105-year-old man wants a house
Category: Star feature
A Centenarian dwelling at the Obudu cattle ranch in Cross River State, tells his remarkable story to our reporter, and makes a request of government.“If I die now without the Cross River State government redeeming their promise of building me a house of my own, my soul will not be very happy,” a centenarian who is a familiar face at the Obudu Ranch Resort, “Prof” Tanda Bechebe Schiga Oboh, expressed his thoughts when he narrated his life experiences on what used to be called the Obudu Cattle Ranch.
He has appealed to Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State to remember the pledge of building a house for him ,made six years ago by the state government.
In an interview with this reporter at the Ranch “Prof” Oboh said he was born on June 15, 1907 to a Cameroonian father and a Nigerian mother, and has lived in Obudu almost all his life, according to him.
“My father hailed from the Cameroon while my mother was a Nigerian. I am a Nigerian. I once worked in Development Cooperative limited and Toka Rubber Estate in Cameroun, for eight years. I have seven children and three grand children, some of them are in Cameroon. But they do not care for me. I have lived most of my life in this community. I was the first cowboy in Obudu in 1943!”
He claimed that the state government made the promise of building him a house in recognition of his contributions to the Obudu community, and for being the custodian of the vital history of the community.
He said he was presently squatting in his late brother’s house because he does not have his own, neither have any of his children cared to build him one, He added that he was also catering for the three aged wives left behind by his brothers.
He lamented that his younger brother’s children do not want him to stay in the house any further, and often humiliate and quarrel with him time and again.
Oboh who said he has many grand and great grand children said, “I want to plead with His Excellency Governor Liyel Imoke to remember that the state government promised to build me a house. I am in dire need of the house now, even if it is three rooms. I want that promise to be fulfilled now that I am still breathing. I don’t want something too elaborate, at least to have my own kitchen, which I can call my own. My brother’s children humiliate me and quarrel with me a lot. They say I should have built my own house long ago, or my children should have built one for me. But I cannot really blame myself nor my children!”
Although he said that he is now a ‘government property’ for which reason he has been nicknamed ‘government-government’, because the state government has directed the management of the Obudu Ranch Resort to be giving him a monthly stipend of N10,000 and free medical care at the Ranch clinic, yet he would want them to redeem the promise of building him a house.
“Though my people like me, they do not give me food. My children do not care for me. I am grateful to the state government that came to my aid. Through a government directive, the Obudu Ranch Resort gives me food items, pays me N10,000 monthly stipend, and I get free medical care from the Ranch clinic. But all these I share with the three wives of my late younger brothers. I buy them wrappers. I am their care-taker because they are old women,” he said.
The grand old man said perhaps without the government coming to his aid, he would have been gone by now. “How would I’ve been going to Ogoja or Cameroon to beg my children for food and clothing?!”
“This is why the people in this community and I myself, in particular ,keep praying for the government and the visitors to sustain this Obudu Ranch Resort, so that strangers would keep coming,” he said.
On his state of health, Oboh who is also popularly called ‘one-two-one-two-no-waste-time’ said, “You can see that I walk about very strong. I don’t even look 100, but I was born in June 1907. I am the oldest person in this Bechebe community. I have the complete history of this town and the Ranch in my head, he said, pointing to his head.
With sounds of regret, he said, “Even though I do not have my personal house yet I am a happy man. That is another of my secrets which also ensures my old age.”
However, he said that his major sickness now is cough and pneumonia, which is as a result of the terrible cold weather prevalent on the Ranch. “I have told the doctors at the Ranch clinic who treat me about these ailments which started early this year. They would be looking into it because government has asked them to treat me free of charge,” he said, adding that he also experiences heavy breathing some times, when the cough and pneumonia set in.
On why he walks about with a wooden staff and wears a trademark flowing white dress, topped with green-mini coat that rests on his waist and maintains grey-haired dreadlock that also falls on his back, the energetic centenarian explained, “My grey hair is natural; it is God’s gift. I no longer cut it. I notice that whenever I have it cut, I would fall sick, serious sickness. So, I resolved not to have hair cut anymore. Over two years now. I have not had a haircut. That is the reason it looks the way it is.”
Seeing that he leaves his hair, finger and toe nails unkempt, he was asked if he is one of those persons that that go to the mountain tops or river banks to contemplate life. “I am not! I was baptized into the Catholic Church in 1951 ,and since then I have remained there. I just like the way I dress.”
In order to illustrate his versatility with the history of the Obudu Cattle Ranch but now renamed Obudu Ranch Resort which reason, too, he is given the title Professor, Oboh recalled that in 1943 some ex-British soldiers first flew over the mountains of Obudu and noticed how naturally beautiful, cold and attractive the place was and had to return. According to him, in 1951, they brought some cows and five years later they brought another 50, and the natives and some Fulanis herdsmen managed the cows for them.
“They were those that first built some structures on the Ranch. Presidents Shagari, Abacha, Obasanjo have been here. But it was really Governor Donald Duke that showed deep interest in the place , and completed all these beautiful structures that you are seeing. I am happy for Imoke who is sustaining what his predecessor started,” he said.