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Of death and Captain ‘Hosa’s transfiguration

By Sufuyan Ojeifo
24 September 2021   |   3:36 am
The transfiguration of my big brother, Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo, in the morning of Sunday, August 8, 2021 was triumphalist.

Capt. (Dr) Idahosa Wells Okunbo JP

The transfiguration of my big brother, Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo, in the morning of Sunday, August 8, 2021 was triumphalist. Having reconciled with his creator, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the twilight of his earthly voyage, transmogrifying on Sunday, a day set aside for His worship validates the significant reconciliation that explicates his victory over death. 

Yes, Capt. ’Hosa did not die! He only experienced a transformation, from terrestrial to celestial being, in an eternal flight (for, he was a retired commercial jet pilot) that presaged his change of location to the “hereafter” from the “herebefore” as exemplified by the late profoundly fecund Kenyan writer, Ali Al’amin Mazrui in his fine and unusual piece of fiction: “The Trial of Christopher Okigbo.”

Permit this encore: Capt. ‘Hosa did not die! In the morning of August 8, 2021, in faraway London, where he had been since September last year, receiving treatment after his doctors had diagnosed him with pancreatic and liver cancer, Capt. ‘Hosa (aka Cappi) only laughed death to scorn in transcendence, knowing full well that he lives in hearts. 

To be sure, Cappi lives in my heart and in the hearts of so many others to whom he was a benefactor; and, as Thomas Campbell once said: “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” Consider Hazel Gaynor’s modification and compelling reinforcement of the same eternal lines: “To live in the hearts of those we love is never to die.” If Gaynor’s is compellingly reinforcing, that of Ann Evans, the English novelist known by her “pet name”- George Elliot- to wit: “Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them”, remains instructively true. 

How could Cappi have died when he lives in my heart and the hearts of others too numerous to aggregate in a trivializing summative enterprise? How could anyone, for that matter and for whatever reason, forget Cappi in their life and times with the magnitude of affection and compassion that he showed to the significant others while here? 

Cappi was Godsent. He was a guardian Angel who ministered to the needs of thousands of souls.  I am a beneficiary of Cappi’s large-heartedness. His eleemosynary acts were incredibly writ-large; yet he was shy about public recognition and/or appreciation of the same. He gave to others liberally. In fact, he was always looking out for opportunities to give, to minister to other people’s needs in very substantial ways.

Cappi was a man of integrity. His words were his bonds. Anywhere, and everywhere he had the opportunity of introducing me to his friends, he always introduced me as Chief Anenih’s son. He would occasionally add: “My brother Ojeifo is a brilliant journalist and writer.” I thank Cappi for the monumental confidence he reposed in me. I thank him for the compassion. I thank him for the brotherliness he extended to me to the end. Even from his hospital bed in London, he was still showing love to me even without asking. Anytime I received the familiar message: “My brother Ojeifo, text your account details to me”, I knew I was up for some positive embarrassments. 

On October 6, 2020, Cappi had put a call through to me to put together a statement on his health condition, which some persons had orchestrated to look as if it was as a result of the outcome of the September 19, 2020 Edo governorship poll in which he publicly supported Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. Cappi had already demonstrated his readiness to laugh death to scorn. Despite the grim prognosis and the imminence of his transfiguration, I was still devastated and greatly diminished by the news of it, a la John Donne in “Meditation 17”, one of a series of essays he wrote when he was seriously ill in the winter of 1623, and which has since been popularly remembered for one excerpt: “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

John Donne was apt. H.L. Dietrich expanded the frontiers of that proposition in a somewhat solemn fashion, when he said: “We are all victims…Our destinies are decided by a cosmic roll of the dice, the winds of the stars, the vagrant breezes of fortune that blow from the windmills of the gods.” 

For my dear big brother, Cappi, it is as another big brother of mine, Senator Ehigie Uzamere, said in a poem: “it was sunset at noon.” Cappi’s transfiguration is a monumental tragedy; it is our collective loss; it is our communal pain. But instead of mourning, we should celebrate his beautiful life and times, yes, the magnitude of the positive impact with which he defined his eon.  

The words of Cicero resonate for the comfort of those of us who celebrate Cappi on his eternal flight: “A thousand words won’t bring you back, I know because I’ve tried; neither will a thousand tears; I know because I’ve cried. Each happiness of yesterday is a memory for tomorrow. Always on my mind; forever in my heart. The life of the dead is placed in the heart of the living.”

I am also consensus ad idem with the words of an anonymous writer, to wit: “Treasured in my heart you’ll stay, until we meet again someday. Forever in this heart of mine, an everlasting bond, for now until the end of time, are memories so fond. Those we love don’t go away; they walk beside us every day. Unseen, unheard, but always near; still loved, still missed and very dear.”

As the family of Capt. ‘Hosa plans the interment of his body, a poem; “Do not stand at my grave and weep” by an American author and poet, Mary Frye, echoes in its distinctive cadence: “Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there, I do not sleep. I am in a thousand winds that blow, I am the softly falling snow. I am the gentle showers of rain; I am the fields of ripening grain. I am in the morning hush; I am in the graceful rush. Of beautiful birds in circling flight; I am a star shining in the night. I am in the flowers that bloom; I am in a quiet room. I am in the birds that sing; I am in each lovely thing. Do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there. I did not die!”

Capt. ‘Hosa did not die! He was only transfigured. But as Mark Anthony said in William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, “Here was a Caesar, when comes such another?”, permit this extrapolation, herein: “Here was a Capt. ‘Hosa; when comes another?” I thank Cappi for his beautiful life and times, for his dedicated service to God and for the kindness he showed to humanity. 

Inimitable Cappi, rest peacefully in the Bosom of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Good night my big brother till we meet again on the Resurrection morning. Maximum respects!
Ojeifo contributed this piece via