The final decision to attend the funeral ceremony of Oronto Douglas’ father was taken late. Part of the initial draw back was on the twisted logistics of getting to Okoroba--the venue. I had had a mental calculation of having to fly to Warri, drive to my Ughelli home and then connect Bayelsa State from there. I needed a company. My friend and brother, Abraham Ogbodo the South-south Bureau Chief of The Guardian was the only one readily willing to join me. He picked me at dawn of Saturday, December 15. We drove through the flood-ravaged East-West road for over two hours before hitting Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital. From there, another journey began. Tracing and locating the Ogbia water front, was another sojourn. It took more than an hour to get there. At the Ogbia jetty, the boats assigned to take visitors to Okoroba had all gone. Time was 11.05am. Along with Professor G.G Darah, Ogbodo and another ally, we chartered a boat and made out for the community. It was a mix of adventure and duty.
And for almost two hours, we flapped through the waves and measured storm of the river, careering through the creeks, bounded on both sides of the waterway by the ancient mangrove forest. The boatman was skilled, as he meandered through the sharp bends and crannies of the waterway. Yet, we kept wondering what amount of risk we were taking. There were little spectacles along the way. And for about the entire duration of the journey, we received free lecture from Professor Darah on the many untapped resources from the flora and fauna in the forest. The rustling noise of the boat tearing through the waters compelled us to strain our ears to hear Darah’s lectures.
As we climbed into the seedy Okoroba community from the boat, the memories of Kwesi Brew’s poem, Lest We Should Be the Last came strong on me.
We soon found our way to the reception venue, where the dignitaries had already taken their seats. As we exchanged greetings, I had whispered to Gen Andrew Azazi that I devoted a section of my column of that day to him. He hadn’t read the papers understandably, and so asked with excitement, what it was I wrote about him. “Go and read it sir”, I told him, and he promised that, “I will read it before I sleep tonight.” It was a promise aborted by fate.
In about an hour, we rose to leave, as the ceremony was suffering some glitches. The Bayelsa governor, Seriake Dickson had left about 20 minutes earlier. As we rose, His Excellency Patrick Yakowa, Timi Alaibe, Gen Azazi, Labaran Maku, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, also rose. We all streamed out of the ceremony. But while we headed for the water front, they stopped over at the private residence of Oronto to have refreshment. Just then, the Augusta helicopter, that looked husky, was landing to come pick the “Big men” it had brought earlier.
We soon hopped into the boat, filled with 20 passengers, all seeming desperate to get out of the location.
We had just left Yenagoa, heading back to Ughelli when my State House photographer, Godwin Omoigui called to inform of “the heavy tension here (Okoroba) because of the news of helicopter crash”. The occupants were then unknown. He soon called back with clearer information. It was a sad and tragic end of what had passed as a trying adventure. Ogbodo and I whined and hissed all of the rest of the journey. Here was an Azazi who had fought the Nigerian Civil war, he did not die. He became the Chief of Army Staff, he did not die. He became Chief of Defence Staff, he did not die. Not even the complex work of being the National Security Adviser (NSA) took his life. It is the attendance of the funeral of an 88 year-old-man, within his state, that eventually claimed the life of the dandy army General. A Beaux comber per excellence!
And what can one say of a governor, who sojourned all the way from the Sahel Savannah only to come and be arrested by death in the creeks? It was such a cruel fate.
As I write this, the funeral of Yakowa is being concluded in his home town, Kagoma. His body has been lowered into the grave. It is such a heart-rending incident.
A probe has been set up to investigate what caused the crash. The helicopter is said to be sound enough, duly serviced and still has 80 hours before the next routine service. So what went wrong? Was it technical, electrical or human error? What happened? Shall we ever know? How many such probes have been ordered in the past? Did we ever see the report of such probes? A country that records a total of five air mishaps in one year, thus far, must know that something is verily wrong with the aviation industry. Six months ago, the Dana plane crash in Lagos shook the nation to its foundation. Where is the report from the probe panel of that accident? Are there no lessons to learn by operators and stakeholders of the industry from such reports, when released? With the avalanche of Private jets in the country now, isn’t it high time the aviation ministry developed a stronger operational modus in the country?
All said, the accident has occurred, it has claimed its casualties. Death is too final. But we can avoid more deaths by ensuring that all that need to be done are upheld accordingly. We await the report of the crash.
But I must commiserate with the immediate families of the Azazi and Yakowa on this great loss. May the souls of the faithful departed rest in perfect peace.
INEC and Election Riggers
Last Wednesday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released a report on the April 2011 elections. The report is coming 20 clear months after the time elections were conducted. Belated as it is, it is even more disappointing to merely hear of the categorization of electoral offences and the states that are more involved in electoral fraud. Some 19 states, out of 36 were listed as the worst offenders in the elections.
