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An Ode to Prof. Somayina Nwoko (1930-2016)

GREAT men are often remembered not just by what they do but what they say. In death, their words resonate more loudly in somewhat mournful sobriety. So it is for Prof. Somayina Gabriel Nwoko, theIsogba of Idumuje-Ugboko who died last week at the age of 86.

His reflections on contemporary national issues portray a man with deep concern about the future of his country. Indeed, the lateNwoko, a professor of Agricultural Economics, was a man of many parts. He would be remembered as an entertainer, poet, politician and teacher.His patriotic fervor and desire for peace all bear testimonies of a man who has been described as a legend.

In one of his recent articles, he had reminisced thus: At independence, the flag proclaimed liberty. It proclaimed inheritable dreams of greatness. Nigeria was then nicknamed “giant of Africa”. Even when he was outside the country, in faraway University of California, United States of America where he lectured, he could not stop ruminating on the future of his country. “Today, the human rodents in the nation have attacked the giant from different angles,” he once wrote.

“Even though I was then a third year economics student in the University College Ibadan,” he said while recounting his experience at the nation’s Independence in 1960. ”I can recollect some of our hopes as recounted by Prof. Onitiri. We dreamt of consolidated unity, country wide market, an excellent network of transportation system, complementary products from areas with comparative advantages, cultural harmony, wide international markets with friendly nations, education for all, and for leadership, industrialisation with locally sourced raw materials with multiplier effects, locally brewed democracy and democratic institutions, excellent defense system, impeccable legal system and a lot more.These dreams and aspirations could not have turned our people into zombies only obeying orders without reasoning, and looting the national treasury without remorse. No, we are bound to reason; we are bound to disagree, we are bound to dialogue, we are bound to come to progressive consensus among states and zones as to ways, means and speed. According to Barack Obama, ‘These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty,’” he said.

Such was the subtlety with which Prof. Nwoko rapped boiling national discourse in his piece titled: “Flag Revolution” published in February 8, 2013. He believed in Nigeria’s unity, but his conviction on the sanctity of human freedom and liberty is even stronger. “It was liberty that forced Biafra to declare attempted secession,” he wrote. Adding:”It was liberty and leadership that forced General Gowon to declare in succession, clinical police action and then war of unity.  It was love that moves the All Highest to end the war.

“It was liberty that forced a group of Northern politicians to state their readiness to make Nigeria ungovernable under President Jonathan. It was liberty that forced some people to organise themselves into terrorist groups. It is liberty and leadership responsibility that will force Jonathan to adopt the most effective option that will end terrorism.But he has no liberty to surrender to the terrorists. He has no liberty to make terrorism a living part of Nigeria. He must follow the old track of greatness to achieve peace and harmony in Nigeria. Liberty is the cause of our problems. Liberty and leadership are the solutions to our problems.

In the words of the late professor of Agricultural Economics: “We are in search of a globally dominant high ground with constellation of excellences on which we can stand as elders, and beacon at our children. Most of what we see are neighbourhood lofty grounds which are crowded by ethnic and religious apologists and criminals at high places who have eyes for causes but are totally blind to the cause of causes. The causes of a problem provide ways to solve the problem. The cause of the causes makes a problem to solve itself. This knowledge belongs only to the Divinity and his messengers.But far, far beyond the neighbourhood heights, at a telescopic height, stands an inanimate, collectivised and idealised bridal authority, colourfully robed in immutable green, white and green. We can march there effortlessly in perpetuity with joy, peace, harmony in every step we take without tiredness. That was his challenge to Nigerians. Now he is no more. Gone for good, to the great beyond.”

Born in 1933 to the royal family of Nwoko in Idumuje-Ugboko, Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State. From being a pupil-teacher, he won a federal government scholarship to study at the University of London in 1958. He later bagged a Bachelors Degree in Economics from the University of Ibadan in 1961. He later worked in the Federal Audit Department that year. He also studied and worked as Assistant Professor at University of California, USA. He retired as Agricultural Economics professor in 1974. On retirement in 1998 while on sabbatical, he was appointed to the Delta State University, Abraka where he continued on contract appointment until 2002. He is survived by two wives and many children and grand-children.

  • Mr Ajibade wrote from Abuja.



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