50 YEARS IN MIND
PA JOSEPH AKHANIAMHE ANAWEOKHAI, 1906 -1973 , THE FATHER I NEVER KNEW.
24th July ,1973, will remain a red-letter day in the annals of my existence as my father, Pa Joseph Akhanimhe Anaweokhai boarded the celestial plane to live among saints. For many years, I struggled without retrain ,dug deep into the reveries of my inner being, plied ceaselessly through the recesses of my mental hub, stretched the elasticity of memory boundary, all to catch a glimpse of his face, much as I strained my tiny earlobes daily ,hoping to be jarred by his guttural voice, cleared my mind of cobwebs in readiness for fatherly admonitions ,waited eagerly to fall into his warm embrace with my school report card and to have my frayed nerved soothed by his coaxing fatherly counsel, of course, all to no avail. Yes, exercises in futility cum childish fantasies they were. The reality is that he is no more and painfully so, I have since learnt to live with that stark reality. That is not to say it was easy. It was by no means an easy task. Whenever we thumbed one another as children, some threatened to report me to their fathers. Did I have anyone to report to? Yes, my mother. However, such reiteration bred a bigger problem for me altogether. Namely, my father’s name became totally erased from my nomenclature and got replaced with my mothers’, ODIOR ABIKE before my peers. No peer of mine knew my father’s name. My surname, Anaweokhai, did not help matters as it completely obliterated my his name from the equation.
Humanly speaking, is there any height in life I could have attained but for his early exit? The answer is capital NO. I told a group of friends sometimes ago with deep sense of responsibility that I owe my “success” in life to three factors: The grace of God, solid family background and a God fearing/supportive wife.
Pa Joseph Akhaniamhe Anaweokhai was a visionary father per excellence who saw beyond the limiting scope of his immediate environment. Very early in life, he migrated from his agrarian community of Ogbona to the commercial city of Onitsha to ply his trade in commodities and to a great extent, accumulated both fortune and fame .He became a rally point to his immediate and extended friends and family members. He also broadened his horizon beyond trading by keying into adult education, spurred by Onitsha market literature, and became literate enough to read and write, a no mean feat in the 1950s and 60s.
Apart from helping to support his sibling’s children in their life endeavors, he ensured his children, Chief Vital Anaweokhai and Pst Mrs Julie Inu Umoru were exposed to western education very early in their formative years too. A life transforming investments whose benefits rubbed off on the younger ones later in life in no small measures.
Pa Joseph was a none conformist and disdainful iconoclast to the core. While girls were mostly seen as mere chattels and objects for producing children and as such ,undeserving of being wasted scarce resources on, Pa Joseph unapologetically broke with tradition and sent her only daughter ,Pst. Mrs Julie Inu Umoru to school in the 1940s. Another lifetime investment that completely changed the family narratives. In a nutshell, Pa Joseph’s foresight had a trickledown effect from Chief Vital Anaweokhai to my twin brother and I, the last born.
If I didn’t have to struggle to pay my way through schools, from secondary school to post graduate studies levels ,it was because of the above foundation. If I made quick progress in business ,without any form of equivocation, it was strictly because of the said investment. On the appreciative page of my Ist degree Project,I did write MY JOURNEY THROUGH THE IVORY TOWER LIKE THE FRESH NEEDLE THROUGH A PIECE OF CLOTH WAS SO BECAUSE MY ELDER BROTHER,SIR ROMANUS AND HIS WIFE ,LADY AGNES ANAWEOKHAI SAID SO. If Sir Romanus saw farther than most men in all spheres of life, it is by standing on the shoulder of Pst.Mrs Julie Inu Umoru and if Pst Mrs Julie Inu Umoru was able to raise her younger ones ,it was on the basis of the sacrifice Chief Vital Anaweokhai made to see her through school.
Dad, wherever you may be, I feel proud to have come into this world through your loins. If I have to come back to this world again and I am given a choice in the matter, I won’t hesitate a hoot to come here through your loins and of course ,to leverage your good legacy. Eramhe No’khai ,the family has expanded beyond what you would have imaged and blessed with good health ,long life and all round blessings. Your first son, Chief Vital will be 88 years old in October. A lot of grandchildren and great-grandchildren have been added to the family. Your only daughter, Pst.Mrs Julie inu Umoru is now a great grand mother, thus extending the bloodline. Sir Romanus ,Adolphus ,Omo and my humble self, have lived a humble and peaceful lives devoid of criminality. The seed of Christianity planted in the family by your elder brother,Pa Cletus Eshiemhomo Anaweokhai has grown to produce Rev .Father and Pastors. Your venture into business in the early 30s has snowballed into limited liability companies.
Writing this piece without your attached picture is one of the most hallowing and disappointing experiences I have had in recent times. The stories are the same. ”When I relocated to my new place, I misplaced them” .The good thing is that all the sources have promised to swing into action and make them available in next to no distant time.
Continue to rest in peace, Dad. We miss you daily.
John Odior Anaweokhai ( Your Grown Banana Sucker)