By Alaowei Broderick Bozimo
I was completely devastated by the sad news of the demise of my wonderful friend, former colleague and a complete gentleman, Prof Mathias Owelleamaka Obiaya who was born on july 19th, 1932 and joined his ancestors on September 3rd, 2020. Putting this tribute together is a hard one for me because I have lost a long time friend. Fighting back the tears is not an easy one for a man of my age. But this tribute, I must write for a great man as my own little way of giving him my last respect until we meet again in the resurrection morning.
Prof Mathias Obiaya, the Osuma of Asaba, though he adequately left his footprints in the sands of time, I had wished he lived much longer. But he has taken a final bow and never to be seen again. His demise is a painful one.
Our paths crossed when both of us served as Commissioners in the Midwest Executive Council under the Military Governor, Col. George Agbazika Innih, immediately after the coup of late Murtala Muhammed.
We were sworn in as Commissioners on Tuesday, November 4, 1975 and today, Wednesday, November 4, 2020, I am writing a tribute on a complete gentleman who served humanity until he took his last breath on September 3, 2020. His death is a big blow to me and others who came across him while his journey on earth lasted.
During our time as Commissioners, Prof Mathias Obiaya was the highest member of the Midwest Executive Council as he doubled as the Deputy Chairman ( Deputy Governor ), he was actually higher than the rest of us in the Executive Council. In the Executive Council, I served as the Commissioner for Home Affairs and Information.
Some of my colleagues in the Midwest State Executive Council included the late Justice Josaih Oki as Attorney General. HRM The late Edaiken of Uselu Prince Akenzua and later the Oba of Benin and father of the current Oba as Commissioner of Finance. Others were the late J. S. Ayonmike, the late Prince Jegbefume, the late Sam Ejoh Sam Obaro, the late Prof. Fred Omu, Dr John Aire, Musa Atiru Enuewosu and others. We made a formidable team.
My wonderful friend, Prof. M.O. Obiaya was born in Owelle (Owerri) Olubor in the then Asaba Division on the 19th of July 1932. His parents were Mr. David A Obiaya and Mrs. Christiana O. Obiaya.
He attended St Thomas Catholic School, Kano, and did his secondary education at St Patrick’s College, Asaba, where he, subsequently, taught for four years before proceeding to the University College, Ibadan, where he studied medicine and qualified as MBBS (Lond.) in 1962. He joined the Midwestern region as a Medical Officer before moving to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital to study Anaesthesia in 1966.
In 1967, Prof Mathias Obiaya was awarded a one-year postgraduate scholarship to study Anaesthesia in Canada. He later transferred to Addenbrook’s Hospital, Cambridge, England.
He obtained his fellowship in Anaesthesia (FFARCS Eng.) in 1969 and returned to Nigeria during the civil war. He joined the Bendel State service as a consultant in charge of anaesthetic services in the state. In 1973, he joined the, then new, University of Benin as a senior lecturer and Acting Head of Department of Anaesthesia.
On Tuesday, November 4, 1975, he was sworn in as a Commissioner in the Midwest Government. He later became the Deputy Chairman of the State Executive Council.
At the end of the military regime, my great friend that is being buried today, returned to the University of Benin. He was promoted to Associate Professor of Anesthesiology in 1981. In 1987, he spent three months at the Royal Free Hospital, London before moving to the King Khalid Hospital, Hail, Saudi Arabia where he was the Chief Anaesthetist for five years.
On his return from Saudi Arabia, he worked as Chief Medical Director and Head of the Department of Anaesthesia in Igbinedion Hospital and Medical Research Centre at Okada. In 1997, he became the Chairman of the Faculty of Anaesthesia of the National Post Graduate Medical College and, later that year, President of the National Post Graduate Medical College.
In 1999, he was appointed a Chief (the Osuma of Asaba) by his Royal Highness, the Asagba of Asaba. He was married to Mrs. Anthonia O. Obiaya and they had five children. Mrs. Obiaya died in December 2001.
Today, Friday, November 20, 2020, Prof Mathias Obiaya will be laid to rest. He will be sorely missed by all who have diligently followed his antecedents as a community leader, a philanthropist, devout christian of the Catholic faith and a compassionate father. We the surviving former Commissioners in the Midwest Executive Council share in the grief of the family and others he left behind.
Prof. Obiaya was an exemplary Catholic who put his time and skills at the service of the Church and humanity.
I join family, friends and associates of the late Prof Mathias Obiaya in mourning his departure and may Almighty God grant him eternal rest and comfort all those he left behind. Adieu, my great friend.