By Sam Dogitimi
The demise of a loved one remains one of the greatest pains in the world, knowing you won’t get to see or hear from him or her again. Sometimes you wish to once again meet and tell the person “thank you for adding so much value to my life” and then realize it’s just a dream.
Good or bad, the fond memories that reside in your heart have now become your solace. You constantly think about and console yourself with the good legacy the deceased may have bequeathed and the lovely moments you both shared.
But how can such memories wipe away the tears that come with death? How can such reminiscences fill the gap created by death in your life and in the lives of people he or she left behind?
But that is life for you: we came to the earth to later leave when our time expires. We can’t be here forever; no mortal has, and no mortal will. We all have a limited time and the earlier we live with this irrefutable truth the better for us, to live well and prepare for our transition to the afterworld.
Today marks two years since my beloved mentor, Raphael Doneh—a legal practitioner, silent activist and Christian politician from Bayelsa and Rivers States—passed on after a brief illness in Port Harcourt.
Up till now, it’s painful to accept the reality of his death. However, whether we like it or not, the ugly reality that he is no more continues to dawn on us and we can’t change it even if we want to.
Barrister was by every standard a good man who touched many lives in remarkable ways. I was privileged to be close to the sage in his last three years on earth and I discovered, inter alia, that he did the following imitable things:
Raph had the heart to love not just his family members but also friends, political and business associates, mentees, workers, his communities, you name it. In several ways, to several people, he demonstrated that he has the ability to love others.
He wasn’t known for using people like mere tools. Even when it seemed like he was “using” you to meet his end, you’re sure there’s something in it for you.
He was a friend and brother to all, including opposition elements. It was his addiction to inspire others to further their education and learn useful skills that will make them more productive and self-reliant, especially the younger generation. People, including their growth, mattered so much to him.
Not every leader is humble. Not every successful man will relate with younger ones as though they were contemporaries. Not every principal will discuss critical issues with subordinates and accept their valid suggestions. Not every “big man” will keep his childhood friends and former classmates close when he becomes wealthy and more influential than them. That was Raphael Doneh for you.
He was a self-confident sage with high standards, yet did not look down on others. His deep love for others, as well as the fear of God in him, prompted this rich, influential Nembe-Ogoni-man to act humbly. He was free with everyone; keenly listened to every reasonable voice; and never perceived a fellow human as being less important.
Naturally, most of us love to hear ourselves speak. We prefer to speak than to listen to what someone else has to say, perhaps because we hold our opinions very highly. And, for some reason, we often do not take other people’s words even when we allow them to speak.
This is where Raph Don was different from many. He was humble and experienced enough to be receptive; always hungry for ideas. His humility and progressive mindset impelled him to sample different opinions before taking some salient decisions that will affect the majority of the people.
He was known for allowing others to speak, especially when he observes they have something to say. Those who know him would agree that “please go on” was a phrase he frequently used during conversations with others even when he has been interrupted. And when you convince him with your suggestion, you can bet he will not dispel it, being a lover of valid, superior and convincing opinions.
Whoever (or whatever experience) may have influenced my late mentor to be solution-driven in all situations taught him a great life lesson. I say this with the knowledge that every human is faced with challenges that must be surmounted for her or him to survive—and thrive.
Every day, we face challenges in school, family, workplace, groups and life generally. These tough challenges are often seemingly insurmountable to the extent that we feel like giving up. But people like Raphael would, amidst such challenges, urge you not to fret, not to fume, and not to despair but focus only on the solution and do what is necessary to get you out of that awful state.
His focus during difficult situations was always on the solution. He was interested in seeing the light at the end of every tunnel. “What can we do? What is the way forward?” He had little or no regard for people who complain when faced with challenges. He is always interested in the possible things that can be done to get it right. Raph relentlessly motivated and gave hope to others as best as possible. He knew we are alive to solve problems, and not to lament like infants.
For us who knew him and tapped from his deep well of wisdom, Barrister will forever be missed, while we remain privileged to have witnessed him demonstrate the above virtues and more that impacted us positively. May the soul of Mr. Raphael Doneh who died on 6th January 2021 continue to rest in peace.
Sam Dogitimi is a media and communications consultant residing in Abuja.