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WHEN SAD NEWS FAILED TO THRILL NEWS HUNTER

By NBF News
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'It was a day of grim picture; a day of surprise package; a day of great shocker; and a day a stranger called, death visited my once-happy family.

As a journalist, I was told by my lecturers that bad news is good news to a journalist.

When bad news happens to a journalist, it is something else. Why did the day even come? Why was my fun spoiled? Why did death, like a thief in the night, choose to strike that day and not another?'

If starting a year on a very sad note also signifies bitter ending, then, the former Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Akwa Ibom State, Israel Umoh, would wish 2011 never existed in the calendar.

Or, what could be worse than losing a dear one on the first day and first month of the year? Simply put, what could be worse than losing one's dear wife to the cold hands of death on January 1, when the euphoria of 'Happy New Year' still filled the air? It is even heart-rending when a husband is sitting outside, sending or replying to New Year's text messages; the children playing about, as there were no serious work to do, his wife going into the bathroom only to slump and die.

The distraught husband, who was the NUJ Chairman between 2004 and 2007, and now serving as Chief Information Officer in the Government House, Uyo, told Daily Sun how Saturday, January 1, 2011, which signaled the beginning of a new year, with people making New Year resolutions and looking up to the year with high hopes, turned out to be a sad day for his family.

'It was a day of grim picture; a day of surprise package; a day of great shocker; and a day a stranger called, death visited my once-happy family.

As a journalist, I was told by my lecturers that bad news is good news to a journalist. When bad news happens to a journalist, it is something else. Why did the day even come? Why was my fun spoiled? Why did death, like a thief in the night, choose to strike that day and not another,' he moaned.

Umoh disclosed that his late wife, Blessing, had completed her morning chores by 8.00 am, after which the family gathered for devotion, to seek God's direction for the New Year before death struck. 'It was the same good-looking, healthy Blessing, who went to have her bath; no premonition. Shortly, my daughter, Akakanabasi, rushed and told me; 'mummy is calling you.' As a Chief Information Officer, Governor's Office, Uyo, and a one-time Chairman of NUJ, Akwa Ibom State Council, I needed to oil my links. I was sitting outside, sending text messages to people.

'Inside the bathroom, I saw a rampaging tormentor, preying on my wife. Behold, my dear wife was screaming and rolling on the floor. I held the now speechless Blessing. She breathed her last. No second chance. To me, her death was like a dream; like a film trick; very confusing, incredible. What a digital death!'

He explained that not even the bombardment of heavens with prayers by pastors and others could produce the needed miracle to bring his 37-year-old wife back to life.

'What miracle did we expect that day? My panicked daughter asked me again; 'daddy, will my mother resurrect?' I advised her to pray.'

But it was a prayer that elicited no answer, at least, not the one everyone expected. That is, Blessing coming back to life, even as the reality of her death dawned on them the following day. Umoh said: ' The reality of her death dawned on relatives, friends and sympathizers when my wife's corpse was taken to the mortuary. What looked like a joke appeared more serious. On coming back from the mortuary, I called my children together and told them: 'Your mother is dead. You won't see her again. Be strong and firm. I know you are children but be manly enough. Brace up for future challenges. They might not have understood the import of their mother's demise now.'

When our correspondent visited the family, it was obvious that the children did not actually understand their father's explanations about their mother's death. In fact, their mother's absence appears to be a 'relief' to the boys, who used the opportunity provided by her death to play football.

'I have flogged them twice today; I've told them to go and read but see what is happening. It was only their mother, who knew how to contain them. It is only Akakanabasi, my first and only female child, who knows what is happening. The rest are having a field day.' He screamed at the boys, four of them, but it appears they were used to their mother's command. Condolence messages, both written and oral, started pouring in from the day the 'news' was broken.

The NUJ, in its message, prior to the burial on February 12, 2011, as signed by the Council's Secretary, Mr. Joseph Robert, asked Umoh to be consoled by the Biblical fact that there is time for everything, and that the wife lived a life, worthy of emulation, which he and the entire family should uphold.

Hear the grieving Umoh: 'If my wife had passed on naturally, fine. If otherwise, then, her blood cries daily for vengeance. Oh, I have lost a dearest friend. Farewell, my dear wife! Farewell, my precious; farewell, my closets confidant! Rest in the bosom of our father.'