By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
FORMER Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Costain Group, Dr. Newton Jibunoh, has disclosed how former Military President, General Ibrahim Babaginda (red.) accosted him at a public function in Sokoto State during his tenure, asking him, “Where is my Yam.”
The adventurer and environmentalist, who hails from Jibunoh family (Yam is family) of Akwukwu Igbo, Oshimili North Local Government Area, Delta State, in his new book, “Hunger for Power,” narrated that he used to supply Babaginda and other families yams from his farm, while they were neighbours at Ikoyi, Lagos in the 70s.
He said he never knew IBB, a young Major at the time commanding the Armoured Brigade, Bonny Camp, Lagos, would become Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, adding that his supply of yams to him and other neighbours was just his way of disposing the yield from his farm at Akwukwu Igbo after sharing the harvest with a set of farmers back home.
He recalled how the gentleman (IBB) and his wife (late Mariam) walked into his compound in Ikoyi and introduced himself, thanking him for the yams he had been sending to the family but said his joy was that he was unconsciously highlighting “my family’s prowess and fame as yam farmers.”
His words: “That was how we became friends and I continued to supply yams to him until he became President and moved to Dodan Barracks- the seat of Government at that time. And then, of course, we could not send the yams to him anymore.”
Dr Jibunoh added: “Now, while Babangida became military president, I continued working at Costain, and about that time when I had become Managing Director of Costain, we finished building the Sokoko Teaching Hospital and the governor called me to say that the President was coming to commission the hospital and they would need me to conduct him around. So I went and it was a big ceremony.”
“Now, you know when the president was vising, there would always be protocol. There were rehearsals held to familiarize all those present on the appropriate way to receive the president, a thorough search was done by security personnel on all the routes that I was to take the president through.
“On this occasion we had a long line of protocol on ground to receive the president, and I think I was number seven or eight in the line, after the governor, the permanent secretary, the commissioner for health, the Sultan of Sokoto and so on.
“But the moment he alighted from the car and sighted me, the President called out: ‘Newton, where is my yam?’ “Mr. President, I cannot take yams to Dodan Barracks,” I said as he took my hand.
“Who said so?,” he queried.
“And there and then, he just turned to his Aide-de-camp and said, ‘I have been missing Newton’s yam, please arrange for them to be delivered.’
“Then, he turned back to me and said, ‘When are you going back to Lagos?’
‘Tomorrow, Mr. President’, I said
“He then said, “Why not lunch? Bring your wife, Elizabeth, along.’
“That was my fist time in Dodan Barracks. And so I took my wife, and in the usual way after lunch, my wife and Mariam (IBB’s late wife) went along to one side, while he and I went to another side in the State House, where we chatted a lot talking about yams and many other things,” he said.