onoja oji

Benue community goes agog 
…As Pa Onoja, 129, finally bows out 

                                                            The late Pa Onoja Oji


“When an old man dies, it is like a library set ablaze”, so goes an old saying. Owukpa, a community in Ogbadibo Local Government area of Benue State was recently wrapped in mournful robes when the oldest man in the community joined his ancestors.

The late Pa Gabriel Onoja Ameh, otherwise known as Onoja Oji, passed on at 129.

Born in Obenjira-Itabono Owukpa in 1880, Pa Ameh will for long be remembered by his folks in the area.
According to his children, the deceased was, in his lifetime, a great trader. A man who abhorred tribalism, the late centenarian actually gave some of his children Igbo names.
Pa Onoja was a self-made man who worked energetically to build a strong family. A farmer and trader, he was also a popular hunter in Itabono. 

The deceased was a good manager and disciplinarian admired by both the young and the old for the orderliness he maintained in his household throughout his life.
The late community leader was a descendant of the great Ameh Ekwe in Itabono. He was very religious and later became a strong Christian in the twilight of his life, discarding all traditional religions. Saint Gabriel’s Catholic Church, Obenjira, was named after him. 

The celebration of life began as soon as his remains were taken from the Otukpo General Hospital to his home town in Owukpa. There, he was received by the Och’Owukpa and his kinsmen at the Aroga Community Hall in Ogwurute. From Otukpo, via Ugbokolo through Otukpa, scores of young and old men and women trooped out to catch a glimpse of the motorcade celebrating the deceased’s life. Most people struggled to bid farewell and pay their last respects to the great grandfather who was travelling that route for the final time.

Along the dusty Orokam-Owukpa Road, there were some toddlers playing in the dust, oblivious of the passing of the oldest man in the area. Some men with hoes on their shoulders were just returning from the farm, while some women had bundles of firewood on their heads.

When the corpse arrived the Ukwo market, motorcyclists popularly known as okada were already in a queue, waiting to lead the deceased to his country home. Musicians raised their voices to high heavens as the ambulance moved majestically towards Itabono where the traditional ruler, community elders and, indeed, the entire Owukpa were waiting to receive the corpse. As soon as the motorcade arrived, guns boomed in respect of the deceased.

The body was then laid on the catafalque to be recognized by the king and elders. Soon after, they departed for the deceased’s residence at Obenjira for the lying-in-state.
Masqueraders were not left out of the celebration. The culture of the land was on full display as the various masqueraders, including Adada, Atu, Ipkowu, Age, Omabe, and Oturu were seen gamboling allover the premises.

Other prominent personalities from the community who graced the funeral included Chief Isaac Odu (Ejekwote K’Idoma), Mr. Mathias Abutu and Mr. Michael Agada, among others. 
Pa Gabriel Onoja Ameh was survived by five wives, 25 children, 88 grandchildren, 55 great grandchildren and many great, great grandchildren.








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