History and biography of late Pa Abraham Michael Diri, father of the governor of Bayelsa state (1935-2023)
King Solomon opens his writing in the 3rd chapter of Ecclesiastes, with the famous words, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: A time to be born and a time to die…”
And so it has been with Pa Abraham Joseph Michael Diri.
Pa Abraham died peacefully, though rather unexpectedly, on sunday 13th of February, 2023, shortly after the Thanksgiving service making the 3rd Anniversary Celebrations of the Prosperity Government. He was eighty-eight years.
It was a fitting finale to the life of a man who had through the dint of hard work, diligence and faith, overcome many obstacles, impacted several lives, achieved a great deal and had much to be thankful for.
A TIME TO BE BORN
“Birth is the sudden opening of a window; through which you look out upon a stupendous prospect. For what has happened? A miracle. You have exchanged nothing for the possibility of everything”. -william macNeile Dixon.
The sun would have risen and set on April 4, 1935, just like any other day, but as it turned out, probably ended as the happiest and the most memorable day in the entire life of Michael Diri of Kalama-owei Wari of Sampou community, a skillful and successful builder of houses with raffia palms, wood and bamboo and his dear spouse, Odobu Suokiri, whose mother hailed from Odi Town.
This is because it was the day it pleased the Lord to bless this loving couple with the birth of their child, who they named Abraham Joseph Michael Diri. The auspicious event occurred in Sampou Community, Kolokuma-Opokuma Local Government Area in the present- day Bayelsa State.
The entire community celebrated the arrival of Abraham and the family described him as a “torch bearer”. His Birth would presage many glad tidings for the people of Bayelsa State and indeed the Ijaw Nation at Large, even if the humble beginnings of this bright-eyed and spirited baby boy, did not necessary proclaim this happy outcome.
The story of Pa Abraham, just like the rest of the Diri family is defined by sacrifice, perseverance and obedience to God.
When, Catholic Missionaries arrived in the Sampou Community and introduced Christianity, at a time when it was not fashionable, Pa Michael’s father, Diri Omomolegha and his household enthusiastically embraced the faith, together with the western education that inevitably followed in its wake. To underscore the fervency of his discipleship, the Omomoleigha’s family and their relatives of Kalama-Owei Compound joyfully donated at significant inconvenience, a piece of land for the establishment of a church and a primary school.
Indeed, Pa Michael simply took after his father, Diri.
A further testament to Pa Michael Diri’s wholehearted embrace of the Christian faith is reflected in the given names of his children.
Abraham Joseph Michael Diri was followed by his two immediate younger brothers, Solomon and Jonathan.
This was no ‘lame’ Christianity or Cosmetic religiosity, but one with great love and commitment to the work of God. This brought much honour and dignity to the family and enthroned a strong Culture of discipline running through generation after generation. Indeed, his labour of love was not in vain. Over time, “luck” has come to be associated with their clan. Perhaps, blessed will be a more appropriate tittle.
Abraham, had a very interesting childhood as he was loved by his peers. He was dedicated to all tasks assigned to him. A very hardworking Abraham showed early signs of a bright future.
He lived in peace with family members and siblings and exhibited a high sense of responsibility, respect and discipline.
Abraham’s father, Pa Michael Diri had been influenced by the Missionaries to embrace education because of the positive impact resolved the children would be educated despite his lean income. He consequently enrolled Abraham and Solomon in primary school at the then Roman Catholic Missionaries School (RCM) Sampou in 1946.
When the RCM closed down in 1949 after completion of standard Two, Pa Michael Diri, moved Abraham to the neighbouring Odi Community also in Kolokuma Opokuma local government area for the continuation of his primary school at St. Stephen’s (Anglican) School, Odi, where he completed Standard Six in 1953 alongside his youngest brother, Solomon.
As was common at that period, teaching and teachers occupied a place of prestige and prominence in society, and naturally, the profession attracted the interest of Abraham Diri.
In 1954, a year after Abraham completed his Standard Six, he was employed as a teacher by the government of the defunct Mid-Western Region of Nigeria alongside his cousin, HRH King Shine Apre of Odi Community.
With no formal training as a teacher, he was engaged and posted to Ayamasa Community in the Present day Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State to commence an eventful teaching career.
Pa Abraham Diri traversed different communities including Ogbotobe and Kpakiama. Both in the present day Delta state and then Amabolou in Ekeremor Local Government Area, until the late 60s when decided to improve his academic qualification and became a certified teacher.
He briefly resigned from his teaching appointment and enrolled at the Government Teacher’s Training College, Okordia established in 1970 under the then Military Governor of old Rivers State and now Amanyanabo of Twon-Brass, HRM King Alfred Diette-spiff, upon the creation of old Rivers State in 1967. Okordia is now a town in present day Bayelsa State.
AJM Diri was admitted into the college in 1971, a year after its establishment and joined his cousin, King Shine Apre, who is one of the pioneers. Despite his family responsibilities, Abraham pursued his desire to obtain a certificate in Education to enhance his teachin career.
He was a compassionate teacher and distinguished public servant who never rejected posting, starting ftom his initial posting in the Mid-Western Region, through to old Rivers State, he worked in present day Kolokuma-Opokuma, Ekeremor and Sagbama Local Government Areas.
His legacies of discipline and footprints of academic brilliance still reverberate among his pupils in Ayamasa, Amabulou, Ogbotobe, Kpakiama, Odoni, Sabagriea, Igbedi, Odi, Kaiama, Kalama and Sampou.
