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United in Grief Again

As is often the case, grief is the direct consequence of failure of duty of care compounded by mendacity and incompetence.

Subversive neglect and/or outright negligence would escalate matters beyond toxic combination to fatal and irrevocable injury.

In a few days (7th November 2021) two King’s College families – namely our revered former Acting Principal (Headmaster) Mr. Feniobu Iroloye Ajumogobia and the Cerebral Professor Claude Ake will reflect on the profoundly clinical evidence of Justice Charles Archibong (Retd) (ex-St. Gregory’s College, Obalende).

“On 7th November 1996, a Boeing 727 aircraft, registration number 5N BBG with 144 passengers and crew on board operating Flight 086, took off from Port Harcourt at 3.52 p.m. local time bound for Lagos. The aircraft and flight service were those of Aviation Development Company Plc (ADC), a publicly quoted Nigerian company.

In the process of clearing the ADC aircraft for its descent into Lagos, an air traffic controller who controlled and separated air traffic set the ADC aircraft on a collision course with another aircraft.

That aircraft was a Triax Boeing 727 operating flight

TIX 185 which just departed from Lagos heading to Enugu.

The ADC aircraft plunged into the Lagoon at Ejirin, near Epe, killing all 144 passengers on board (including Mr. Ajumogobia and Professor Ake).”

After the crash, the Minister of Aviation ordered the grounding of all ADC aircrafts and suspension of its operations. He also ordered an investigation into the cause of the accident.”

That was twenty-five years ago but the grief, nightmare, shock and mourning which ensured remain fresh and galling. If I remember rightly the Chief Investigator was Cudjoe Sagoe (ex-Igbobi College, Lagos and Imperial College, London).

By way of digression Cudjoe died relatively young. Matters were not helped by the fact when he returned to Nigeria with an Msc in Aeronautical Engineering, he joined Nigerian Federal Aviation Authority (now known as Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria) only to find himself in the invidious situation whereby he (from Lagos State) had to report to a boss with inferior qualification but who was from a favoured part of the nation.

Even more grievous was the case of Bestman, who was a classmate of Cudjoe. His score in the final Bsc exam in Aeronautical Engineering was 100 per cent. The examiners could not believe what they had witnessed. So they made him repeat the examination in the full glare of several professors. He scored 100 per cent again. For the first time in the history of Imperial College, Bestman by-passed Msc and went directly to the Ph.D course. He finished it in record time. Out of panic, he was sent off to British Aerospace in Bristol where he again astonished them with his brilliance. It was the same story when he was sent off to Australia to lecture in rocket science.

Suddenly, he caught the fever of patriotism and returned to Nigeria. He ended up at the Rivers State Institute of Technology, Port Harcourt. He apparently perished in grief, frustration and penury. All things bright and beautiful, Nigeria devours or destroys them all !!

Read Also: Dealing with Grief

Back to the judgement delivered by Justice Charles Archibong on 10 November 2009 (thirteen years after the crash):

“…………………………in the circumstances that led to the crash of the ADC 727 5N BBG Flight 086, I found that the authorities (the agencies of government directly concerned) i.e. all the defendants bar the first defendant (unnamed Mr. X), failed severally in the discharge of their statutory duties, including the failure to release promptly the report of the panel appointed to investigate the causes of the crash. The delay compounded the negligence that contributed to that tragic accident.

I found the failure by the Federal Ministry of Aviation and the Federal Government of Nigeria to release the panel’s report promptly after it had been completed to be negligent in the extreme and reckless, and it was irresponsible and they were culpable as a result.”

CNN’s incredibly versatile and energetic Richard Quest who combines his interest in aviation matters with stock exchange/corporate issues has been on the case. Look out for the riveting expose:

“During that interval (thirteen years), the airline died.

Before this tragic crash, the company had been planning a major expansion programme. Deposits in United States dollars had been made on aircrafts. Negotiations by the Chairman of the Company, Captain Augustine Okon with the aircraft leasing company in Florida, USA had to be abandoned once the crash occurred. The leasing company refused to refund the deposit. That formed the basis of court action in the United States. Scheduled “D” checks for aircrafts could not go ahead as planned – no revenue. Planed re-capitalisation was aborted. There were stff redundancies. Leases and loans from various banks could not be serviced when they fell due. There was loss of cargo revenue as well. Because aircrafts could no longer be serviced due to inability to continue the mandatory checks on aircrafts, the company had to ground its aircrafts long before the end of their economic life. Insurance premiums skyrocketed due to assessed higher risks. The company’s share price plummeted. Losses, losses, losses.

