Dr M. C. A. Peterside (1918 – 2016)
ONE of Nigeria’s pioneer medical practitioners, Dr. Michael Clement Atowari Peterside, has passed away, aged 97. Indeed, unconfirmed reports from his fellow doctors say that as of the time of his departure, he was the oldest medical practitioner in the country.
Alabo M. C. A. Peterside was born on June 24, 1918, in the historical town of Opobo, in the old Eastern Region, which is now in Rivers State.
He began his early education at the age of six at Government School, Opobo, a step which was unusual for most of the children of his time. In his own case, he had the fortune of being born into nobility, into the enlightened family of Ada Sam Akara Peterside and Maggie Shoo Peterside. The school itself was the leading primary school in the immediate environment at the time.
It is little wonder that upon completing his primary school, he moved to the famous Government College, Umuahia, again one of the star secondary schools in the whole of Nigeria in the days past. With all this packed into his early life- good parentage and sound foundational education-the trajectory of his life was pretty predictable. And what was it: Reaching the peak of his career.
What often goes with such an attainment is leadership responsibility in the local community and the nation at large, especially in the emergent nation that was Nigeria, which was, and perhaps still is in dire need of well-trained, quality and high-minded people.
After finishing at Government College, Umuahia, being a brilliant pupil, he passed the London Matriculation as well as Yaba Higher College Examination. His choice was to go to England in 1936, an irresistible attraction beckoning to all young men, having passed his London Matriculation Examination. However, the outbreak of World War II halted his dream. Of course, only temporarily. He moved to Yaba Higher College where he spent three years.
He subsequently gained admission into King’s College, London, to do a pre-clinical course for two years, and on completion of the training, proceeded to St. George’s Hospital, London, for his clinical college courses.
Alabo Peterside began his professional practice as a House Man at St. George’s Hospital, London, and then moved to Nigeria where he became a Medical Officer at the General Hospital in Lagos. From there he was transferred to Bauchi, Ilorin, and some other parts of the country, and became a Senior Medical Officer in Jos.
His quest for the advancement of knowledge saw him return to Moorefield Eye Hospital, London, where he trained as a Specialist Ophthalmologist.
On his return to Nigeria, Dr. Peterside was posted to Enugu General Hospital as an Ophthalmologist / Administrator and later transferred to Port Harcourt as First Specialist Ophthalmologist / Administrator in 1974. He rose to become the Controller of Medical Services, a position he occupied until he retired from public service. On retirement, he set up his own practice at Trans Amadi Clinic in Port Harcourt.
In 1950, on his 32nd birthday (June 24) , he married his heartthrob in London, Patricia Awune Gboloba Bob-Manuel, a princess from the Royal House of Abonnema, who was to become, for 65 years of their union, a jewel of inestimable value. The couple was blessed with three children: two daughters, Tonyefagha (we all call simply Mrs Tonye Unuigbe) and Biobelemaye (Belema Osibodu of the well-known Osibodu clan of Ijebu), as well as a son, Atedo, one of Africa’s frontline financial tigers and chairman of Stanbic IBTC. He is a leading light in the club of Dangote, Tony Elumelu, Fola Adeola, Jim Ovia, Femi Otedola and Co. Through his three children, Dr. Peterside was further blessed with 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
His distinguished medical career and exemplary life as a husband and father aside, Alabo M. C. A. Peterside will be remembered as a statesman, and for his nobility of spirit from the Ibani (Opobo) clan and Ijaw nation.
In 1982, the son of Sam Akara, the grandson of Shoo Peterside, the great-grandson of Sunju Peterside, Michael Clement Atowari Peterside is install ‘Sunju IX and Head Chief of Biriye Polo, Opobo Kingdom’, a chieftaincy position he would hold for 33 years. Even before his ascension as the Chief of Sunju War Canoe House, Dr. Peterside’s passion for his people shone like a star and he rose to the call of duty representing what the Ibani clan and Ijaw ethnic nationality set out to be.
He established the Opobo Union, and in 1976, successfully led the struggle for the merger of Opobo Town with Rivers State, driven by his vehement conviction that liberation of his people from other overly dominant ethnic minorities was the only way to empower them to repossess their own development and win a second independence from indigenous political arrangements.
Alabo Peterside was relentless in what he saw as his mission to protect Opobo’s political, ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic identity. For this reason, he articulated the kingdom’s interests at national, state and local levels. In the quest to promote the Opobo Kingdom’s rich cultural heritage, in the early 1980s, he elevated Opobo’s music, song and dances to an art form with nationwide following. He recreated Opobo culture through Ereminaogbo Opubo of Opobo, with the revival of Ngunume and Ereminaekpete music and dance, which became spectacularly popular in many parts of the Ijaw Nation, and drew attention to the need to revisit the Ibani language of the Opobo Kingdom.
A forthright and frank man, Alabo M. C. A. was not one to compromise his principles. His philosophy of life was predicated on “community first, self last”, and thus he deployed whatever position he occupied in the service of his people. His quest for service, led to his membership of the Niger Delta Basin Development Authority (NDBDA), where he lobbied the government of the day successfully for the embankment of Opobo and Queen’s Town, the first of its kind in that part of the country. He mentored what is known as Klub 67 of Opobo Kingdom, and championed their struggle for the demand of a separate local council.
He served as a Councillor at the Bonny Local Government, and in 1979 contested election to the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the platform of the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) before deciding that he did not have the temperament for partisan politics in his part of the country.
Through his consummate leadership qualities, organizational ability and commitment to an unshakeable cultural renaissance, Alabo M. C. A. Peterside, Chief of Sunju War Canoe House, restored the chieftaincy institution’s lost glory. His kinsmen celebrate and acknowledge him as a man of honour, of consistently superior value, and a people’s servant.
Father of Tonye Unuigbe, father of Belema Osibodu and father of Atedo N.A. Peterside (CON), Alabo M.C.A. Dr., Chief, Peterside, born into nobility, has taken his exit a nobleman, a national icon, a cultural ambassador and a bright star of the Opobo Kingdom.
All roads will expectedly lead to Port Harcourt first on Tuesday, February 9, and to Opobo town on Saturday, February 13, 2016, for funeral ceremonies.