The Oasis Reporters
March 7, 2018
EARTH’S LOSS, HEAVEN’S GAIN: WE WILL NEVER FORGET YOU,
FARE THEE WELL.
(IN MEMORY OF THE PIONEER CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KAFANCHAN,
MOST REV. JOSEPH DANLAMI BAGOBIRI)
By Fr. Williams Kaura Abba
Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.
Tuesday, 27th February 2018 had the promise and outlook of just another day. But it was not to be. A disaster had befallen the Catholic Community, Christendom, Southern Kaduna and the Nation that fateful morning. Somehow, I had a premonition and had had a sleepless night. In total, I didn’t quite get 45 minutes of sleep throughout the entire night.
I wasn’t sick neither was I hungry. So what could the matter be?
Agitation and restlessness became my lot throughout the night.
A colleague and I were billed to make an official trip to the University of Jos that Tuesday morning. I managed the night and by 8am I was ready for the trip. My colleague came to pick me up. We shared a bowl of pap together. Clearly, I didn’t have appetite and I voiced it out and said to him, my soul is troubled. I am not happy. It is like something ominous has happened or will happen.
My colleague struggled to explain the feeling away. For him, these moments do come to everyone, and for you, he said, this might be that moment when nothing appeals to you. But you will be fine.
I nodded my head as if to say I believed him. We set off for the journey.
8.59am, my phone rang, less than two kilometers away from my house. Since I wasn’t on the wheel, I had the luxury of picking my call.
‘Hello Sir, good morning and how are you today’?
The caller said ‘I am fine and how is Kafanchan today’?
I said Kafanchan is fine and peaceful and it looks like we will have a bright day. Then he responded, ‘well, Kafanchan is not fine. We just received news that will not be palatable to you and please take heart. Bishop Bagobiri passed on this morning in Kaduna’. For five minutes I went blank. A certain numbness enveloped me.
What happened? How is that possible?
My colleague heard our conversation and pulled up. We hung there for 10 minutes pondering. Lamentations, pain, anger, grief and just sheer disbelief.
We drove to the Institute and decided to abort the trip to Jos. Between the spot I received the first phone call to the Institute, a distance of 3 kilometers, a barrage of calls and text messages began to come my way, everyone was condoling and expressing sympathy. Since more than 15 persons called and the news was the same, I had to deal with the fact that this couldn’t be fake news. So I woke up to the reality of the calamity. Death had dealt us a heavy blow and robbed us of the finest cleric in Southern Kaduna.
While we talked in school and were busy rationalizing, the Vicar General called and asked about my whereabouts. I told him I was at the Institute and he said ‘come to the Secretariat in the next 15 minutes and come along with the Rector of the Seminary’.
If I was still in doubt, this singular call and the urgency in the Vicar General’s tone was a reinforcement of the fact that indeed it is true that we lost our Chief Shepherd. In no time we were at the Secretariat and met some of the priests who had been summoned by the Vicar to break the news formally. Forlorn and downcast one could see the disbelief and shock in the eyes of Priests and the pain was indescribable.
We listened attentively, asked some questions, prayed and we dispersed quietly. The shepherd has gone and we were like wounded lambs and felt a sense of vulnerability. Our pride, our moral compass, our leader and father was lying lifeless in Kaduna. It was a fast forwarding of Good Friday for the Diocese.
For some of us who had things to do with the Bishop within the week, we had a hard time processing this news. Within the week, he gave me two tasks to do for him: to represent him at the Senate Public hearing for the establishment of the University of Science and Technology, Manchok and, secondly to study a 13 page document he had put together titled “CHRISTIANITY AND THE AUTOCHTONOUS COMMUNITIES OF THE MIDDLE BELT REGION OF NORTHERN NIGERIA UNDER THE THREAT OF EXTINCTION: A CLARION CALL TO STOP THE INCESSANT CARNAGE”.
He was to be guest speaker at the Gwong annual cultural festival slated to hold on Saturday 3rd March 2018. I was to study his paper and come back to share my thoughts with him and possibly also deliver the paper on his behalf.
Saturday 24th February, I saw him driving himself going towards Fadan Kagoma and I waved him. The Kpop Gwong would later confirm that he spent time with him in his farm that fateful day and they had meaningful discussion. The Parish Priest of Ikulu Parish hosted the Bishop on Sunday 25th February, 2018. Then Monday 26th he went to see an ophthalmologist in Kaduna to complain of a certain discomfort he was having in the eye. The doctor saw him and prescribed medication and he was ready to return home same day.
But the unfortunate crisis that had engulfed Kasuwan Magani, couldn’t let him proceed and he had to make a detour to Kaduna. The place to go to was naturally the Archbishop’s house where he was accommodated for the night.
Morning came, the driver was waiting, then the sudden discovery- Bishop had already passed on peacefully and appeared like someone just taking a nap. But he wasn’t napping. He had left this sinful and troubled world.
The doctor and the staff at the eye hospital are still shell shocked. Bishop was looking strong and walking with so much energy such that a staff even joked, ‘who is this patient that is walking like a military man?’
But lo, Bishop was ready to return to his maker. He didn’t give us any sign, but in hindsight, we knew, he was prepared.
Very many persons had close encounters with him shortly before his demise. Priests, Nuns, Monks, lay faithful, family members, staff, contractors at the various construction sites etc.
One can best imagine the level of incredulity in their minds.
Written By Fr. Williams Kaura Abba