It was my privilege last Saturday to be at a memorial service for a Nigerian friend, Chief Dr Paul S Achimugu, who died back in February at the age of 66.
An early press release announced his death this way
Dr. Paul Achimugu, a leading Kaduna-based businessman died yesterday in London. He was 66 years old.
Achimugu was the chairman of the board of a number of business organisations, including the defunct Eagle Bank Ltd.; Arewa Textiles; Zaria Industries, and Arewa Cotton and Allied Company Limited.
According to family sources, the late businessman had been receiving medication in a London hospital over a protracted illness before he was transferred to his residence in the British capital city, where he breathed his last in the early hours of yesterday.
A scion of the late Chief Peter Achimugu, a minister in the Northern Regional Government of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Dr Paul Achimugu was born on December 10, 1944 in Idah in the present Kogi State.
He had a distinguished career in the civil service before he went into business following his retirement.
Dr Achimugu is survived by his wife, 9 children and several grandchildren.
Arrangements for his burial will be announced by his family soon.
With others, I was asked to pay tribute. This is what I wrote:
2 Samuel 1:19 Your glory, O Israel, lies slain on your heights. How the mighty have fallen!
It was my privilege to have known Paul Achimugu for a period of over 25 years, indeed from the time I began as pastor at Childs Hill Baptist Church in 1983. I want to acknowledge here his respect for and love to me as a younger man than himself and occasional acts of kindness that I am still grateful for.
At first, I was unaware of his prestige back home in Nigeria and his many achievements. In some ways I was at an advantage in that, getting to know and admire the man before I was fully aware of his honours and successes. It was only as the years went by that I began to be aware of his significance as a chief and in the world of business and with the YMCA.
Most of what I learned about his achievements came from others. Not that Mr Achimugu tried to hide his life in any way. He was quite happy to explain to an ignoramus like me what a cotton gin was or to laugh with me regarding the novelty that his skin colour was for the Japanese. I remember asking him too about the Qua Iboe Church's Peter Achimugu College of Theology and his simply saying, with no trace of pride, “it was named for my late father”.
I last saw him shortly before the Lord took him and he was full of Scripture. All those verses he had stored away, especially as a young man, were now rising to the surface, as it were, and what comfort they were to him. I cherish the memory of a man at death's door, yet being sustained by the Word of God.
I also remember the dignified and God-centred way he conducted himself at the time of Timothy's tragic death. What a model of dignity and of submission. He was determined to look to the Lord. His whole conduct seemed to say with Job “shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
These examples from the end of his life are consistent with all that I saw in Mr Achimugu in the previous years of happiness and sadness, good times and bad.
The verse I have quoted above from 2 Samuel refers, of course, to the deaths of King Saul and his son Jonathan. They were “the chief ornament and pride of Israel” just as, in many ways, Paul and Timothy were “the chief ornament and pride of the Achimugu family”. It is right then that we mourn and grieve. However, it is right too that we look to God with hope. The same God who sustained them and brought them safe home will sustain us and bring us safe home too, if we look to him. What God gave to Israel following the death of Saul and Jonathan was even greater than what they had known before. Great David's greater son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is on the throne, and the God who kept Paul and Timothy on earth until he was ready to take them to himself in heaven will keep us too, until his time.
I also spoke briefly making that same point that we should grieve but that we should not grieve without hope.