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OPEN LETTER TO GOV SYLVA: Book on Melford Okilo, why the delay

By Obinwa Nnaji
OVER the weeks and indeed months on end, the man from the seat of power in Yenagoa, has continued to dominate the headlines and has been a good news copy for newspaper editors and the electronic media.

In his avowed stance to enthrone peace, unity and tranquility, necessary corollary for development of Bayelsa State,  Governor Timipre Sylva, has pursued the amnesty olive branch with such unprecedented vigour, thus making way for true reconciliation and rehabilitation of those who had given the country sleepless nights.

One can therefore say without any fear of contradiction that the governor has a clear focus of the troubled issue and remains a front runner in getting the ‘Creek Boys’ to abandon insurrection, vexation, and in exchange for war-war, dialogue and amity, where acrimony had lingered, brotherliness and care for your neighbour taking precedent.

To say that Governor Sylva is well ahead of his colleague governors in the South-South belt, on this thorny national quagmire, would be saying the obvious.

In the eyes of the public, he is seen as a man enmeshed in the garb of a peace maker, who believes that his state nay Nigeria had seen enough of bloodletting and that no meaningful achievement or development can be attained in a state hara-kiri.

Since the governor is already the standard bearer of a peaceful resolution and solution to the intransigence, and impasse, true to type and reminiscent of what Chief Melford Okilo,  former governor of old Rivers State, the illustrious Son of Bayelsa and indeed Nigeria had stood for all his life preaching peace like the Spartan Mahattan Gandhi, it has therefore become imperative to make this special appeal on the above named subject-  of a book on late Chief Okilo, which needs not queue any longer.

Before he passed on to the great beyond, a quartet had completed writing the manuscript and had produced a ‘Dummy’ a replica of the Book. Written lucidly and capturing for the first time the real Melford, in his elements, ideals, ethos, philosophies, the quartet- Barrister Jonah Oka, Chief speech writer to the Governor of Bayelsa State; Obinwa Nnaji, international journalist, author and former newspaper editor; Biodun Ilupeju journalist and university lecturer and Dickson Akiwunmi, publicity consultant, these writers remain at best the only and last journalists that interviewed Chief Okilo before his demise.

We were tremendously thrilled when the governor in his wisdom and magnanimity agreed to sponsor and facilitate the printing of this very memorable book on this African Thinker of our time. It is therefore to your eternal credit that you believed that the ‘ Courage of the Fisherman’ must be one of your many ways of immortalizing this enigma that passed through the fishing creeks of Emakalaka to stardom.

In your rare show of patriotism and large heart, you named a major street in Yenagoa the Capital City, after Chief Okilo. The Bayelsa State Government in recognition of his contributions to humanity and also in the struggle for actualization of the creation of Bayelsa State, has decided to build a Specialist Hospital and name it after this indefatigable politician, full of humility and love for his’ Ijaw country people’ which had always been his usual refrain.

Considering the commendable due-process-machinery, rigid but thorough which Governor Sylva set up since becoming the Executive Governor, and also considering that the book project had successfully gone through the mills, scaling through, the funding should be released urgently by the governor, to enable us all achieve the aim of immortalizing this great ‘Fisherman’, that told the authors that he had once died in 2003, remained in coma for over two months and got to heaven but didn’t see the ‘Ogogoro’ local  jin and dry fish/garri and was thereafter told to return to mother earth.

My appeal is that the governor should crack this nut now. The  book shouldn’t be delayed any further. It should take its rightful place in shelves of world libraries and institutions .

Painfully it is over one year since he died in July 2008. By early next year, it will be another one year, he was given a heroic burial by the Bayelsa State Government and friends and well wishers from both Rivers State and the larger Nigeria state. How time flies!!!.

With an early facilitation of this book, it would prepare the ground for a properly organized Public Presentation of the Book to commemorate the anniversary when he was buried. We owe to the soul of this Great Statesman in the promise we gave that part proceeds of the Book Launch, would be set aside for the establishment of a ‘Melford Okilo Foundation of Peace’ albeit in tandem with Governor Silva’s resolve to pursue peace and unity of his people.

We pray that the Bayelsa Government in conjunction with the authors would organize an elaborate and comprehensive National Committee for the Book Presentation because the ‘Fisherman’ has home in all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria and also far flung countries overseas.

Let his thoughts roll out of the press immediately, so that the present generation and those unborn can imbibe the principles underlying the face of a Man who ruled old Rivers State, with his gates flung open 24 hours, no security, no protocol, a peoples’ countryman personified.

Permit me Your Excellency, to leave with these thoughts of marble from a few chapters to make your breakfast table. Worried by the decadence that pervades the political horizon, here are his posers- Enter Okilo:‘Have we bothered to discern what informs the politics we practice in Nigeria? Is there justice, fair play and true democracy. The day to day politics we play, do we place God first or money/ Have we bothered to think for a moment that despite the acquisition of wealth, the insatiable craze to erect skyscrapers, the bloodied thirst to kill, to dupe, disease, misery and poverty still pervade the land.

And the country we all haven’t made substantial progress. We must quickly return to the Law of Nature, Law of Science and Law of Love. These are the basic virtues of the universal God. If only we know that whatever we do here on earth we shall get our reward no forgiveness, then we would all live according to the dictates of God, love thy neighbor as thyself. If those who occupy front pews of churches are
murderers and they steal peoples’ funds, they must get their reward. All throughout my campaigns, I didn’t as much as use even a jack knife to fight anyone.’

These and many remain, a watershed of the prodigy that passed through Bayelsa State as mere teacher and court interpreter conscripted at the last minute in the general elections of the First Republic by his political party and he caused a major upset by defeating an NCNC big wig for the Hose of Representatives Parliamentary seat that amazed all and even unknown Melford himself.

There is no gainsaying that Governor Sylva would react positively in the spirit of the time and keeping pace with his standpoint to give this befitting son a most remarkable remembrance  after death.

*Obinwa Nnaji, Journalist/Author and Media analyst.


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