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Conspiracy Against Festus Samuel Okotie-Eboh (1)
LET me state from the outset that when I thought of dwelling on today’s subject, I never intended to do what might be considered very easily but very erroneously a tribute by some readers of “In and Out”. I merely wished to draw the attention of the general public to the evil which this country’s helmsmen of our affairs since 1966 have done to the name and memory of one of the greatest leaders ever from our part of this mortal sphere. And I must add very hastily that no person other than Chief Richard Akinjide, SAN, a remarkably and wonderfully great Nigerian, indeed also one of the best Nigerian leaders ever, spurred and compelled me to undertake the present duty (which I was unpatriotically keeping at abeyance).
When and how did this first-rate lawyer and highly distinguished nationalist so influenced me to do this moral duty?
On Monday, October 18, 2010 on page 27 of Daily Sun, the elder statesman and Attorney-General of the Federation in the Second Republic said as follows (in an interview entitled “Nigeria of my Dream”): “Oh! The First Republic is the best I have witnessed. It was the best because of the quality of leadership at that time. You’re talking about Awolowo, Zik, Ahmadu Bello, Osadebey, Anthony Enahoro, Okotie-Eboh, Okpara and S.L.A. Akintola…. These are first class people. I mean, you can just take the crop of leaders we have now and tell me anyone of them that can match these great men. None. Those were great men of ideas, brilliant, disciplined and highly dedicated leaders…. I entered parliament at the age of 27 and went into politics at the age of 24. I was lucky to have learnt at the feet of those great men I have mentioned. They were the best of the best anywhere.”
When I read Chief Akinjide’s frank and honest appraisal of these men who shall remain everlasting heroes of our country, and who shall remain fused in our hearts, tears rolled from my eyes in seven drops. The tears dropped primarily on joyful account of Chief Festus Samuel Okotie-Eboh, Nigeria’s first Minister of Finance from the micro-minority ethnical group of Itsekiri, the most distinguished ethnical group in the Niger Delta as per accounts in history and intelligence reports and briefs of the colonial lords. And my tears dropped for Chief Okotie-Eboh on the grounds of the indignities those in governments since 1966 have inflicted upon his name and memory. Of course, the great Chief’s name and memory have equally suffered greatly in the hands of some people outside government including some journalists and some men of letters mainly as a result of government’s influence on them, and their own diabolical biases, bizarre quirks and quaint idiosyncrasies. But Chief Akinjide, Nigerian giant of Law, who rightly knew him far, far better than the monsters who assassinated the man and his name has genuinely restored Chief Okotie-Eboh’s honour in his afore-said public interview. Time, too, in line with Chief Akinjide’s positively magisterial restoration, shall restore Okotie-Eboh’s honour in the same way that it has since restored Sir Walter Raleigh’s honour – Sir Walter Raleigh, great English adventurer, courtier, soldier, sailor, mystic, and founder of Virgina’s first colony in America, and who was beheaded by order of King James I in 1618 on false charges born of an evil envy.
Chief Festus Samuel Okotie-Eboh, whose name and memory wrongly seem too remote or abstracted to many among us Nigerians of the present time, was the most flamboyant and most colourful politician ever of Nigeria. He and his Prime Minister Alhaji Tafawa Balewa were assassinated in the monstrous military coup of 1966 that also cruelly consumed Chief S.L. Akintola (then Premier of Western Nigeria) and Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the famed Sardauna of Sokoto and first and only Premier ever of Northern Nigeria. All these historical figures who paid the supreme prize for serving Nigeria the best way they knew how, should be eternally remembered in our hearts and be forever chronicled in our history books. But whereas Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadu Bello and Akintola in diverse and varied ways have received due honours from our respective governments as witnessed, for example, in their inclusion in the Hall of Fame of fifty Nigerians in celebration of Nigeria at fifty, Okotie-Eboh who correctly and doubtlessly belongs to the “best of the best anywhere”, was ignominiously denied being a distinguished Nigerian Hall of Famer. Why? And who are the conspirators who have been denying the patriotically ebullient Chief the honours due him?
Perhaps in this rendition I should offer a few historical words on this great personage, a Warri Prince, and some of his accomplishments. Chief Okotie-Eboh, praise-named “Omimi Ejoh bi lele” (meaning in his Itsekiri language “feathered god of the waves”), to many people – followers/friends and even detractors/adversaries as well – in the Niger Delta in particular, was a larger than life personality. Nobody there in the 1940s to the 1960s would ever believe that “Omimi Ejoh” could depart our mortal plane at the time he did. How and why his departure occurred at the time it did, I wish to consign to the realm and secret of destiny and other details bequeathed to me from my years of diligent study and research on the almighty personage.
Chief Okotie-Eboh’s world was sevenfold: the world of politics, the world of business, the world of theology, the world of sports, the world of education, the world of journalism, and the world of philanthropy. His life encompassed and built upon all these, and so interdependent were they that they underlined his huge frame and reputation to our great delight, although his politics and the world of this politics became the most dominant, and on whose account he lost his life, an event that still leaves many of his friends, followers and faithful reeling with the shock of ages.Share