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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Tribute: The Last Prayer with Ehis

By Sulaiman Momodu

The message was hard. It was shocking. It was the crack of dawn. “Very sad! We have lost Victor Ehis Eghobor!” wrote Godfrey Ebhohimen via WhatsApp. Oh noooo! I rushed into our restroom and cried like a baby with flashbacks of my last prayer with him.

After some minutes of weeping for Ehis, I tried to reach Kingsley Ighobor in New York and there it was: a memorial candle had suddenly replaced his profile photo. Kingsley was in mourning. In between sobs, I told Kingsley how devastated I was by the news.

It is some weeks now since Nigerian-born Victor Ehichioya Eghobor commonly called Ehis of Concord Times Newspaper passed on in Accra, Ghana.  Ehis went to glory quite young. He died in his prime. He was in his forties and left behind a young wife and an adorable three-year-old Keonna, their daughter.

When my phone rang late last year, Ehis had a few questions for me. “Where are you?” he asked about my whereabouts which was understandable in view of my nomadic lifestyle. “I am currently in Cameroon, but I will be heading to Côte d’Ivoire soon,” I replied. “And where is your family?” he asked. “The family is currently in Ghana,” I responded. “I am in Accra,” he said and went on to talk about why he was in Ghana. Medical reasons.

Ehis was experiencing excruciating pain in the back and doctors in Sierra Leone had advised that he sought medical attention outside the country. He commended Kingsley for his generosity in footing his medical bills. I promised to pay Ehis a visit before travelling to Abidjan. On 4 January 2022, I set out from my North-Kanishe residence near Kwame Nkrumah Interchange (or Nkrumah Circle) to Spintex Road quite a distance apart.

I worked with Ehis while at Concord Times, the medium where I started my question-asking career before taking a break from mainstream journalism. Ehis was the operations manager. He effectively handled the finances of the office and would sometimes explain the financial challenges of the media. After returning home and setting up Beyond Borders Media in the heat of the Covid-19 pandemic, the management of which I handed over before leaving the shores of Sierra Leone again, Ehis paid a visit. Today, I fully understand what he was contending with as Manager of Concord Times.  The truth is that at a time when most people no longer read, let alone newspapers, the print media is today a shadow of its former self.

Driving through the busy streets of Accra, I used Google Maps to take me to Ehis’ location. If you have used this tool before, you may agree with me that it has the tradition of making even a short distance long let alone a long distance. While on my way,  I spoke with Ehis from time to time.

After a few hours of trying to locate where Ehis was staying, I finally met Godfrey by the roadside, who was also part of the Concord Times family many years ago at a time when Sierra Leone was on fire as Revolutionary United Front lunatics had invaded the capital and were doing what they knew best – unleashing mayhem on those “they were liberating”.

Entering the living room, Ehis beamed with smiles to see me. After some days at the hospital, he was now recuperating from home following a surgery. He was in very high spirits. I wished him a Happy New Year and a very speedy recovery. “I knew you would keep your words of coming to see me,” he said, adding: “You are the first person from Sierra Leone to visit me. I am recovering as you can see and will soon return to Freetown,” he said optimistically, fondly recalling our days at Concord Times, how we had a great team of journalists, and even remembered some of my controversial articles. We spoke about anything and everything: the past, the present, and the future.

While he was very pleased to see me, visiting Ehis came naturally. You see, most times when someone is sick, the world abandons him or her instead of giving the needed moral support. But when the person passes on, Facebook comes alive with tributes and RIP. It is also during this time that some of us will now make financial contributions to the funeral as if we were just waiting for the person to die. The truth is that death is inevitable but abandoning someone when sick is simply inhuman.

During my visit, Godfrey called up Kingsley ( the founder and godfather of modern day journalism in Sierra Leone) on WhatsApp. “Guess who is here,” he challenged chief (as we fondly call Kingsley). Chief made a few guesses, gave up, and would scream with delight when he saw me. He also had some discussions with Ehis, which he later told me was the last time he spoke with him.  

Happily married and true to the wedding vows of “in sickness and in health”, by Ehis’ side was his spouse, Victoria. Also, there was the innocent three-year-old Keonna, who had cried many times to be with her father until she was brought over to him in Ghana.

Before leaving Ehis, a devout Christian, we prayed together with Godfrey leading, that was the last prayer. Relatively healthy, Ehis, Victoria, Keonna and Godfrey accompanied me to the car. Ehis waved goodbye, smiling heartily. Sadly, it was the last wave of goodbye after knowing him for over two decades.

Barely three days after my visit, I had just arrived in Abidjan when I received the very distressing news of his passing on. “Thank you for coming to see him,” said Godfrey, who had accommodated him over the past months as he handed over the phone to his grieving wife.

“Does your daughter know what has happened to her father?” I asked as I consoled her. “I have the feeling that she knows that something has happened but not that her father is no more, so I have only told her that her father has gone on a journey”.

Ehis’ daughter is too young to understand what has happened to her dearly beloved father. Weeks will turn into months and then years. Ehis has indeed gone on a journey; it is a journey that awaits all of us. He loved the Lord. The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken. We should all take solace in the fact, though, that for those who love the Lord, death is not the opposite of life but the beginning. Adieu my dear friend and brother. Rest in peace, Ehis!

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