‘I’m alive though announced dead’
HE walked into the expansive room of the Press Centre in Benin City, yesterday, carrying a big and colourful poster. In a mournful tone, and in halting English, the poster proclaimed: “Obituary. Gone so soon.
We the family of Osawaru of Okhumwum Community in Ovia North East LGA, regret to announce the sudden death of our brother, father and grandfather, Mr. Clifford Osagie, Osawaru, AKA Osasco who slept in the Lord on the 1st of August 2015. He survived by wives, children, brothers and sisters.”
As the startled journalists took a look at him and the poster, they realized that the picture was that of the man.
“I was surprised when I woke up last week and saw this poster pasted in all places in my village that I was dead,” he began. “They prepared the posters on the 14th of this month (August) that my body will be leaving Central Hospital to my village whereas I am alive. And the surprising thing is that they said I have two wives, they went and forged my wife’s name, even my daughter signed the burial poster. She left for abroad immediately she finished at Ekpoma University about 12 years ago, and I only saw this girl about five years ago.” Puzzled by his statements, the journalists wondered who he was referring to. He said they were young men who had allegedly been selling land illegally in the village.
“One of the problems we are having today in our community is the youths and also from the palace who are shielding these children (youths), because last year, the Oba of Benin sent message to us that they want to see our Odionwere (village head). When we got to the palace, it didn’t get to our turn and they asked us to go and come back the next day. Our lawyer, Barrister Obaze now wrote to the palace that the matter is already in court, and not only in court, but that there was a judgment… The court gave a perpetual injunction…. The photostat (copy) of that judgment was taken to the palace for them to know that this case had been judged in the court… They now wrote to the palace that this case is in court that the palace should keep off from it.
“Unfortunately at the next adjourned date, we went to the palace and I now presented the document with the Odionwere, and I told the Oba that this case is already in court. He called the man who came to report the matter to the palace.
“Are you aware (they) had a court judgment against you?,” the Oba asked the man, to which he answered, yes.
“‘Did you make an appeal’. He said no.
“‘Why did you bring this matter before the palace?’” the Oba reportedly asked the man, wondering whether the man was unaware “that any case in police station or court, the palace doesn’t have interest in it”.
Mr. Osawaru said that at this point, the Oba dismissed the session. He said that two months later, someone in the village began to jubilate with his wife and his children, claiming that he had an authorization from the palace that he had become the new village chief.
“Our Odionwere, Chief Igbinoghodua Odigie has been ruling our village for more than 15 years, (with) no problem”, Mr. Osawaru explained. “(But) because our Odionwere asked the youths to leave our land they were selling with fake papers”, they now decided to install another man as the new Odionwere.
Mr. Osawaru added that after the youths were served with a restraining order from the court, they turned against him, accusing him of being the sponsor of the case against them as the patron of the community.
He disclosed that leaders of the community led by the Odionwere, Chief Igbinoghodua Odigie had obtained a perpetual injunction which restrained the youths from their “illegal” activities and the attempt to install a new Odionwere of the area contrary to the position of the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba NedO Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa who declared that the palace does not wade into a matter that was before a police station and the court.
“They now went and prepared these posters that my (their) enemy is dead,” Osawaru claimed.
“These boys when they sell land at ten or five million (naira) …they will go and buy jeeps (sport utility vehicles). These are boys who are not up to 20 or 30 years.”
He said that his life was in danger, alleging that the youths had made several attempts to implicate him in crimes in the community.
He said that report of his death was said to have been aired in one of the television stations in the state, while his shocked children quickly called him from overseas to complain that they saw the burial arrangements on Facebook and other social media. “I was born and brought up in Okhunmwun village in Ovia North East, Edo State; I am a director of a hotel. I have been running my hotel since about 34 years now,”
He said that those behind the plot had printed the posters announcing his death and burial arrangements.
According to him, they had announced that his body would leave the Central Hospital Benin on August 14 to his village for funeral rites, interment and social dance. The culprits allegedly mixed up his age from 66 to 65 years in the poster, and claimed that he had two wives, when he was married to only one wife.
When contacted yesterday, the state Police Public relations Officer, Stephen Onwochei said the matter is before the police and that it was investigating it with a view to inviting the alleged youths for interrogation.