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Of Death And Captain ‘Hosa’s Transfiguration, By Sufuyan Ojeifo

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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.”

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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 Godsend. 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.

Significantly, by his act of restless giving, Cappi inadvertently responded to the philosophical summons of Ziad K. Abdelnour: “Never measure your life by possessions. Measure it by the hearts you touched, the smiles you created, and the love you shared.” On several occasions, in the course of our conversations, Cappi would always thank God for over blessing him such that money no longer meant anything to him but what meant so much to him was the philosophy of value creation and addition in many of his difficult-terrain businesses, a rare philosophy that was largely undergirded by the virtue of integrity.

Cappi was a man of integrity. His words were his bonds. All through our interactions from 2012 up till the time he was transfigured, the integrity component of his character was never compromised. Whereas, he got to know me tangentially through my brother, Hon. Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonayinma, it was while I was tending to the media affairs of the late Chief Tony Anenih that both of us hit it off. He would always call on me to assist him with some media interventions in support of others, not even himself.  I never disappointed him all through; and he was very appreciative of my little efforts each time I was privileged to undertake some media assignments for him.

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.  Cappi always did it in seven digits.

In July 2019, he gave me a carte blanche via a lengthy WhatsApp message that he sent to me after he heard that I had some issues which I had attended to by myself without letting him know.  He expressed his displeasure that I did not get in touch. He, therein, told me that I should thenceforth not hesitate to ask him for financial support if I was under pressure and needed assistance.  He said he would always be there to take the pressure off me.  Even though, I did not take advantage of that free rein, he decided to deploy his discretion in blessing me financially in episodic flourish.

Cappi lived out the words of the French historian and philosopher, Voltaire, who once said: “God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”  He did not only give himself the gift of living well, he also gave the same to others through his kindness and generosity. Regardless of the bodily affliction that eventually led him to his earthly terminus, the Almighty God loves him endlessly. I love Cappi with the love of God. When on October 5, 2020, he sent me text message to intimate me with the diagnosis by his medics in London and asked that I should be praying for him, I activated so many prayer channels in addition to daily encouraging him with scriptural verses on healing.

It was gladdening that before long, he embraced his creator and was now the one bombarding me with scriptural verses in uplift of God, messages, praise and worship songs, etc. My daily silent cries turned into happiness because Cappi took the significant opportunity to reconcile with Christ.

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.

Read some parts of the statement, which was well received by the publics in Edo State: “…It is evidently ungodly for people to gloat over the fact that I am not feeling well.  God does not approve of such disposition and those who engage in that pastime are only mocking and playing God.

“I have never claimed to be a super human being.  I do not deny the fact that I am not well.  I am outside the country for my medicals, which were delayed because of the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After a series of tests, my doctors confirmed that I have some health issues.  It is, therefore, ill-advised and inhuman for those who are not comfortable with the position I took in the Edo election to joyfully circulate in the social media that I have health issues and I have slid into coma.  Well, I leave them all to God.

“I am over 60 years.  I thank God who gave me the gift of life, an opportunity to live a good life, the grace to build a legacy of achievements and, most importantly, a good name, which is better thank silver and gold.

“I hold dearly to heart the words of the scriptures that there is a time to be born; and a time to die.  But what is most important in life is what I have done with my life.  And, this applies to every mortal being….”

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 ojwonderngr@yahoo.com

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