Mr. Feniobu Iroloye Ajumogobia:

Feniobu Iroloye Ajumogobia was born Macaulay Frank Bestman, to Chief Amakiri Bestman and Madam Membereba Orubibi on 9th January, 1914 in Abonnema. His father, also known as Ajumogobiaye Amakiri was the 1st son of Chief Bestman Ajumogobia Briggs from Kalabari Old Shipping, one of the 11 founding chiefs of Abonnema. His mother was a descendant of the Duweinala family who were amongst the founders of Kalabari.

He started school at Nyemoni Primary School, Abonnema in 1923 and went on to Government College Umuahia on 29th June, 1930 where he completed his secondary education. It was here that he developed an interest in science, and as a student he was appointed laboratory curator of the college. He left Government College in 1932 and went on to Yaba Higher College as a foundation student, where he studied Physics and Mathematics. It was at Yaba Higher College that he and some of his contemporaries such as Isaac Dagogo JohnBull (later Erekosima) and Horatio Briggs (later Tralapuye Oruwariye) first mooted the idea of adopting traditional family names. He changed his name to Feniobu Iroloye Ajumogobia in December, 1950, a few months before his marriage to Florence Daisy Inetubo Wokoma, daughter of the late Rev. Canon A.M. Wokoma and Mrs. M.A. Wokoma.

On the completion of his studies at Higher College, he embarked upon what was to be a long and fulfilling career as a science teacher and educationist despite the strenuous efforts of his tutors to persuade him to do Medicine or Engineering, or one of the more prestigious and materially rewarding professions given his science background. He refused to be swayed, and often asserted that, “Teaching is the poorest of trades, but the noblest of professions”. He was always proud to be referred to as a teacher. In his own words:

“I was sent from the Higher College, Yaba where I was pursuing the course for the Teachers Diploma (Physics & Mathematics) to Government College, Ibadan, in the last half of 1936, to learn to teach Mathematics under Mr. A.W.A. Spicer, a very effective teacher of the subject. I was posted to Edo College, Benin City in April, 1937 to introduce science in the college, which had recently been established by the Nigerian Government. I was also to take charge of Mathematics in the college. Again, these experiences were most stimulating and rewarding.

I was transferred from Edo College, to King’s College, Lagos in January 1939. I recall that I arrived in Lagos on 13th January, 1939. I was at King’s College, Lagos from January 1939 to September 1944 and again from July 1949 to September, 1957 making a total of fourteen years. From September, 1944 to June, 1949 I was on a Nigerian Government Scholarship in the United Kingdom to continue my study of Physics and Mathematics at degree level.

On arrival at King’s College Lagos, I was warmly received by my former science teacher, Mr. A.J. Carpenter, who had appointed me as the science laboratory curator at Government College, Umuahia. At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Mr. Carpenter was called to the colours.

During my 14 years at King’s College, Lagos I had the most rewarding experiences, not only in the teaching of science (including Mathematics) but also in other ways. I rose to be the Senior Science Master and was also in charge of mathematics at the college. It would be invidious to name only a few of the many young gentlemeniI had the pleasure of teaching at King’s College, Lagos. Suffice it to say that many of them have been very successful and are flourishing in practically all fields of endeavour.

While I was at King’s College, I was approached by Miss W.W. Blackwell, the Principal of Queens College, Lagos (1931-1942) to teach science to selected girls of Queen’s College to enable them to have a background of general science. I undertook that assignment until I left Nigeria for Britain in September 1944.

I was truly proud to be a teacher or schoolmaster. It is also my very great pleasure to state that many of the students I taught are among my personal friends. This is the joy and reward of every successful school master”.

During his years of study in Britain from 1944 to 1949 he was associated with the Science Master’s Association (SMA). It wasKeen for his desire to for such an association in Nigeria to encourage the improvement of science teaching in Nigeria in Nigeria, h. He sent out invitations to selected teachers. The Science Teachers Association of Nigeria (STAN) was thus born and he was elected its first president.and Tthe first meeting was held in the Lecture Theatre of King’s College, Lagos in October 1957. The Science Teachers Association of Nigeria (STAN) was born and he was elected its first president.

In September 1957, Mr. Ajumogobia was transferred from King’s College, Lagos to the Lagos Education Office as Chief Education Officer,. It was whilst he was there that where he implemented Government’s decision to establish the Federal Emergency Science School at Onikan, Lagos. Soon after this, in 1958A year later, he moved to the Nigeria Office as Education Adviser to the Nigerian Representative in London.

In February 1959, he was asked to return to Nigeria to take on the post of Adviser on Secondary Education in the Federal Ministry of Education and subsequently Adviser on Post-Secondary Education in the Federal Ministry of Education. During this period he was actively involved in the establishment of the University of Lagos and often reminisced about the citing of the university at its present location. At Nigeria’s independence on October 1st , 1960 he was appointed Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, the first Nigerian to hold the post. He retired voluntarily from the Federal Civil Service in June 1964 as Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture and joined the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1964.

