FIDEL ODUM: DYING IS GAIN
Happenstances in Nigeria where life expectancy continue to recede daily have taught me a big lesson. A lesson that one should be prepared for the worst at all times, that one should wear a spiritual shock absorber that will insulate one from any form of sudden death ala heart attack or failure occasioned by the news of the unexpected.
Our lives daily in Nigeria is punctuated with bad news: sudden deaths, road carnages, petrol tanker explosions and other man made disasters just like the senseless bombing in Abuja on Independence Day.
Months of September are gradually turning into a gloomy period for me. September 20, 2002, my right arm got broken (apologies to Kofi Awonor in the poem, Songs of Sorrow) when my elder brother, Anthony Da Saint Ikechukwu Attah died in a ghastly road accident on Kastina Ala Zakibiam road. This was a man I waved goodbye by 6 a.m as he went on a business trip only to receive the bad news of his death five hours later. Since then, my life has never been the same again.
On September 21, 2005, Comrade Chima Ubani, the revered human right's activist and our former Executive Director in the Civil Liberties Organization, died in another controversial road crash in Postikum, Yobe while on a rally against the Ota farmer's incessant increment in the pump prices of petroleum products.
I'd finished writing a befitting remembrance memoir on these two heroes of mine when on flipping the pages of newspapers last month of September again; I learnt that Mr. Fidel Odum, the former London Editor of African Concord had passed on. Shock, disbelief, confusion, regrets and all manner of conjectures have been my lot since I heard this bad news.
Physically, I never met Fidel Odum in my life. However, we met on the pages of Nigerian newspapers and our friendship grew to a level of deep intimacy and respect.
Fidel and I shared many similarities. Apart from being passionate about journalism, writing and intellectual activism, both of us are namesakes as Aloysius was his confirmation name. Both of us are Catholics by religious denomination and Marian devotees. His e-mail address is Aloymaria best while my company name is Aloymario International. Mario being the Italian name of the Blessed Virgin Mary conferred on us on the day of our total consecration to Our Lady Queen of All Hearts Confraternity in the Catholic christendom.
Fidel Odum as I knew him was a Pen Evangelist, a socio-political analyst and a cerebral, erudite journalist. He used the print media to advocate for equality, justice and good governance but above all, he preached to the perverse souls on the need to forsake evil and return to the creator- the ultimate purpose of our existence.
In Daily Sun of November 12, 2008, Free kick Page 18, writing under the title ' Board the Ark now, Jesus is coming', the late Odum called on all world citizens to realize that even as humanity is claming to have conquered all creation and to have made all sorts of breakthrough, God is in the business of telling his people that the great tribulation is imminent and it is only those who survive the dangers ahead that will pay proper homage to God and love one another, while majority that reject the message shall perish.
On two occasions, I traveled to Lagos and made effort to meet Mr. Odum but couldn't succeed as he was on a trip to Abuja on the first schedule while his tight engagement at St. Francis Catholic Church Oregun, Ikeja, could not allow us meet on the second instance. I was looking forward to see him this November when an official matter will take me to Lagos again only to hear about his demise.
In my three decades existence, I've seen several deaths, I've also seen the pains and anguish people pass through when they lose their loved ones. I suffered chronic depression and writers' block for two years when Brother Tony Attah passed on in 2002. In all these, I've learnt a veritable lesson that dying is gain for those who lived good lives and touched hearts while on earth.
In the words of Pini Jason, 'life is no longer how long or how well we live it; it is all about the legacies we leave behind. Some people are dead but are still more alive than lots of people disturbing world peace today.'
As Walter Scott also put it 'One crowded hour of a glorious life is worth more than an age without a name'. According to Geoffrey Chaucer. 'men might fear death and would be justified in seeking to preserve their lives if there were only this life and no other.'
The late Fidel knew that there is life after death and he believed tenaciously in the resurrection, that's why he used his lifetime to work out his salvation.
I'm mourning like others connected to him not because of his soul but because we've been denied opportunity to tap from his rich repertoire of wisdom, intellect and godly services to humanity.
But I'm also consoled that his legacy will last forever. His wife, Toyin, sounded confident when I spoke with her on phone and I believe she will make him happy wherever he is by upholding all he stood for while on earth.
We mourn the earthly passage of writers but their works live forever for generations yet unborn. Writers never die. Like musicians, they live on for long like a song. I clicked Fidel Odum on Goggle search and got over 13,200 file results of his works and other related materials on him. This simply means that in the World Wide Web, as long as the Lord tarries and the earth remains, generations upon generations of researchers will read about this man and know that somebody like him was here and left an indelible mark.
Laugh not oh death 'cos you didn't conquer him, he is now in a better stead. Eternal rest, grant him oh Lord, and may your perpetual light shine upon him. Amen.
Attah is Chairman, Civil Liberties Organization,(CLO) Anambra State branch.