As Olikeze Ahaba Was Finally Laid To Rest

BY BENSON OKOBI-ALLANAH
H
OUSE number 209, Nnebisi Road, opposite St. Johnbosco’s Catholic Church, Asaba, Delta State capital, the residence of the veteran journalist, philosophical writer, singer, dancer, community leader and one of the longest- servicing secretaries in the world, Chief Sir (Dr.) John Iloba, JP, DJSM,FFCE (T), the Olikeze of Asaba, was replete with eulogies, commendations, praises, food, wines and other drinks, dances, drumming, singing just as it was also at theOshimili South Arcade, the reception venue shortly after the funeral mass that held at St. Joseph’s Cathedral Catholic Church, Asaba, that Friday, October 20, 2017.
The remains of the late Chief (Dr.) John Iloba was conveyed from Maduemezia Memorial Hospital, Umuagu, Asaba, in a white ambulance bus marked with the inscription: Twin City Hospital printed bold in red ink at the early hours of Friday, October 20, 2017, and laid in state for some time at his residence before the long convoy of vehicles and other peoplewalking on foot in the convoy, accompanied his remains toSt. Joseph’s Cathedral Catholic Church for the funeral mass same place the service of songs was held the previous day, Thursday, October 19. 2017.
The hold-up along the popular Nnebisi Road was hectic as a result of the long convoy which kept the line-up of vehicles crawling. The sirens blew continuously, coming from behind and in front. That from the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Delta State Command, Asaba, coming from behind and clearing traffic as the siren wailed, while that of the ambulance (in front) blipped continuously as if in competition with that of the FRSC.
The church premises was jam-packed already, with most of the vehicles in the convoy being compelled to park along the roads and other available spaces around the church, while many took the risk of parking in far distant places.
Shortly after the homily presided over by Right Rev. Fr. Monsignor Uzomah thatsaw the church brimming over with people in attendance amongst who were some top government functionaries, the civil society, business men and women, a hand-full some Asaba chiefs, children of the deceased, other family members,journalists, many friends and sympathizers,the whole congregation dispersed with some, mostly the children and other closely-related family members, leaving for the residence of the late Olikeze where his body was interred,after some brief ceremonies, in a grave directly opposite that of his wife who died in January 14, 2016, while others left for the Oshimili South Arcade for the reception.
The first son of late OlikezeAhaba, Mr. Henry Iloba, while extoling his father’s good qualities, in an emotion-laden voice during the funeral mass, had tried to re-enact some of those songs composed by his late father which he(his late father) used to dish out in almost all the public functions he attended. And his attempt to do what the late sage did, not only brought in some relief infested with laughter, but also earned him some rounds of applause.
At the reception venue which was a bee-hive of sort, were minaretted canopies numbering close to three hundred, and all filled to capacity with people, while the pavilions at the arcade were not left out, also filled with people. Even then there was still deluge of guests trooping into the venue so that one became apprehensiveof where could accommodate them all even if it was an open field.
The Shalom Band which was supported with other traditional dance troupes was there to entertain the guests and others in attendance. With many serving points for food and drinks, and each group housed in their various canopies, everything was seen to be well-organized.
Men of the Nigerian Police and the Asaba Vigilante were on ground to ensure that there were no rowdy moments throughout the ceremony.
Henry, Nduka and Chike, all sons of the late Olikeze and his daughters, including his sons and daughters’in-laws, the grand-children, were all there to pay their last respect and busy attending to their guests, friends, co-workers in the various offices they work in, their club members and other sympathizers.
With the Shalom Band dishing out and praise-singing the names of the important dignitaries, and that of the late Olikeze’s children, the reception ground became more agog, with many people gorgeously dressed, mostly in Akwa-ocha fabrics, adding extra colour and ambience not only just to the entire arcade but also to the all-round white canopies dotting everywhere that had the chairs and tables in them draped in different colours that further enhanced the beauty of the entire arena.
As greetings went on by way of hugging, hand-pumping, back-slapping, hand-shakes, pecking and kissing, so also many were seen dancing, wining and dining. Even many of the hawkers hawking different wares like handkerchiefs, sweets, hand fans, glasses, shoes etc, not only joined in dancing as many were seen, but also had a field day in their sales.
A female dancer for the Shalom Dance Band did not waste any of the time allotted to her to take the floor as she showed the guests present, the great skill inherent in her. If she was that a short girl we would have said no wonder she dances very well because she is close to the ground. But here was a dancer above average in height with the ground still far from her, doing just what she knows how best.