As Programme Specialist in Paris, his duties included the development of educational programmes and projects for the Africa Region. In 1965, UNESCO appointed him as their representative to the Economic Commission to Africa (ECA) and to the Ethiopian Government based in Addis Ababa. He was subsequently appointed UNESCO Chief of Mission to East and South East Africa, covering Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, and based in Dare-es-Salaam.

He spent much of his time travelling between his various missions from where he unfailingly sent individual postcards to his wife and children. Each member of his family also received a telegram on their birthdays, and even after his retirement, despite the advent of fax, telex and e-mail, it was always a thrill to receive his telegrams, sometimes several weeks after the actual date!

Mr. Ajumogobia retired from UNESCO in 1974, he enjoyed a brief spell of research at his old college, King’s College, Cambridge, where in 1953 he had done postgraduate work in the History and Philosophy of Science. Upon his return to Nigeria he settled in Port-Harcourt and was engaged by the Rivers State Government as Administrative Officer on Special Duties for 2 years after which he retired from active public service in 1977. In 1979, he was conferred with the National Award of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON).

In retirement, he rekindled his interest and devotion to the Science Teachers Association of Nigeria (STAN), which he had initiated as the Senior Science Master of King’s College, Lagos in 1957. On the occasion of the 24th Annual Conference in Akure, Ondo State in 1982, he was conferred with “Fellow of STAN” and was fondly referred to as the Father of STAN. In He wrote tthe following words written barely 6 months before his passing; “…and I here assure that my personal interest in and close association with STAN will continue to the end of my mortal life by the grace of God.” On 18th February 1997 STAN conferred him with the posthumous award of Distinguished/Sustained Service to Science Education (DSSE).

As a father he treated all his children with a friendly dignity, and by personal example emphasized to them the values and importance of integrity and modesty. He was a thoughtful father and took an interest in all they did. His personality seemed to be shaped by what he would wish for them. At their birthday parties, he would personally organize the games. During family holidays he was involved in all activities. The last of these family holidays was in August 1995 when his wife, children and some of his grandchildren spent a month-long eventful vacation in the United Kingdom. During this holiday, he took his family to see the 100th anniversary performance of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of being Ernest” a play, which he had seen and enjoyed as a student in London in the mid-1940s.

In his younger days he was a keen cricketer and a good swimmer. His children grew up hearing mythical tales about his prowess as a swimmer. His two sons (one of whom was a medallist of the British Amateur Swimming Association) regarded themselves as fine swimmers and continually challenged their father to a race. This he always politely declined until one Sunday afternoon to their great excitement, he decided to demonstrate to them that he could indeed swim. The result of this event ensured that the deference that Soboma and Odein had for their father’s swimming ability was passed on to his grand-children. Needless to say, thereafter, family swimming contests pointedly excluded him!

As a husband, he was most companionable, kind and extremely courteous. In his wife’s words, “Feni was one of nature’s gentlemen. His life was one of quality and substance. He had a commendable, agreeable disposition, disciplined and devoted, consistent and committed. He was gentle but firm. I like to think of him as a good husband, a good father to my children, a man of integrity. He made my life richer in quality and experience. I am a better woman for having been married to him.”

He loved his nine grandchildren dearly and was happiest in their midst especially during the last holiday they spent with him in Port-Harcourt in October 1996. His trip to Lagos in November 1996 was especially to see and be with them..

Professor Claude Ake:

Claude Ake (18 February 1939 in Omoku – 7 November 1996) was a Nigerian political scientist from Omoku, in Rivers State, Nigeria. Ake (pronounced AH-kay) was considered “one of Africa’s foremost political philosophers.” He specialised in political economy, political theory, and development studies and is well known for his research on development and democracy in Africa. He was professor of political economy and dean of the University of Port Harcourt’s Faculty of Social Sciences for some years in the 1970s and 1980s after having taught at Columbia University, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1966. He held various academic positions at institutions around the world, including at Yale University (United States), University of Nairobi (Kenya), University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and University of Port Harcourt (Nigeria). He was active in Nigerian politics, a critic of corruption and authoritarian rule in Africa. His permanent home was in Port Harcourt.
Before becoming a dean at Port Harcourt, he taught at universities in Canada, Kenya and Tanzania. Afterward, he held a variety of posts, at the African Journal of Political Economy, on the Social Sciences Council of Nigeria, and elsewhere.

At Yale, he taught two political science courses—one, called State in Africa, which was for undergraduates and graduate students, and another for undergraduates, about aspects of development and the state in Africa. While teaching at Yale he lived in temporary quarters on the Yale campus.

