Beat Them! If You Cannot Join Them, A Tribute To A Hero - by Rufus Oteniya


This is a tribute to a hero. A true hero in a land where they are scarce like essential commodities especially among the ruling class. True heroes are rare and hard to find. They are very few and very many among the very few slip daily from 'hero to zero' succumbing the lust of power, the lure of materialism, the tempting of 'Ghana must go' and bandwagon syndrome. Some yield to the forces of power to act against the dictates of their God-given conscience in killing the hero or heroine in them. Yesterday, they were worthy of hosanna but today, they are worthless in character. Whenever we find a hero, we cannot but celebrate him in live or even in death.

A hero is a man of distinguished courage and ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. He is a model. A hero wants to leave this world a better place than he met it. He wants to leave his good marks to be judged by posterity.

A hero lives, eats, drinks, meets and talk with the corrupt but he is not corrupted. His sincerity sets him far apart and makes him stand tall among his mates. He associate with the power drunk but remain sober. He is unshakeably principled. He does not care to belong to the popular side as long as he is on the right side. He does not join them if he can not beat them rather he beats them if he can not join them.

We have lost another hero. He left us to meet his Creator in a journey he knew long ago was inevitable and for which he had spent his whole life here planning. He left behind his wife of 42 years who would later join him in the journey only after 30 days, two weeks short of her 69th birthday. Even death could not separate them for too long. What a love! What a bond!! What a re-union!!! He left behind what he understood as his 'chain of businesses'. His Children were the only business he had, no wonder he invested heavily in them giving the best in formal and informal education. He had seven of them.

Our hero left us at a ripe age of 75 with very little money can buy because he had a very few of them. He was not very rich in material but in character. He was abundantly affluent in integrity and his words were his bond. His name was his biggest asset. He left a house, the only one he had. He left no car because that was the many he had but he left us a reason not to give up on this project called Nigerian and a reason to be hopeful that heroes and indeed real heroes do exist among us contrary to the popular opinion that they are an endangered specie entirely up for extinction. They live with us and the heroes are right inside of us. Everyone has a hero inside of him. Mariah Carey said it all that 'the hero lies in you'.

Our hero was an uncompromisingly honest man. His transparency and frankness in a land that distastes truth brought him fewer friend than enemies. Known and avoided by many of his colleagues in the Army for his incorruptibility and zero intolerance towards all 'unheroic' men whose shameless love of money knows no bound. He led a crusade against corruption in his time. Sometimes a lone ranger on the right side of truth.

His profile may fool one to believe he was a common man, he was not. His material possessions and legacies may suggest he was an everyday Nigerian, No! He still wasn't. He belonged to the ruling class. He tasted power without yielding to be arrested by it. He handled money but remembered quite well that the love of it is the beginning of all evil. Unlike most of his contemporaries, Brigadier General (Rtd) Harris Otadafewera Diodemese Eghagha (1934 - 2009) knew long ago the difference between a private and a public fund. Private fund was his to live-on legitimately and the public fund was for the good of the populace, it was meant to carry out public projects and not personal aggrandisement. His belief was anchored on the scripture that says “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet loses his soul?”

Late General H.O.D Eghagha has gone to sleep in the Lord his Creator. Gone also was his wife, late Mrs Florence Eghagha (1941 - 2009). He would be remembered as a public officer who served the nation selflessly and meritoriously in the wartime and the time of peace without any stain against his personality, conduct and character. His life and record of service to the nation is worthy of emulation.

He was one of Nigeria 's finest second generation military officers. As a career military man, he occupied many important positions within and outside the military. He once served as the Quarter Master General of the army i.e. the chief procurement and supply officer, a position many consider a goldmine in our military service. He was also the Corps commander of Engineers where he inspired many young officers in the force through his demonstration of leadership qualities and professionalism.

As the first Military Administrator of Ogun state and before he handed over to the first civilian governor of the state, Chief Olabisi Onabanjo in 1979, he did his best by contributing valiantly with patriotism (not withstanding that he was not an indigene) to the building of the foundation of the modern Ogun State. His milestone achievements include the establishment of the College of Education in 1978 by then, the first tertiary institution in the state. He built the legislative quarters and a road network in Abeokuta , the state capital.

He was also at different times of his career, the acting governor of Kwara and Sokoto states. And he retired from the force in 1985 while serving as the Nigerian Ambassador to Ghana .

After retirement, while most of his colleagues started their second careers as politicians, power brokers, government contractors and oil and gas dealers in order to support their insatiable opulent lifestyle , he chose the more serene life of retirement spending more time with his family and dedicate the remaining time to community service especially at the grassroots which he did till the end.

Knowing Trevor (the first son of the deceased) about 10 years ago, then a chemical engineer who was a budding IT guru whose twin brother, Lester, also an engineer was then an officer in the Nigeria Custom, I couldn't but marvel that this former governor's son had to work hard to pay his bills just like me, a son of the governed and sometimes had to 'western union' his parents just like me. Most other governors' children that I know live in houses they would never pay the mortgage and draw from accounts they never made deposits. Lester later left the Custom for an obvious reason, the reason that has adhered many to the Custom. The Custom is 'too corrupt for Comfort!'

I couldn't help tears rolling down my eyes when I read the testimony of our hero about the hardship faced by pensioners in our nation. According to him, save for the efforts of some good meaning Nigerians like Otunba (Dr.) Michael Adenuga Jnr. and Governor Gbenga Daniels who do come to his aid sometimes, life would have been very unbearable.

His life is an indication that public service does not necessary have to turn somebody into an overnight millionaire or billionaire. We have seen it happen in other places. After years as Attorney-general of Arkansas state, 12 years as governor of the same state and 8 years as the President of the richest and the most powerful country in the world, Bill Clinton took a mortgage in the year 2000 to buy his only house then. After many years as a MP regardless of the recent scandal in the UK parliament and 10 years as the Prime Minister of this wealthy and powerful nation, Tony Blair took up paid consultancy job with an American bank in order to sustain his living. How many of our civil servant and politicians have legitimate income to substantiate what they control in material assets? How do you explain a middle class civil servant sponsoring two children in colleges simultaneously in the UK ?

There is nothing wrong in getting rich legitimately, I also pray and aspire to be as I am leaving no stone unturned in succeeding even financially. I do know some rich Nigerians who conscientiously served the nation yet made their money without joining the bandwagon in diverting public funds. I am very proud of them. Nigeria is proud of them and Nigerians are proud of them.

May the Lord grant the Eghagha's family the fortitude to bear the double loss of both the patriarch and matriarch of the family.

And to our hero, as you continue the journey with your wife , I wish you a peaceful rest in the Lord. "The beauty of life is that it goes on even after it had ended. For a great many though, it has ended even while it goes on" May your soul rest in perfect peace. Amen

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