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In Memoriam: A Tribute to an Unsung Hero – Pa. Vincent Ukuli Bekenawei

BY GABRIEL  UKULI

Unsung heroes often experience their moment of glory or greatest level of appreciation only once their journey on earth has passed. We often take for granted the contributions of many who, together, are responsible for building the foundation of our education. It is only upon reflection of their contributions with the finality of their passing that we begin to feel the true weight of their loss. My father was one of these unsung heroes.

This is not a biography, nor a saga. Oh! no, not at all. Neither, it is chronicle of events in any chronological order. It is just my humble effort to pen down a few anecdotes, as they flashed upon my memory about my father, Late Pa Vincent Maretiyan Meeting Ukuli Bekenawei. A Total Recall — I just call it.

In the pre-independent era, when even education had not gained grounds in full vigour in the creeks of Gbaramatu Kingdom, “VINCENT UKULI” was born In year 1926 to a humble and simple parents namely, Ukuli Bekenawei and Ikiowerebaimogha as their first child, hailing from a small remote desolate village – KOKODIAGBENE TOWN – located in Gbaramatu Kingdom. At that time, if any astrologer had cast his horoscope, even he would not have thought of the magnitude of the life and legend that lay in store for the baby. For him, as he grew, the future was bleak – why the future, the very present days were a distress. For many of his contemporaries, life was hard and he was no exception. He was passing through a very difficult period. These hardships had hardened him to be very frugal and thrifty, so much so that later in life, even in days of plenty, he continued to remain the same person – frugal and thrifty. No wonder, he was forever, mistaken to be stingy and miserly. Unmindful of that, he had instilled in us, the same calculative attitude and, for good or bad, we the children have embedded in us these traits. Strange are the rules of Discipline – all those who wield it strongly and uphold such principles, are widely misunderstood rather than accepted!

As I dwell down, the oldest memory that strikes me, is the faint glimpses of our life in Kokodiagbene Town – the same town which about half century later, is still devastated with lack of portable drinking water, no electricity, no health facility and lacking in education.

My unsung hero had a TC2 qualification and started teaching in the year 1952 at Oporoza Town, Headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom, at the request of the then Pere (HRM Tanga Ukpolukpo, Ukpoluklo 1) by sending Late Chief Gbabo to appeal to Late Pa Ukuli Bekenawei to release his son (Late Pa Vincent Maretiyan Meeting Ukuli) to come over to Oporoza community to teach the people there. Most of the elderly people who could read and write today were actually thought by him.

His career as a teacher took him round almost all of the kingdoms in Ijaw land and beyond, from the creeks of Gbaramatu to Ogbe-Ijoh, Isaba, Ogulagha amongst others.

Prior to his passing, Late V.M Ukuli was a dedicated teacher popularly referred to as HM (Head Master), as he was the head teacher in all the school he was posted to, and after his retirement from being a government teacher, out of love and by way of contribution to his community Kokodiagbene, he continued teaching at Ebiabu Primary School Kokodiagbene until his passing on July 28th 1999.

I remember you today 28th July, my dear father. You are such an inspiration to your kinsmen and your children even if your contribution to the growth of education in your community, kingdom, Delta State and Nigeria in general was not and still is not appreciated. Am so proud to be fathered by you as your name has saved me severally owing to your simply and straightforward lifestyle.

Fondly remembered by Children, grandchildren and greatgrand children.

Penned by: Gabriel E. Ukuli

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