At 98, Pa Shara Oboh, the landlord of Obudu Mountain Ranch and Resort in Nigeria, is proof that the Newton Law of Gravity which states that what goes up must come down may not be a hundred per cent correct.
At this advanced age, when most of his contemporaries who are alive by God’s grace don’t venture out of their homes, Pa Oboh daily treks from his house to the main bar at the Obudu Mountain Ranch and Resort, where the youths and oldies gather for drinks and banters. The journey takes Pa Oboh approximately 40 to 45 minutes trekking from his house in the Mountain Village where the natives live, and he sometimes does this twice or thrice daily.
Save the stick that he used to rear cattle as a young man, which has now become a fashion statement, Pa Oboh does not walk with the aid of walking stick, nor does he need a young man to guide him. He can stand straight upright, talk for hours on end, he sees clearly, and hears clearly without the need of an hearing aid, one can conveniently say that at 98, Pa Oboh has the energy of a 30-year-old.
If his ability to be active outside makes one curious, his activities indoor should send medical doctors and other classes of scientists to Obudu Mountain Ranch and Resort to study what is in Pa Oboh genes that gives him the ability to procreate at 98.
The Old Man of Obudu Mountain married 25 years old Christiana last year, his fourth wife, after a brief courtship. Nine months after the wedding, Christiana has given birth to a bouncing baby boy.
While visitors to Obudu may doubt the paternity of the child or Pa Oboh’s ability to procreate at 98, members of his extended family and other villagers attributed his ability to procreate and do what youths do at 98 to supernatural powers.
Many of them posit that Oboh has some supernatural powers and that he communes with some spirit being, who give him the power and ability to outlive his contemporaries, most of whom are dead; and even his younger ones, most of whom are either gone or confined to their homes; they could neither move around like Oboh nor farm, not to talk of procreating.
Few who attribute Oboh’s longevity to spiritual powers revealed what they claim has become a folktale in the community. Oboh, they revealed, was born with white hair all over his body and an all white dreadlocks all over his head, this, they said, is not natural.
“People use to run away from him even as a child, especially when they saw him alone or in the night; it is just recently that they welcome him because he is very old and white hair is associated with old age,” said 80-year-old Pa James Ogar.
Born in 1913, Pa Oboh said it is true that people ran away whenever they saw him because they believed that he had some spiritual powers which were negative , but he acknowledged that though he has some supernatural powers they are positive.
“My power is positive, it is not negative. I catch witches and other classes of evil doers. My power is what I call supernatural power from God. I cannot explain my hair and the dreadlocks, but I know that I was born this way, a razor touches my head once in two years, it must not touch my head until another two years. The white hair you see all over my body is an indication of my cleanliness; I am clean inside. I use my God-given power to catch thieves, witches, wizards and other evil doers. When they see me they panic, because they know I have superior power. It is true that when I was young, many villagers ran away from me because they considered me an evil spirit that could kill but they have accepted me, they know my power is positive”.
Looking around the beautiful Obudu Mountain Ranch and Resort, Oboh revealed that the mountain used to be a haven for people of Obudu who were trying to evade tax collectors: the British, the chiefs in Obudu and the Native Authority many years ago.
“Then, we were very close to nature, we used to walk and move around naked, even women, it was when Mr. McCaughley, a British Officer, of the Colonial Authority Veterinary Service, came in 1949 that we started wearing clothes. We were basically farmers and hunters. We made palm kernel, palm oil, cocoa, yam and other farm produce, we would take all these to Obudu main market. On a good day, we could sell all our produce for two penny, that was a lot of money then’’.
Pa Oboh recalled that then they used to hunt for animals like gorillas, chimpanzee, snakes, and bush cows.
Sickness, snake bites and attacks by other animals are treated with what he called cultural medicine. “We use leaves to cure all sort of ailments; sometimes we may have to cut part of the sick person’s body and apply the medicine directly into his blood.
“Getting a wife then was as easy as ABC; all you need to get a wife was to be hard working. Once you were hard working, the family of the lady would marry her to you with or without her consent. “
Pa Oboh has had his own fair share of women; shortly after marrying his first wife many years ago, he was thinking of marrying a second wife when his two brothers died in quick succession, so their widows were bestowed on him. With three wives, the thought of marrying more women died, at least temporarily.
A few years ago, his wives told him they could no longer live on the mountain because they are old and could not stand the cold weather.
Since he is the face and the landlord of the Obudu Mountain Ranch Resort, Pa Oboh could not abandon his domain. That was when the thought of marrying a new wife started.
As he was looking for a companion, Christiana, who Pa Oboh loves to call by her native name Oma, walked into his life. Before anybody could say Jack, they were married and as at today, their union is blessed with a baby boy.
This reporter had to wait for about 15 minutes before Christiana came back from the stream where she had gone to fetch water.
Asked why she chose to marry a man that is old enough to be her great grandfather when there are countless young, handsome and adorable bachelors in Obudu and beyond, Christiana said: “Marrying him was a dream come true. I love him, that was why I decided to marry him. I was not forced to marry him. I did it out of likeness and love and now that I have a child for him, I am very happy.’’
And for Pa Oboh, why did he have to marry a very young lady when there are arrays of older women in the village who will gladly love to be his companion and given that Christiana is still young and sexually active? Will he be able to satisfy her sexual desires?
Hear the response of the 98-year-old man: “I satisfy her, though not every second, but at least four times a week; but the most important thing is that we are happy together.”
Pa Oboh attributed his strength to the fact that he drinks palm wine and does not allow himself to be troubled. He revealed that his new wife may not have many kids for him because the cost of training children has gone up astronomically.
“I will not marry another woman after Oma, or have many more children. One of my children just came from Cameroon, he needs N40,000, and things are very expensive today,” he said.
On the Obudu Mountain Ranch and Resort, Pa Oboh is a celebrity, apart from being the face of the resort with his images on many billboards and many television documentaries about the resort focused on him. On the ranch, Pa Oboh dines and wines with movers and shakers of the country from presidents, to governors and other top government officials.
The first president Pa Oboh met was late Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, the first president of Nigeria, whom he gave six cows. He has wined and dined with others, including the current one, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
But former President Shehu Shagari holds a special place in his heart. He has so much love for Shagari that he named one of his sons after the former president.
Oboh also has good words to say about former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, who started the modernization of Obudu Mountain Ranch and Resort and the current governor, Liyel Imoke, who has taken the vision of Duke to a greater height.
“I am appealing to all people of Cross River to support Governor Imoke, with our support and co-operation, he will take our state to a greater height.’’
Oboh calls for peace in the Bakassi region. “ We are all one; before, they wanted to move people in Obudu to Cameroon, but we said no, we are Nigerians. The people in Bakassi want to be in Nigeria and we urged both governments to respect the wishes of the people.”
At 98, Pa Oboh’s life is not without many regrets, but one that he believes the society can help him before he turns 100 years in a two years is a befitting accommodation.
“I don’t have a roof over my head. I only manage this place, which belongs to the family. I am appealing to well-meaning Nigerians and the government to please assist me with a house of my own so that I will have a befitting centenary celebration.”