BEFORE last Friday, I had held strongly that family is everything. Anyhow, I still do believe family is everything. But last March 25, I realised that yes, family can be everything to a man; but friends are forever. Sure, true friends that stick closer to you than your brother may be hard to find; but then once you find them, they are forever your friends.
In this wise, I recall one lesson my late father taught me about a friend. For a man who had only a handful of friends compared to his status in the United African Company, UAC, of old, he was eminently qualified to so do. He told me that “the man that comes to you when the whole world seems against you is a true friend; hold him close.” Thus far, I have consciously and unconsciously done just that. And thank God for the social media dispensation we now find ourselves; we are now able to critically identify our friends against the many pretenders also in the social media.
When I announced my birthday on March 25 via Facebook, I never expected the tons of messages; all positive I got from friends across the globe. Now, technically, Facebook is a leveller; it tags all as friends; be they your acquaintances, family members, etc. Put together, I received very many touching messages with some taking me down memory lane which landmarks I had forgotten. They set me wondering if some of the throwbacks were truly of my humble self.
Take the one from Emma Tobi, a Sports journalist of New Telegraph Newspapers whose star will continue to shine brighter by the day; he wrote: “Please help celebrate a man who believed in me from the onset!
Happy birthday to a great Icon, Mentor, Brother and a great leader!
I choose to celebrate people when they are alive! Meeting you through your little niece Rita Atagamen 12 years ago (2004) was a great date with destiny!
I remembered when Rita introduced me to you as his Uncle, you snapped and asked which Uncle was this?
Rita now said, My Teacher in church and you jokingly said, RITA’s UNCLE, meet me at office on Monday.
I later asked Rita, “This una bros no dey smile?” and Rita said, “Just meet him at the office on Monday.
Meeting you at NEW AGE Newspapers at Iganmu marked the beginning of my Professional Career in Journalism.
I remember vividly going to New Age with my Best Friend, Samson Itebe, that fateful Monday and you in your usual kindness gave both of us the opportunity to work as a Test Candidates at New Age but not without you telling me that: “Houseboy no dey get dog.”
You took me to the Great Ade Ojeikere and said “Take care of my boy!” That was all!
Over the years, you have not only schooled in me journalism, you also taught me what leadership is all about especially how to handle situations.
On several occasions, you will send me to the bank to deposit cash for you without giving me transport fare.
You thought me how to never depend on anybody as well as finding my way in difficult times. You also taught me to always protect my source, keep good relationship with everybody.
You can be very funny but always hardworking. A professional journalist who is never tired of sourcing for exclusive news!
You told me, “Emma, I see you going far in Journalism,” after you saw my first Cover Story in the front page of New Age Newspaper, when I did a preview of the 2005 World Youth Championship Final between Nigeria and Argentina.
For any event you organized, you always made sure I was in the committee with Adia Ukoyen (your buddie) and late Umoh (your assistant), just for me to learn LEADERSHIP and RESPONSIBIITY.
At the home front in Ikotun, the house was always bubbling when you were around.
A fun loving husband and good father to kids! A great man with good fashion sense!
I celebrate you today my Boss of Life!”
He was not done. He added later that day in response to a comment by a Facebook friend of his: “What I got from him later was more than the transport fare. He wanted to know if I could make sacrifices for him. I later got bigger packages from him especially cash and assignments but he made me to learn to stand on my own. He never influenced or fought for anything for me even when my confirmation letter was delayed, he made sure I earned it through my hard work. And when my boss, Ade Ojeikere wrote to the management seeking for my confirmation letter, he just smiled when I told him. I was confused because I expected him to have used his position as the News Editor to help me get it easily; but he made sure I earned it.”
As for some of my professional colleagues, never mind the ranking, the message was the same.
Hear the tireless writer and critique, Simon Reef Musa: “My bureau chief and editor. In this special day, I wish you the best the divine powers can bestow on its most favoured. No man can stand up against you all the days of your life. Your best day is just about to unfold.”
For my colleague at the original National
Mirror whose penchant for investigative stories endeared me to him when I was News Editor there, Ayodele Olaitan, he wrote: “Editor of Editors, my newsroom coach, Happy birthday Sir. Wish you long life in good health and prosperity.”
From the entertainment world came this from Yinka Lawanson Lamboginny: “HBD TO UNCLE OF LIFE Osedebamen Emmanuel Isibor. I miss how I used to iron all your clothes for the week on Sundays and all your great words of advice. Keep shining in God’s grace. #muchlove”
As for my childhood friend who travels across the globe today doing very legitimate businesses, Sylvester Enubuzor, it was: “Congratulations. Happy birthday to you. What a day that you were born. And our Lord Jesus Christ died for u and redeemed u from your sins. Christ gave you a new and precious life immediately after your birth. May HE be gracious to you. Bless and keep u. U shall live and declare the works of the Lord. May the good Lord grant you all your heart desires in Jesus Precious Name. Amen.”
Indeed, my niece, Mrs. Gladys Simeon Unaam kicked off the day for me with the following message: Happy birthday to my super daddy, the heartbeat of Isibor’s clan. You are so caring. Best uncle anyone can ask for. On this special day of yours, I pray that the good God grants you your heart desires, long life and prosperity. Have a fun filled and fulfilled day. Greetings from Warri.
Then enter greetings from the family unit. My nephew, Eric Atagamen hit my inbox:
“I want to thank God for a mentor, father, friend, an uncle amongst many and a leader. You have made so many people happy and I’m a living witness to that. I remember when you were transferred to Lagos from Abuja and I just got admission into AAU, you paid my school fees and all I needed from day one of my school till my graduation, not to even talk about my project which you gave me foreign currency to finance. It wasn’t easy yet you never complained for one day. You thought me how to be a man; you laid the foundation for my career, education and moral ethics. YOU ARE INDEED A GREAT MAN and I’m so proud of you. With love, today and always I will celebrate you my GREAT UNCLE. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SIR.”
Eric’s sister, Rita was not left out. She wrote: Thought I was going to be the 1st to wish my uncle a very happy birthday; but it is well…..Ok now, my turn. I want to celebrate a man with God’s heart, a man that helps without looking back, a man that listens without getting tired, a man that works almost 24hrs to fend for 85 percent people that are not his immediate family, a man that bears (me in particular) people’s burden with so much concern. This same man believed so much in me. He has always been there even till date; from cradle till now that I’m a mother. He plays the role of a father and mother @ the same time. Any time he calls me that he is coming to gidi, I just jump and like “I don hammer.” I have never seen great giver like you daddy. Still awake because I’ve been pondering over and over again how you have been a great blessing to my existence. Words are not enough to quantify all daddy; I just want you to know today that you are always loved. Happy birthday. Love from me ‘n’ rooney#i’murmum #1stdaughter #alwaysquuarreling #stillloveu #kissess#
And from the home front came Shalom’s message representing his siblings thus: I can’t believe I completely forgot the 01 of the ISIBOR family… the flag bearer and Head of the family.. He is the best at any aspect you can think of in being a Father; best Adviser, Teacher, Disciplinarian and overall Best Dad in the world… We Love You DAD…
From the professions through religious world to the secular and government, the messages came in tons to ordinary me. Can I thank you all enough? Not sure. But this one thing is sure; you are all forever, my friends…
God richly bless you.