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Our father dug his own grave, instructed to be buried within seven days — Ogbemudia Jr
Warned that his corpse must not be taken to the mortuary
One year after his death, his friends have abandoned us
Says late father believed poverty is worst form of violence
SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
It is one year now that former two time governor of old Bendel State, Dr Samuel Ogbemudia died but his foot prints are still very visible in both Edo and Delta states which comprised the old Midwest. The late elder statesman who died on March 9, 2017 was given a state burial by both state governments and was finally laid to rest on March 17, 2017. His instruction was that he should be buried within seven days and his body must not be taken to the mortuary. It was the first task Governor Godwin Obaseki who was just four months in office then had to tackle. Obaseki in collaboration with his colleague in Delta state, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa executed late Ogbemudia’s wish to the letter.
In this interview with Saturday Vanguard, eldest son of the late statesman, Mr Samuel Ogbemudia Jr, who is making plans to mark the first year remembrance of his father’s death disclosed how the family had coped since the death of his father. He said what he learnt from his father had kept the family going adding however that some of his late father’s friends had abandoned the family.
How has it been with the family in the past one year that your father died?
It has not been easy because my father was a man of many parts and we have many big family challenges but so far we have coped. I have been able to survive because of what I learnt from him.
What challenges would you say you have faced so far in his absence?
I have been facing challenges from some of his colleagues, his friends, family members who wanted to do things the way they were doing it when he was alive but I made them to realize that I have my own character and ways of doing things. The family has been fine, we are all together apart from some little squabbles which we have sorted out and decided to move ahead. It is one year now that he left us so we are trying to get together and move on with our lives.
How have you been able to execute your father’s directives and keep the family together?
Daddy dug his own grave and directed us before he died that he must be buried within seven days and his body must not be taken to the mortuary.
He shared all his property to his children which some of them disagreed with and this wanted to cause some crisis within the family but the matter was sorted out. It was more or less like a distraction but everybody is moving on now. I can tell you that what I learnt from him has been keeping this family together.
First and foremost, one thing I learnt from him was patience. When he was alive, people said a lot of negative things about him. He always told me let them come and say it to me directly. Similarly, I hear a lot of negative things about my person, but rarely do they say it to my face. He left all of us with assets and having taught us economic management, we are all trying to cope and not to be distracted.
I tell my younger ones, respect begets respect. I respect everybody and also expect respect from others. I like being open and I tell them to be open to me too. One thing I believe in life is that if a man is rich and the people around him are poor, then that person is poor. That is why I try as much as possible to make people around me happy, just like my father. I am not a greedy person but I am okay. Like my father would always say, poverty is the worst form of violence that you can see from anybody. When somebody is poor and cannot pay medical bills, cannot feed, it is hell. Poverty is hell and it is a killer and as far as I am concerned, if I have N10 and my neighbour doesn’t have at all, I am ready to give out N5. That was what I learnt from my father. He hated seeing people suffer.
What about your father’s friends?
A lot of his friends have abandoned us but few of them are still in touch with us like Justice Uwaifo, Barr Odigie, Oshiomhole and others. One thing that my father said in terms of being relevant was that as long as you have your health, you have your brain, you have your education, you can always be relevant. In terms of education it does not necessarily mean going through the four walls of a university but thinking a lot. There are people who did not make it to the university but they have achieved a lot.
I am very optimistic and at peace with myself. But for some of his friends they were a disappointment. Those of them who think we would not survive have failed.
What I have learnt so far is that people have become very treacherous, they want to bring you down. There are some good ones though and that is why I said Nigeria is God’s own country. This is a country where you will have problem and somebody will help you out unlike in America or England. Another thing I learnt from my father was that if somebody tells me something about anybody, I have to investigate whether it is true before acting. Some of my father’s friends were sycophants because of what they wanted from him. There were some people who were looking for leadership in the South South and wanted to use him but he knew such people and he tolerated them. But one thing is that you cannot fool him. They were after power. What my father kept saying was that what is most difficult is not being in government but coming out of government clean. He believed that good name is better than riches.
If your father were to be alive would he support President Buhari for a second term?
I think he would but the only problem he would have with Buhari is the issue of his health. Whether he would be strong enough to go for a second term. But as far as it has to do with performance in office, Buhari has tried in many aspects. But my father would be asking about his health so that he would not be in office while others are actually in power leading the nation. Currently that is what many Nigerians are suspecting, that he is not really in charge. Buhari I knew in 1984 is not the same today and I feel it is because of his health status. So these are the issues, it is not as if Buhari is bad but he must be in the best frame of mind and health to lead this nation to greater heights and that is what my father would wish for Nigeria.
The one year anniversary coincided with your sister being crowned the chairperson of Egor LGA in the just concluded Local Government election, how do you feel about that?
So far so good, we had got in touch with the Benin Baptist Church and they have promised to come and pray at his grave side.
On Sunday there will be thanksgiving in church. Basically we want to honour him but it is going to be low key because it is one year. I am in touch with Governor Obaseki and I expressed the gratitude of the family for the opportunity given to our sister and daughter, Eghe Ogbemudia who emerged chairperson of Egor Local Government Area. I thank him for that and the APC in the state for their effort and I believe that she will not let the Ogbemudia family down.
She has the pedigree, the intelligence and I believe she will do well as chairperson of Egor LGA. She campaigned seriously for Obaseki and my father mentioned it to Governor Obaseki about her becoming Local Government chairman and he equally mentioned the names of some other persons. The governor did very well, in fact he honored my late father with a presidential burial, God will bless him. Some other persons would have disregarded Daddy’s instruction but because of the love he has for him he executed everything Daddy said right from his burial till date. I also thank former governor Adams Oshiomhole who has been with us through thick and thin.