Viemudu Igho (1919-2012): Typically Nigerian, Distinctively British!
By Eferovo Igho
Why are we here, and where must we need go after now? The story of Pa Viemudu Igho tells it a little. And a great account as this should start from cradle. Pa Igho is middle child of three children of grand Pa Igho Kodi and grand Ma Sheho Kodi (nee Mavaje), both of Owhrode, in present day Udu Local Government Area of Delta State. Ezekiel, his elder brother, is believed the first West African to hold the B.A. Natural Science from Downing College, Cambridge, and held the M.A. Cantab and Dip. Ed London; was first Vice Principal, Urhobo College, Effurun, and Chairman Western Nigerian Education Board, and a key pioneer and pillar in Obafemi Awolowo’s free education program before he sadly passed on 1956, a young man. Mary is the last of the children.
Born January 25, 1919 at Emuhun near Okhuaihe in present day Edo State where he grew up, young Viemudu Igho attended Enitonna High School, Port Harcourt from 1942 to 1945. A very studious and brilliant student, he passed his Cambridge while still in college, a rare achievement in those days. A teacher from 1946 to 1947 he taught across what later became Mid-West State: Benin City, Oza and Warri for instance. You ought to see young papa, the teacher: Clean, loving yet strict, winsome yet disciplinary, good grammar and great delivery! He was already a Briton in the making. The Briton in him may have been ignited by the scholarly challenge of and great correspondences from Ezekiel, his elder brother, already now in the UK. Papa recalled a sentence from one of those letters. Ezekiel was just on his way to Cambridge University on scholarship but had a stopover in Lisbon; and needing to share his feel of Lisbon with Viemudu, wrote back: “Lisbon is like a piece fallen down from heaven”.
From his teaching forte Papa moved to the Civil Service where he worked in the Department of Marketing and Export as Produce Inspector from 1948 to 1962 serving in places like Lagos, Warri, Sapele, Okpare, Ivrogbo and Asaba-Ase. His character endeared him to all and was darling of his employers and his foreign and indigenous bosses. He left the very lucrative Produce job for the UK to study law at the Holborn College of Law and the Inner Temple, obtaining the LL.B (Hons.) London and also trained as journalist at the Premier School of Journalism and the Writers School of Great Britain. He worked at the National Gallery, London as a Civil Servant and has since then contributed articles to various media, home and abroad. In Nigeria, his Benelta Law and Writers Chambers, tells his legal and writing prowess clearly. A former legal counsel to Delta Steel Company, Aladja and with spoken and written English near impeccability, Papa writes prose and poetry. In his book: Making Nigeria a Beacon in Africa, published 2003 in his early eighties, he attempts to detail how Nigeria can come out of the woods and be the pathfinder that Africa needs. In one of his poems, “Prayer for Nigeria” (The Guardian of Monday, December 25, 2000), you also see his love for country.
Papa’s view about money and acquisitiveness must recommend itself to serious minds and shame many in a mammon-driven clime. Though closely related by consanguinity, marriage, long family ties or personal friendship to financial moguls like the Rewanes, Koloko, Edewor, Mosheshe, all of Delta and passed on, and the Olu of Warri to mention but a few, the Briton in him was never compromised. Homespun, Papa resents the “spirit of acquisition”, his phrase. He almost always wants to stay and come clean in financial matters!
A judiciary stinking in corruption, Papa had not the money or nature to bribe his way into sitting as high court judge. He accepted serving as President of Area Customary Court instead. Appointed in 1986 in the then Bendel State, the contract appointment stretched on and on and got renewed in the Delta State divide of Bendel till 1999 which apparently makes him the longest serving Area Customary Court President in the country in his days, to put it offhand. Character! A member of both the Bar and Bench, the corruption in the judiciary always nauseated him.
With sound character, knowledge and credentials, he, however, didn’t go far into politics due to the country’s brand of politics. Yes, he had a stint with the UPN apparently because of the very close relationship between Ezekiel, his elder brother, and Awolowo. Yes, he paired with the Oputus in a Committee to initially fight for the creation of Uduvwieokpe Local Government Area – ‘Uduvwieokpe’ being a combination of Udu, Uvwie and Okpe. He served as Secretary of that Committee. This struggle, latter joined by other groups, finally however, gave Udu, Okpe and Uvwie their separate local governments.
Papa had Anglican background. His father was one of the pioneers in the planting of Christianity and the Anglican Church in Owhrode town. And at college Papa had good grasp of many of the classic gospel hymns. With time he veered off; left the early foundation of Christ including the foundation of one man one wife of his Christian father; and attracted problems. In his relationship with the two wives of his youth, he was typically Nigerian. Though the wives are oftentimes to be blamed, he fathered it all in the first place by falling to this very damning African culture called polygamy. But, in his relationship with his children, he is British. You cannot desire a better father. Then too, he had sorry introductory relationship with Rosicrucian and Grail Message. A voracious reader, he sadly veered into other weird readings too.
But 1990 became a turning point for him. That year he was born-again, and soon gave yours sincerely the privilege to burn those strange materials. He also dumped his traditional chieftaincy title, just as he disdained the show, pomp and pageantry that go with burials. As he moved into his late eighties and early nineties, feeble or strong, you could hear him day and or night freely singing those Gospel hymns without recourse to hymnals. Glorious times! In one of those feeble moments he said to me by his bedside: “I have achieved the glory of God. Let us not be sad”. Today, Papa has left for the eternal abode of God which only matters. We speak of him now as a heavenly citizen!