by Mitchelle Uzorka
Out of Sight is not out of Mind. Alabo Tamunotenyim Omubo Graham-Douglas Lives on.
He was known by the pet name “Ette” (popularized by the likes of IBB), Opu Alabo (Pre-eminent Ijaw Chief), Grandmaster and Leader (of ancient Masonic knowledge and mysteries but ultimately converted to Christian patriot), TOG (abbreviation of his names).
Alabo Tamunotenyim Omubo Graham-Douglas was born on 8 May 1939, in Abonnema in the Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State. He was of Ijaw origin. His brother, Nabo Bekinbo Graham-Douglas, was the first indigenous Attorney-General of Nigeria. Alabo Graham-Douglas had over 30 siblings. He attended secondary school in Lagos and Port Harcourt. He studied at Acton Technical School, London (1963–1965) and then at the University of Lagos (1965–1969). He earned a BSc. in Botany and Zoology.
He started work with the Nigerian Petroleum Refinery Company, Port Harcourt (1969–1977). He became managing director of Togiscani Nigeria, a construction company (1978–1985), and CEO of Road Haulage Company and Magroad Enterprises. He was also chairman of the Binterteco Nigeria, Pabod Finance and Investment and Waterglass Boat Yard. In 2000, Graham-Douglas was appointed Provincial Grand Master of the Freemason’s Lodge in Calabar.
On 25 April 2022, Alabo Graham-Douglas died in a private hospital in Abuja at the age of 83, after a protracted illness. He was survived by his wife, Muriel, 12 children, and “many” grandchildren.
Late Alabo T. O. Graham-Douglas was a renowned Political role model of uncommon savvy. In 1986 Alabo T. O. Graham-Douglas was appointed commissioner for Youth, Sports and Culture during the administration of Police Commissioner Fidelis Oyakhilome and was re-aappointed to the same ministry by Colonel Anthony Ukpo. Under his tenure, Alabo establish the Rivers State Sports Institute at Isaka, requested and hosted the 6th All Nigerian Sports Festival in Rivers State and Completed the Civic Centre Sports Complex and the Liberation Stadium, Which had hitherto been abandoned. He also conceptualised and produced the first Rivers State cultural carnival in 1988, tagged CARNIRIV ’88.
One of Alabo’s significant contribution to Rivers State was his proactive conceptualization with others of the need for technical and scientific education department in Rivers State. This gave birth to the College of Arts and Technology, which later metamorphosed into the Rivers State University of Science and Technology and now Rivers State University.
In 1989, Alabo T. O. Graham-Douglas was appointed Federal Minister for Social Development, Youths and Sports. During hi tenure, the National Youth Service Corp was overhauled and Mr Clemence Westerhof was recruited as technical Manager of the Nigerian national football team through whom they recorded many successes. In addition, the country hosted the under 20 FIFA tournament in Nigeria. Alabo was later appointed Minister of Aviation in 1999, where he oversaw the deregulation of the aviation industry.
He was appointed Minister of Labour and Productivity, and in 2000, Minister of Culture and Tourism in the Olusegun Obasanjo’s first tenure.
As a Federal Minister, Alabo influenced the creation of more local government areas in Rivers State. He was a member of Special Tenders Board and a member of the then Council for vision 2020. The roads to Abonnema, Brass and Bonny were conceptualised by Alabo which the Federal Government approved.
In 1982 he contested the Governorship Primaries in Rivers State when he challenged the then incumbent Governor, Late Chief Melford Okilo. Alabo was a phenomenon that defined and shaped the political life of Rivers State and was instrumental to the emergence of two democratically elected governors in the State; Chief Rufus Ada George in 1992 and Sir Dr. Peter Odili in 1999.
On the 10th of September 2022, Late Alabo T. O. Graham-Douglas was interred in his hometown Abonnema. His funeral was a talk in town which the Bayelsa state Governor senator Douye Diri, Former Minister of Transportation Chief Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan and a host of other top government officials Including Members of the Port Harcourt City One Love all stood in their regalia to bid farewell to a great patriot who has served Nigeria tirelessly, an Elder statesman Late Alabo Tamunotenyim Omubo Graham-Douglas.