By Godknows Boladei Igali
TRIBUTE IN BRIEF
Imprints in the sands of time
It is often said, that the times and course of the history of the nations and the peoples of the world are in the hands of God. Indeed, the writers of the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 17 verse 26, stated inter alia “God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation”
So Nigeria’s coastal, marine, aquatic, creek, swampy and water-logged region called the Niger Delta which the fathers of the people of the area passed on, is where God has allocated to them. No wonder, as difficult and hostile as its terrain may appear to be, God has generously blessed the Niger Delta with unimaginable agricultural, marine and natural resources. So the Niger Delta cannot by any standard be said to be disadvantaged or to be pitied. No! The region is indeed blessed above all others.
The man Reverend Power Ziakade Aginighan, PZ, epitomized the dreams, aspiration and hopes of a peaceful and prosperous Niger Delta and, Ijaw ethnic nationality in particular. Perhaps more than any person of our generation, PZ understood deeply, the Niger Delta and what paths were needed to thread. From a multi-layer pedestal, that is activist, intellectual, professional, political and spiritual, he spent his life’s journey for the Niger Delta.
From his birth on 9th January 1959, the nascence of a new star in the horizon was clear to all men and women of spiritual calling and perceptive gift. Hence his name as “POWER” and “ZIAKEDE” in Ijaw which means “We have gotten our own”. Both of these names presaged the fact that the child, would at the time appointed come to pull down what should not be but set right what should be. From accounts, as he grew up in the swamps of the Western Delta, he shewed unusual love, admiration and empathy for the environment in which we find ourselves. He was also, always able to stand out as Voice. A voice that will speak out for the truth and for those virtues which bind and advance society.
By the time, he found himself in 1977 at the College of Science and Technology (CST), later Rivers State University of Science and Technology and now Rivers State University (RSU) Port-Harcourt, his sterling qualities as a leader could no longer be put under the bushel.
Let me retrospect about CST and the breeding ground which it offered to the people of the Niger Delta. Desirous of building optimum human capacity in the heart of the Niger Delta, the then youthful, Naval Commander Alfred Diette-Spiff who became Governor of Rivers State at the age of 25 years at its creation in 1967 had gone to Federal Executive Council in 1972 to plead for approval for a federal or even state university. With the presence of University of Nigeria, Nsukka and the new University of Benin, the story goes that he was not successful.
Disappointed but unfettered Commander Spiff went on to obtain approval to establish CST in 1973, cleverly ensuring that it had all degree programmes in a normal university, with exception of the Humanities. Some of the best of the state in administration, at the time, Prof Diette-Koki (Chairman of Council, FJ Ellah, (Registrar), Newton Igali (Bursar), Chief A.A. Akene (Students Officer) and Engr. Amakoromo (Head of Works and Development) and Dr Friday Nwator (Director, Medical Services) were brought in to nurture and build this great citadel of learning. The academic faculties equally attracted the best, including the likes of Prof Beredugo who pioneered Engineering and then Dr (Ms) Kiri in the Sciences, etc. It was in this ambience that Student Activism underpinning the Niger Delta struggle took vigour in the 1970s at CST. It produced in the mid 1970s, Felix Datuowei, Major Tolofari, PZ Aginighan, Nimi Adoki. Of all these, PZ stood out towering.
With the coming of the Shehu Shagari democratically elected government in 1979 and the continued agitations coming from CST, UNIPORT and now joined by the Efik and Ibibio Student Union from University of Calabar also established in 1977, the circuit for agitation was fully tied. President Shagari then set up the Okigbo Panel on Revenue Allocation. However, Niger Delta students protested vehemently and prevented Dr. Pius Okigbo and team from seating at the Presidential Hotel, Port-Harcourt until the saintly Countryman, Melford Okilo stepped in. Still PZ stood out.
By the time we left school all others got scattered around the world and Nigeria for postgraduate studies or pursuit of career. But PZ remained in the zone. From different preoccupations to the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) where he became Acting Managing Director and involvement in local politics he lived with issues bothering on Niger Delta development and progress of the Ijaw people. He saw it all. From initial militancy, Ogoni Struggle, MEND, to AVENGERS and sea piracy. He midwifed formation of several cultural bodies such as Ijaw National Congress (INC), Ijaw Youth Council, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF). He supported other bodies such as Urhobo Progressive Union (UPU), Ogbarko Ikwerre, Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), etc.
On retirement from NDDC, he plunged head-on into politics and tried to be Governor of Delta State under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Ultimately, he remained one of the backbones of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Delta State and saw to the consolidation of the party in the Niger Delta. Alas, death visited on the infamous East-West road as he, along with his son, Tammy and his aide died from a ghastly auto crash on 31st August 2018 just few hours before we were scheduled to meet in Port-Harcourt.
Today, the historical archives and moving encyclopedia of the Niger Delta has left us. But he has also left great imprints and footmarks in the sands of time. Gladly in these 40 years of service to our people, he had produced worthy successors who shall continue the work with courage and determination.
We pray that God will grant his soul eternal rest.
Dr. Igali is resident in Yenagoa, Bayelsa stateS