Cyril Nwafo Nwankwo (1926-2014): My Amazing Teacher
THE success of any nation, any people, any family or any individual is dependent on the quality of teachers. For me, I’m proud and very privileged to have the greatest teacher and mentor who inspired me all my life. He is no other person than Mr. Cyril Nwafo Nwankwo, my beloved father. As a bona fide member of his family, it was like gaining admission to an “Open University” where you are taught everything including life-surviving skills. Unfortunately, my graduation is being celebrated in his absence.
Papa’s legacy is entrenched in his teaching method and he remained a teacher throughout his life. His teaching experience in classroom and parenting skills were before my birth and he performed his responsibilities without fear or favour.
My birth, I understood, was well celebrated because of the Igbo man’s cultural “first son syndrome” particularly after three sisters before me. I was named Ikedinachukwu capturing the source of their strength and firm belief in God. Thus, my father’s name changed to Papa Ike.
In the “Open University”, Papa served as the teacher, parent, guardian counsellor, welfare officer, school psychologist and above all the Dean of the school. He loved teaching and he taught with passion. His classroom had no boundaries and he brought the best of his teaching skills home. He brought me up with firmness, with love, and by example. Papa was always happy and available to offer explanations, to make corrections and advise on every issue. He demanded a lot from me as his personal and loved student. He demonstrated the teachings of Saint Paul in his letter to Titus chapter 2; verses 7-8 which says, “Show yourself in all respect to be a model of good works; and in all your teachings show integrity, dignity and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame having nothing evil to say about you.”
Papa, you had always told me that your life would be judged by what becomes of me. Rest assured that I have become the man you wanted me to be; the physician you wanted me to be; the firm and strong character you wanted me to be. And I will continue to strive for excellence in my entire endeavour as you had wished me to do.
I am pleased you have not only been survived by me but by Kamsiyo, Jidenna and Osinachi. I pray that I would have the capacity to tutor these grandsons of yours beyond your expectations. Be certain that you are being judged as a man who lived an exemplary life and survived by well-trained children and grandchildren who will continue to be your flag bearer both here and overseas.
Papa, we had our disagreements on many issues of which the last was your refusal to continue with medical treatment in hospital despite my advice as a competent physician. I was unable to convince you to continue your treatment. That was painful but your will prevailed hence we are here celebrating your life. I believe you were always right as my life professor.
Everyone who knew you including our neighbours and extended family and friends knew you as a no-nonsense disciplinarian. Your passion for discipline knew no bounds. I recall being punished twice for the same offence, both at home and at school. I was sad then, but today as a man, I clearly understand the purpose and your intent — the sense of purpose and responsibility instilled in me by the dual punishment is priceless.
You taught me to be independent. You taught me how to survive in a wicked and dangerous world. You taught me to compete with my peers in constructive ways. You moulded my life and guided me to my current profession that has defined my person. Your priceless and timely advice was “to be very responsible”. When, I opted for engineering, in your wisdom, you agreed that medicine is a form of engineering that works with God’s own equipment instead of man-made machines. What a masterstroke in explanation. Thanks for your help and guidance in making such big career choice. While I struggled through the rigors of medical college, you were behind me with an extra support at every stage of the way. I am loving medicine now because I had such a father as you. I owe you everything.
Papa, you also taught me to be moral and your watchwords have always emphasised fairness, equity, independence and making decisions based on principles. You have always believed that good name was better than gold and as such you were never swayed by materialism. This virtue I hold on very dearly. Despite our efforts to change your status quo by surrounding you with a little luxury, you preferred to live normal, which is an embodiment of humility and self-contentment.
Your capacity to take strong decisions and express your thoughts is unquestionable particularly in both religious and communal affairs. You were always adamant about compromising your Catholic faith. As in 2Timothy 2:15, you “did your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who had no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth”.
Your love for people and your generosity inspired the formation of Cyril and Susanna Foundation, a non-governmental organisation registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, Abuja. You were instrumental to the completion and successful handover of the local project completed by the Foundation on November 28, 2014, only 10 days before your death.
You treated Mama as your equal and showed her your unconditional love and respect. You have taught us to love and cherish her in the same vein. We would continue to love and care for her as long as she lives.
Papa, on December 8, 2014, your 51st Wedding anniversary, the final jury was out. The incorruptible judge, the teacher, advocate, mediator and my life professor adjourned my case sine die.
What a life you have lived! As I watch you being covered with sand, today, I become apprehensive as per who would and who can step into your shoes to fill the vacuum you have left behind. But rest assured that the lessons you have taught me, has fully equipped me with the capacity to step into your shoes to assume the mantle of leadership you have left vacant. Do not let your heart be troubled, your philosophies and visions will continue to live on. I promise to continue with your life principle of ‘ONYE NA AKPO CHI YA’……… ‘ONA AGBA MBO’ which you adopted after my admission into medical college.
I will miss you dearly more than words can say. My mother, Susanna; my siblings — Ifeyinwa, Chika, Njide, Ijeoma, Onyinye, Nnamdi and Amaka — will miss you every day. We will be consoled knowing that you are now resting in the bosom of the lord. Adieu Papa. Rest in peace. Until we meet again, good night.