Mr. Henry Iloba, first son of the late Olikeze, taking the lead, with his wife, children, friends, co-workers at the National Orientation Agency where he is a Deputy Director, they all had more than just enough music to dance to, as spraying of naira notes in different denominations were seen flying in the air and being arrested to prevent them from straying away by those picking them. The wiggling, the twisting, the kicking, the shoving, the flaunting and other notable dancing styles and techniques that trail dance of nowadays, were not spared as Henry and his siblings, children, his father’s grandchildren, other relations took time at different times to do the jig occasioned by the music being supplied by the musician and his band boys on stage.
Even the traditional dances were equally given the same attention as the Okwulagwes, the Okija dance troupe, the various women groups like the Umudas, Igpoho- ogbe, and different family groups were either seen singing, dancing, clapping hands and exchanging pleasantries with some long-seen friends and relatives. Young men and some of the elderly who love the things in bottles were quaffing away with joy for the celebration of life for the departed community leader, former Olikeze of Asaba and Diokpa Onishe.
Henry, Nduka and Chike Iloba interviewed, said they would miss Olikeze their father for his fatherly advice, caution against living a mischievous life, the need to show love to one another, live peacefully with one another, shun greed and be contented with what they have.
Another of Papa Olikeze’ s daughter who took care of him and his wife while they lived on this terrestrial earth in their old age by attending to their household chores, and other needs, Mrs. Rosemary Ndubuisi Okolie, said and I quote “Papa, was too dear to me. He never felt aggrieved, fumed at me or made me feel bad any time I was around him to attend to his needs as he could no longer do certain things on his own without my assistance. He was so kind to me and never made me feel bad any day, he saw me as his daughter and regarded me as such; never made me feel like another person in the family. I will surely miss him, his prayers that it would be well with me in my life. May his gentle soul continue to live in the bosom of the Lord Almighty.” She said.
The Iyase (Traditional Prime)of Asaba, Chief PatrickIsiomaOnyeobi, overseeing the affairs of Asaba on behalf of the Asagba of Asagba, in a brief interview at his Onyeobi Way residence, said inOlikeze’s time as secretary, he lived up to his responsibility, doing his job diligently and error-free even at his nonagerian age. He prayed God to give the palace an equally dedicated, diligent and hard-working man like Olikeze so that the vacuum created by his demise would not be felt much.
Some of the Obis and Chiefs, including the Onihe of Asaba, Chief UbakaAttoh; Obi (Engr.) Godffrey Konwea; the Olodo Ekpe of Asaba, Chief (Dr.) Ngozi Allanah; the Ujunwa of Asaba, Chief (Dr.) Francis Edozien; the Oshimili Atata of Asaba, Chief (Engr.) Nicholas Chizea;OzomaOkita of Asaba, Chief UsoOnianwa; the Onwanetiliora of Asaba, Rt. Hon. Chief Peter Onwusanya;Alanza of Asaba,Chief Henry Okolo;Okpalakaeze of Umuezei, Asaba; Ogbueshi Patrick Ikemefuna; the Palace Administrative Secretary , Ogbueshi Patrick Ndili,and others interviewed, said they have missed a dedicated, highly meticulous and diligent secretary whose type would be hard to get, as they all prayed God to grant his soul a perfect rest.
The next day which was a Saturday, saw the Egwu-Ota group of from Asaba; another dance troupe from Okija, and many other female groups all sheltered in various canopies, this time at the late Olikeze’s 209, Nnebisi Road residence. They were all dishing out different songs, beating gongs and their beaded calabash musical instrument (Ishaka). The intricate beats from the Egwu Ota (the royal dance) was something else as everybody watching it was held spell-bound, and made those not willing to dance before to go dancing.
The Chiefs present there like the Ozaokita, Olodi-Ekpe, OshimiliAtata, and others danced with Henry Iloba, eldest son of the late Olikeze, spraying him and others who joined him in the dance which lasted for about 10 minutes with many passersby joining guests to watch the dance-spurring beats from the drum and gongs and the sounds produced therefrom that rhymed with the retraceable steps of the dancing chiefs to what gave them the irresistible urge to grace the floor.
Some of the government dignitaries present at the requiem mass, serving and retired, included amongst others, the Head of Service, Mr. Reginald Bayoko; the Chief Judge of the State, represented; former Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly (DTHA), Rt. Hon. Chief Peter Onwusanya and his Odoziaku, Chief UcheOnwusanya; retired Permanent Secretary, Mr. Steve Moteke, some Asaba Chiefs and wives, amongst others too numerous to mention here.