Diepreye Alamieyeseigha: His Day Is Done
CHIEF Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha was undergoing treatment in Dubai when he and I spoke on October 3 and 4 this year.
We discussed political developments in Nigeria and next month’s governorship election in Bayelsa State. He assured me, as usual, that he was on the side of truth and the Ijaw nation must stand united.
Then, he called me on Monday, October 5, but I missed his call. I returned his call in the evening and he informed me that he was back to Nigeria. We discussed the rumour making the rounds that he was to face extradition to London. He was his normal self, except that he was interested in seeing me and was to be in Yenagoa the next day.
That night (Monday), I called Governor Seriake Dickson to discuss Alamieyeseigha and the extradition rumour. The Governor and I agreed that the rumour was locally generated, designed and calculated to embarrass Alamieyeseigha. That same night, because it was too late, I decided against calling Alamieyeseigha, but instead sent him a text message, thus: “I discussed with the Governor. We do not see any reason for this rumour; we do not believe it. When you come, I will go with you to see the Governor.
“Sir, can you come with the first flight, because I am going with my friend to Agbor, Delta State, to attend his mother’s funeral?”
Alamieyeseigha called me around 1.30 p.m. the following day. At that time, I was already at Warri on my way to Agbor.
Since I received the news of his death, I have often contemplated the fact that if only I had seen him, he probably would not have died.
On Friday, October 9, I had a very bad dream. In it, I saw a man holding a torch, giving a group of people direction, saying: “We are almost there. I am very tired, you guys should move ahead. That is the place.
“I will not go with you because I have done everything to make this long journey possible. I have done it for you. Now, I will stay here and not allow the evil trees to grow.”
Around 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 10, I received news that Alamieyeseigha was gone. He did not arrive at the Promised Land with us. He stood there as the gatekeeper so that evildoers would not cross over.
I had known Alamieyeseigha since 1998. Over those years, I can only testify to his goodness. I cannot speak of his sins; that is for God. But my testimony is that Alamieyeseigha was a good man.
He loved life, native soup, vegetable soup, eba, unripe plantain, fine and spacious house, but not a vanity for clothes. He loved cars, he loved to dance and he admired beauty.
Alamieyeseigha carried his burden of leadership with a smile, never complaining, always cheerful, always optimistic and always positive.
He was forceful, open and accommodating. He was never rigid; he would say: “If you convince me, I will bow to the superior argument.”
Alamieyeseigha was a man of peace, never confrontational, never argumentative, but persuasive, though firm in his belief. He hated oppression, he hated injustice and he passionately hated hypocrisy.
Alamieyeseigha’s strength, which most people mistook for weakness, was his large heart. He forgave unconditionally. He forgave all the members of the committee that recommended his impeachment in 2005. He told me: “I have forgiven the Chief Judge, Justice Emmanuel Igoniwari. I have forgiven the Speaker and 15 members of the Assembly that impeached me.”
He said: “Steve, I have forgiven our sons and daughters that plotted my arrest and impeachment. I have even forgiven the British Police. I have forgiven former President Olusegun Obasanjo. I have forgiven all those who plotted my downfall, including those who carried the coffin on the street.”
I testify that, in truth and indeed, Alamieyeseigha forgave them all. He attended their mothers’ and fathers’ funerals, birthday parties, daughters’ and sons’ weddings. He celebrated with them and mourned with them.
One of the shameful chapters of this country was how many of the comfortable…especially those who profited from the misery of Alamieyeseigha abused him. But he got even in a way that was almost cruel. He forgave them.
He was a patriot to the core. This was manifest in 2003 and 2004, when kidnapping was finding its way into the Nigerian vocabulary; when the reason for kidnapping was not for the demand of millions of naira, but out of frustration of the people deprived of their God-given wealth and right to manage their resources, denied of participation in the politics of their country.
The youths were demanding for attention, calling on the Federal Government to take notice of their suffering in a land of plenty, a land that is benefiting from the crude oil in their underbelly, yet they have nothing to show for it.
At that time, I had the rare courage to dare go with Alamieyeseigha to Sangana Sea to rescue 13 foreigners held hostage on an oil platform. We risked our lives. I thought I would die.
In that boat at that point when I was sure we would not return back home, Alamieyeseigha told me: “My brother, remember we fought for Nigeria. The Ijaw Nation is the thread holding Nigeria together. We must do our best for our country.”
When those young Ijaw boys saw Alamieyeseigha, all of them prostrated and greeted him: “Governor General nuooo, Governor General carry go.” That was the respect; that was the esteem the man commanded.
Alamieyeseigha was a great man, a great Ijaw man. Above all, he was a Nigerian patriot. At that time, then-President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote him a letter thanking him for risking his life: “Our Nation owes you a debt of gratitude,” he wrote.
Prof Azaiki, the former Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government, wrote in from Johannesburg, South Africa