By Sunny Awhefeada
Engineer Diamond Ukpegharovwe Erhue who passed on to the great beyond on the 29th of June 2020 was not just a good man, but one of the best of men. In a society that has run amock and where values no longer count, Engr. Erhue stood for what was ideal and how life should be lived. Cerebral with a critical and analytical mind, patient and ever gentle with a listening ear, compassionate, generous and always willing to help, diligent and dedicated, Engr. Erhue, as he was called by many, left a lasting and positive impact among those he encountered in his sixty three years sojourn on earth. He neither splashed millions of naira on people nor bought them cars nor displayed some other ephemeral acts of benevolence driven by some ulterior motives. Engr. Erhue, by words and actions and by personal examples, taught all those he came across the ideals of life which was to live a good life by doing to others what you would do to yourself. Simply put, he loved his neighbour as himself as the Holy Book instructed.
I first met Engr. Erhue in August 2004. Then recently married and searching for an accommodation having had an unsavoury experience in an earlier apartment, a family friend not only told us about a vacant apartment of the Erhues, but recommended them as a worthy couple that should serve as role models for the young couple that my wife and I were in 2004. When we eventually met Engr. Erhue, he was so considerate and avuncular to the extent that, for a moment, I thought that he was an uncle of mine. He was paternally Okpe and maternally Kokori. I am also maternally Kokori.
Without much ado we settled the terms of engagement and that was how we became residents of No. 63 Imohwe Street, Ekiugbo-Ughelli. That became our famous address and home for six years and eight months. That residence offered us not just shelter, but a refreshing physical and emotional solace and we lived in peace with the Erhues. He was very magnanimous and connected us to his electricity generator and satellite dish through which we watched television programmes from around the world. That was before DSTV became a household item.
Engr. Erhue’s saintly character found a great companion in his very kind wife, Mrs. Agnes Onotasamiderhi Erhue, a nurse and now a very senior matron with the Central Hospital in Ughelli. Their children, Efe, Aghogho, Ruona and Runor (Roony), were then very young and the last two were always in our apartment playing with my wife and I. It was in that residence that my wife and I became parents and gave birth to three of our children in quick succession. Mrs. Erhue, on each occasion, accompanied us to the hospital and stood by my wife in the labour room all the way! It was always great relief for me. Knowing that Mrs. Erhue was there meant that my wife was in safe hands and I could go and read newspapers and drink beer! Her kindness extended to providing care for my wife and each new baby we had for as long as it was necessary. She was the ever present medical personnel.
Engr. and Mrs. Erhue were a stabilizing factor and motif in the story of our marriage. In those early years of our union, when nuptial tension and tiffs reared their heads quite often and the “elements of Grammar” hollered at “the spirit of the Laws”, and the submissions and disputations by Shakespeare and Denning were invoked and objections and counter-objections flew and collided, the Erhues were always on hand to intervene and say “calm down” and “be patient”.
Their influence was soothing and it helped a great deal to direct and consolidate our incipient union. Looking back and listening hard, I still hear his firm, but friendly voice counseling me on what to expect in a marriage and how to engage them when they come. He was practical and very forthcoming with personal examples. His interventions and that of his wife were very helpful. He predicted that my wife and I would also grow to become teachers and mentors to younger couples. That prediction has come to pass. My wife and I now teach young men and women what the Erhues taught us about marriage and life.
Engr. Erhue was clearheaded and crystal brilliant. An engineer, he spoke impeccable English and was very detailed in his analysis of issues. He never mixed up things. He was meticulous, neat and alluringly simple. He joked, laughed and also made people to laugh. His calling as an engineer made him a topnotch staff of the Delta State Ministry of Works where his diligence and dedication did not escape the attention of his superiors who embraced him.
As the best graduating Engineering student at the Auchi Polytechnic, Erhue was offered automatic employment in the Ministry of Works of the defunct Bendel State. He later took a bachelor’s degree in the same discipline from the University of Benin. The creation of Delta State in 1991 saw him relocating to the new state where he put his knowledge and diligence at the service of the state and people.
Engr. Erhue was very hard working and I remember how he got a computer and acquainted himself with it. Using that computer, he drew designs and worked very late into the night as if he was an academic perpetually preparing for daily seminars. He was very concerned about his environment and on his own sand filled the many bad spots on Imohwe road. Many inhabitants of Imohwe and beyond came to him for one help or another. He was selfless and stood by friends and acquaintances when it mattered. Engr. Erhue’s commitment to humanity also manifested in his contribution to the development of the Baptist Church in Ughelli.
He was a great family man; a loving husband and a good father. He was also disciplined and firm. This reflected in the academic and moral standing of his children at the time of his passage. Engr. Erhue took ill about ten years ago. His wife was very supportive and upheld the credo of “for better for worse”. Many prayed and hoped that the good man would get well and continue his work for humanity. But each passing day didn’t help matters. The Urhobo see the world as a marketplace. Once the seller was done selling his or her wares, he or she goes home. So it was for Engr. Diamond Ukpegharovwe Erhue, one of the best of men. He returned home on the 29th of June 2020.