By Suoyo Ekubo
The remains of the Four-time Minister Late Alabo Tamunotenyim Omubo Graham-Douglas have been interred at his hometown Abonnema in Akuku Toru local Government Area of Rivers State on Saturday 10 September 2022.
Late Alabo Graham-Douglas was born in May 8 1939 and passed away on 25 April 2022 in Abuja after a protracted illness.
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.
Alabo T. O. Graham-Douglas is survived by his wife Muriel, as well as his twelve children and grandchildren.
Meanwhile the Bayelsa State Governor Senator Douye Diri who attended funeral service of the Ijaw leader Late Alabo T. O. Graham-Douglas in Abonnema Rivers State on Saturday, described the late Alabo T. O. Graham-Douglas as an icon and incredible gift to the Ijaw ethnic nationality and Nigeria in general.
He said: “Let me on behalf of my family, the government and the people of Bayelsa State thank the Graham-Douglas family as well as the people of Abonnema for the incredible gift that Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas was to the Ijaw ethnic nationality in particular and Nigeria in general.
“From my humble beginnings as organising secretary of the Ijaw National Congress till now as governor of Bayelsa, the only homogenous Ijaw state, Graham-Douglas represented for me an important symbol and voice highlighting the issues that are of importance to our corporate existence as an ethnic group.
“He strongly believed that it was important to give back to the community and country in which one lived. A genuinely optimistic man, the vistas he saw of Nigeria and the Niger Delta were always positive and hopeful.
“Whereas we are here to pay our last respects to this incredible man, we are not here to mourn. We are here to celebrate the life and times of a true icon. A life well lived.”
Governor Diri also commended the deceased for championing the cause for the preservation of the Niger Delta from the effects of oil and gas exploration.
On his part, Former Minister of Transportation, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, eulogised the leadership qualities of the deceased, saying Graham-Douglas was instrumental to the emergence of Rufus Ada-George as former governor of Rivers State.
Amaechi noted that the contributions of the Ijaw hero to the development of Rivers can not be ignored, saying his memories will pass on from generation to generation.
Also speaking, Prof Benjamin Okaba, President, Ijaw National Congress (INC), described the deceased as, “A man who stood out from the crowd, a crusader for Ijaw Kingdom with an impeccable record of excellence. Ijaw nation is mourning because we are passing through perilous times and we needed Alabo to be with us at this time. Alabo is somebody we need to study. He was a leader of Ijaw nation.”
Dignitaries who attended the burial ceremony include Bayelsa State Governor His Excellence Douye Diri, wife of the former president of Nigeria Dame Patience Jonathan, Former Minister of Transportation Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, Former Minister of Petroleum, Dr. Odein Ajumogobia SAN, House of Reps member, Prof. Steve Azaiki, Hon. Chief Timi Alaibe, the Group Executive Director – Upstream NNPC Engr. Adokiye Tombomieye, Members of Port Harcourt One Love led by Ambassador Idaeregogo Ogan, Dr Dakuku Peterside, Pastor Tonye Cole, Mrs. Margaret Alamieyeseigha, Members of the Bayelsa and Rivers State Executive Councils, members of the Bayelsa Elders Council, a delegation from the INC led by the president, Prof. Ben Okaba, the Kalabari Council of Chiefs and other top government functionaries.