Nigerians would have loved to know of the prosecutorial efforts made by INEC on electoral offenders. Too often, the hoopla about electoral malpractice dies down as soon as those elected take their seats. The Police, statutorily empowered to prosecute all offenders, literally go to sleep soon as the dust of electioneering dies down. That explains why nobody has been successfully prosecuted and jailed for electoral offences in Nigeria. More often, those arrested in the euphoria of the election soon get themselves “sorted out” after the elections, either by those they were rigging for or by some other godfathers.
Indeed, there are cases of serial electoral offenders. They are the election “experts” who help to determine what strategy of rigging that should be applied at any given electoral location.
I dare say that as long as electoral offenders are treated with kids’ gloves, the offence will continue as part of our electoral culture. The boast by the INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega that the commission is waiting for election riggers by 2015 will end up as shibboleth if there is no conscious effort to legally punish those involved in past electoral crimes.
With desperate politicians, elections are a do-or-die enterprise. And so they commit so much to it, including procuring arms and distributing same to youths to help secure victory at all cost. Like charged Alsatian dogs, such supporters, boldened by the arms they bear, unleash mayhem on either the opponents of their principals or even on innocent voters. They engage in such crimes with impunity because they know, from experience, that electoral crimes are not more than barking dogs which cannot bite. So, why should they be afraid to “do and undo”?
Maina and the Forty Thieves
I hear that there is a certain “Big Man” whose weight and size intimidates the National Assembly
Really? Who can that be? Is it Anyim Pius Anyim, the man described as mass of pro…
(finger across centre of the lips) Shhhhh. Don’t put me in trouble. It is not the distinguished former senate president. Did you not hear of a certain Abdulrasheed Maina, the Chairman of the Presidential Task team on Pension Reform (PTTPR)? Did you not hear that the man rattled the members of the senate committee on Establishment and Public Services? And that despite several invitations for him to appear before them, the man did not budge? Not even when a warrant of arrest was issued against him did he honour the invitation. Not even the IG could dare to go arrest this “Big Man”. Who says the law is not a respecter of person?
You mean one man is upstaging the entire senate?
I did not say the entire senate. I said a senate committee on Establishment and Public Services.
What is the difference? Don’t you know that each of the senate committees represent the entire senate?
That the Maina is so powerful such that he drained the investigative zeal of the committee, so much that the committee members resolved to leave him to God
But are you sure of the facts of the case? I hope you are not just basing your conclusions on media reports? You know those press boys can be unduly sensational at times.
Yes, I am sure. The man was invited as Chairman of PTTPR to the senate committee in question to come and explain the whereabouts of N195billion pension funds which could not be traced.
Don’t mind those lawmakers. They are suffering from mass hysteria. They always want to be hailed as thief catchers, whereas their hands are not clean themselves. How many probes have they successfully conducted and gotten the culprits punished? Please don’t mind those ‘busy body’ lawmakers.
What nonsense are you uttering? A committee of the senate of the Federal Republic invites a public officer, he refuses to obey and you side with him, calling committee members all kinds of silly names? Gee! What raw rubbish!!!
Take it easy. Didn’t this same committee pronounce him guilty earlier, even before hearing from him?
Is that not the more reason he should go and explain himself if indeed his hands are clean?
How are you sure he got the letter of invitation? You know how ‘efficient’ our NIPOST services are, if you know what I mean.
Look, stop searching for excuses to defend your ‘Big Man’ friend. Nobody delivers such mails using NIPOST. He did not complain of not receiving the invitation. What is worse, rather than honour the invitation, he went to Mararaba and Nyanya, hired the hungry jobless boys and food vendors, he gave them some paltry money and made them carry placards, protesting his invitation at the gate of the National Assembly. Since when did it become a crime to be invited by the National Assembly? What greater insult can the senate receive?
Don’t be too emotional about this. You are crying more than the bereaved. This is Nigeria. I am sure you don’t have the whole picture of the story. Do not forget that he has a right to protest as well.
Arrant nonsense! Yes, he can protest, but why mobilize the mob to defend him? Can’t you see that as a sign of a desperate sinking man trying to hide under the masses to evade the law? These are the people damaging Nigeria. They flaunt all kinds of powers and undue influence and circumvent the processes of the law. I hear he is defying the senate and the entire legislative system because a certain Bigger man from Edo State, who was in the presidency, is his godfather. And as long as we support this system abuse, Nigeria will not move forward.
My friend, cool down! You boil over with anger as if you just returned from Spain yesterday. This is Nigeria. Things take time to roll here. I can assure you that all these reports are tele-guided against Maina. He is popular, loved and cherished by the beneficiaries of his efforts.
I am even curious that the Inspector General of Police did not effect the order of warrant of arrest. Or is he also part of the problem? And even more worried is the easy surrender fo the senate committee, choosing to hand over Maina to God. Is God also a Senator in Nigeria?
Soon, you will realise that the more you look, the less you see here. Just wait.