Peter was versatile in the pursuit of knowledge. He was an all rounder as a student but was always more mathematically inclined. Mathematics and Physics held a great awe to him. Perhaps they best exemplified order, symmetry and the harmony of things in the universe.

But these principles were not merely for the four walls of classrooms and schools – they were extended to his personal life. He was a very organized person and tried to create order and symmetry around himself. This sense of order was sometimes at variance with his less than meticulous dress sense. He often didn’t have the time to comb his hair well, or tuck in his shirt.

Peter also had a personal library and kept a diary where he recorded daily events around him, including the birth of any child in his kindred, at a time when records of birth were not kept by the authorities. When his children came, he gave them baptismal names alphabetically, from A to E (Angela, Benedict, Callista, Daniel and Edward). And either by design or coincidence, his two daughters were born on the 1st of April, the twins Dan and Eddy days apart on 6th of April (Ben being the odd one, but born only a month earlier on 3rd of March). He kept a family album where the birth information of each child was recorded, according to the order of their birth. At the top of each page, both the baptismal, as well as Ozara name of the child was noted, followed by a baby portrait, the date and place of birth, birthweight, and several other details. To the surprise of his family, he had also filled in the sixth page with the name “Francis or Francisca”, a 6th child he was likely hoping will arrive in March or April, 1971, if he had lived.

Peter had a strong sense of kindred spirit and community values. Though about the most educated in his immediate environment and also a devout Christian, but these inclinations only helped him appreciate his roots, his folks and others not so privileged in learning. He mixed and associated freely with relatives and friends and took pride in his land of birth and its people. On return from his duty stations at the weekend, he would go from compound to compound enquiring about the well being of folks.

He commanded the respect and following of the boys in his clan who virtually revered him. He was their master and role model; he mentored them and monitored their academic progress. A disciplinarian, he was often the person parents reported their disobedient school children to for appropriate  sanction. Also, never compromised his faith as a Catholic, at a time the majority of his folks were believers of the traditional religion.

The story is told in Umuoha of how he refused to perform “iru ekwa”, the traditional baby shower, as was customary during a wife’s first pregnancy. Tradition held that without “iru ekwa”, the first child was not expected to survive. Nobody had ever dared to resist this custom.

The few native Christians in Ozara in those days, in the early 1960s, often mixed their newly-found religion with aspects of pagan practices, perhaps out of fear, and to avoid conflict with kinsmen. But Peter was resolute in his determination to uphold his faith without necessarily offending his beloved folks. After what seemed like a stalemate, he offered to perform the ceremony on his own terms. He then staged a lavish party for his Umuoha clan.

They ate and drank to their content and in their merriment waived the crucial “iwa ihe” and “ije egeekwa” parts of the supposed “iru ekwa” ceremony. He had apparently reckoned that the traditional religion was mostly fused with ordinary social engagements necessary for the constant lubrication and reinforcing of kinship bonds for a more cohesive and harmonious society. Such social engagements like “iru ekwa” could therefore be performed withoutoffending any religion.

Peter was active in communal affairs, serving as Secretary of Umuoha lineage, then Umuokorouba, and also featuring prominently in Ozara meetings.

As a student, he continued in the family tradition of taking farm work very seriously. He would go to the farm by 6 am and return by 7 am to prepare for school. In the evenings, he also engaged in farm work. That way, he was able to pay his way through primary school after the death of his father. It is said that even while working in the farms, he took books along with him and would use the resting period for extra readings.

He motivated friends and folks to attend school and saw to the upkeep of some of his relatives. Wherever he was sent to teach, he always took along some relatives whom he also enrolled in school.

Amongst those who stayed with him at different times and places were Emmanuel Nwadoma, Nwabueze Nweke, Paul Ekenta, Raphael Nwanigwe, and his great friend Mathias Onovo. Mathias and Cyril Nwibe, another relative and close friend (Cyril’s mother Oba Ngene and Peter’s mother Udeji were cousins at Umuiba-Obuofia), helped support his family while he was in the university. His other well-known friends and associates were the trio of Bernard Igwe of Umuichi, Donatus Udeigwe of Umungwu and Francis Onyia of Umuoha-anee, two years his junior at St. Charles Onitsha, and with whom he taught at St. John’s Agbani. Others were the late Emmanuel Afonta and Phillip Okolike of Edumegu, Isaac Igwe of Obunegu, and even those not so schooled, like Nwanshi Ogbodo Nwokoro of Umuaneewowo-Edumegu.

Outside Ozara were friends and associates like Alphonsus Ogah of Agbogugu, Ogbu Nwobodo Ogbu of Akpugo, both fellow teachers and friends from their Sacred Heart Akpugo days, Emmanuel Okechukwu of Amakpu-Agbani and Martin Ani of Akpugo, a friend from St. Charles, amongst others. From the UNN were friends and contemporaries like Gabriel Nnaji of Obe who graduated from Accountancy and Mark Ngene of Amechi Awkunanaw.

From Obuofia were great friends and maternal relatives like Pius Nnamani and also Chief John Igwesi who sponsored his application for divisional university scholarship (and later helped stabilize his late friend’s young family especially by securing his widow an employment as a council hospital attendant). Also, Chief Igwesi became very protective of Ben, and kept a close eye on his academic progress.

image
image
image