BIOGRAPHY OF PA ANDREW ABU OKHAMERA
Andrew Abu Okhamera was born in Ogbona, Etsako Central Local Government Area of Edo State on 15th March 1928 to the family of Mr Okhamera and Aishetu Ikhiagwa of Ivhiorevho Quarters, Ogbona, Etsako Central Local Government Area of Edo State.
Andrew was the third child and second son of Pa Okhamera a renowned farmer and trader in cocoa and kola nuts and a respected community leader. The couple were blessed with seven children four males and three females which included Mary Anima Iyiemhe Agbayekhai (first), Alukhu Okhamera (second), Andrew Abu Okhamera (third), Joseph Arolo Okhamera (fourth), Jacob Ighiekhanu Okhamera (fifth), Christiana Akweye Okhamera (sixth) and Cecilia Ayenegbe Okhamera (seventh) all of whom have now been called to the heavenly kingdom of the Angels.
Pa Okhamera Ikhiagwa was a highly principled man, and a strict disciplinarian who stood for honesty, truth and justice and morality, who spared nothing to ensure that his children were well groomed in these virtues. As a first surviving son, Andrew had no choice than to imbibe his father’s high standards or face the “music” for any breaches of the Oldman’s codes.
As the young Andrew grew, Pa Okhamera Ikhiagwa promptly enrolled him at the model school Ogbona to acquire western education, where he ended up in standard IV, before a relation relocated him to Calabar, in the present Cross River State. Rather than continuing his education, the young Andrew was redirected to learn a new trade of tailoring. He soon learned and perfected the skills and became a tailor, who on his return to Ogbona in the early 1950’s set up a thriving dress making business.
His services were sought by most young men and women at the time in the village and neighbouring communities of Iraokhor, Fugar and other locations as Ekperi and North Ibie. In those days, Abu the ‘tailor’ was a popular brand sought after by young and trendy men and women who wanted to remain fashionable and relevant. The profession attracted him to many friends which included Chief Paul Saliu Eleta, John Ikhane, Bolivia Osigbemhe, Joseph Imhonopi, Atsighi, S.S. Oboh from Fugar and many others all of whom now rests peacefully in the kingdom of the Saints.
Alongside his thriving tailoring business, Andrew also loved farming and hunting. The latter, took him deep into the bushes to hunt for games. He shared this passion for hunting with his best friend and relation, Chief Paul Saliu Eleta, a renown educationist, whose professional duties and deployment as a teacher took him to many communities which were rich with games that made them good hunting locations.
His love for hunting led him to always seek after good hunting locations. Together with the strong pull from his best friend and brother, he eventually relocated from Ogbona to Ekperi in the late 1950’s. While not too busy with tailoring, Andrew would go into the Ekperi and adjourning forests to hunt for games.
One early morning in the 1960s, the young Andrew hurried out of his home to quickly check the traps he had set to catch animals in the bushes, not really far from the Ekperi village. It has rained all night and by his calculations, it was good opportunity for animals to venture afar from their hiding places to look for pastures. His plan was to go round all the locations of his ‘traps’ and return early to face his tailoring jobs. So, he picked up a matchet and went off but it turned out to be very eventful, for he did not bargain for what was to confront him as he was rounding up the assignment. Up on a slightly elevated ground, a few yards away, he was confronted with this huge male buffalo trapped in one of the wire traps. The wild animal, from the struggles to free itself had literally bulldozed the surrounding bushes and attempted to ‘charge’ at the enemy. Andrew, going by his account of the incident, ran back and stood at a safe distance from the beast to think about what to do. First, he considered returning to town to pick his gun to enable him shoot dead the animal, but he immediately dropped the idea and settled for cutting a fairly sizeable wood and confronting the beast from another direction close to a steep slope so as to trick it to fall into the pit. What a risk for any one to contemplate. He tried his plans nonetheless and it worked perfectly. Armed with the stick, Andrew approached the beast as he planned, from the direction of the slope. The animal charged at him but it slipped and fell on its side in the slope. Andrew took advantage of the situation and with the strong stem in his hands, hit the animal repeatedly on the head until it died. With his cutlass, as was required of tradition, he cut of the tail of the beast and ran back to Ekperi to announce his conquest of the buffalo. For that act, which took place several decades ago, Andrew later took the title of “Ogie Ighiedo” or head of hunters of not only Ogbona but perhaps, the whole of Etsako Land of Edo State.
His success in catching games, boosted his interest in hunting. Together with his friend and brother P.S Eleta, he went on many expeditions to several communities such as Agenebode, Ekwuotsor, Ivhiukue, Osomhegbe and others. Again, while on one such exercise in 1965 at Ekperi with his friend and brother, P.S. Eleta, Andrew had a near death experience when his hunting gun accidently discharged into the palm of his right hand, resulting in serious injuries which eventually led to his inability to handle the scissors, one of the most important tools of the tailoring profession and brought that career to a closure. Back in the village and unable to do his tailoring, Andrew had to seek other avenues to make a living and care for his family that was also steadily growing with the birth of Martha in 1965, next to his first son, Anthony Itsemiye Okhamera, who was born in 1958, after eight years of marriage to the young and beautiful Esther Aniboku Okhamera (Nee Inaughe from Fugar). Martha Okhamera died at an early age in 1969, shortly after the birth of Andrew’s last child, Godfrey Agbomireh Okhamera.
With promptings and support from P.S. Eleta, Andrew again left the village in 1969 to join the employment of Chief Phillip Okhumale and Co, Auchi a foremost beer and beverage distributor then in the Midwest state. His brilliance with figures and attention to details stood him out, as an outstanding salesman in the company. He later resigned from the job to pursue other prospects in employment at the Auchi Polytechnic from where he retired in the early 1980’s.
At the demise of his father in 1987, Andrew become the head of the Okhamera family, a role he discharged with a good sense of responsibility. Although he was then resident at Auchi, he ensured regular visits to Ogbona to ascertain the state of affair in the wider home and resolve challenges in the family. Andrew enjoyed a great deal of respect from every member of the family because everyone knew his penchant for upholding truth and justice in his dealings. While on such visits, he never lost sight of the presence of his elder sister, Mary Anima Iyiemhe Agbayekhai to whom he paid regular visits for consultation and interaction.
When he finally returned to settle down in the village in 2004, Andrew was always around his kinsmen who regularly came around to share from his experiences, exposure, knowledge of current affairs and as the Otadi of Ivhiorevho, for consultation and resolution of disputes in the community. As one of the oldest men in Ogbona before his passage, Andrew enjoyed the rare privilege of regular visits by his late Royal Highness, the Okphe Ukpi of Ogbona Chief Willie Idode. Andrew, before his death, was the head of the Okhamera/Ikhiagwa family, the Otadi of Ivhiorevho, Ogie Ighiedor (Head of Hunters) of Avianwu Clan, 2nd eldest man in Ogbona and 2nd Ogiebo of Ogbona.
Andrew, a man of the people, was also deeply religious, a strong communicant of the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Ogbona. Indeed, the Parish Priest of the church, the Very, Rev Fr. Philip Omokhekhe and his catechist visited Papa regularly to administer the holy communion on him at home when he could no longer go to mass due to old age, just as they did the Sunday before Papa’s death on 29th October 2022. In his days at Auchi, Papa attended mass every morning at the then St. Vincent Catholic Church, Auchi (now the Immaculate Conception Cathedral) where he was a member of the St. Jude Society, Ambassador Society and financial secretary of the church. He was also a strong member and pillar of the Ogbona Community at Auchi.