Interestingly, the title of this piece was the opening words of Chukwunonso’s toast to better days ahead and good health of mind and body at his father’s 70th birthday. I sat there watching him eulogize his father with mentions of such qualities as diligence, hard work, selflessness and integrity – with corresponding examples and illustrations from the past – which very few sons will care to observe. For him, and I concur, stories of good men should be told, particularly because they serve to inspire the younger ones. After telling the story of his profoundly good father to those of us gathered at the event, I just knew I was going to take it up from there, I just knew that telling the story of Engr. Amadi to the world was not only right and just but a duty.
My journey to gracing Engr. Amadi’s 70th birthday ceremony started exactly 14 days ago. The invitation came over the phone, and the exact words of the person at the other end of the line were, “I’m informing you this early so you won’t miss it for any reason. 11th June is my father’s birthday and you’re invited. We’re going to be celebrating it and it begins with 10am Mass at Christ the King Parish, GRA.” Those were the words of Ebelechukwu Vivian Amadi; Great One I call her, a name we started calling each other after we both read Robin Sharma’s breathtaking The Leader Who Had No Title. Of course, those words reflected the fact that she already knew that I was wont to flying around like a wizard; she was only requesting me to do my June 11 flying to her house. Truth be told, I didn’t accept the invitation immediately; I just laughed and kept laughing over the phone, which is what I usually do whenever I’m not sure of letting out a yes or no. 14 days was quite some length of days to predict my movement! Funnily enough, the invitation became the very first thing that came to my mind on waking up the past 13 days, and the constant reminder note that rang in my head was, “Cornel, whatever you do, save June 11 for Engr. Amadi.”
However, a threat showed up 7 days ago, when I learnt that one of my cousins was getting traditionally married. It was a threat because the event, being a traditional one, was going to hold in the evening of Saturday, June 10; eve of the birthday in question. It was a threat because my parents, siblings, and other members of my extended family were going to be in attendance; telling them I was leaving barely, say, two hours after arrival was going to be a big deal. The long and short of the story is that I attended both ceremonies. I attended the traditional marriage because it was a duty; based on family. I also attended the birthday party because it was a duty; based on friendship. Needless to say that, all of life, for me, is about family and friends. Those are closer to my heart than anything. All I had to do was vanish from my family’s sight at 6.30pm on the 10th of June, and appear at Christ the King Parish at 9.40am on June 11.
Besides being friends with the Amadis (both offline and online), I attended Engr. Amadi’s birthday because of Engr. Amadi. Yes, it was because of the septuagenarian himself, more than anything else, that got me attending the party. Because he is such a ridiculously calm and sophisticatedly humble man, I’ve never had the luxury of conversing with him beyond my words of greetings and his calm but warm response. Indeed, he’s been one of the few aged men I admire from a distance – and I copy him a lot. True to myself, I learn more from actions than from words; more from a distance than from closeness. Permit me to already share with you some take-homes from the life of the man:
1. Sophisticated humility: You can’t dare predict the man’s net and other ‘worths’ from looking at him. All you see is the man just as God made him: small in stature, clear in diction, and confident in outlook. And I doubt he imposes his fatherhood on his children like a good number of fathers do. He does most of his things and troubles no one. Interestingly, the very way he beckons his children by name reflects the tremendous respect he has for them. You need to hear him call ‘Makuochukwu’ or ‘Ebelechukwu.’
2. Creativity: Anyone who attended the Mass of thanksgiving can already tell how creative the man is. When he was to respond to the part of ‘how old are you now’ of the classic happy birthday song, he gave three sequence of answers, playing along with the lyrics, “67+3,” “68+2,” “69+1,” before saying he’s 70 years old. However, this is the very least of his creativity. Come around the man and see…
3. Foresight: I prefer to describe him as a civil servant with a difference. His accomplishments in all fronts of his life qualify him to be described as a man who saw tomorrow. Indeed, his future was so clear to him from the word go that he made adequate preparation for next to everything.
4. Hard work: I don’t remember ever meeting him doing nothing. The man is an eloquent testimony to the eternal truth that hard work doesn’t kill. Funnily enough, the very next thing a man that drives in from work does is to continue, at home, from where he stopped at the office. Nonso talked about the times he had to make farms, and even go on ‘transport runs,’ in order to make ends meet. Nonso was also proud to say that laziness was never anywhere close to his father.
5. Knowledge savvy: The very first thing you get to see on entering the Amadis’ sitting room is the day’s newspaper. And trust that the man who put it there was already done with it. Of course, you can imagine how much the man now knows after years of this uncommon practice. Call him a colossus if you like, and you’d be darn right.
6. Fear of God: This one is a given. The man fears God like crazy. How else can I describe this if not to point you to his obsession with integrity and the quality of his offspring? From Chukwunonso, through Jayne, Cynthia, Ogechukwu, Ebelechukwu, to Makuochukwu, the story is not different.
As for the party, it was royal. The planning was superb and the treatment was exotic. Everything worth eating was present: all sorts of rice, salad, chicken, all brands of beer and makes of malt, palm wine, suya, ukwa, ‘swallow’ plus next to all Eastern Nigeria soups, red wines, great cake, abacha with a touch of everything, etc. For the Amadis, today was a day like no other; I guess their hands went really deep into their pocket to celebrating a father indeed. Nonso actually called him ‘Coach’ – more than a father. Lest I forget, the MC was dope! And the DJ was wow! And me? I enjoyed myself.
And before they could know it I was off to Nsukka. After 11th comes 12th – another school day! And the life of Engr. Amadi inspires me to go face my books squarely, so that I can bubble like him when I clock 70 – that’d be more than 40 years from now. Lol!