Erijo’s Mother’s Burial In Aviara: How It Happened

BY ITEVEH EKPOKPOBE
DO not stand on my grave and weep; I am not there. I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glints on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain. When you awaken in the morning’s hush, I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there. I did not die. – Do Not Stand at my grave and Weep, a poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye.
In contemporary times, there are very few people who live up to the age of 80 years. Not because they do not wish it; for everyone seeks longevity and some even pursue immortality, but because providence had not given them the room to enjoy it – longevity. And the few, who have the pleasure of that date with longevity, are very well worth celebrating.
And so it was in Aviara kingdom in Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State penultimate weekend as 80-year old, Deaconess Johanna Emamoke Agabri (Nee Otiatiloko), mother of the Member representing Isoko South II Constituency, Hon. Johnson Erijo, was laid to eternal rest.
The life of Oni-Emo, Ukpe-Oghene, Johana-Johana, Amama-lolo,Otiatoloko and many other names she was fondly called, was, indeed, a significant one, going by her biography which was read by the very Hon. Johnson Erijo.
According to the biography read, Deaconess Johana Emamoke Agabriwho who was born on July 7, about 80 years ago, as the seventh child of eight children, to the family of Pa. Agabri Owhe and Madam Ikperewhu Owhe (nee Imara) of Aviara kingdom was greatly loved by the family and relatives, hence she was called ‘Otiatiloko and “Omotewigho” which truly manifested in her life.
With the demise of her father in her tender age, Mama could not have the opportunity of having western education and so as she grew up, she was catered for by her elder brother, late Pa. Omote Owhe Agabri. As a tireless and hardworking young girl, she assisted her brother in farming and trading and, thus, could not satisfy her undying zeal for western education due to scarce resources. She later got married; life never offered her a rosy bed.
However, in the early 60’s, with her entrepreneurial attributes and acumen, she established a restaurant in Aviara and also started the vending of agricultural produce, which made her to traverse the then Mid-Western region, Onitsha and Northern Nigeria for trading. In the course of making ends meet, she never allowed her religious life (Christianity) to suffer relegation as she was one of the followers of Apostle (Dr.) O.I.A. Offe of blessed memory; she had faith with the “The Apostolic Church (TAC)”, firmly believing and upholding the tenets of TAC.
A philanthropist par excellence, Mama Agabri facilitated the connection of electricity to a vast part of her community, built/furnished a toilet for the mission house of her church and founded many healing homes to give care to both old and young.
She was favoured with nine surviving biological children and many adopted and numerous God-mother children, whom she gave her love unequivocally as people could hardly tell who among them was not her biological child.
There is nothing of better poise than when, even in death, the good deeds of many are still sung. Little wonder, Pastor I.C. Omohoro, in his sermon, charged people to emulate the scintillating life of Mama Agabri who contributed her quota not only to humanity but as well to God.
He, however, tasked Christians on the need for righteous living, in accordance with the word of God through the Holy scriptures.
According to him, the personality of man cannot bribe God against His words, thus man’s life should be built daily on the knowledge of God’s word. “Death is a rod that strikes at all. The need to be one with God becomes a necessity,” he added.
In his analogy of the Goat and Sheep, who, being hunger-ridden, were opportuned to a farmer’s warehouse to feed on free sheaves, Pastor Omohoro enjoined Christians to forget not the Lord of host. “It is only a fool that forgets his creator.”
The State Governor, Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Okowa, in his speech, noted that the deceased was described severally as accommodating and prayerful; he urged the people to live a Godly life, a life of service to humanity.
According to him, death is inevitable; the worst thing that befalls a man is when you die without acknowledging Christ as your Lord and personal Saviour, adding that to prepare for our death, we should live a life in agreement with God.
He challenged parents to ensure that their families are peaceful as such will translate to a peaceful society. “When our different homes are at peace, our state will be peaceful and we will have a peaceful nation,” Governor Okowa said, emphasizing, “we should build our families according to the words of God and ensure that we have united, peaceful families, which will transcend to a better society.”
