By Francis Ewherido
When you are lucky to still have a mother who is 88 years old in a country where life expectancy is 62 years for women, you have to be grateful to God. My mother, Mrs. Paulina Powder Ewherido, aka Mama Powder, turns 88 tomorrow and I can never thank God enough for His mercies. I can never forget how, in 1974, we overheard a “doctor” who was treating my mother, saying she had a short time to live. It was very traumatising for me as a pre-teen. My father was just 48 years and it was inevitable he would remarry. He was a spoilt last boy who did not know his way around the kitchen. The thought of having a step-mother that I suspected would not match my mother’s unconditional and sacrificial love traumatised my young mind.
Forty eight years later, I am still bemused by that merchant and messenger of death, but today I choose to revel in God’s mercies upon my mother’s life. Incidentally, that was not the last time impending death was pronounced on my mother. In 1998, with her blood pressure at about 240 (systolic) and an enlarged heart, the doctor attending to her wondered aloud why she was still alive. He advised my brother, who accompanied her to take her home and wait for death. My mother did say her goodbyes to us, but this time around, my elder brothers, Fr. Tony Ewherido and the late Senator Akpor Pius Ewherido, hauled defiance at the human verdict. With nothing to lose, they took her to the Benedictine Monastery, Ewu, Edo State. A combination of prayers and herbal medications restored her health and now we can celebrate Mama Powder at 88.
I love my mother endlessly and I do not pretend about it. But I remember in 1988, after my father died, I used to look at my mother with suspicion. My dad’s death shattered my life. Then, I would look at my mother and say to myself, “my father was never ill; one sickness and he was gone. This one that is always sick, I hope she will not follow her husband soon and break my heart too. Let me stop loving her and spare myself another heartbreak.” But it was impossible to stop loving my mother. And thank God she did not break my heart. At 88, she cannot break my heart anymore. A deep sense of loss, yes, but not heartbreak. A heartbreak will be ingratitude to God for His mercies upon her life, especially in the last 48 years. I pray for her to live for many more years in health of body and mind, but from now on, dead or alive, it can only be celebration. But my siblings and I want her to be around much longer because we want to keep celebrating her. It is better she is alive to witness the celebrations.
But old age has its downsides and mama has had her own fair (I would have said “unfair,” but I do not want to antagonise the all-knowing and all-seeing God) share of downsides. Sometimes I do not envy old people. I saw a video of one drunk the other day flogging the aged mother for his lack of progress in life. How can you make progress in life when by 8am, you are already drunk? You see people without good formal education (many people acquire yahoo-yahoo degrees these days), no technical skills, no roadmap on how to live their lives and a monumental lack of desire for hard work and they blame their old parents, uncles, aunts or relatives for their situation. A beautiful girl with the ugliest of behaviour ends up not getting married and blames old parents or relatives for bewitching her. A woman gets married and does not bear children after some years. There are many medical and natural reasons for this. Instead of getting medical attention and seeking knowledge, she blames her aged parents and relatives.
The people I am most angry with in this foolishness are Christians. You claim to be serving an all-powerful God, how come you go about blaming witches and wizards for everything that happens in your life? Where is your God? There are mysteries in life, happenings that are beyond our understanding, but beyond that, if you do not understand why you are where you are in life, your problem is ignorance, not witches and wizards. I avoid people who are obsessed with evil forces and witches and wizards. I am not saying they do not exist, but let me just live my life. I have already put it in God’s hands.
Anyway, to Mama Powder, happy birthday and many happy returns as you turn 88 tomorrow. I will always love and cherish you.
OKUGBE: WE MADE IT
I learnt many things from my late brother, Senator Pius Ewherido. One is that, he always told me that you cannot be a good Nigerian without first of all being a good Urhobo man, Itsekiri man, Ijaw man, Igbo man, Yoruba man, etc. In one sentence, begin your charity at home. This has stuck with me and I also preach this gospel to my friends. Mark you, being involved in uplifting your ethnic group is different from ethnic bigotry or xenophobia. One of the ways to put Nigeria back on track is to start sorting out our various ethnic groups.
Sometime ago, the Urhobo Nation, through the President General of Urhobo Progress Union, Olorogun Moses Taiga, gave us an assignment to raise funds to start a microfinance bank primarily targeted at youths and women. There were obstacles, doubts, inertia and abuses. Some called us “fraudsters,” “jobless people” and “unserious people,” but we were undeterred; we stayed firm, focussed and uniform.
Our spirits were uplifted by the patriotism and zeal of the subscribers. Six members of a prominent family in Urhobo land who at a time produced the richest man in Nigeria, or is it Africa, subscribed heavily. Prominent sons and daughters of Urhobo at home and in diaspora from across the 24 Kingdoms invested with Olomu, Agbarha-Otor, Ughelli and Oghara Kingdoms distinguishing themselves. The diaspora people were unbelievable. With little or no prompting, they contacted us and invested. We triumphed; we overshot our target.
Now everyone is bubbling with nationalism and enthusiasm. They are already talking about raising between N10b and N15b to set up a regional bank that will focus on the middle and upper classes. Why not? There is strength in Okugbe (unity). In the meantime God bless all the subscribers for “chesting” out for Urhobo youths and women. We say in Urhobo that you use people, just as you use wrapper, to wrap around yourself (to cover your nakedness, against cold or to dress up). Thank you for wrapping yourselves round my committee. God bless you all.