A Life Anchored on Service

Urhobo Historical Society

Dr. Esiri: A Life Anchored on Service

By Larry Arhagba

From olden times, Urhobo land had enough lawyers to brag about.   What we lacked were Medical doctors.  And for a community to boast of a medical doctor and host him was not only an incredible accomplishment but also a wonder to behold. 

Such was the state of Oria Abraka, when Dr. Fredrick O. Esiri visited the community back in the fifties.  About a week before his arrival, the town crier makes the rounds in the community to herald the momentous event.  And just a day before, he takes another swing through the community, beating the gong with feverish excitement, and his familiar voice soaring to high heavens.  Idokta cha ode! he bellows beating his gong harder with every additional announcement. 

Many looked forward to these events, perhaps, because they may never have another opportunity to encounter another medical doctor again in their life time.  So, Even though this was typically an Oria event, peoples came from far and near to keep their date with their “doctor son.”  Among the flood of people s who came were the poorest of the poor, many in desperate need of care, the sick, the malnourished, the diabetic,  the injured, the disabled, the young,  the old, the edas, the abikus, the ogbanjes, those with aches and pains, and others  with running nose which like leaking faucets  never seized, and even the dying.

A burst of cheering usually greeted the doctor’s arrival.  And without much fanfare, he gets to work – giving love, touching lives, see the old and the grey, examine babies and giving back to the community and the land of his birth, and bringing relief to many.  My mother, a relation of Dr Esiri had taken me to Dr. Esiri during one of his visits and I was one of those sickly babies who like Lazarus were raised from the dead.  

The laudable record and death of Dr. Esiri’s should not only remind us of our own mortality, but should also empower us about our capacity to light the way forward in our various communities and places of birth.  For some of us, the only time we return to our places of birth is to buy chieftaincy titles or to aspire to be local government chairmen.  Excuses after excuse ripple through discussions of community service, and some of us are quick to proffer excuses, and argue often disingenuously, why we cannot give back to our communities.  Some even believe the lie that their professions are not relevant to the needs of the local communities.

We all do not have to be medical doctors to impact our places of birth.   Our language and our history are in the danger of imminent death.   Are there historians and linguists out there?  Again and again, many Urhobo communities that have been devastated by oil exploraration are battling the ravages of erosion and poor planning.  Can our engineers, builders and architects lead that discussion in their communities?   Urhobo land used to be an honor society.  Today when you talk about those values we used to cherish, our youths look the other way as if you belong to a different planet.  Where are the psychologists, the sociologists, and the counselors and educators to lead in the battle to win the hearts and minds of Urhobo youths?  These questions are enduring and long, and we can go on and on.

Dr Esiri made the difference because he led by example.  His whole life was a template of humility, giving, service, freedom, caring honor and sacrifice.  He invested his time in seeking the truth and telling the truth.  And he anchored his lifelong labor on what he believed.  With the passing of Dr Esiri the vacuum of sacrificial leaders which has bedeviled Urhobo land for some time has become even more desperate.  That unmistakable message can only make sense in the words of Mark Antony about the loss of a great friend whom he dearly loved:  Here was a good Urhobo man.  Whence comes such another?

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