By Donu Kobgara
THIS has been a very sad month for me. First I lost two people – a friend and an in-law – in the Dana plane crash. Then, last weekend, Angela Onyeador, a wonderful vibrant woman I’ve known since I was born, quietly passed away in an American hospital after a protracted illness.
Angela – a luminous world-class beauty who grew up in very privileged circumstances and knew almost everyone who was anyone in this country – was often described as a “socialite” or “celebrity”.
But these descriptions didn’t do her justice because she was so much more than a wealthy sophisticate who flits from one high profile event to another. She was fashionable and glamorous. She had tonnes of pals who were household names. She was a regular presence at many glitzy get-togethers in her dazzling heyday.
But she wasn’t an empty-headed Party Girl, chronic materialist or soulless, superficial decorative item.
Angela was a Class Act – a highly intelligent, immensely well-informed, extremely witty, formidably hard-working and kind-hearted lateral thinker, successful business person and patron of the arts. She read copiously.
She invested considerable amounts of time in cultural activities – for pleasure rather than profit.
She told me that though she regarded me as an unambitious fool for not using my senior government contacts and media platform as Get-Rich-Quick tools, she loved and respected me precisely because money was not my priority.
I can’t tell you how much I appreciated this affectionate endorsement from someone who saw me as a suicidal but decent kid sister. Two years ago, in 2010, Angela, her husband, Captain Sam Mayson and I wound up in a remote part of Austria for several weeks. She had life-threatening ailments and we hoped that she would benefit from a combination of naturopathic and conventional medical interventions.
She was in pain and needed a wheelchair because she couldn’t walk. But she constantly cracked jokes while she was going through this physical and psychological hell. Sam and I were more depressed than she was!
On one occasion, she briskly sent for a local jeweller and ordered a gorgeous silver bracelet for me because my gloomy concerns about her health were irritating her and she wanted to put a smile on my face!
This lengthy Austrian sojourn turned out to be a major tonic for Angela. She became much stronger for a while. But she eventually relapsed. And because she had been like a cat with nine lives who zig-zagged between illness and wellness for a large chunk of her adulthood, I assumed that she would recover yet again. But it was not to be.
Angela was brave, feisty, generous, optimistic, amusing and super-smart.
Our dads – members of the first group of Nigerian executives that Shell recruited in the l950s – became friends, as did our mums. And we both attended the Shell Primary School in Port Harcourt in the l960s.
In those distant days, the Shell school mostly contained British, Dutch and Nigerian children. And, if my memory serves me well, the Nigerians and Brits were taught in English while the Dutch had their own lessons.
Much to everyone’s amazement, Angela rapidly became a fluent Dutch-speaker. She was the ONLY non-Dutch child who mastered this tough, non-compulsory challenge; and it’s not as if she set out to be a clever clog who outshone her peers.
She just osmotically absorbed Dutch in the playground – in a cool, casual, unplanned, instinctive kinda way.
I thought that Angela would stick around for much longer and continue to be one of the pals I would turn to when I needed a laugh or a stimulating conversation or a shoulder to cry on. But she’s gone.
Dear Sam, sorry-o. Hope you can cope without your darling soulmate.
THREE thoughts strike me very forcibly whenever I dwell on the toxic scandal that is raging around Farouk Lawan – the author of the fuel subsidy probe report – for reportedly collecting a bribe from Femi Otedola:
•Firstly, I am not surprised AT ALL. Lawan is a member of the House of Representatives and when I was a government worker, colleagues often told me that it is very normal for National Assembly legislators to demand pay-offs from those they are supposed to investigate/monitor.
•Secondly, the sum Lawan collected was paltry compared to the sums that many other government people corruptly acquire on a daily basis.
•Thirdly, while it is certainly true that we cannot trust a messenger (Lawan) who has been induced to only give us part of the message (or to even deliberately distort the message), Lawan’s report is still significant and provides useful insights into the state of Nigeria Inc.
We should focus on the wider wood rather than on individual trees and ask ourselves which leading lights in the oil industry were either not mentioned at all in Lawan’s report…or mentioned only fleetingly/mildly?
In other words, is Otedola the only heavy hitter on the government or commercial fronts who bribed Lawan or promised him juicy benefits for turning a blind eye to massive misdemeanors? I don’t think so!
I strongly advise those who say that they wish to catch criminals to dig deeper for MUCH bigger paymasters or paymistresses than Otedola!