30.4 C
Monday, May 27, 2024

The Okoroba Tragedy By Umar Sani

Must read

It was a Monday morning and a working day. One of those days you come to work and you’re in high spirits.

The Deputy chief of staff ( DCOS )to the Vice President invited me to his office to inform me that the Vice President has directed that I represent him at the burial ceremony of the father of Late Oronto Douglas the Special Adviser to the President on Research and Documentation in Okoroba in Bayelsa State.

The event was scheduled for Saturday 15th December 2012 and I had enough time to prepare for the journey. Initially I was reluctant to embark on the journey perhaps because of my anticipation of the boredom associated with such trips since I was the only person heading to Okoroba.

My fears were further heightened and compounded by the lack of safe means of transportation to a town that is surrounded by water. Tell tales has it that several boats and canoes have capsized in the water during the process of journeying to such towns located in the creeks. You can therefore imagine my apprehension when my Arik Air flight touched down at the Portharcout international airport .

I had no inkling that an arrangement had been made by the Special Adviser to the President on Aviation Capt Shehu Iyal for transportation to Okoroba. He was at the airport tarmac waiting for the arrival of invited guests and ushering them into designated helicopters that will ferry them to Okoroba.

On this blessed day I was in the company of Roz Ben Akagbue now (Roz Amaechi). She was a Director at PENCOM and was a friend to the bereaved. She had earlier on called to find out whether I would be at the Occasion. My affirmation in the positive motivated her to want to proceed on the trip.

She requested me to provide her with the contact of my airline flight booking assistant. We were therefore on the same flight. We boarded the helicopter with other personalities one of whom was Timi Alaibe the 2019 gubernatorial aspirant of the PDP in Bayelsa State.

On arrival at Okoroba I met the former minister of information Labaran Maku who suggested that we pay a visit to the traditional ruler of Okoroba in Nembe local government of Bayelsa State in council in person of King Thomas Nabhon Ako  with his chiefs.

Since I was representing the Vice President we agreed I was to speak on behalf of the government. We exchanged pleasantries and discussed a wide range of issues before I proceeded to the residence of Oronto Douglas. On our way I was shown the public library Oronto built and equipped in the community dedicated to Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces then).

We after that crossed over to the other side of the town housing the residence of the chief mourner. One interesting aspect of Okoroba town is that it is divided into two segments separated by continuous flowing water.

Crossing to either side requires dedicated prayers. While approaching the residence I heard the unmistakable sonorous laughter of my Governor Mr Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa.

Although it was unmistakably his,   I was however curious to confirm if indeed he was the one. Upon my entry into the living room our eyes met and we exchanged pleasantries. Anytime we meet his special name for me was Waziri (meaning his deputy).

I greeted his accompanying subordinates, Mohammed his protocol officer, Koolas his orderly and Dauda Tsoho his political associate ( whom I always refer to as G34) since he was part of the G34 that formed the PDP just but to mention a few. Present in the living room was one Yakubu Isherti, whose presence I could hardly have attributed to the Governor.

Present also and assisting Oronto with other domestic chores were a handful of Nollywood Actors. While some were stationed at home others were at the event venue arranging and preparing the protocols.

My recollection of those present revolves around two distinguished Nollywood A list actors , Ramsey Noah and Omoni Oboli whom I recognized being an indirect part of the industry myself. We moved to the event venue which was situated in a vast expanse of land surrounded by decorated canopies.

Present at the event was the Governor of Bayelsa State Seriake Dickson, The former Governor of Bayelsa State DSP Depriye Alameisegha ,The CAN President Pastor AYO Oritsejafor , the National Security Adviser Gen Awoye Andrew Azazi and a host of other distinguished Nigerians who witnessed the occasion chiefly amongst which  is the indefatigable Nduka Obaigbena the then President of the Newspaper proprietors Association of Nigeria and the proprietor of AriseTv franchise .

When I went to take my seat I discovered that I had been placed behind the front row and I objected to that arrangement vehemently. The commotion from my protestations drew the attention of Gen Azazi who stood up and came to find out and resolve the lingering issue. I told him I was representing the Vice President of Nigeria to which Oronto acquiesced and that I was protesting the placement of my seat in the back row and he instantly agreed with me as such I was immediately moved to the front row.

While the event was ongoing I was having a friendly chat with His Excellency Mr Patrick Yakowa. I asked him why he decided to come to the occasion as apart from the Bayelsa State Governor who was the host there was no other Governor or even a deputy present at the event except him.

He told me that Oronto specifically begged for his presence and he promised to show up and that his appearance was in fulfillment of that promise. Some of the state house press corps members were around and I invited TY Bello (hairy lady) a veteran photographer and a musician of note who was famed for her excellence in making official portraits and told her upon return to base she would  take a fresh picture of the Governor for a new official portrait as the current one was devoid of professionalism.

As the event was winding up I discovered that my Governor was not invited to speak and I raised an observation and he said to me Waziri let them run the program according to their dictates. At the end of the event we moved to the residence waiting for helicopters to return us back to base.

The one that brought Mr Yakowa took Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor to Benin and it was a 30 minutes trip meaning it will take an hour for it to return. While we were waiting for another helicopter, one came but before we could step out to escort him, they later had taken off with a new set of passengers. When that of Gen Azazi came he told Yakowa that he had space for only two passengers apart from him.

Mr Yakowa motioned to me whether I was interested in riding along with them ,since I was with Roz Amaechi I declined stating that I will take the next available flight. He beckoned on his ADC and Dauda Tsoho to take the ride with him and that was the beginning of a sad end. I and Roz waited for quite a while before we spotted another helicopter stationed in a distance.

We went straight to its location and boarded it. Little did we know that it was for High Chief Nduka Obaigbena. From a distance we heard him shouting and ranting over our invasion. “Who are those in the helicopter, who are the unauthorized persons inside my helicopter” but I told Roz to keep her cool.

When he eventually came close and saw that it was me his reaction and countenance changed to that of a friendly one. He said to me haba I didn’t know it was you , the helicopter is equally yours, you have a right over it.  We burst out laughing and I came down and we stepped aside and discussed a wide range of issues of mutual interest.

Before the departure of the flight to PortHarcourt a Nollywood female actor came crying claiming that there was a helicopter crash and that her sister was involved. Our helicopter was directed to fly at low altitude to the crash site so that we can confirm the crash.


We saw some villagers standing by and surrounding the crash site while the charred bodies and the helicopter were on fire. Immediately we arrived  at the PortHarcourt airport we reported to Capt Shehu Iyal who arranged for a rescue team.

Nobody knew those involved until news started filtering in from the rescue team that it was Gen Azazi and Gov Yakowa and some aides. It was indeed a sad event. I had to immediately relay the sad news to the VP who in turn relayed it to Mr President. While on the plane seated and ready for takeoff, a female Nollywood friend of mine called to check up on me since she was aware of the trip.

I confirmed that I was hale and hearty and we bid ourselves good night as my plane was taxiing along the tarmac and was about to take off. I arrived safely and headed straight home for a quick shower to enable me to take a well-deserved rest when the phone rang.

The news coming from the other end was appalling as it was nauseating. It was a confirmation that my Nollywood friend whom  moments ago called to confirm my health status has been kidnapped. It was indeed a sad day for me that I loathe to remember.

By Umar Sani

Alhaji Umar Sani writes from Kaduna, he can be reached at umarsanidcat@gmail.com

More articles

Newest article