Posted by Adagbo Onoja | 26 June 2016 | 4,847 times
Death has become as common as to make mourning difficult if not pointless. Still, there is no way a quintessentially impoverished Edemoga District in Okpokwu LGA of Benue State would not feel a deep sense of loss in burying two model individuals at a go last weekend: Dr. Peter Okoh and Mister Patrick Adulugba. Okoh was an actually existing model while Adulugba was a potential model.
Adulugba bore all the features of the one who would have gone places. He got a 2nd Class upper degree in Geography from the Benue State University in 2008, won the corper of the year award during his NYSC at Benjamin Franklin College, Awo-Omamma in Orlu East LGA of Imo State in 2010 and accepted the advice to expand his frontiers by going to the University of Ibadan for postgraduate studies. In 2012, he got his MSc in Geography from Ibadan, deferring admission to the PhD in the same institution only due to the initial signs of what turned out to be cancerous infection. Since then, his life turned to a battle for survival from the claws of cancer at age 27. The first hospital misdiagnosed his ailment. The second hospital was shocked that such a thing could happen in the first hospital but was to be even more stunned when its own chemotherapy session did not burst the cancerous attack. The consultant who handled it never had such a failure on his hand and it perplexed him no end.
The third consultant who came into the picture said there was something puzzling in the contrasting conclusions of the reports on Adulugba’s case from the first and second hospitals. But he was not sure of making any difference where his own teacher and senior (the consultant in the second hospital) did not succeed. But the troubling spectre of facing Adulugba die was so compelling in favour of taking a further look at the reports. He successfully got Patrick out into a better mood as to want to join other Christian worshippers on June 10th, 2016 in Olamaboro L.G.A of Kogi State. His senior brother and one other person who were in the car with him said he was part of the chit-chat in the car till Aliade town which is half way between Makurdi and Otukpo before there was a rapid deterioration and then his death in a way that enacted his nickname: Actor. That was his nickname from late Chief D.A. Adulugba, his father and the then District Head of Edemoga who had the habit of giving almost every of his children one perceptive nickname or the other. He died at the age of 31.
A week or so earlier and in the same community, Dr Peter Okoh had died. He was distinguished in his deliberate decision to put his medical skills in the service of those bypassed by such facilities in our struggle with development. Edemoga which used to be the largest district in the old Idoma Native Authority is an exemplar in rural poverty. Dr Okoh can be credited with considerably expanding the additional healing property of the medical doctor whose turn of phrases is the same as those of the rural folks in the area. For a long time, this was part of the problem in that setting. Certainly, he did not inaugurate this trend in the district. That record belongs to Dr Aba Emmanuel Idoko who was the first to open a functional clinic. That was the beginning of the era when pregnant and powerless rural women would communicate with a medical doctor in a cultural setting in which they were totally at ease. Dr Idoko still runs his clinic and only God can estimate how helpful he has been. In fact, the debate would be where he has been more helpful. Was it as the chairperson of the Okpokwu LGA or as a private medical practitioner?
The difference Dr Okoh brought to it is the logic of his professionalism as enacted in the name he gave to his clinic: Otabo. In Idoma, that means to help, to intervene. And he did intervene, availing many persons who arrived the clinic but without enough money to pay the routine deposit. If he saw that you were simply not in a position to make a deposit, he would still commence treatment. And there were those he would ask to forget further payment if he saw that they had exhausted the capacity to pay more. In such instances, he wrote off the balance. To practice medicine in that atmosphere must be a nightmare. How does anyone break even?
His utility for the elite was a different matter altogether. He was the doctor to whom you sent all those long suffering family members, distant relations and others on one’s care list for medical attention pending when he would compile the bill and send. It meant that with him at ‘home’, most of us based away in the big urban centres did not have to worry about the basic medical care of the folks. If something went wrong and they died, it would not be on account that they had no access to basic medical attention. Dr Okoh would treat each and every one of them, give you a feedback that either put you at rest or sound the alarm about those with more complicated cases in need of attention in a bigger hospital. Nowadays, there are many ‘sons of the soil’ practising medicine at ‘home’ but even if they crave to emulate the late Okoh, they would need time to master such a complex, informal system that rested almost entirely on his sense of community. I habour a deep sense of his irreplaceability in this wise. While the elite would be mourning him for various reasons, including that informal arrangement as narrated above, I also imagine our rural women who have gotten used to his ways with them mourning silently.
In January, a wild rumour about his death went forth. When we spoke subsequently, he said he was surprised people were so concerned about his death. It is either he was being modest or silently happy with a foretaste of what his immediate community think of him at his death which he must have foreseen in the aftermath of an operation in India shortly before the rumour.
•Adagbo Onoja writes from Abuja. Photo shows late Patrick Adulugba.
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