“We must seek salvation continuously; it is no longer about Mama, but, about us who are alive today; a funeral service such as this is for us to realize that there is still time for us to reconcile with our God,” he said.
Mama Agabri was laid to rest in her residence in Aviara amid saxophone blares by G-Sax of Delta State origin, special rendition by the children, and choir rendition by the host of choristers in attendance.
Oh, and there was more.
Who says there isn’t more; who says there isn’t plenty a word in a penny’s newspaper. And thus it was with the life of Mama that, even in death, only sweet eulogies like incense flooded her interment. Only the best of people, the very soul of society attended her burial.
Unless during political campaigns, in very few times in the history of Delta State was such a gathering of the high and mighty, the ruling class, the bourgeois, astute politicians, elder statesmen, among other first class citizens of the state and the nation. You must believe when it is said thence that Aviara kingdom will not forget in many decades to come, and in a hurry, what transpired that very weekend.
Eulogies did pour out from every angle.
The Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Monday Igbuya and Rt. Hon. Friday Osanebi, respectively, commiserated with the Member representing Isoko South II Constituency in the House, Hon. Johnson Erijo on the death of his mother, Deaconness Emamoke Agabri.
Speaking on behalf of the members of the 6th Assembly, they described the death of Madam Agabri as painful and enjoined Hon. Erijo and the entire family of the late octogenarian to take solace in the fact that their mother died a fulfilled woman, adding that death is a supreme sacrifice every living being must pay, and prayed God to grant the late Agabri eternal rest.
The Majority Leader of the Delta State House of Assembly and Chairman, House Committee on Information, Hon. Tim Owhefere, described the death of Madam Agabri as painful and enjoined Hon. Erijo and the entire family of the late octogenarian to take solace in the fact that their mother died a fulfilled woman.
The majority leader said the late Agabri impacted much on the lives of her children and many others who came in close contact with her, noting that as a devout Christian and community leader, her death will surely leave some vacuum in her immediate community.
Other honorable members of the State House of Assembly, who spoke including, Rt. Hon. Peter Onwusayna, Hon. Oboro Preyor, Hon. Dennis Omovie, Hon. Pat Ajudua, Hon. Daniel Yingi, Hon. Emeka Elekeokwuri, Hon. Timi Tonye, Hon. Efe Ofoburuku, Hon. Eric Oharisi, Hon. Orezi Esievo, Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, Hon. Daniel Mayuku, among others, prayed that Mama’s soul rests in the peaceful bosom of the Lord.
Former Deputy Governor, Prof. Amos Utuama, described the late Mama as a good mother who trained her children well owing to the strings of successes seen so far, adding that such a woman deserved the best that life and death can offer.
Prof. Utuama prayed for the repose of her soul in the bosom of the lord.
Senator Stella Omu, who also addressed media men, explained that times like this reminds people of the unavoidable pang of death and the need to be at one with God and morality. She described Mama Agabri as one who at 80 had lived no better life than the one she lived and prayed God to grant her eternal rest.
The reception was a different ball game of assortment entirely. While the most revered gospel act, Evangelist Emmanuel Ofano, was at his best, local highlife bands also saturated the arena to the musical enchantment of the people.
There was food. There was enough food. Drinks had their own fair share of the struggle for attention of the guests among other niceties. If you were not there, I bet, you missed out on a whole variety of luxury – may be comfort.
The ceremony enjoyed the presence of the Deputy Governor of Delta State, Hon. Kingsley Otuaro; Senator James Manager; the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Leo Ogor; Comrade Ovouzourie Macaulay, former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Delta State; Hon. Onyemaechi Mrakpor, Chief Solomon Ogba, Chief Ross Uredi, Chief Askia Ogieh, Hon. Gabriel Okpunor, Rt. Hon. Funkekeme Solomon, Rt. Hon. Emma Okoro, Rt. Hon. (Prince) Sam Obi among others.
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