, I needed to divert to the business side of things where I am more inclined. After introspection, I had options choosing between global business management and project management. I chose project management because it is something I feel I would be very good at. After graduating, I hope to get a job and be able to make waves by God’s grace.

    Early December last year, I gained admission to study Project Management at Centennial College in Ontario, Canada. I had a short deadline to make payment running into a lot of dollars which mummy couldn’t afford, so she wanted me to postpone the admission to next year. I felt sad and wept all night, saying: “If only my daddy were to be around.” I was encouraged by the words of the Psalmist which says: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

    I prayed hard and joy indeed came in the morning. I went next door to meet your faithful friend and “twin brother” Uncle Mike Awoyinfa who with alacrity wrote a cheque amounting to some substantial amount of dollars which wiped away my tears. I was so jubilant. Next, Pastor Paul Toun whose daughter coincidentally is in the same Centennial University in Canada also added to my joy with additional dollars.

    dimgba-awoyinfa

    Others too supported me in their own little way. Indeed, God has been faithful. May God bless all of them. With the goodwill that you built, I was able to travel to Canada on December 5. You will be wondering: Why Canada? Even from my time in 2018-2019 that I went to the United States to work as part of a student exchange programme, we had a trip to Niagara Falls.

    From Niagara Falls, I could see the border to Canada. On looking there, something just told me it’s the place to go. Even from meeting Canadians saying good things about Canada, praying to God which country I should go, Canada was top of the mind. Even when I tried to divert and go to the U.S., it did not work. The spirit of God chased me back to Canada and led me all the way. Every dot, every puzzle, every blessing has just been connecting for me one by one. It can only be God. The God you served all your life and handed over to us your children. God truly is everything.

    I started this journey with no money in my account after the business I was doing didn’t work out and I still went along with this. He has brought me this far. He would not leave me hanging halfway. I am going there with the full might of my heavenly Father and you my biological father. You who have been disturbing God for my sake and for the sake of the family you left behind.

    Love Always
    Chinazam Isaac Igwe