Late Dr. Samuel Attah

Posthumous Fathers’ Day tribute to Dr. Samuel Attah

By Joy Osiagwu

My father, Dr. Samuel Attah, was a man of unique qualities. His assertiveness, enthusiasm, and engaging nature were unparalleled. His passing in 1998 was a profound loss for our family. Yet, I find solace in the cherished memories of the parental bond that shaped the woman I am today.

My father’s journey in education was a testament to his resilience and determination. He was among the underprivileged students selected by missionaries who visited his hometown in Kogi State. This opportunity led him to the esteemed Boys High School, Gindiri, in Plateau State, Nigeria. Excelling at Gindiri, he earned a scholarship to the University of Cambridge, England, where he studied Veterinary medicine, becoming the first in his village to achieve such a feat. He returned home and married my mother, Rachel, who had just finished her teacher’s college education in 1969. They began a family in 1970 with the birth of my elder brother, John. Despite the demands of a growing family, my dad selflessly supported my mother’s educational pursuits. After the birth of the fifth child, he sent my mother to the Advanced Teacher’s College, Katsina-Ala in Benue State, to further her studies; he did not stop there; he insisted that my mum should get her first degree after the birth of seven children. So, she proceeded to the University of Jos in Plateau State to study Special Education for children with special needs. Between making more babies and schooling, my mother had given me exceptional home training to support my dad in caring for my siblings. If you read the tribute to my mother in the previous edition, I mentioned I was all grown up at eight and was exceptionally responsible for taking on life’s challenges. My father also had a lot to do with my upbringing. I spent quality time with him after secondary school because I was fourteen and underage for the University. 

He was one of my life’s most responsive and engaging personalities at the time. Despite my age, he told me life stories ahead of time as if he had a hunch about his death. I had friends in the neighborhood who were attracted to the vein things of life and what young girls love to explore in their teenage years. And so, we would all agree to get fashionable dresses and shoes for Christmas to show off in the neighborhood. All the other parents bought the dresses for their children, but not my dad. He would always buy something different. I did not hide my disappointment with his choices. One day, he took me on a long drive and told me why he thought differently about my decision with the girls.

“Listen, the dresses I got for you are more expensive, but that is unimportant; the lesson here is for you not to be fashion-conscious and go after vogue,”. That was the first time I heard the word vogue. What is Vogue? I asked. “It means something popular. It is not a wrong decision to be a trending person; the lousy aspect is that as you grow older and continue with your lifestyle, you will become a slave to fashion. When that happens, you will go to any length to get money to maintain the lifestyle.” The conversation marked a turning point in my life. Almost twenty years later, I met some of my childhood friends whose parents got them all they wanted at the time. Their lifestyles corroborated Daddy’s postulations. Teaching your children a lesson about contentment early on in life is priceless. 

The second lesson was weird at the time. “Men do not like women who nag. When you get married, do not nag! If you are angry about an issue, leave and return for a conversation when you feel better”. A calm atmosphere and dialogue can resolve problems. And in all situations, respect your husband. Reverence is essential to a man. In return, he will treat you as his queen. The lesson has worked in the last twenty-four years of my marriage. Dad had a cheerful disposition towards life, except for the leadership challenge in Nigeria. He complained incessantly about the lack of structure in the system at any given opportunity. “No nation can function without a good system and structure.”

 My father never failed to refer to his life in Cambridge at any chance to vent about the disorders in the system in Nigeria. Cambridge never left him. I recall one of his famous quotes: “I do not belong here!” But you are Black and a Nigerian, Daddy. Yes, Joy! But I would prefer to go to Cambridge for a leadership that values social order and peaceful co-existence.”  He did not return to Cambridge when he had the opportunity a second time. Instead, he sent my mother to the University of Jos for a master’s in special education.  He wanted her to get a PhD shortly after the program and then he took ill and died.

Dad was excited when he heard my report on the primetime news at nine at the Nigerian Television Authority for the first time. When he watched my presentation on the news at 9 in the studio, he concluded that broadcast journalism was my calling.

Joy Osiagwu, in the studio for the news at 9 on NTA

Daddy, I am still in the profession. Continue to sleep well in the Bosom of the Lord.

 Happy Fathers’ Day.