By David Chukwueke
I started hearing about Alabo Tamunotenyim Omubo Graham-Douglas in his heydays as a politician and presidential aspirant. That was in 1998. His was known for his oratory skills which endeared a lot of admirers to him. Also, the fleet of Lexus SUVs he bought for his campaign made a lot of headlines in the tabloid between 1998 and 1999.
My admiration for Graham-Douglas must have also deepened because of his surname: Graham-Douglas, which sounds heavy and big. However, I was to see him for the first time in 2013 during the burial of his late elder brother’s wife, Pastor (Mrs.) Graham-Douglas.
My first encounter was on a cool evening. Mrs. Chinwe Ezeanya, who I call ‘My own Big Sis’, called me and requested that I see her somewhere in Port Harcourt GRA. While reflecting on her message and trying to figure out why, I called my friend Kelvin Nwobike (aka Paloski or Papa) to pick me in his car. He drove me to GRA. We got there, and approached the house. ‘My own Big Sis Chinwe’ received and ushered us into the palatial home of the four-time minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alabo Graham-Douglas. There he was with his lovely wife, Mummy Muriel and another guest. He welcomed us and asked us to sit down, as ‘Big Sis Chinwe’ introduced us to him. And then he started by asking me, in an interview-like session certain questions: ‘Tell me about yourself?’ I started by greeting him once again and proceeded to tell him my name again, where I came from, what I studied, what I had been into and what I was doing.
After listening to me he said: ‘You are a bright and brilliant young man that will go places but try and be humble.’ I took what he said to heart and have been acting on it till date. He also said that if he was still in active politics he would have worked me into the ministry of foreign affairs to position me for diplomatic service. However, he couldn’t, because he was no more in the scheme of things coupled with the fact that his party was not in power.
That same day, he took us down memory lane, how he was instrumental to making all the South-South governors in 1999 and his days as a minister that served three presidents. It was a cool evening we had with Alabo, as he was popularly called.
After which he gave me his telephone number which I saved immediately; he also requested that I come back to see him. As time went by, I called him and he invited me over to his house for lunch with him, his wife and other members of the family around. I guess he must have been observing me to know me more.
Fortunately, I passed whatever test he had set for me. Then he invited me to join him in his Penthouse. It was there he handed me the manuscript of a book titled Until It Happens To You for me to edit. The book reflects Alabo’s past, pains and reflections on life. It is a detailed and objective book.
In fact, I edited two of Alabo’s books. He actually wrote four books though all unpublished works. A part of his book that so touched me was where he talked about how he lost his Diamond Ring, which he never found and then the death of his first son. According to him, the loss of his ring came as an introspective message to him.
Graham-Douglas was a larger-than-life personality. He was accommodating, and as a leader, he always had people around him even with his health challenge. Alabo was an embodiment of knowledge; he virtually had knowledge on almost any topic you come up with.
His Royal Majesty Graham-Douglas served the Federal Republic of Nigeria in different capacities as a minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Aviation, Labour and Productivity, and lastly Culture and Tourism under two military rulers, Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida and Gen. Sani Abacha, and later President Olusegun Obasanjo. Graham-Douglas was of Da Orubibi Douglas Independent War Canoe House and Boto House of Abonema as well as Boro House of Kula in Akukutoru LGA, Rivers state. As he goes to rest, Graham-Douglas is mourned by the families of Chief (Dr.) M. Braide of Bakana in Degema LGA, Chief Joshua Babala Ketebu of Odi town in Kolokuma OPakuma LGA, and March Sample Nyingifa of Ada Ama of Twon Brass in Brass LGA all in Rivers state.
As Alabo Tamunotenyim Omubo Graham-Douglas begins his journ home from September 8 – 9, 2022 and finally laid to rest on September 10, 2022 this week, I pray for Mummy Muriel, the children, grandchildren and the entire Graham-Douglas family for the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
Adieu, Pa Alabo Tamunotenyim Omubo Graham-Douglas!
* Chukwueke is the Curator of Port Harcourt-based Nigerian Literary Society (NLS)