Not many people know the middle name of retired former federal Permanent Secretary Dr Edugie Abebe, mni who turns 70years today. Yet from the meaning of her middle name, Abigail, one might glimpse an understanding of the essential material out of which has grown the definitive marks of her person. She’s cool, calm and almost always at ease even when tremor- like events assailed her external conditions. The name has been some kind of cocoon for her (picture the caterpillar enjoying a snooze inside its cocoon while the wind blows the leaf, twig or branch to which the cocoon is attached) enabling inner strength and ensuring her sanity.
Abigail is a Hebrew name that means joy of the father. (Again, picture a father looking with great delight at his daughter.) The feeling of delight does not necessarily have to be connected to any task because some people think, in our performance-driven world, that a father expressing delight at his daughter is because she has produced something exceptional. This is not always the case. Many fathers love their daughters and have great delight just looking at them for who they are, not for what they have or what they can do. Drunk on this joy, some fathers have been known to give pet names to their daughters. You need to listen closely to them when they call out these names. For they say a lot a when they do. By the texture of their voice they give away their location. They have entered a pleasant realm, one in which the heart leaps with unending bounce. From where they send out those names, as hugs going out to their daughters, to remind them that they are truly special.
Whenever her late father and Obaraye of Benin, Chief D.O.I Ehanire called her “Princess Edugie, Daughter of the Noble Duke of Eyaen,” he was expressing his joy. He was sending out multiple hugs. Affirming her person and imbuing her with more raw materials for inner strength.
While preparing for a trip abroad in 1993, she called to inform him of her plans and asked what he would like her to get for him on her return. He told her he wanted nothing. “I am a contented man, my dear daughter. There’s nothing I want.” He had enough. There is a way joy fills you. You just feel full. Wanting nothing more. Or anything else. Chief D.O.I Ehanire had enough fuel in his joy tank for the journey to meeting his Maker, which came about not many days after his last conversation with his beloved daughter.
Apostle Paul, the ‘father’ of many first century Christians and first century churches expressed a similar sentiment in Philippians 4:17 when he said “Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.” It is a father’s joy to see his children walk in truth. Chief D.O.I could relate with this feeling.
It is instructive that Dr Abebe’s first name is Edugie, a bini word that means, ‘day of a feast.’ No known feast was being observed on the day she was born in Benin City, yet her parents Chief D.O.I Ehanire and Mrs Merry Oritsetimeyin Ehanire named her Edugie. Dr Abebe said she was named after her paternal grandmother, Princess Edugie Ighodaro Ehanire, the daughter of Omoregie, Enogie (Duke) of Eyaen.
It is obvious there is a relationship between joy and feasting. Even though I think it is more of a continual feast rather than feasting of the partying kind. Something King Solomon must have had in mind when he wrote in Proverbs 15:17 that “He that is of a merry heart has a continual feast.” Unending celebration. Endless rejoicing, more in an intangible sense than in a tangible way. Joy is something we cannot physically touch. Ditto with the merry heart being described here but we can tell when both energies reside within a person. We know the common manifestations and we love to experience them all the time. Carriers of such energies are healers indeed, for another passage in Proverbs says, a merry heart does good like medicine’ – Proverbs 17:22.
We would never know if this was why medicine was ‘picked and chosen’ for her, against her earlier preference, which was Pharmacy. She hated the one and loved the other. She was so afraid of dead bodies and she was so in love with drugs neatly arranged on their counters at General Hospital in Benin, especially when it was done by a Pharmacist she greatly admired, Mr. Omozuwa.
She was reluctant at first but shortly after she accepted the choice of providence and came to admit that medicine was the true path for her. She ran her race on its tracks doing good to her patients with both her heart and her science until she switched from care to administration peaking as Director of Public Health, and later Permanent Secretary of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
She has since left the science of care and administration following her retirement from the federal civil service but she actively retains the merry heart and the art of care. And in her service to Father God, the Big Father, these have been indispensable tools indeed. Remarkably, ‘Enter thou into the joy of the Lord,’ is how the Holy Book says those who have pleased the Big Father will be welcomed home.
It is my prayer that when the time comes, she would enter into this harvest of joy. I join her family and friends to rejoice with her on this special day.