Elder Costman I. Fefegha: A Centenarian And His Life By Etete Enideneze
When his children and grandchildren celebrated his birthday, this year, the Centenarian danced joyously. They had no inkling that Papa’s time was near.
Not too long, Elder Costman Igonikurogha Fefegha, JP died peacefully in his Obele Street residence on August 15, 2023, at the age of 100. The incident occurred two weeks after his discharge from the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Yenagoa where he had received treatment for a brief illness.
In line with his desire, the bereaved families buried him the following day, August 16, 2023, at his residence.
The final traditional funeral rites (Beletiomo) for the Late Costman, holds today, December 1, 2023 at St. Peter’s Primary School field, Yenagoa Town, where his families and people from all walks of life will pay him last respect.
Born February 19, 1923, little Costman came to grips with life soon after his birth to Late Chief Igonikurogha Fefegha of Erigbe Compound in Yenagoa Town and Late Madam Kumo Wonkoya of Okulogene Compound, Famgbe-Atissa.
At a tender age, he lost his parents. Thus, he and his two elder sisters had to depend on uncles and aunts to survive. Late Madam Mokeze of Ovom Town who took the burden of catering for them, unfortunately died.
Consequently, their paternal uncle, Late James Eferebo Fefegha took care of them for some time. From there, their maternal uncle, Late Chief Ozubidebide Abuwa of Ikolo Community took them over to his home.
At 12 years old, Costman, the ambitious whiz kid persuaded his elder sisters who were then teenagers that they could eke out a living on their own. Thus, they returned to their father’s house to cater for themselves.
They took to crop farming, hunting, fishing, trading, processed palm kernel and sold to the then United African Company’s merchants in Yenagoa. They had learnt these vocations from their uncles and aunts, notably Chief Eferebo and Elder Group Ayamalem with whom they had gone on trading expeditions around the Niger Delta, Eastern and Middle-Belt areas of Nigeria.
At a point in his life, Costman worked in the United African Company (UAC) in Yenagoa.
The loss of his parents had affected his ambition for formal education. He could not enroll for primary school, same way it affected his elder sisters did not have the opportunity of acquiring formal education. Nevertheless, informal education, natural intelligence and wisdom guided him in all his activities until death.
While they were both young, his eldest sister, Late Madam Abirindi Stephen (NEE, Fefegha), taught him how to cook, a training that was to land young Costman in his future career.
Luckily, Costman, fondly called Guinea-Boy got employment as a messenger in Bishop Dimeari Grammar School, following its establishment in 1956. He later became a cook in the dormitory, a job he did till 1978, and retired.
On retirement, the hardworking Costman undertook trading at the old Oyoyo Market, for many years.
One beautiful day, pioneer governor, Late Chief D. S. P. Alamieyeseigha during an unscheduled visit to the market surprisingly saw Costman, the veteran cook. Alamieyeseigha recalled the delicious meals Costman prepared for him and other students at BDGS, and offered both Costman and his friend of 80 years affinity, Mr. Okini employment.
The Post Primary Schools Board, posted Costman to St. Peter’s Primary School in Yenagoa Town, where he served as Chief Security Officer until retirement in 2019.
While as a security man, he enrolled in Adult Education Programme at the St. Peter’s Primary School, despite being 70 years old. He obtained the First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC) at the age of 78.
Late Costman was also a great wrestler and hunter. Costman’s bravery, wisdom and entrepreneurship spirit were not surprising, as his father, Late Chief Igonikurogha Fefegha was a wrestler, and the fearless hunter who killed a lion that terrorized Yenagoa Town.
Costman equally inherited bravery and business acumen from his grandfather, Late Chief Kokime Fefegha, a local merchant, who organised 11 boys to attack the Royal Niger Company at Yenaka on October 1894 over obnoxious trade taxes. Chief Kokime was also the first traditional ruler of Yenagoa Town.
The lad was initially named as Courtman because his father was a bailiff in the then Colonial Court in Okoloba Sabagreia. But, as he was growing up, he changed his name to Costman because the initial name was a stereotype of his dad’s work.
The wise man, Elder Costman was until his demise, an Elder-in-Council and Special Technical Adviser to the Ebeneken (Paramount Ruler) of Yenagoa, Late HRH M. A. Clarkson Kikile and Ebenibe of Atissa Kingdom, HRM (King) Godwin G. Igodo.
Costman Igonikurogha Fefegha had three wives, one divorced, while Mrs. Inemotime and Mrs. Emily remained with him until he passed away.
Also left to mourn him are 15 children; 65 grandchildren; 20 great grandchildren, and many relatives too numerous to mention. He was also a foster father to many children, including, Prof. Steve Azaiki who lost his father at age 10.
Elder Costman’s children: Chief Izibenua Fefegha, Chief Mourner; Hon. Inimeya Godwin, Godwin; Hon. Muneneyi Fefegha; Hon. Zibezemetime James Fefegha, Co-Chief Mourner; Mrs. Ruth Frank, and others are educated to graduate and postgraduate levels, and are doing well in their various private, public service and political careers.
Until his death, Elder Costman was a devout member of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Yenagoa Town, introduced in 1911 by Late Kikile Ogosi, a church, which their families donated the land for its establishment, with agreement to offer scholarships to their children.
The kindhearted man, socialite, custodian and ace mobilizer of people, Elder Costman Igonikurogha Fefegha, JP has gone, but his memories would linger in the minds of his families, Yenagoa Town and Epie-Atissa, even as he is paid last respect today, December 1.
Adieu Costman, aka Guinea-Boy, adieu Ajilo. Rest in perfect peace!
Etete Enideneze, Journalist/Public Affairs Analyst wrote in this personality feature, from Yenagoa.