By Jerome-Mario Utomi
Many years ago, I read a book titled ‘Effective Leadership And The Ambivalence of Human Interest’ authored by Innocent I. Asouzu, a catholic priest, Professor and Lecturer at the University of Calabar. Among other remarks, Asouzu in that volume underlined that In the process of forming our opinions and judgments, we acquire the world not necessarily the way the world is, but quite often the way it presents itself to us through diverse intermediaries.
The above thought came flooding a few moments after my son Pascal Onyinyechukukwu on Saturday November 6, 2021, at about 11.30 pm in excruciating pains screamed thus; my back is paining me! My back is hurting!! My back aches!!! And he afterwards descended but slowly to a state of unconsciousness.
To help arrest the troubling but unfamiliar reality, we navigated from one hospital to another and were ably supported by good spirited neighbours and the praying community of Saint Michael Catholic Church, Ketu, Lagos. This ‘exercise’ lasted from Saturday November 6 till at about 3.00pm on Tuesdays November 9, 2021, when he was to the consternation and frustration of all present confirmed dead by a team of medical personnel.
To be candid, the pronouncement by the medical team was not by any means in consonance with, but was deeply contrary to the expectation of many who had faithfully hoped and fervently prayed for his recovery and wished that Pascal , our light and bundle of joy comes back to life.
The reason for this line of thinking is obvious and understandable.
Like every parent and as a mere mortal, I have always hoped that one day, as nature demands, Pascal Onyinyechukwu Utomi, my dear child/son, our precious gold, our priceless enigma and diamond, will write a tribute in my honour. I must indeed confess that never have i calculated, envisaged or dreamt that the responsibility of writing a tribute in my son’s honour will ever come to me, not to talk of coming so soon and at a time when we(family) were still enjoying the fullness of his goodness and ambiance of creative and purposeful childhood.
But with days gone without him, it has become evident, particularly when viewed carnally that we are now victims of blasted hope and the dark shadow of deep pains orchestrated by the sudden departure has settled upon all that have had one or two encounters with my son.
Now there is another myth about Pascal that still goes around. Without any shadow of the doubt, he lived but for only 13years and 10 months, yet, a reflection on his diary of activities instills a sense of pride in us the parents, his sister, his classmates, the entire Christian community where he worshiped and the nation as a whole.
Beginning with the last, he never relented in his nation building quest. He wished, prayed and was desirous of seeing a better Nigeria. To achieve this motive, Pascal made listening to the news a point of duty in order to help me (his father) generate points/topics for my weekly interventions. Though science/technology inclined when it comes to your studies, that notwithstanding, you have in the past three years, made it a point of duty to go through my pieces/columns and to ensure that the tenses were correct and content development-focused. He performed this proofreading/editing responsibility and effortlessly. He wanted to see Nigeria become a nation where peace, equal opportunity and justice reign supreme.
Aside from giving my media practice a boost, Pascal was exceptional in his studies. He was fired by an unalloyed desire to conquer the world of science and technology.
There is another thing that is closely related to the above attribute, and it has to do with his relationship with God, his creator. I recall now with a mixture of satisfaction and nostalgia that right before the health crisis on that faithful Saturday night, he had already prepared for the Sunday Mass(service) but unfortunately could not make it. He never allowed anything to stand between him and the service to God. He was not only diligent but faithful. He was consumed by the tripartite responsibility, namely; to God his maker, to his studies and humanity.
To us his parents, he did something crucial!
Like Dennis Kimbro noted in his Master piece ‘titled; what Makes the Great Great’, Pascal taught us (his parents) that the course of history can only be changed by men and women willing to dare. He made us, his parents understand that Life is a breathtaking adventure—but it is also a struggle… That courage requires ambition, audacity, and an unflagging will to succeed. It demands a drive to be different. It means scraping and escaping the barnacles of old ideas. That it takes a spirit that welcomes nonconformity, filled with zeal, exuberance, and an ardor for the uncertain.
Indeed, in my burning desire and zest to succeed, I have read so many inspirational and self-help-type books, and these books taught me that I should work hard so as to earn the right to retire young and enjoy “free time”, but I must confess that your own lecture, lessons and teachings was more apt, effective and efficient than all the motivational books put together.
You succulently taught me that by following my strongest desires and seeking my greatest goals, I will create an environment filled with joy. You personally embedded in us the new awareness that courage is the result of not giving up, of carrying on despite problems of time, place or circumstance. Courage begets the determination to succeed in a particular area of life despite a mountain of apparently insurmountable obstacles.
As we continue to celebrate your sterling qualities, praise your selfless, exemplary life full of service, I must state unequivocally that no sacrifice made will be considered too much and no respect extended to your personality, even in death will be considered misdirected or viewed as wasted. We (your immediate family) promise to replicate/ instill your commendable attributes to the yet unborn generation, as well as tell of your goodness to the world.
Finally, like Martin Luther King Junior once noted, ‘yes! I am personally the victim of the different dreams of the blasted hope but in spite of that, I still have a dream because you know I can’t give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps go on to inspire others. Likewise, today, I say that despite your departure, I still have a dream and have a son called Pascal OnyinyeChukwu Utomi.
In all, we have no other alternatives except to put our trust in God. Rest on my dear Pascal. We love you but God your creator/maker loves you perfectly.
Utomi, Programme Cordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy, SEJA, wrote from Lagos. He could be reached via; firstname.lastname@example.org or 08032725374.