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Monday, September 19, 2011

TRIBUTES TO ADMIRAL AUGUSTUS A. AIKHOMU GCON


Admiral Augustus Akhabue Aikhomu, quadruple "A", GCON.

The Okaokulo of Esanland, fondly referred to by close friends simply as "GUS".

You finally answered the eternal call of our creator and bowed out gallantly from this world on Thursday 17th August 2011 after a very remarkable, eventful and memorable terrestrial journey. The dignity, grace and courage that you exhibited in the last two years or so of your time here on earth as you confronted the vicissitude of your illness are quite remarkable even as I acknowledge that they are characteristic of your approach to life whether in good times or in bad. This significant attribute has so much endeared you to all those who came across your path.

You were a Sailor of distinction who successfully navigated the Oceans, Seas and intricate Waters of the World; a Military top brass - you became the First Four Star General of the Navy in Nigeria, nay Africa. An accomplished administrator, you were Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of General Staff and Vice President of Nigeria. An accomplished elder Statesman, Politician and Leader. Above all you were, to me, a close friend, my elder brother and very valuable confidant.

Some, they say, are born great, some achieve greatness while there are yet some others who have greatness thrust upon them. As for you, you rose from very humble beginnings to Olympian heights and by dint of hard work and sheer determination you achieved greatness in capital letters. I remember vividly when, in our sober moments we both frequently reflected on our early lives, you regaled me with stories of your humble, challenging but exciting beginning. You became an orphan at a very tender age. Significantly I recall your account of the day when you returned from school one fateful afternoon in Irrua tired, hungry and expecting the usual bowl of delicious pounded yam and steaming ogbono soup waiting for your consumption; you rather found your beloved mother, your only surviving parent then, who meant everything to you, lying dead in her mud hut. She was still warm, you told me, when you touched her body but she was no more. You became helpless as you were escorted away by some elders and it flashed through your mind that your world had come to an end.


That was not your destiny! Your mother had died so young because there were no proper medical facilities in the rural community at the time. Perhaps to address the perennial problem of female mortality you single handedly, as Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, championed the establishment of a modern "State of the Art" hospital in Irrua, now a Centre of Excellence and the Teaching hospital for the College of Medicine of Ambrose Alli University. You had appropriately christened the edifice "Otibhor Okhae Specialist Hospital" after your dear mother in whose memory you made the effort in the first place. Although the name was later changed through the manipulative mischief of some political elements in our midst, you took it with a smile and a shrug of the shoulder which is typical of the simplicity you exhibited all your life.

You were a man of honor and high integrity who mingled so freely with peasants in the same manner as you did with Kings and the fabulously wealthy. Your level of loyalty to friends, family and Country was legendary. You served your fatherland at a very critical period of its chequered history and you played a very prominent role, even at putting your life as a young military officer several times, critically in harms way, to ensure that Nigeria remained one great and united Country. A civil war veteran, you stood firmly and courageously on the bridge in command of your war ship during the civil war where you escaped several times by inches from enemy fire which as you recalled so sadly that on one memorable occasion brought down your close colleague who was standing just by your side.
Those who were so privileged to have you work with them, as boss, colleagues or subordinate secured your loyalty for life as you never departed from them even after official service.

On my part, recalling our relationship and of the occasions I dared to wander off course, you never failed to remind me how my late father had left me in your custody as an elder brother. You repeated to me, several times, what he had told you in our Esan dialect, once in my house in London in 1983 and also at home in Esan in 1986 that we must remain together. You kept faith to the end with the promise you made to him and so you gave me unflinching invaluable support in my endeavors all the time.

Depending on your mood, you fondly addressed me in a variety of ways each time we met - Toooom, Tonson CSF, Akinrogun, Chairman, Honorable Minister…etc…On my part I frequently responded to you as "Sir" but when in our often cheery environment, a few favorite cocktails on hand and the air is laced with makossa tunes that we both immensely enjoyed, I join the group of many friends usually gathered around you and we all call you "Gus".

I would testify without any equivocation that you discharged your responsibilities in high office to the best of your ability and with the highest level of integrity and love for Country. That the path of our Nation might have been quite different today had some of your colleagues listened to your very wise counsel particularly towards the end of your tenure. In spite of the vast opportunities available to you, you left office with modest resources, as you were totally incorruptible!

We the people of the former Midwestern Nigeria must pay tributes to you for Edo State and Delta State in their present form, which to a very large extent is your creation. For the Edo people, you told me you wanted an ethnic homogenous State, which it is today. You never went around throwing your weight or blowing your own whistle for anyone to pay you adulation for what you have done for our people.

As you take your exit, we the Esan people have suffered once again, a fatal blow as we are now deprived eternally of our strongest and most credible National voice in contemporary times. It is said that you never know what you have until you lose it. You have been the voice of reason and caution in our land and a healing balm that was ever available to soothe every nerve of our affliction.

For me, I come to terms once again, with the reality of the transient nature of our terrestrial existence and of the extremely short tenure of time available to all humankind here on earth. The past years that we lived, ate, drank, played, laughed, danced, planned and worked together all seem to me now just as a breadth or sigh away. But it has been thoroughly worth it and memorable and I cherish every moment of our deep friendship and brotherhood that God permitted us to nurture here on earth which shall not be put to an end by our mortality.

Good bye my dear friend, good bye my dear brother, good bye dear Gus, good bye Admiral and safe travel as you go Home to meet our Maker. Rest In Perfect Peace; amen.


Signed

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