By Godwin Ifijeh
Mr. Young Emmanuel John Arebamen lived life to the full. He reached the zenith of his career and retired but unfortunately departed this sinful world on March 14, 2018, barely two days after his 72nd birthday and just when he began to plan his return home to settle down in his quiet Ujabhole, Irrua palatial home to have the rest of his life to himself in old age.
It is difficult putting a finger on the most magnifying moment of his career. Is it as Force Police Public Relations Officer (FPRO), a task he handled for many years with so much finesse that he not only brought the Force and its activities to the consciousness of all but became its voice, face and image or as Commissioner of Police (CP), Lagos State Command when he brought crime and criminality on its knees in the State and demonstrated that corruption within and outside the Force is an evil that needed strident attack and total annihilation?
Arebamen became CP, Lagos State Police Command at a time the State was under siege. Armed robbers were on the loose, night life was comatose, banks came under daily attacks from marauders and bankers work with their hearts in their mouths. Homes and business premises were attacked by daredevil bandits in day light operations with family members and workers mauled down in chilling cold blood, it was an era Lagosians hate to remember but the magnificent super cop came, rejuvenated his men and officers and gave it a fight of his life. He identified the most notorious crime-prone areas and black spots and not only upgraded many of the police posts that existed then to divisional police headquarters but set up more in strategic locations across the State.
The Commissioner never left the â€˜battlefieldâ€™ to the men and officers alone, he was always at the forefront. He led patrol teams nightly with crime reporters occasionally on board with him across the Lagos metropolis to the wee hours of the day to ensure that men and officers were in locations at all times. Lagos was liberated from the grip of armed bandits. As he was taken away into redundancy in a tiny room at Force Headquarters, Abuja, after the 2003 elections by the powers that be, who felt he did not play to their expectations, Lagos had become a no go area for armed brigands.
Though Arebamenâ€™s persecutors had ensured that he remained in that lonely room at Force Headquarters for the rest of his time in the Force before he attained the mandatory 35-year service in 2004, his anti-corruption war in the Lagos Police Command was legendary. Apart from causing the arrest and dismissal of many policemen for acts of corruption, Lagosians will not forget how he caused the arrest of a serving magistrate and had her in handcuffs for allegedly receiving marked currency notes as bribe to pervert the course of justice. As FPRO, his name became a sing-song in the mouth of Nigerians, he carried on with such charisma and dexterity that years after he stepped down for higher responsibilities, he remained in the eyes and consciousness of many as the Forceâ€™s image czar and mouth piece.
In every part of the country he served in the course of his career- Enugu, Nsukka, and Ogidi in the then East Central State, where he was variously Divisional Police Officer (DPO) at different times, Force CID, Ikoyi, Lagos, Area Commander, Delta State Central Zone, Ughelli, State Criminal Ivestigation Department, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Area Commander, Area â€˜F,â€™ Ikeja, Lagos, FPRO, Force Headquarters, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), State Criminal Investigation Department(SCID), Panti, Yaba, Lagos, CP, Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Adeniji-Adele, Lagos, CP, Zamfara State Police Command, CP, Lagos State Police Command and even as Chairman/CEO, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority(LASTMA)- it was same. He was committed and unwavering, giving the police and the nation his all. He was kind, loving and humble not only to his friends and colleagues but to the civil society as a whole.
It was not surprising, therefore, that the winding terrible and appalling Ujabhole, Irrua home village road of the charismatic CP did not deter the people of Esanland, his friends from all works of life and professional colleagues from pouring in to see him to his last resting place to pay him their last respect and bid him farewell. The friends and colleagues were determined to make it to the village in his honour. Cars crawled, taking hours to wade through the deep gullies all over with subsisting patches of tar obviously left of the only work that has ever been done on the road by the Obafemi Awolowo and Anthony Enahoroâ€™s old Western Region administration of the First Republic.
Like he was to friends across the country and all around him, Arebamen was extremely good to his people and loved. Visiting friends, who had come to pay their last respect to him, contested for space in the late ex-police chiefâ€™s expansive premises with his compatriots, who had thronged the place. Testimonies of what he represented to all and sundry were awash.
A fellow indigene of Ujabhole, Irrua in Esan Central Local Government Area of Edo State and Director of St. Joseph Retreat Centre, Uromi, Fr. Philemon Oboh, who along with Fr. Omojola, Chief Celebrant, the Seminary, Ekpomo and Fr. Joseph Okosun, Parish Priest of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Ujabhole, Irrua officiated the burial mass for Arebamen at the Church, captured him thus in his sermon: â€œAs a man is born, he is ready to die, in the eye of the foolish, he seems to have died; but he is at peace, Arebamenâ€™s death is not a disaster, it can never be a disaster
â€œIt is not how long you live, but the impact you make in life, Young Arebamen lived and preached a gospel- the gospel of love and unity. The gospel Arebamen wrote, the gospel of love, unity, togetherness, let it not die with you his wife and children, you have the dignity to protect your unity and togetherness, stay together, live together in unity, Arebamen was great, kind, outreaching and was the door opener of Esanland.â€
The Ujabhole, Irrua traditional Chief may not have been a man, who frequented home but he meant everything to his people and was ever ready to sacrifice anything for them. Such was the story of the St. Joseph Catholic Church, which hosted his burial mass last week Friday. The Church had collapsed when it was being built, the late CP made the sacrifice of discontinuing with the construction of his own house to rebuild the church 90 percent before additional help came from other sources. He was not only to his people a foremost police officer, who never watched and see any of them, being oppressed or suffer undue injustice, he was benevolent and most understanding of them.
A very dear community to his heart, Arebamen had his mind cast on returning there finally to spend his last days on earth with the people but that never materialised for him as the cold hands of death caught up with him untimely last March 14. He had prepared a benefitting home of magnificence to retire into but it turned out he never kept a night in it as he died just when he was on the verge of its completion. As friends, colleagues, relations and townâ€™s men and women gathered in the pemises on Thursday, May 24, through May 26, 2018, to pay him their last respects and witness his interment, the knowledge of him never spending a day in life in the magnifying lush building more presented to all how unkind and cruel death could be.
And as if death had not done its worse to him, the tradition of his people also deterred him even in death from lying-in-state overnight in the building as the corpse of aged men and chiefs of the town are forbidden from sleeping in their premises.
He, however, had the privilege of not being buried immediately he died as tradition equally demanded and kept in the morgue because he died outside the community, just as tradition seemed to have also compensated him for not ever having the opportunity to live a single day in the house by decreeing that he is buried in one of the living rooms as his eternal abode.
In Arebamenâ€™s case, a room he had designated for his study was chosen for his interment and final resting place as all bade him farewell to eternal glory.