An Open Letter to Mr. Inye Harry (2)

In any case, Justice Unbuku, undoubtedly taking instructions from the governor, warned my father not to grant the injunction that the LGA chairman was seeking. My father was in a bind. What was he to do: obey his conscience and act in the course of justice, or endanger his employment by alienating his chief judge, deputy-governor, and governor? In the end, as he had always done, he decided to act in obedience to his conscience and in the course of justice. The chief judge was livid. From that moment, it looked like my father’s days in the judiciary were numbered.

A few years later, Chief Ada-George’s friend, the late General Sani Abacha, set up a panel to “sanitize” the judiciary. Chief Ada-George had a long memory. My father had once thwarted him in another case involving a land dispute in his hometown Okrika, even before he became governor of the state. His friend, Justice Unbuku, had a long memory too. Justice Unbuku forwarded my father’s name to the panel, accusing him of blatant disobedience to him and recklessly using his power to grant exparte injunctions. And we all knew that the dance of death had started for my father. These powerful men were ready to “teach” him a lesson. They would destroy him and show other honest men on the bench who was in charge. If you are a judge and your governor, through the chief judge, tells you what to do, you better do it, or you will be destroyed. That was the message.

Yet, my father hoped for the best. But very sadly, Nigeria is not a country where an honest man gets his dues. Our system is heavily rigged in favor of the corrupt and powerful, men who will burn, kill, destroy, and trample on anything and anybody to get their wish. That power is ephemeral and that it should be used for the common good while one had it is an idea that is totally alien to them. And, so, one day they are tin-gods, and the next day, the next tin-god is using them as rags to wipe muck from the floor. And the vicious cycle continues: tin-god after tin-god after tin-god. The people suffer. They die. They die of back-breaking poverty. They die of disease. They die in the hands of hooligans, who use the guns given to them by the tin-gods. And now even the infant in the cradle in that corner of the world knows Hobbes’ famous statement by heart: that in a state of lawlessness, life is brutish, nasty, and short.

With the powers-that-be arrayed against him, and no one to stand up for him, my father did not stand a chance. His health deteriorated. He had once had hemorrhoids, and taken care of it. During this stressful period, it returned with deadly force. He would go to the toilet and lose a lot of blood. Yet, he bore the pain stoically. How he bore the pain, and still carried on day after day after day I could not fathom. The first time he had it, he had gone for surgery to take care of it. The second time, he would not go for surgery until he had cleared his name. But he stood no chance against the men that were determined to destroy him. And unknown to him, the bastard of a colorectal cancer was eating away at his entrails. Again and again I pleaded with him to go and get a thorough checkup and go for surgery again to take care of the situation. Again and again he told me that he would not seek any cure that would make him unable to rush to Abuja and defend himself if the need arose for him to do so. But man is mortal and what he can do in the face of very powerful men who are hell-bent on destroying him in our very corrupt and lawless country is very little.

They took him down. And I wept for him. I wept very bitterly for him. I wept. I wept. I wept. I remembered all the sacrifices that he had made, all through those years, friends and powerful people he had alienated in order to stand by his conscience and up for justice. All of those years had amounted to a scurrilous kick in the place where it mattered most to him: his reputation. I guess those who destroyed him are happy. They are happy that they have put him in his place. But for me, I will never hear his voice again. I will never hear his deep laughter again. I will never be able to engage him in long and friendly debates again. I will never hear him say in his gentle voice, “My son, let us agree to disagree.” When I have children, they will never know Grandpa. They will never learn from him the powerful lessons that he taught me. But, this I know: there is a God, and one day those who so callously destroyed him will face him in the presence of the Impartial Judge.

Mr. Justice Kayode Esho (rtd.), who headed one of the panels, and is now the Chairman of the Rivers State Truth and Reconciliation Committee, has the opportunity to look into my father’s case again, and clear the good man’s name. An honest man should never be punished for his honesty. It is a travesty. It is a travesty. It is a travesty. And, so, I urge Justice Esho to look into the case again and vindicate my father. Justice Esho owes this to his conscience. If, on the other hand, he knows any reason why my father should not be so vindicated, please I urge him to share the information with the world. Let him share the information with the world. I want to hear why a good man’s character, career, and life should be destroyed on the altar of lawless and vindictive power.

As for you, Mr. Inye Harry, you are a Harry from Harry’s Town, and, therefore, a distant cousin to me. I would think that this little piece of kinship will make you to, at least, investigate the circumstances surrounding the callous destruction of my father before you bury your dagger in the man, a man who is dead and cannot defend himself against your false charges. I must be honest with you, I am not writing this letter to persuade you of my father’s innocence. This letter is a duty I owe to an honest and courageous man, whose exemplary life left a lasting impact on me. Since he died, I have been eager to tell the world the story he could not tell it before he died.

I am not a player in Nigeria’s lawless politics, and I do not want to be a player. I cannot tell a brazen lie and pass it off as truth. From your testimony before Justice Esho, you leave no doubt in my mind that you are fully at home in the murky world of Nigeria’s politics. How else can I explain your absolute fabrication that in 1981 my older brother was insane and kept in chains at No. 25 Bende Street, Port Harcourt? In 1981, my older brother was a student at Baptist High School, Port Harcourt. He did not have any psychiatric problems. He has never spent even a second as a patient at any psychiatric hospital. If you can tell such brazen lies, then I have little hope of persuading you with the truth.

But, brother, I empathize with you over your father’s death. I read an article in one of the newspapers, where your father was reported as saying that he had information that he was going to be assassinated. Knowing the bloody world of Nigerian politics, I was afraid for your father. I was afraid for him not just because he was a fellow human being, who should not be cut down in cold blood because of politics, but also because as a Harry from Harry’s Town he was a cousin to me, one of the descendants of our great forbear, the first Harry, my mother’s ancestor. When only months after I read the article, your father was cut down in cold blood, I experienced the sort of emotional turmoil I went through when I heard that the bloody butcher of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha, had executed Ken Saro-Wiwa. I came very close to tears. I wondered why life was so cheap in Nigeria. Brother, I still grieve for your father, and will continue to grieve for him, as I grieve for my father, for as long as I live.

I hope you find your father’s murderers and bring the case to an emotional closure, so that you can move on. I pray you do. And I have three pieces of advice for you. 1) That you are a university graduate is nothing new. Yes, it is an achievement, and I salute it; but you don’t need to blow it out of proportion. There are millions of people who have achieved that honor and more. 2) Do not thrust a dagger in the reputation of a good man. 3) Stick to the truth.

With very warm regards,

Your cousin, Dokubo

cc: Mr. Justice Kayode Esho (rtd.), Chairman, Rivers State Truth and Reconciliation Commission

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  • I happen to be a next door neighbor to The Dokubo’s at Old GRA and came to learn so much about this humble man from the vivid account of his son.Just like my father,Mr.M.S.B Ikara who contributed so much to the Rivers State ministry of Agriculture but his Honesty as a man of intergrity made the currupt minded people tagged him “a square peg in a round hole”Dokubo,I know your pain as the son who has an opportunity to corruptly enrinch himself but chose the contrary thus making your suffer untold hardship.My father and your father have so much in common and we should be proud of the legacy they left behind.