The day was a Sunday. It was a Sunday morning. I was on my hospital bed determined that despite my desperate condition, I would listen to that first church service that would thereinafter usher in the New Year. My hospital window was just a stone throw from my church and even though I could not see any of the service as it commenced, it was possible to hear every word that was said. There was one unmistakable voice that floated from and brought the entire proceedings to my hospital bed and room. It was Emeka’s. Emeka was our church choir leader and that Sunday morning he was in charge as usual of the Thanksgiving Service of crossing over into 2007. Often at night (the church too is close to my house), you would hear him conduct prayer vigils and practice sessions into the wee hours of the morning. He had a way of saying ‘Letsomebodyinthehouseshout, “Ha-le-lu-jahhhhh! Any of the Hallelujahs that were said in a rather lukewarm manner Emeka always claimed as his. He could not imagine that we could just sit down there, ascribing those feeble expressions of praise to the King of kings and to the father of the Prince of Life himself. Most of the time, Emeka agreed to give the loudest and strongest expression of praise, with everyone in a standing ovation, to God.
On Monday evening I heard that Emeka was dead and his body already in the morgue.
Last year, Emeka sold to me one of the finest 14 inched-computer monitor that money can ever buy. He used to hustle along the Apapa Ports and had an eye for good quality merchandize. That was about four years ago and today that computer accessory still looks as if it was bought yesterday. Emeka got married last year and with his marriage it seemed that life was getting on track. He no longer lived in my type of one-bedroom flat. These days he always looked good and plum, prompting me to begin to ‘arrange’ myself as sharp as possible concerning matrimony. His new line of business involved a lot of travel to Benin City, though this did not impact negatively on his church activities – I still heard him conduct night vigils and arrange to produce and perfect special numbers for Sunday morning services.
Emeka dead? Emeka? What happened? Why? How? God, WHY? These were the initial questions that made my heard swim around and around as I lay on my sick bed. I clutched my bed sheets a little tighter probably to get a grip on myself but it didn’t work. This could not be. This na the guy wey im voice I hear only yesterday!!! I called Timothy but he parried my call. I kept on and on until he picked up. He agreed that Emeka had a highway motor accident but that he was in UBTH in a somewhat critical condition. Smooth liar, I thought. I knew that my pal Umah would tell me the same lie and I hoped that this would be a lie after all. Yes, he lied too. They told me much later after I was discharged from that hospital that they did not want to aggravate my condition, seeing that I was still not totally gone from the brink.
Of course I was not totally gone from the brink and they were right not to tell me that Emeka had died from a fatal motor accident along the Lagos – Benin Highway – that death trap that the Federal Government of Nigeria had refused to revamp before that festive season. The chap who also let me in on this was also right – he probably guessed that the news may not have that kind of effect on me.
It is my guess too that the reason this piece of information did not drag me further down the brink was that I knew Emeka. I know that while he was here, he was a true servant of the Most High. Emeka was steadfast in the things that concerned service to HIM. I knew that it was impossible for Emeka to die just like that, with God being on HIS throne. It was impossible! Something kept tugging at me that I must not ask those silly questions that I asked in one of the paragraphs of this ode. That thing kept telling me that God it was that had need of him and if that is the case, why should I weep and sink further down in despair and fear? Why should we? Why should any one of us question the ONE that gives and takes life? Why, my brethren? The Bible makes it very clear that people like Emeka are the true litmus test of whether or not we believe that we will go to heaven as Christians when we die. Perhaps if you read Shakespeare’s lyrical fugue, Twelfth Night, you would have encountered a fool telling his Lady Olivia that it is not a good thing to weep over a beloved brother who already has taken his place in one of the rooms that the Author and Finisher of our Faith said he was going to prepare for those who work for HIM, and are HIS true servants.
But let me address myself to you Emeka because I know in my heart of hearts that you can hear me: We miss you in Strait Gate Parish. We loved your melodious renditions and the power in your voice whenever there was a thanksgiving service every first Sunday of every month. We wonder how it is that anyone could ever be another Emeka to us. We know that you had to be promoted to higher glory because the Head of the Church had need of thy sterling devotion and dedication. We give thanks to God because of you. We know that you did not live long here but even in that brief moment you spent here, you were that kind of song that always made us jump onto our feet and give praises to God. Your life was not a waste, mind you. It was, is an inspiration and an instruction to those of us who are not as steadfast as you to do a spot-check on our relationship with our Redeemer and mend our ways.
Adieu our Emekus!