Today, I am 34 years old, and I give God all the glory for my life! By His grace, I am not only a year older, but a little wiser too. I glorify Him for all that He has brought me through, and for all the ways He has blessed me in this life.
Ten years ago today, I lost someone very dear and close to me. I lost my little brother, Ijamani, to gun violence. One moment he was enjoying the gift of life, even as I was celebrating mine… The next, his life was stolen from him and from his family and friends who loved him. There was no moment to say goodbye, or to express to him how much we loved him, or how much we were going to miss him.
Two travesties happened the day he died. One was that a group of wicked people plotted his murder, and sought him out to kill him. Our belief is that it was politically motivated against my father, because no one else with him was harmed, and nothing was taken. The other travesty was that he was refused care at the first hospital he was taken to, because they didn’t have money to pay for his treatment, and so he died on reaching the second hospital.
We live with the horrors of this life everyday. That first hospital was never held accountable for my brother’s death, and the men who took his life are still roaming free in my country! A country where it takes bribery for the Police to attend to an urgent plea for help. Where the excuse of no fuel in their tanks will mean that you do not get the Law enforcement our taxes pay for. And a world where the absence of money means that your life is valued at nought.
So today, as I celebrate the gift of life I still enjoy, I remember my sweet brother, who was taken from us at the tender age of 18. #ManiLivesOn in me and in everyone who ever loved him. He lives in my earthly father, from whom he got his handsome looks and his gentle temperament. Their likeness was so uncanny in both respects, and I can’t help but imagine how great Mani would have been, if our world had been a better place. My dad is still committed to making Nigeria better through political influence, and using his God-given intellect and wisdom to serve his people. Mani lives on in the fight for justice and humanity in our country!
Every year I mark my birthday, I have chosen to celebrate life, because I believe life trumps death. But this year, I choose to mourn my brother, and remember him and the circumstances of his death, and plead with God and man that we should make this our world a better place for the living… I don’t want birthday wishes or gifts or cakes today. I want to honour my brother. I want to remember him, and his humble spirit that is so lacking in our world.
Mani was always so caring, so thoughtful and so genuine. He was not perfect, I know we like to glorify the dead after they are gone, but he was a remarkable young man and everyone who knew him could testify of that. Mani was one of those people who never held grudges, was always positive and generous with his smiles and acts of kindness.
I wish I had known him more. But for the better part of his latter years, I was disconnected from my family, living in the UK and trying to understand this thing called life. I missed real life in pursuit of holiness…and I missed that too. I am still learning what true holiness means and what it means to be fully alive, and how both can co-exist. It is only in death that we get a glimpse of the meaning of life…and the importance of being present and attentive to the ones who matter to us.
God, who knows all things and holds the keys to life and death, knows why He allowed my brother to be taken. I am yet to find meaning in his death, but on the day he was buried I was resolved to not let his death be in vain. I was resolved to make a difference in my country and in my world. Today, I am glad that I am doing that through my charity Fair Life Africa Foundation. Do visit us and see how you can support our mission to empower people for a fairer life…
Thank you for joining me to mourn the loss of Ijamani Emerhor today. Let us together ponder on this thing called life, and see how we can make every life count!
Rest in peace, Mani!