Brigadier-General Patrick Onaise: Good night!
A young Army Captain, serving in the North and who visited Lagos, was invited to our Church programme in the 80s by his friend and course mate, the then Captain Paul Toun. A few years after, he was brought again to us by the same friend. It was amazing how he remembered all of us and what transpired between him and us during his maiden visit. At that time, like the man, who brought him, he was no longer a Captain but a Major. His beautiful wife, Helen, was much loved by our members. She also loved us. That was Brigadier General Patrick Onaise [Retd] in the early 90s.
In 1992, the Head office of NITEL, my wife’s company, moved to Abuja. The implication to us was obvious. We knew that sooner or later, she would be transferred there. The two of us, not believing in two kitchens, opted for her early retirement. She then bought an outfit that specialised in making embroidery from one Alhaji. She inherited his staff members. We agreed with him that payment would be made by 2 pm the next day, which was Sunday. My wife and I invited Patrick to go with us, a man, we had found to be very easy to love. Clothed with respect for his elders in age and in the ministry of the Lord, he had a peculiar way of talking, reasoning and making contributions when discussing issues.
Scarcely had we arrived home from Church, than Patrick was in our house. I noticed his gift of patience as he sat down relaxed, waiting until we were ready to go with him. Arriving at Alhaji’s house, Alhaji was nowhere to be found. We waited for long but we did not see him. Patrick did not mind. Alhaji did not leave any message for us. We left towards the evening time. Not long after, he was in our house, Alhaji, who, we were careful not to disclose to him our place of residence! Could his magical acts work against us? That was a man who, against our plea, said that he would enter into smuggling business and would turn to a reptile at Custom’s checkpoints. Had he come to receive the money, we would not have bothered but rather told us that he had come just to ‘greet you, and to tell you to bring the money by 8 o’clock tomorrow morning’.
We read in-between the lines, for what else could it be than a tactical plan, so that, that night, he would rob us and collect the money, N142,600, when money was money. ‘How did you know our house?’ we asked, but Alhaji had no time to answer. When he left, knowing that if a ‘cunny’ man dies, a ‘cunny’ man will bury him, we carried the money and slept somewhere else that night. In the morning, we paid him. It then occurred to us, that as much as we were fearing that he might rob us, so also he might be fearing whether we would rob him of the money, had he received it that Sunday.
I cannot forget that Sunday morning we arrived in our Church and our men were no place to be found. We knew that they had a weekend retreat but they should have been back before the service started. ‘Where are the men?’ we kept on asking ourselves. Our comfort was that the wives of the few of them that were married were in Church. A few minutes into the service, we heard a melodious song, followed with the arrival of our men, all looking different. The fragrance of their joy filtered everywhere. Something had surely happened to them. Someone had given them a special-spiritual injection. Patrick, their new President! That was the birth of the Triumphant Men’s Fellowship. Patrick had succeeded where many, even his betters, had failed. After grooming them, as if the Army had sympathy for our Church, he was posted to Rivers State. He thus left behind, a vibrant fellowship, triumphant in spirit as in name.
It was the day we were at the Police station, before he was posted out, that I knew Patrick better. A member of the Triumphant Men’s Fellowship was arrested by the Police and we went to the Police station. He asked the IPO what the man did. That simple question infuriated the officer. ‘I will shoot you,’ he threatened. I was afraid. I imagined how Patrick would slump before us, dead! Patrick raised his shirt, holding his chest and told the IPO to shoot. The atmosphere became tense, very tense. Somebody whispered to the Police officer, that the man he was threatening was a serving Army Major. Like magma, Uncle Police cooled and melted. Hash words turned to friendly jokes. Strangely, the officer, who assumed that he was sitting at the pinnacle of power and could do anything, started ‘sirring’ Patrick, who he had insulted. ‘Army is Army,’ I retorted within. Within seconds, the matter was over. Our member was released from the grip of the law but not that of the spirit. We had to punish him for violating the law of the land. We sent him on discipline till he repented of the evil he did. He chose to leave the Church.
Some years later, Patrick was posted back to us in Lagos. Certain circumstances prompted him to leave our Church but not relationship with individual members. During my first daughter’s wedding, he was there. Although he was not given a seat at the High Table, he engaged himself as the unofficial photographer. When I looked at his direction, I saw him busy enjoying the job. All of a sudden, he yelled, ‘GOC, GOC’. Patrick could do many things but not that of a comedian. I wondered! I could not fathom what he meant. He continued shouting, ‘GOC, GOC’. His shouting attracted the Chairman of the wedding, Major General Paul Toun [Retd], who looked at the direction and shouted, ‘The GOC is here’. I looked and saw General Azubuike Ihejirika, who retired later as the Chief of Army Staff.
Though a member of the Redeemed Church of God, Patrick always identified with many things our members were doing. He apologized for not attending my first son’s wedding because of military engagement. As the secretary of retired Army personnel, they were holding a meeting in Abuja.
Patrick received a National Honours award after his retirement from the Army. He invented a weapon that contributed immensely for the defeat of the Cameroonian Army by our military.
It is difficult to believe that Brigadier General Patrick Onaise [Retd] has passed on. Adieu my General! Good Night!
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