My father was a careful man.
He lived his life conscious of the fact that in old age, your body will give you back what you have sowed into it over the years.
So, he was mindful of the food he ate, ensured he exercised daily, played squash every week, especially after he turned 40 some 25 years ago; he took his vitamins seriously and he didn’t work himself crazy even though he had three thriving businesses in Lagos.
We used to make fun of him; it was as if he was just carefully avoiding death. You should have seen the way he screams at his driver anytime he exceeded Dad’s speed limit, which is between 60-80kmp/h even on the express!
It was really crazy the way my father panicked every time his driver came even close to brushing another car. Tell me, how do you drive in crazy Lagos and never brush another driver? That’s my dad for you. No late nights, because he worried that our police can mistake you for a thief and he was security conscious at all times. We had perimeter lights and cameras around the house as well as dogs.
Our home was his haven; he built in everything you could want outside in there – swimming pool with barbecue spot, squash and basketball courts, small movie theatre…you know, so we always had friends and family coming to visit or stay or even live with us. Dad was an all embracing man; he built a big house not just for himself but virtually for all friends and family.
But you see, on the other hand, Dad became a different man whenever he was abroad for holidays or his annual medical exam. He didn’t display any of the inhibitions we saw when at home. My dad wasn’t worried about security, we didn’t even have dogs in our London home. Daddy didn’t panic about the roads, he took the bus and tube to wherever he wanted to go and many times came home late either from visiting friends or just enjoying the night. My dad was a widower. We lost my mum to cancer.
Now, you ask, will I describe Daddy as paranoid? Yes, I think he was. I mean, in the sense that he was just not keen on having to go to the hospitals here in Nigeria because he didn’t trust our medical facilities here, so he always went to London for a yearly body exam. He did it religiously for more than 30 years.
And yes, there were benefits to this kind of lifestyle; he looked fit, he looked healthy, he could pass for a man of 40 years old, even though he was 65 years; I recall my friends teasing me saying dad looked like my elder brother.
How did he then die so suddenly?
My dad was killed by a kid!
It was our church’s 20th anniversary. Dad was one of the volunteers. A lot had been packed into the three-hour church programme and Dad, being one of the people who designed the stage was in charge of lighting. They were putting finishing touches to the stage before the event began when they discovered that some plugs or cables or something was missing to give the desired effect on the stage. I think Dad forgot to bring it from the car, so he went to the car to get it.
Now the church uses a school in Gbagada as car park and is some distance from the church and so Dad had to hurry to go get it but he didn’t get there, he stumbled on three boys escaping gang related fights from Bariga. You know Bariga and Gbagada share a border.
Anyway, the boys were being chased by a small crowd; I think the rival cult group. And these boys were quite young, teenagers, between the ages of 16 and 19 as I later found out from the police report.
They panicked when they saw Dad in front of them. My dad didn’t know at that time that they were escaping a crowd. He just saw some boys running, so he waited for them to run past him. They thought he was challenging them. They fired a shot and it hit my dad; it was a close range shot and they ran off!
Dad didn’t die immediately. He fought. Somehow, someone knew who Dad was and rushed to the church to inform us and we quickly carried him to the car, then straight to the nearest hospital in Gbagada.
Two hospitals rejected him. All we wanted was first aid, something to slow down the flow of blood from his chest. But he was a gunshot victim and they wouldn’t touch him!
So we took him again to our own hospital on the island. By this time, my dad had lost so much blood. The way he was even being carried was wrong, you know, there was no stretcher nothing, three people holding him hand and foot, me included; we were desperate, we just bundled him, half scared we were hurting him and yet in a hurry to make it to the hospital quickly. He said he couldn’t feel some parts of his body, I thought that was because he was losing so much blood.
Before we got to the hospital, I think Dad knew he would not survive this. He began to tell me how much he loved us; there are three of us. How he’d put aside some savings for us, how he did this and that. You know…
Sorry, I am emotional.
Anyway, at the hospital in V/I, he was already gasping for breath. He was fighting so hard for life. He stared at me like he wanted to say something but no word came out. Then the nurses and doctors took over and I was asked to go to the reception to wait. Dad was taken into surgery immediately.
Some five minutes later or thereabout, I felt very cold. Like an icy finger touched me. I knew then that my dad had passed. I didn’t need any doctor to tell me. I knew that was Dad on his way up to heaven.
-Based on a true story. However, names and places have been changed to protect the privacy of the persons involved.
compiled by Peju Akande