I AM bereaved, Mr President. Bayelsa is sorely bereaved. The last time I wept so hard was when I lost my mother, and before that when I lost my father, and before that when I lost my younger sister, Tonfie, the subject and the verb of my third book of poems, Sand House & Bones.
I doubt if anybody is sniggering into their sleeves right now, knowing that Chief Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, PhD, first civilian Governor of Bayelsa State, has passed on. I wonder how many people popped a bottle of champagne to make merry of the news.
Do you know of anyone in your neighbourhood, Mr President, who might have toasted to the fact? You never can tell. The world, according to the psalmist, is populated by puny men whose hearts are desperately wicked.
In my estimation, in this particular case, they would be very few, an infinitesimal minority, if there was any. Even former President Olusegun Obasanjo must be feeling blue right now. Even the London Metropolitan Police must be red in the face with embarrassment.
Alamieyeseigha denied them of the very next episode of an unfolding drama that has come to a rude stop inside the cubicle of a morgue in Port Harcourt. I could not miss the post by a grieving son of Bayelsa who stopped the flow of his tears to ask what Her Majesty’s police are still waiting for in London.
Why don’t they fly down to the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, and annex the remains of the man who absconded from the Bow Street trials of a few seasons ago in a vanishing act that would make Houdini green with envy?
What do you make of that query, Your Excellency? The fellow who threw it up must have been overcome by sorrow. He went so far as to wonder why Chief Timipre Sylva and your presidential person are taking so long to extradite the bones of Alamieyeseigha before rigor mortis sets in. Put it down to the truculent voice of grief.
The possibility is quite far-fetched. It is a very unlikely equation, Your Excellency. You know it. The people of Bayelsa know it. They are in deep mourning again, and a fresh question pops up. Where does personal detestation stop, and where does healthy politics begin? When does rancour submit to harmony?
Should the APC alone be left to mourn the death of retired Colonel Sam Inokoba? Or, on the other hand, should the PDP alone be left to wail the sudden demise of Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha? Is the difference between the two political parties that clear-cut in Bayelsa? Are the sentiments for both men that separate and distinctive, as to polarize the composite climate of loss over these two invaluable sons of Bayelsa?
I doubt it. I suspect that there is a meeting ground provided by the sad news that weighs so heavily upon the shoulders of the nineteen-year old state that has suffered the serial loss of five prominent Ijaw sons in recent times, counting from Owoye Azazi through Robert Ebizimor, through Oronto Douglas, through Inokoba right up to Alamieyeseigha — to say nothing of the eight gallant women who were burnt to ashes in the heat of the campaign towards the last presidential elections.
How, indeed, are the mighty fallen in Glory Land. It bears repeating, and I could do with an exclamation mark. In short, Your Excellency, there is a groundswell of mourning in the land, a penumbra of grief so heavy, so nebulous and expansive, that it very nearly looks like a providential umbrella opening up against an imminent blizzard of rain drops that no broom can sweep away from the sky.
How nice it would be to imagine that Alamieyeseigha would resurrect on Saturday December 5, 2015, at Samson Siasia Stadium, Yenagoa. How soothing it would be to hear that Alamieyeseigha didn’t die after all. It was just one cruel hoax of a nightmare at yahoo dot com.
Do you have a spare handkerchief close by, Mr President? The one I have is already soggy with tears and all that snot. Anyway, you have other matters of state to attend to, and so I will make this short. You are a very busy man with so much on your mind. Let’s just say this conclusively.
Alamieyeseigha was a good man, and it is terrible to speak of him in the past tense. It takes a good man to confess his sins against his people, and seek to set aright whatever might have gone wrong from that virgin onset when governance came under the auspicious command of a one-time Squadron Leader of the Nigerian Air Force, in his home state.
Alamieyeseigha was sorry about the mess into which he dragged the name of Bayelsa. Feel free to quote me on that. I have him on tape. He felt, in the end, that he left undone what he ought to have done, and did what he ought not to have done. And every outing he made, every public declaration he uttered, every gesture he demonstrated after that, was in the spirit of that reconciliation process that he knew he personified.
I put three quick calls to him when the news reached me in an urgent, confidential whisper. Three times his phone rang, and three times he didn’t pick. I could only hear the distant echo of Martin Luther King Jr, reverberating down the corridors of time with a ring-back dream.
It so happens that Alamieyeseigha is not in a meeting somewhere in Dubai. He is not consulting with Henry Seriake Dickson inside the entrails of Creek Haven. In Amassoma, he is missing in action. He just will not be there to take my calls or anybody’s call anymore. Neither do I expect to hear any fresh word from him again. Everything he had to say, he has said in those drawn-out sentences with long pauses in between that still come with a typical punch at the end.
That much I know. Otherwise, he would have called me back by now. He would have wondered what else his authorized biographer wanted to know again about his person, his worldwide experiences, about the sheer turbulence of his eventful life. Alas, Mr President, we mourn the loss of the very sound of his voice, the real thing, not the electronic version.
Nengi Josef Owei, an awarding winning Nigerian Poet, Literary&cultural activist, Publisher and frontline Journalist, hails from the Niger Delta in Nigeria.