The funeral service was appropriately a celebration of Professor Don Ohadike's life. It was not a pensive and ruminative mourning of death. It began at 11 AM and ended at 1:50 PM. At approximately 2:45PM (Eastern Daylight Time), Don Ohadike was laid to rest at the Pleasant Grove Cemetery, Ithaca. NY. For those of us who knew him and had the good fortune to have worked with him, even if tangentially, would not be tired of writing about this colossus of a man who hailed from Ibusa, Anioma, Delta State, in the geopolitical south-south zone of Nigeria. All the remembrances, indeed testimonies, about this man during the funeral service from his colleagues at Cornell and outside of Cornell; from his students; from his multitude of friends and from his brilliant and dynamite daughter, Sandra, on behalf of the family, painted a portrait of a man of many parts: a wrestler, a dancer, a musician (guitarist), a minister, a chief, but of course , a scholar extraordinaire, a teacher, a role model, a mentor, a story-teller, cheerful by temperament and inclination, a generous and caring individual, a self-made man, a loving and focused father et cetera, et cetera. To cap it all, Professor Ohadike's personal and privately recorded tune with a guitar accompaniment, was played to the delight of the congregation. The sound of his voice was inspirational. It was melodious, mellifluous and sung in mezzo. The cadence was solemn and soothing. I saw, through my peripheral vision, people wiping tears from their eyes.
I met Professor Ohadike face to face on May 28, 1994 in Washington, DC at an Anioma Association cultural night organized for the official launching of THE ANIOMA: A Newsletter of the Anioma Association which had been published since 1991. I have been its editor to this day. Three years to our meeting, we had discussed regularly over the phone aspects of Anioma people: history, geography, and culture with all its dimensions as though we knew each other for decades. I told him all that I could recall my grandparents told us their children about the Ekwumekwu wars and how as children we thought their stories were fables or fiction. However, after reading his book on THE EKWUMEKU MOVEMENT, all those stories were indeed from unquestionable indigenous Anioma provenance. I could not thank him more for the invaluable service he had done for the Anioma people. He immediately revealed that he was working on another book, a social history of Anioma people which was close to completion. He said to me, " having discussed with you over the years, I could think of no better contemporary Anioma person who could collaborate with me on this project than you or at the very least, write a foreword to the book. Your knowledge of the area, your intimate involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra war as it affected our people would be useful Š" I agreed to write the foreword only, but also I asked him to kindly join the editorial board of THE ANIOMA. He agreed without hesitation.
He later sent me his opinion about the series of THE ANIOMA that I had mailed regularly to him. Under LETTERS TO THE EDITOR section, starting with Volume 5, Number 3, December 1994 to Volume 13, Number 1, May 2003, Professor Ohadike's written comment about the newsletter remained a permanent fixture. This was what he wrote, in 1994 to me, "I am an avid reader of the ANIOMA Newsletter from which I derive much pleasure and inspiration. Today, I can beat my chest with pride and declare that I am a son of Anioma." His passion and commitment to Anioma cause was intense, unquenching and unquenchable. It did not surprise me when he dedicated his social history of Anioma "To the people of Anioma who brought me into this world and gave me love." This book, indeed, is a historical tour de force. With it, he has assured that his people, the Anioma people, would never be lost in the shadows of Nigerian history nor hidden under the sediment of another sub-culture.
Whatever he did for Anioma people, in particular, Nigerians and Africans in general, were done without vanity or arrogance. He was through and through, a detribalized Nigerian. For him ethnicity should never be an idiom of social interaction. He was at home with everyone, everywhere and any time. He brought to his social and intellectual encounters a sense of tranquility and unruffled repose. His dignity, probity, equanimity and decency were beyond question. All testimonies during the funeral thanksgiving service point to a sense of permanency in his writings of unchanging values and lasting human relations. He did everything with characteristic gravitas and style.
From this service of thanksgiving, celebration and remembrances of Don Chukwudumebi Ohadike at St. Paul's United Methodist Church, through the funeral procession to the Pleasant Grove Cemetery and his eventual interment, we reflected and mused. We concluded that everyone who contemplates God was faced with the same insoluble paradox, namely, we are finite beings trying to sort out the nature of an infinite power. Death remains a mystery. Professor Don Ohadike's passing left us to reflect not just on our own finiteness but also on the infinite power of God. By the same token, we are assured both by African tradition, Islamic tradition and Christian orthodoxy, that death is the beginning of life in eternity. May the soul of Don Chukwudumebi Ohadike rest in perfect peace. Amen.