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C.K.J. Molokwu – Seven Years Of Great Vacuum

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Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position, or prestige. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service, and character – WILLIAM ARTHUR WARD, American scholar, author and pastor

Ogbuefi Celestine Kainebi Jebose Molokwu {aka Diokpa Obede, Pa CKJ} may have been the object of William Ward’s apt observation. CKJ amassed no material wealth, didn’t covet power as a prestige item, but he was eminent in goodness, in service and he had admirable character.Ab initio, his birth looked like an error; his personality seemed to portray a mistaken identity.Obede, his famous name was a mispronunciation of the Christian name Obed. Born in a polygamous home, Diokpa Obede was the first child of wife number three.

Committed into the custody of his maternal uncle Nwabaha Uzor, the most famous Iyase of Onicha Ugbo, his early days espoused him more as the first son of High Chief Nwabaha than the second son of Ogbuefi Jebose Molokwu. My mother, the only daughter among the eight children of Diokpa “Jebo Enyi”Molokwu from Madam Oshukanwa Molokwu didn’t know at first that CKJ was her brother! The lithe, cerebral, ultra neat, athletic, fast talking, fast moving lad functioned more as Nwabaha’s heir.

The efficient CKJ was his famous uncle’s time keeper, confidant, treasurer, secretary, roommate and adviser – everything a good first born should be. It was as an adult that CKJ really identified with Ushi Oduna Quarters, his father’s homestead in Ishiekpe Village, Onicha Ugbo. That CKJ lived to a good old age {he died five months shy of 88 years} can be considered an errorvis a vis the health challenges he encountered in early life. Indeed, the facts of his odyssey tempt one to brand him an inaccuracy. But if his birth looked erroneous, if his person seemed a mistake, if his earthly pilgrimage appeared to be inaccurate, Pa CKJ lived through life as a miracle of God. He is still the greatest kinsman-redeemer in the Molokwu family! Unarguably, he was the educator and employment agent of that great family. Seven years {three days ago} after his death, Pa CKJ remains the necessary missing link in the Molokwu family.

As a youth, CKJ found himself in Lagos in the early 1940s. When a proper job wasn’t handy, he became a porter in Apapa wharf. Somehow, he contacted meningitis in this tedious task. When self medication failed, he went to General Hospital, Lagos. At this efficient institution, Dr Kawa [not real name} was assigned to manage him. Because CKJ wasn’t forth coming with a bribe of five British pounds, Dr Kawa left the poor, sick, hapless lad to die. But an inadequacy often calls forth compensating forces. Diokpa Vincent Ugwejike Anazia, a senior cousin of CKJ {a brother in African terms] had just returned from the killing fields of Burma and Ceylon in WW 11. In the loving bond of Umu Nne Ntinu {kids from the same womb}, he asked after CKJ and was led to the dirty floor of the emergency department of General Hospital where CKJ laid, emaciated, malnourished and exhausted. Gasping, wheezing, coughing and spitting blood, the young CKJ explained to his brother his war with Dr Kawa. With eyes of fire, Diokpa Anazia grabbed Dr Kawa and bellowed: “This boy is my own blood. If he dies because you want gratification, it will be your life for his own. Go ask of me in Onicha Ugbo!” Dr Kawa immediately sensed danger and death in the war veteran V. U. Anazia and began to minister drugs and medicines to CKJ. In no time, he was able to sit and walk. Weeks later, he stopped spitting blood and regained some weight. Three months later, he was discharged, but his height got reduced by four inches because of the delay in managing the meningitis infection.

In the early 1980s, we were returning from Diokpa V.U. Anazia’s LSDPC house in Barracks, Surulere, Lagos, when CKJ paused to greet a patrician, elderly man at the junction of Mabo and Apena streets in Surulere. “How’s that your mad elder brother,” asked the man who was in obvious financial comfort. “He’s doing fine with his family, we are just coming from his house,” replied CKJ without bitterness. “How, where and when did Diokpa Anazia suffer madness,” I asked after we dispensed with Dr Kawa. And CKJ opened his mouth and memory to give me the above story. I don’t know any man in the class of Diokpa Obede when it comes to remembering persons, biographies, dates, months, street addresses, phones numbers, days of birth and death like CKJ. This Molokwu family patriarch had the memory of an elephant. Of all his children, only my aburo Buchi Molokwu has this wonderful gift. Locked in the brain of this sister of mine are innumerable data that she uploads effortlessly, a capacity that never ceases to amaze me. Azuka Jebose Molokwu, a media, music and marketing specialist and Buchi’s immediate junior is one of the greatest names in Nigerian journalism, but I have not seen him display dexterity with figures like her. An author, Azuka is a wordsmith, but Buchi is truly CKJian!