AJM Diri was a man of grace and a trailblazer, who epitomized hard work and discipline, a teacher of teachers, and these outstanding attributes rubbed off on his colleagues and pupils, alike.
Interestingly, he was a no-nonsense teacher yet compassionate. A disciplinarian who throughout his teaching career never spared the rod. His pupils would often say in the Ijaw dialect, Diri ma lo lo mou, meaning Diri is always getting hot. He has been adjudged the most accessible, popular and influential teacher in virtually all the schools he taught. There were never any doubts that the best interests of his wards were at the core of his actions.
As tough and disciplined as his regime seemed, he was one teacher that showed a genuine heart of benevolence and support to pupils who were in need. He was a teacher who paid fees and bought books for pupils.
Surprisingly, the quest to secure a university degree by Pa Abraham Diri, even at old age never waned. Following this passion and hunger to acquire higher qualifications, he sought an admission to obtain the National Certificate for Education (NCE) regardless of his age. But his Children throught otherwise as he grudgingly shelved the idea, and continued in his selfless service to humanity.
By dint of hard work, Abraham rose to the pinnacle of his teaching career first as a second master in Kaianma and then as a primary school Headmaster at Kalama primary school in 1993 where he retired with an unblemished and excellent public record of service.
RELIGIOUS AND SOCIAL LIFE
A few years after the Catholic Missionaries left Sampou, the Anglican Church Missionaries arrived and continued to spread the gospel.
In 1953, they established St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Sampou and then set up a primary school named, Okoro Primary School. Abraham and others from Izon-wari compound in Sampou, particularly, Warri.
Anyamah and March Anyamah, over the time became the pillars of the Anglican Church in Sampou and they showed undiluted dedication to the work of God.
Pa AJM Diri principles at the time was, “For me and my household, we will serve the Lord”. In the course of his service to God he was elevated as a LayReader and that further propelled his commitment to the work of God. Apart from being a Layreader, he was the Treasurer to the Church for so many years and always rendered transparent record of financial transactions to the admiration of the congregation. He indeed led his children in the path of God. None of his children would dare not to attend Church’s services and this happened for several years to the point he was still strong enough to enforce it.
The great virtues of humility, love and kindness became the lot of the children. Till today, they exhibited these values. As a teacher and Church leader, act of discipline remained his watchword.
Pa Diri, was a good singer of the hymns in Izon dialect and truly, when he sings the Heavens take spiritual notice. One of such songs is: SS&S 63 and Izon Hymn Book 43: EBI ZUOWEI I BUO KUMO: Pass me not Gentle Saviour.
Pa AJM was a strong and committed member of the Boys Scout of Nigeria and rose to become a Scout Master. He lived an organised life shaped by some guiding rules of the Scout. The Boys Scout motto: Be prepared, was a driving force.
Pa AJM was a community leader, who attempted to serve his people as a member to the Constituent Assembly. He did not win that election he stood for in 1977 while still in active teaching profession. He was a chance politician with a burning desire to serve his people.
He was a man of many parts, a great dancer full of humours. A great story teller and recorder of history and events.
AJM was an influential father; a father to many nations. He was a rare breed, affectionate yet very discipline. The power of a father in a child remains unmatched as Pa Diri not only taught his immediate children and others who came in contact with him important life lessons, he was their big supporters and moulded them into becoming great individuals.
Never will you meet a man who lived more faithfully by his values; that was Pa AJM Diri. Abraham Diri, grew up with his parents to appreciate how to raise a good home. As an adult, Abraham started family life as a great Ijaw man when he had his first child and daughter, late Mrs. Godslove Diri Ebienfa.
As a young teacher posted to Ayamasa, Abraham met his first wife, Late Mrs. Rose Diri (Nee Young Esime) and were subsequently married. By the early 1970s and while he was teaching in Odi, he decided to take another wife, Mrs. Timinipre Diri (Nee Asalagha) from Isedani Compound Sampou.
Pa AJM Diri, was blessed with wonderful children. From the first daughter, Godslove to first son who is incumbent Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri and then on to Mrs. Daumiebi Trust, Mr. Ebiegberi Diri, Mrs. Kuronakigha Eniekezimene, Mrs. Ebierein Benson, Mr. Ebikeme Diri, Mrs. Zilayefa Worukwo, Mr. Inemotimi Diri, Mr. Biboye Diri, Mrs . Ebikidou Burutolu, Mr. Nelson Diri and then to the baby of the, Mrs. Mieseiyefa Etete.
He was firm in the management of the home and he instilled real discipline in the children. The Christian values shaped up the children to remain focus on their goals. Hardly, there was any of the children including the girls who escaped his ‘,flogging’, for wrongdoings.
Pa AJM invested in the education of all his children even up to the tertiary level.
A loving father, Pa Diri, was very close to the children and protective of them.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. “2Timothy 4:7,
This well-known and oft-quoted passage can be ascribed perfectly to the life and times of Pa Abraham, without contradiction. He lived and died with unwavering faith and unyielding love for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
On the morning of the 13th of February, 2023, papa dramatically told the people around him to pack his travel box as he was set to embark on a long trip. Later in the afternoon, news filtered out of the demise of this Iroko, a great mentor and a distinguished teacher.
The family griefs that Pa AJM is no more.
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