IFESINACHI SAW A TREE IN US AND SAID IT WOULD FALL. IT FELL, AND HE DIED FEW DAYS AFTER — SON
Ahead of the burial of Igwe James Mamah, chairman of Ifesinachi Motors and other businesses today, his son, Prince Emeka Mamah, has told a sensational story of how his father died.
In an interview with Saturday Sun , Emeka revealed that his father predicted that a big tree he saw in the United States would fall. He revealed that the tree fell and destroyed a nearby building.
According to him, when he told his father, on his hospital bed, that the tree had fallen, the man said he knew. The same day, Igwe Mamah suffered a heart attack and died.
Emeka also told the story of his father's life, the family and the Ifesinachi business.
Could you tell us how your father started life?
Igwe James Mamah is my father, a man who had a humble beginning, a man who didn't know his father because his father died before he was born. The mother died a few months after he was born. At that time, Igwe was an orphan, raised by an immediate elder brother, who is late now. Having passed the common entrance to enter secondary school at that time, he went down to Onitsha, but he could not continue his education, owing to lack of funds.
Eventually, he had the opportunity to get a job, which he did before moving to Sapele to do what was then called Olu Igedu (cutting and carrying timber). He did this for a while before he returned to Onitsha and took ill. He had chicken pox and was rushed to the village, where he was treated.
When he got well, he returned to Onitsha. There was also this man, Abugu Urama, who is today the eldest man in our family. He gave him what, at that time, may not be up to 50 pounds, with which my dad got a truck (cart) to push to make money. But on realizing that he had raised some reasonable money, which was about 102 pounds, he bought a Morris Minor bus. He went to a driving school and started driving the bus himself. He used the bus to shuttle between Enugu and Anambra at that time. He eventually saved some money to venture into haulage business. These happened in the early 1970s. He continued with the haulage business until he started acquiring the luxury buses. He started first with the 0362 before he went for the 0364, 0371 and 0400 bus models, as time went on.
How did he become a traditional ruler when he devoted time to business?
While all these things were going on, around 1988, he was made the traditional ruler of Umuozzi. As he was making progress in business, he was taking part in what was going on in his community. To his transport business, he added service stations that also deal in petroleum products. He had so many other things he put his hands into. He was into palm kernel crushing. He had estates, and so many things, which were to the benefit of the people and the society.
In your estimation, would you say that your father was a self-made man or rode on people's benevolence?
Igwe's life was more like a struggle to succeed. I believe that his is a story of destiny. It had to happen to him the way it did. I see his life also as a blessing for me, because he never had these opportunities, but I had all the opportunities. I witnessed his death. He never knew his father, and I knew when he died. He died on my hands. I see him as a great man who God blessed, for the benefit of his children, and the society.
What kind of man was your father?
He was a strict disciplinarian. If you knew his background, then you will understand the kind of man he was. He was someone who believed so much in the truth. He also abhorred hatred, quarrels and believed in following things to the letter once it has been discussed and agreed. These were his guiding principles.
He was protective of us. He did everything possible to make sure that we had very good upbringing and that humility in him was transferred to the children and there was no exception in the family. Everybody looked up to him. He was not rough or too hard (on us). It was always pieces of advice, citing examples with proverbs. We are very well grounded in the mould of Igwe. He was never rough. He was easy-going.
We sometimes argued on issues, because he was a very intelligent person. He could throw up a story and we start arguing over it, even in business. Sometimes we did not agree, but in most cases, he saw reasons and could change his mind. It was not a cat-and-dog kind of family life. It has always been a peaceful family life.
What of the management of Ifesinachi?
Sometimes, there were conflicts in management style, because his ideas may not be my ideas. It is about business. After becoming Igwe, he was not completely out of the business. From the time he was made a traditional ruler in 1998, he was always around until 2005 when he started slowing down from active business. But, by 1996, when I joined the business, till when he died, we sometimes argued on issues concerning the business. Sometimes he would not agree with me. Also, sometimes I would not agree with him. That is how we were running Ifesinachi Group. Such practice helped the business and the family.