He wrote in 1985, in an essay on the African state: “Power is everything, and those who control the coercive resources use it freely to promote their interests.” George Bond, the director of the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University’s School of International Public Affairs, said: “He was one of the pre-eminent scholars on African politics and a scholar-activist concerned with the development of Africa. His concern was primarily with the average African and how to improve the nature of his conditions.”

David E. Apter of Yale said of Ake: “In the very short time he was here, he developed a following among the students, both graduate and undergraduate, which was truly extraordinary. There were graduate students who wept at his death. Everyone was really shocked. It was an amazing testimonial to the man.” Apter said that Ake had “crackling intelligence and an outspokenly severe view of African politics and nevertheless, underneath that, a quality of understanding which was remarkably subtle and complex. But he was able to communicate the complexity in a straightforward manner.” He added that Ake “was not only, in my view, the top African political scientist, but an extraordinarily courageous person. The Nigerian Government was often at odds with him, and nevertheless, they recognized his stature.”

As regards the crucial issue of grief, even the English got it wrong. There is no such thing as “good grief” (even as an expression of being utterly perplexed).

Thankfully, the front page of “Daily Trust” newspaper of October 27, 2021 has provided us with the proof of evidence by the witness-In-Chief.

Headline:​“INCOMPETENT PEOPLE IN GOVERNMENT
​​REASON FOR FAILURE –EL-RUFAI.”

“The Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, has said there is governance failure because there are so many incompetent people in government.

He spoke yesterday at a plenary session of the Nigerian Economic Summit.

“We need competent people in political and public service, but this not the case in Nigeria and things will not work. Unless the best and brightest hands are in the political system, the outcome will be sub-optimal and terrible,” he said.

“I have seen a level of disconnect between the political and economic elite. We discovered that those in the economic class just want to do their business, make their money and live at Banana Island. But however strong your business is, without a functional political system and competent public service, that business will collapse.”

The Chairman , Africa Initiative for Governance, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede called for synergy among both political and economic players.

“Therefore, if there is a failure in the system, it is a collective failure. Nation-building is a very deliberate exercise, which involves great risks and sacrifices. And that is the path that we must take.”

Meanwhile, Governor Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau State, at another panel session said the state remains a very suitable business and investment hub because the government has vigorously addressed some of the major security challenges by tackling their root causes.

Lalong, in a statement by his Director of Press and Public Affairs, Dr. Makut Simon, also advocated for a review of the revenue sharing formula and state police which must accommodate adequate funding, checks and balances and a very strong mechanism against abuse.”

Perhaps I should add that in 1957, I was in the same dormitory [F9, Harman’s House] at King’s College, Lagos as Claude Ake who was in the Lower Sixth Form, while I was in Form One. Our beds were next to each other. Even then it was clear that he was destined for greatness. He held very strong views about virtually every facet of life and beyond.

As for Mr. Ajumogobia who was both a science teacher and housemaster, he and his family lived in one of the flats above our dormitory. He was Acting Principal (Headmaster) before joining the Ministry of Education from where he went off on international posting to Nairobi, Kenya. He took his wife and four children with him. That explains how his two boys – Soboma and Odein (former Minister of Foreign Affairs; and former Minister of Petroleum Resources) missed out on old boys of King’s College.

He also had two daughters Emi Renner (a medical doctor) and Nimi Akinkugbe (who is currently Nigeria’s Ambassador to Greece).

One of Professor Claude Ake’s most remarkable interventions was his disdain for military government. He famously slugged off “Those who are in authority but not in power. They lack the moral authority to change anything.”

In other countries, on an occasion such as this, the government would organise remembrance activities to commemorate tow outstanding souls that perished due to incompetence and also ensure that the duty of care is never again compromised by recklessness. Even after twenty-five years, the latest tragedy is the collapse of a twenty-one storey building within shouting distance of my office in Ikoyi, Lagos. At the last count, ten souls had been pronounced dead with many more unaccounted for.

Permit me to conclude by commending the Ajumogobia family for the annual classical musical feast in honour of their patriarch.

Similarly, I must thank both Professor Adele Jinadu (ex-King’s College and Oxford University) and Professor Tunji Olaopa for their unrelenting efforts to keep the formidable intellectual legacy of Professor Claude Ake alive.

The last word belong to the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi who like Mr. Ajumogobia and Professor Ake is from Rivers State. Front page of “ThisDay” newspaper of November 1, 2021:

“Don’t forget that, what most Ministers like is this kind of situation, where contracts are expiring in their time. I could have just renewed it (the INTELS Contract) and collected some of the contracts.”

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