*Says, I’m getting help but I labour over my two sickler children
*Politicians don’t deserve honour for June 12 struggle
Chima Ubani, a civil rights crusader made a name before his life was cut short in an auto crash at Potiskum, on his way to Abuja after a rally against deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum sector at Maiduguri, organised by Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO). The rally was part of a series of zonal rallies to mobilise working people against the anti-poor neoliberal policies of Nigerian which had started in Lagos.
He started as a student union activist and was jailed when the military government cracked down on the students’ movement in the aftermath of the Ahmadu Bello University massacre of May 25, 1986.
On graduation, he took up employment with the Civil Liberties Organisation and worked there for the rest of his life, rising to become its Executive Director.
He was the Deputy President of Democratic Alternative when he died in 2005.
When President Buhari honoured those who fought for restoration of democracy after the cancellation of June 12 1993 election, Ubani’s name cropped up again and many wanted him to be honoured too for getting deeply involved in the struggle.
So, Vanguard set out in search of Chima Ubani’s wife, Ochuwa and got her in an encounter at MKO Abiola’s Gardens in Ikeja, Lagos.
How have things been with you since Chima Ubani died?
God has been so wonderful, has been there for me as a father and a husband. Some of Chima’s friends have been really there for us too. The Nigeria Labour Congress has been assisting the kids and I. They have been assisting even in the issue of school fees and the issue that I have with the banks. They want to step into the issue that I have with banks. I borrowed money from the bank to start a business in 2016, I wanted to go China, but afterwards, I had an accident in April 2017 and was incapacitated for some months. The accident affected the loan I took and the exchange rate crashed the money, an item I was selling for N2,800 became N1,500. This affected my business and I cried out to the NLC and they promised to intervene.
Apart from that, for the past three to four years, they have been there for us, giving N500,000 every year. Before then, they have given us money for the children’s school fees. Lagos State was also there for us. This house we are living now was given to us by the Lagos State Government during Ashiwaju Tinubu’s tenure when Chima died. Two of my four children are also under the Lagos State government scholarship. It wasn’t an open scholarship though. It was N199,000 every year. Many of Chima’s friends, the NGOs have also been there for us, coming to see us from time to time to assist, but you can’t expect somebody to carry a responsibility 100%. These people also have their own personal challenges and there is a limit to what they can do, but so far, God has been using these people to help.
When Chima died, Ashiwaju said if I have an issue, I should not waste time to see him but since then, I have been trying to see him and I have not been able to see him. But one thing I have learnt about life is that when there is life, there is hope. I won’t say that things have been so bad because God has been on my side. NLC is helping with the bank loan I took that went bad. So, I keep on thanking God. If Chima was alive, perhaps I would be living a better life than I am now but God has been providing from here and there.
And the children are still on scholarship?
Lagos State gave two out of four children scholarship which does not cover their fees for up to a year but its really something. What they give them per child for a whole year is N199,000. We add up to it. The man that really used to help me a lot was Bamidele Aturu who died two years ago. He was a father to my children, a brother, in fact, he was Chima’s town brother, not just a friend when he was alive. Anytime we had challenges and called him, he was always there. If it was food, he would load his vehicle with food and if it was money I needed, he provided. When my children were celebrating birthdays, he would give me money for their birthday celebration. I am talking about N100,000 to N150,000. He and his wife would attend my children’s PTA meeting.
But when it was time for God to take him, there was nothing anyone could do. It was when Bamidele Aturu died that I began to face big challenges that my husband is no more.
What Abia government pledged when Chima died has not been fulfilled. I’m trying to see if the current governor will fulfill it because the promise was made when Orji Kalu was governor. Indeed, God has been helpful. My eldest child was 6 years when their father died and the youngest, the twins were 8 months, when Chima passed away.
What about his family?
I don’t want to go there, I don’t want to say anything about that. Any woman in Africa that her husband dies is blamed to be the witch that killed him. Once you are an African woman and your husband dies, automatically, you become a witch that killed the man. So, I don’t want to say anything about his family. All I want to say is, I thank God that my children and I are alive today.
When MKO Abiola was honoured with a post humous GCFR, many people started saying that Chima Ubani amongst others deserves an honour too.What do you think?
Sincerely, I never wanted to say anything about that but you are here now. If we want to talk about people deserving honour for June 12, Chima has to be among the number one. He put his life in the line of the struggle for June 12. I could remember in 1993 and after, he was issuing statements and holding rallies. He was amongst those that shut down Nigeria during the June 12 struggle but things are no more the same. I have come to realise that when people in government want to do something, they do it in such a way to favour themselves.
I don’t see any reason for honouring a man like Babagana Kingibe. I don’t see what Kingibe has contributed to democracy. He betrayed the June 12 struggle and democracy in this country. So, the essence of giving him an honour for democracy is not there. There are people like Olisa Agbakoba, Femi Falana, Abdul Oroh, Bamidele Aturu, a lot of comrades who fought for this country including my late husband Chima Ubani but nobody recognised them. Then, you want to give people recognition for June 12 because of second term and you begin to give honours to the undeserving? I don’t understand the reason for the honours at all when it was not given to those who deserve it. What about Beko Ramsome Kuti, Ayo Obe and the rest who put their lives on the line? Something should be done for the good of the masses of this country. Why would politicians who did nothing for democracy be honoured? Are you giving honours to politicians who stole Nigerians money for what, for them to go and steal more?
Have you gotten a reprieve, maybe something like a job or money to start a business?
Nobody has done that but I am trying to do my best in business. Two of my children are sicklers and they need extra care. I have been hearing people say that since I have issues with the bank,that people have been giving me money. Look at my house, is it how a house of a normal human being should look? I have been working hard to take care of my four children. I don’t wear clothes, I don’t wear shoes. All the little money I make is for these children. When Chima died, the whole money the comrades paid into my account was N900,000. It was just few months ago that I threw away the papers. CLO said they were going to give me N2.8 million but they later paid N1 million.
What about NLC ?
What NLC gave me was N500,000 which came two years after Chima died. They called me and said they will be giving us N500,000 every year for five years.
Oshimhole has won the national chairmanship election of APC…
Of course, Oshimhole is a man of the people. I have his number, I have called him and sent him messages and he doesn’t pick. But somebody called me recently to say Oshiomhole sent a message to me.
So, what would you need to be done , should somebody ask?
Please, I wouldn’t want promises. Let somebody ask me first and then I would say what I want. I don’t want my hope to be raised and then dashed or to begin to long for something I cannot have.