How did he die?
Igwe had a heart surgery in 2005. It was discovered then that he had an enlarged heart, and there was no hospital in Nigeria that could provide the needed treatment at that time. Rennington Hospital on Victoria Island (Lagos), which is a subsidiary of a London hospital called Cornwell, referred Igwe to a hospital in the United States. It happened that even when we went to Mount Sinai Hospital in Lagos, same thing was diagnosed and the only solution was to do what they called valve repair.
Having done the surgery in 2005, he became much better, and indeed remained better till this 2010 when the problem occurred again. Before we left for the United States, we were informed that his heart was failing, and that his blood pressure was not improving. We moved back to Mount Sinai Hospital and very fortunately, the day he arrived the hospital he was taken on emergency and that was how he was admitted.
They started investigating and recommended an MRI test. That MRI test was not done on that day because of the emergency cases they had at the hospital. They later said it would be done the next day. The next day he had a cardiac arrest, and he was rushed to the ward and was taken to the ICU (intensive care unit), hoping that his low blood pressure would improve and that they could control the heart, which never happened.
Did you have any premonition that he could die?
There was this remarkable thing that happened when we got to America, which made me feel that maybe he knew his time was up. It appeared he only wanted to have me around when all these things were happening. As we stepped into America, we were picked up by a friend, Emeka. On reaching his house, as we were alighting from the car, Igwe sighted a tree, which was just by the front of the house. The tree was so massive that I never imagined that the tree could fall. When Igwe looked at the massive tree he said: 'This tree will fall.' I told him he was in America and that it was strange he would be talking about a tree. I asked him what the tree had got to do with what we came to do. We argued about it and that was it. We later checked into a hotel. The next day, I took him to the hospital.
When I returned to my friend's house, I was shocked that the big tree my father said would fall had fallen. The tree destroyed the building that was close to it. The roof of the house was open, but I don't know if anybody was affected. I went to the hospital and informed my father and he said, 'yes, I knew the tree was going to fall.' I stayed with him till around 11 or 12 before going home. That was the last time I discussed with my father. I went back the next day only to see my father in the intensive care unit. Then I inquired what happened and was informed that he had a cardiac arrest. That was on May 25, 2010 and eight days later, on June I, he gave up the ghost.
What would be the fate of Ifesinachi after Igwe Mamah?
The structure is there to ensure that Ifesinachi continues to wax strong. My brother is a lawyer. We have a pharmacist. We have two engineers. This is the major structure Igwe put in place. Ifesinachi, as at the time he handed over the management to his children, was not owing any bank. The company was not owing any individual or organisation. So, it was just a clean slate he left for us, and with the good management staff he had, well trained and experienced, we are not bothered about the challenges of transportation.
My brothers and I are capable, and we pray that with the support of the Almighty God, we may eventually do much better than he would have done. And that was his wish when he was handing over the businesses to us.
Your father married more than one wife. In such situations, there are always family crises after the death of the patriarch. What do you expect?
This issue is sensitive, and it must have caused a lot of problems in families. But in my family, we do not have such problem, because Igwe was in charge and everybody understood and respected how he handled issues. In my family, there is no problem. Everyone knows everything about the business. We know that we must maintain the business. The family has been peaceful.
Ours is a polygamous family. Igwe had another wife, who has six children. That makes us 12 in the entire family. But, there is no problem, and I do not foresee any problem.
How would Igwe Mamah be remembered?
We want my father to be remembered for what he stood for. We want him to be remembered by the name, Ifesinachi (everything is ordained by destiny). He actually lived up to the meaning of that name. And also, we want the world to copy his life. He came from a simple background and struggling to get to this great status, both in the transport industry and in business, as well as being the traditional ruler of his community. He left outstanding legacies in those two areas.