Later in life, Diokpa Obede relocated to the north, got secretarial education and joined Nigeria Hotels Ltd before UAC Nigeria Plc snatched him. And he began to build his father’s house. Twice, he sent money for my mother to be enrolled in school. But in the ignorant bias of that time against girl child education, Diokpa Jebo decided that “Obede’s madness with western education has gone too far! I will not allow him to stop Ada from getting married.” The prospect of her only daughter being exposed to lecherous men in an unhealthy environment called school saddened Madam Oshukanwa Jebose Molokwu. When Diokpa Anumbor Diji came to “Jebo Enyi” to take Ada as wife for his last born son Andrew Osemene Anumbor, my mother was married off. In those days, families decided marriages. Diokpa Jebo was a most respected man of honour, title and wisdom of his time and marrying his daughter for his son was a prize catch for Diokpa Anumbor Diji. Diokpa Jebo also had respect for Anumbor Diji, a distinguished, honest, worthy farmer. My dear mother, a venerable 76 year old still regrets her life of illiteracy. Till today, she loves CKJ for wanting her to be enlightened, though she has no anger at her parents because their honest but mistaken act was the general expression of that era. Miffed by her loss of education; my mother’s loving brothers vowed to repay her in her children. As her first born, I readily fell into the loving arms of Pa CKJ, P.S. Molokwu {an affable, listening gentleman}, G.N. Molokwu {a well built, no nonsense bloke}, M.A. Molokwu {he died early in life, I didn’t really know him} and A.J. Molokwu {a sensational scholar and surveyor}. My parents returned from the north in great distress during the pogroms and genocide of Ndigbo in the riots leading to the Nigeria Biafra Civil War. My father had no mother, but three mothers rose up for us: Madam Oshukanwa Jebo Molokwu, Madam Comfort Kikaiweji Isika my father’s only sister and Madam Anigbo Enwelim, my grand aunty. Without the soft landing provided by my mother’s family, I doubt if my siblings and I would have been where we are today.

When the time for post primary education of my generation came up, CKJ and his brother’s met and parceled out responsibilities. Martin Molokwu and G.N. Molokwu had responsibilities for two senior cousins. P.S. Molokwu took charge of Buchi and A.J. Molokwu absorbed my bills at St Pius Xth Grammar School into his expense account. After marriage, A.J. Molokwu’s wife and my aunty, Mrs Lizzy Molokwu inherited me as her first son! “Emeka nwam”{Emeka my son} was more than a phrase for this educationist, her love and substance showed it. I spent my first work vacation in her Benin City residence. Two days after my arrival, she got ready for school and gave me some money. I protested: “But mummy, I now work; am on vacation.” She was nonplussed. “That may be so, but take this money from your mother now!”My first three high school holidays were spent in P.S. Molokwu’s house. I enjoyed many pleasurable rides in his white scooter motorbike. He supervised my morals in the village and his love for me endured till his death. His young wife, now Madam Elizabeth Molokwu treated me as a brother. G.N. Molokwu let me into many profiles of the family in his Lagos residence. He could display a high temper, but was also a very kind man, a wonderful story teller with a good laughter. I am fortunate to have his widow, Moma Justina as my paternal aunty. I enjoyed a holiday in CKJ’s Lagos residence before I returned there after my SSCE exams. All his life, CKJ never lived alone. His various homes were havens for his brothers, cousins, nephews, nieces {on both sides of his family} and in-laws. It still beats me how his wife and my dear mother, Madam Regina Molokwu, alias Mama Regi, got along with this throng. CKJ never suffered fools gladly and I had my share of rebuke from him. But I never had any spat with Mama Regi and that was not because my ways were without fault. Her love for me was simply limitless!

My brother Fred Chinye Anumbor, a heaven minded Christian, mechanical engineer, happy husband and father of three adorable children also lived with Mama Regi. Born a stammerer, Fred first learnt to communicate with his fists because of the discriminatory attitude of village kids. My late father loved him unreservedly, perpetually carried him on his hairy chest while declaring again and again, and against the dictates of the village environment: “Freddie will be an engineer! Freddie will be a great engineer!” At that time, I never knew about engineering, and had not met an engineer. Understandably, they laughed him to scorn, but God proved my dad right. As it’s written: “How forcible are right words…………” – JOB 6:25. Mrs Edith Ogo Marcus {nee Molokwu} and Barry Molokwu were in those days at the receiving end of Fred’s anger. When my anxiety grew high over his temper, Mama Regi assured me that he would calm down as the stammering lessened. And that came to be. God loosened Fred tongue and gave him a peaceful spirit when he became born again. He excelled in knowledge and is today a respected Christian professional. Mama Regi’s love and calmness in those trying times still amazes me. Truly, she was a true mother-in-Israel. My only regret was that she wasn’t born again.

All my mother’s caregiver brothers came as faithful husbands. CKJ was a very good man. He furthered the marital fidelity I learnt early from my father. At the Niger House, Lagos offices of UAC Nigeria Plc where he worked, Mrs Agnes Homes {not her real name} daily and dearly wanted him for a relationship. And she was his senior in rank. But CKJ rebuffed all the advances of this London educated widow, leaving her urbane heart frustrated and sad. She latched onto me for help. “Can you speak well of me before CKJ,” she requested time and time again. “I will not hinder his marriage,” she promised. I couldn’t tell her that in our culture, it was not my place to advise my father to take a concubine though I wouldn’t have frowned at it because I wasn’t a Christian then. It was perhaps the only time that I deliberately took a bribe from anyone, for Mrs Homes gave me many gifts, but I failed to deliver on my promises. When it finally dawned on the poor lady that CKJ found in Mama Regi complete and total female companionship, she contented with being just a social friend. Now, I wonder how she would have exploited the Social Media to get around her desire in CKJ! The beauty of it was that Mama Regi somehow got to know of her plot, but laughed it off. It never raised a dust in her marriage, she was confident in the man she married. I had the feeling that she even pitied Mrs Homes! Three days ago marked seven years of great vacuum left by the passage of this accomplished elder statesman, teacher, husband, father and grandfather. I thank God for the privilege and opportunity of being a son to this most caring man of blessed memory. My only regret aboutOgbuefi Celestine Kainebi Jebose Molokwu {Diokpa Obede, Pa CKJ} is that he wasn’t born again.


Historian, freelance journalist and writer, Pastor Joseph Emeka Anumbor is the author of THE INTERCOURSE OF TROUBLED THOUGHTS, a critically acclaimed discourse on homosexuality published by AuthorHouse Inc, Indiana, USA.

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