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I lost a great uncle;Prince Bello Afegbua [1931-2011]

Kassim Afegbua

The remains of Prince Bello Afegbua, a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, will be interred today at Okpella, a border village between Kogi and Edo States of Nigeria. He had died penultimate week at Irrua Specialist Hospital in Edo State after a brief illness, marking the end of an era and a journey that saw him dominate his environment for 80 years on this putrid plane.

Prince Bello Afegbua was born into the popular Afegbua royal family of Okpella in Edo State of Nigeria on March 10, 1931. He occupied 187th position in a population of children numbering up to 287 from 52 wives of His Highness Alhaji Abdulmalik Afegbua, the Onaikhefona of Okpella.

His father, His Highness, Alhaji Abdulmalik Afegbua, OBE, died at the ripe age of 109 leaving behind many of his children and wives. At the last count, the direct offsprings of this great King of influence in the entire Kukuruku division, I mean those who are still alive, stand at 69, with over 4000 grand children, great grand children and great, great grand children spread over the entire landscape on earth.

For those who may be familiar with the village called Okpella, the Afegbua family occupies a significant place in the scheme of things and are at best, very accommodating and self-helping Nigerians who have achieved greatness by dint of hard work, perseverance and outright resilience.

Late Bello Afegbua

In order to sustain the brotherhood that binds this family together, the Afegbua family runs what is known as AFEGBUA WELFARE ASSOCIATION, being a platform of like-minds family members with the sole objective of sustaining family values and unity.

The association is replicated all over the world especially in places where Afegbuas are domiciled. And the association helps the family to keep a close tab on a number of issues affecting the family namely: population count, historical documentation, economic empowerment and several others.

For those who are Prince Bello Afegbua’s contemporaries especially in the Nigeria Police Force, he was one man whose philosophy of life was ‘live and let live’ without betraying any of his inner sensibilities on matters of State policy. He was a thorough-bred professional and as a Police officer who retired in 1982 having rose to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police.

He was one of the brains behind the Highway Patrol which was introduced in the seventies to address challenges on our highways. Prince Bello Afegbua was a man of peace and unity. He preached the virtues of unity in Okpella until he breathed his last on earth especially on account of the ‘cold war’ that hitherto existed between the present King in Okpella and the Afegbua family.

Despite the sensitivity of the issues and the fact that peace had been on temporary holiday in Okpella as a result of the quest for the creation of more clans in the land, Bello Afegbua, then as a born again, took the responsibility of ensuring that he jump-started the process of reconciliation amongst all those whose passion for more clans had attained a crescendo.

Only about two weeks ago, what he and other like-minds started as a process to fostering unity and sustaining same without breaking ranks, yielded results when for the first time in eleven years, the elders of Afegbua Royal Family met with the present King, the Okuokpellagbe of Okpella at his palace, to end long years of bitter hostilities and acrimonies as a consequence of accusations and counter-accusations.

Painful that Bello Afegbua was not alive to witness the final soul-mending, but his spirit will no doubt regale in oligenious paeans as a result of this latest achievement of creating platform for unity.

Prince Bello Afegbua might not have died a rich man by way of material acquisition, but he was rich in spirit and in Holy Ghost. He was strong in character and firm in principle. He was a man driven by his convictions; reason why he got converted to Christianity in the year 2000 despite all entreaties by the larger family members against such a move. The Afegbua family is predominantly a Muslim family given its backgrounding and development.

He was convinced within his inner mind that the best way he could communicate with his creator was through the Christian’s way of worship. He expectedly received flaks from family members who felt he derailed from the unwritten code of his father, but for his convictions, he never budged.

I had asked him on several occasions why he took the decision to become a Christian having lived a better part of his life as a Muslim. He told me in very succinct terms that faith is of the individual and not a platform but that his soul agreed more with the calling of Christ than any other persuasion.

He did not stop at that, he ensured that his children also embraced Christianity and practise it. Even at old age, his training as a disciplined Police Officer never departed him in his conduct through life’s unassailable depth. He was ever neat, looking sharp in his urbane outlook and maintaining a positive disposition about the Police Force despite the many shenanigans associated with the Force in present day Nigeria.

He usually frowned at the unsavoury news about the Police and the depth of corruption that is ravaging a system that nurtured him. He told me in one of his quiet moments how he felt a sense of pride wearing the Police uniform when he first enlisted in it in 1952 before the struggle for independence gathered steam.

He refreshed his brain with the discipline that he was nurtured with and respect for constituted authority that formed the concentration of his training. At every point, you hear him say; ‘during our days, you can’t have this type of conduct. The world has since changed’.

Only recently, before he breathed his last… he was at pains in trying to explain why the nation’s security had become baleful. He reasoned with a great feeling of nostalgia that erosion of moral values is at the core of all the crises being witnessed in the country. He declared that the society no longer exhibited sound moral values and that the elimination of the culture of shame had its toll on the psyche of the average mind.

Hear him; ‘during our days, you are easily conscious about the world around you, what people would say about you in the event that you are accused of one untoward behaviour or another. You will be conscious about the name of your family and would not want to tarnish it. These days, people appear proud to be convicted for corruption and you read all manners of news items about how corruption had ravaged the country.

It is a shame. A big shame that people are now engrossed in corruption as if that will guarantee them passport to paradise. Please, my son, tell them to embrace Christ, for He is the Way and the Light. All these corruption and mass acquisition of wealth will amount to vanity’. Those were some of the exhortations of this God-fearing man, who treasured his good name than embrace the trappings of office and the spoils of public office.

The society may not have attained the glorious height for which Bello Afegbua longed for, but there is one item on his agenda that remained his national anthem until he was called home. That item is UNITY. He believed in the concept of unity as the take-off point of national development.

He believed in stability and the collective destiny of a nation that is peculiar in its own way. He was a team player and he exhibited this at the family level and in places where he had opportunity to add value to life. Each time there was a convocation of all Afegbuas at home, Bello Afegbua would usually come with a prepared speech and terms of engagement.

He wouldn’t want to be misquoted or mis-represented. He was thorough and down-to-earth. He initiated several self-help approaches to addressing poverty level in the rural areas and the family adopted his therapy as a working document.

He believed in empowerment in a manner that is self-accounting rather than wait on government to provide the dividends of democracy that was not quick in coming. He rather advocated for measures that would make for even distribution of riches; the rich helping the poor to find a bearing and make meaning out of life.

Blessed with prosperous children who grew up under disciplined parentage, Bello Afegbua will be greatly missed by members of the family of Afegbua. He would be missed by his body of Christ members and the entire Okpella people, and Edo State in general.

The family will fondly remember him for his cosmopolitan disposition to issues and his readiness to offer help to those who are in need. As his body will be lowered today in his final resting place at his family residence in Okpella, it is my prayer and that of many others, that God grants him eternal rest in the hereafter.

May he be rewarded for his good deeds and his sins forgiven because of our imperfections. May Allah reward him with paradise and grant the family the fortitude to bear this great loss. Adieu Uncle. Adieu Bello Commissioner, as he was fondly called.

You graciously retired from the Nigeria Police Force to live a life tempered with fear of God and good neighbourliness, you have now retired from earth to be seen no more. We are encouraged that you lived a fulfilled life, and the angels of heaven and the worms of earth, will find you a pleasant companion. Rest in peace until we meet to part no more.

 


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