Mbandoo Hagher Pila, is no more! (February 1960-August 2023)
My look-alike sister, Mbandoo, has gone to be with the Lord. She did not just have an uncanny resemblance to my father, Teacher Hagher Gbaaiko, they both answered the calling of life to be teachers, to make a difference in our community. Mbandoo studied Adult Education as undergraduate at the Ahmadu Bello University and studied for a Masters degree, at Benue State University and applied her life to teaching not as a career but as a vocation.
Despite the harsh life of a teacher in Nigeria and particularly in Benue State, she did not quit teaching. She taught with intensity that was totally out of proportion to the benefits. She taught in classrooms; under mango trees and on the streets. It was in her nature to teach and any other choice violated this nature. Long months of unpaid salaries, gratuities and pensions, did not deter her passion as teacher.
My sister and I did not only look alike, we are united, in our family Christian values of humility, self-effacement, love and service to humanity. In 1974, while serving in the NYSC, I brought her with me to Bendel State to my service year, and an out of Tivland experience. She was a form one student, while I taught English language at Iguabazuwa Grammar School. Mbandoo was confidence personified and generous to a heart-breaking degree. She would give away things she owned to others to see their faces light up, that a problem was solved; a debt repaid, school fees and hospital needs were met! She possessed an enviable social and emotional flow that connected her with others. She had charm and a magnetic charisma. I bought cars for her which she gave others to ride for their needs while she picked repair bills. I gave her money for her needs which disappeared into other people’s needs and she would smile and complain that she didn’t know how the money disappeared. She died an unrepentant Mother Christmas.
My sister has been a widow since her youthful years when she lost her soul-mate husband a fellow teacher, Joseph Orshi Pila, of Mbabiom, Mbayegh in Ushongo Local Government, Benue state. Her widow hood of over twenty-five years (without re-marrying) has given her a halo of moral strength, depth and definition as one committed to serve Jesus Christ alone.
A month ago she was full of vitality, exuding love and taking responsibility for her fellow not-paid-pensioners, in distress. A kind word and tear here, a secret smile and a money gift secretly pushed in a palm there, was her turf, as she held sway in Katsina-Ala.
Like me Mbandoo was a politician but unlike me she did not get a chance to lead in any elective or appointed position. She was a woman who thought like a man and did not tolerate subservience to any body. She particularly detested politician whose luxuries and comfort were lived at the expense of the poor rural people, her consistency. She rejected pernicious competitiveness and was happy, really happy to be who she was an exuberant Wan-Hagher, an Ushongo woman who lived that others might laugh in the sunlight and not tremble in the dark right. She was my politiccal adviser and reality check.
Then suddenly like a thunder-bolt death came calling on a Sunday morning on her, through a complication from diabetes. She did not wince or cry, moan or beg death, to be spared. Surrounded by her grand-children at the hospital she closed her eyes and quietly surrendered her soul to her maker, her Lord and King. Jesus Christ.
To the last minute, she did not bow to any human caprice. She detested and scoffed at the doctors who stood by her Hospital bedside whispering. She was not afraid of death, and refused their attempts to save her. She was indomitable, bold and was a manly-woman who was not afraid of being a contrarian facing remorseless principalities and powers. She did not blink.
Goodnight Mbandoo, my beloved sister.We shall all wake up from this horrendous nightmare, arisen in the knowledge of God’s glory over us and all the universe.