By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoaâ€”â€œDo you remember the last time we saw her? She saw us sipping cold garri over a plate of beans and she did not hesitate to join us to savour the delicacy. Segun James of Thisday said to this reporter at the one year memorial of late Mrs. Timi Alaere Alaibe held last Saturday at Opokuma, in the Kolokuma-Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
This uncanny humility of the deceased was displayed before us about two years ago at an adult educational programme organised by her NGO, Family Re-orientation, Education and Empowerment, (FREE).
In a society where the practice of talking ill of the dead is assailed without remorse, the Alaibe family of Igbainwari of Opokuma clan in KOLGA and Olobio family of Trofani in SALGA is lucky to have sweet things said about their departed wife and daughter.
Perhaps it was the giant poster of the sweet, alluring facial expression of Alaere Augustina Timi Alaibe, the late wife of the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, a woman whose life found immense meaning in making a meaning in the lives of others, that hit my colleague at the entrance to Opokuma, off the East-West road, two years ago.
Fondly referred to as â€˜Mother Theresa,â€™ this kind- hearted woman would be smiling now, looking down on those she left behind. Given the high and mighty that graced her one year memorial service, Alaere had a life many would love to live.
Alaereâ€™s determination to improve the lives of the down- trodden rural women folk through FREE turned the serene rural fishing and farming settlement of Opokuma into a Mecca of sorts for women in search of adult education.
Though FREE has learning centres scattered across the Niger Delta states, catering for the educational needs of the disadvantaged women in the society, her spouseâ€™s hometown, Opokuma, which served as the headquarters of the NGO, is equipped with a modern library which was commissioned by Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, about two years ago.
The centre also boasts of health facilities with a resident as well as a self- esteem auditorium.
From the female fish seller in Opokuma, to the mother of eleven in Trofani village, the deceasedâ€™s paternal hometown, FREE has made things happen for the poor and down-trodden.
In the words of Alaere, â€œThe case of Mrs. Ebimiere Tolu, 49 years old mother of 11, is quite instructive and interesting. When she joined our programme, she could barely express herself, and could barely understanding what we are doing in the adult education programme.
â€œShe dropped out of school in 1967 as result of the Nigerian civil war and she joined our Adult Education Centre in Trofani village in Bayelsa State to fulfil a yearning. Today, in spite of her work as a cleaner at the Trofani Secondary School and busy schedule as mother and business woman, she has done so well that FREE has registered her to sit for the Nigerian Junior Secondary School Examinations.
â€œShe is aspiring to acquire the Senior Secondary School Certificate. In a recent interview with a newspaper, she said: â€˜I feel happy entering for the examination because I had thought my life had collapsed. I hope to do well and become a nurse.â€™ In the future, she will be serving her community in a more useful capacity.â€
Only a few can give freely, move freely, work freely, stand freely and be free of the inhibiting nuances which at once would create the ill-feeling which the success or progress of a fellow human being invokes. Alaere derived her joy from the joy of others and this was manifestly infectious.
No wonder, 365 days later, Nigerians from all walks of life converged on Opokuma, her husbandâ€™s hometown for this gem whose life is worth celebrating.
Speaking at a thanksgiving mass held in her honour at the Self Esteem Hall, Bishop of Bomadi Vicariate, Most Rev Hyacinth Egbebo, lamented the situation in the country where public office holders are only interested in themselves and their immediate families.
The clergy man called on the political class to emulate the deceased whose life, though short, was dedicated to the service of humanity, warning that the nationâ€™s political structure was at the brink of collapse.
He submitted that if this was allowed to happen, members of the National Assembly would be held responsible.
Bishop Egbebo noted that the lawmakers had failed the nation as they had left what to be done in terms of governance as well as representation of the interest of the people undone.
His words: â€œSenators, you are not giving us the kind of leadership required of you and if anything happens, you will be held liable.
â€œMajority of you have deviated from the oath you swore to as you are busying accumulating wealth at the detriment of the people, while the regions you represent are left undeveloped.
â€œPeople are dying daily as a result of outbreak of epidemics but instead of addressing their needs, you are developing already developed places with our resources.â€
Condemning the situation in the country where those in position of authority are only interested in themselves, he urged Nigerians to imbibe the exemplary conduct of late Mrs. Alaere who spent her life touching the lives of the less privileged and the needy in the society.
The clergyman noted with sadness that the country was rich, yet the people are living in penury due to bad leadership.
â€œHow come we are so poor in the midst of plenty? The country is in comatose. The senators are not leading us well,â€ he lamented.
He urged the nationâ€™s elected representatives to live above board and always espouse ideals that would impact positively on the people.
â€œIf you line your pockets and people are dying of preventable diseases in the land, then you are deceiving yourself,â€ he admonished the politicians.
The clergy man also used the opportunity to call onÂ Ijaw and the people of the Niger Delta to look inward and not to be ashamed of their heritage, adding that they should use the resources at their disposal to transform their immediate environment into a better place they would be proud of.
â€œWhy should we be ashamed of our heritage. Nigeria would not have existed if there were no mineral resources from this region,â€ he said, and urged the people to continue to promote the ideals of the deceased wife of the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta.
In his remarks, Chief Timi Alaibe thanked the people for their support during his trying moment promising to sustain the vision of his wife.
Present at the occasion were the Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Mr Tele Ikuru, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Sam Amuka, Ambassador Lawrence Ekpebu, Source Magazine Publisher, Dame Comfort Obi, Senators Heineken Lokpobiri, Emmanuel Paulker, Nimi Barigha Amange, JTF Commander, General Zarkin Bello, who represented the Minister of Defence, Rt. Hon. Austin Okpara, King Alfred Diete Spiff, King Joshua Igbagara, Gen Diriyai (rtd), King AJ Turner, Onyeama Ugochukwu, and host of others.