By Adagbo ONOJA
There is a particular stereotype about the Idoma man and woman. It is that they are great companions, extraordinarily loyal and trustworthy in dealing with other people but completely impossible when it comes to relating with each other back ‘home’. In Idomaland, everyone is a king and no one is left to serve anyone. ‘Does he feed me’ is the summary rhetoric!
This background explains Adoka Adaji’s exceptionalism in overcoming all he overcame to become the leader of the Idoma. Of course, he was the Idoma leader, being the only one who overcame the serotype mentioned above and ending up bringing under one roof much of elite of Idoma origin. It is a feat. It is doubtful if anyone attempted, not to talk of attaining that status. Certainly, not in recent years! Only him! He did this by simply creating a whatsapp group, name it the unity forum for Idoma and then go on writing telephone numbers. He never sought your permission for that. You just see your name there. Of course, you could opt out but advertising yourself in a way by doing so. He was relentless in pushing the frontiers of a complete listing on that forum even when people were not co-operating.
He was the last person to be expected to take that line of action. Most journalists are better as critics, not organisers or doers. He was a journalist. Two, he did not have the material capacity that could be said to have pushed him to undertaking and discharging such a burden. There is no time a meeting with him would not lead to impromptu listing and talking to one rich man or another whom we thought should subsidise the burden he was carrying. He had to make phone calls, call meetings, push certain communal interests with the Benue State Government, travel to Abuja several times, intervene in fissures and so on and so forth. Some readily obliged, others did not. He was a man who had many chestnuts in the fire but it can be said without fear of contradiction that community interest was permanently the top concern for him. He was very good in consulting widely.
There is nowhere in the world you might find yourself that the late Adoka Adaji would not reach you. It is not just because GSM enabled him to call anywhere in the world. It is, above all, the spirit of it. But, at death, Adaji played a trick on many of his compatriots. Many people, including this reporter, did not get to hear of his death for nearly two weeks. Obviously, he had no inkling he was set to go. For almost two hours a few months ago, both of us stood talking, stabilising ourselves only by leaning on the car we were standing by once a while. We had finished our main discussion but the fellow who was picking him for the journey back to Benue State from one of his numerous trips to Abuja kept calling to assure he was on his way but without ever arriving. We expanded our discussion, taking ‘advantage’ of the delay. He could not have endured such if he were an exhausted, sick person.
Journalism was the basis of our friendship but it was amazing as well as fascinating how far he had moved from journalism to an uncommon mastery of politics, particularly its dynamism in a space such as Benue and Idomaland. He was in politics although he was not a politician. His repertoire in all cases was absolutely very rich. Above all, he had developed a much more tempered sense or, in fact, some compromise with marginal reality even as his share of the crusading spirit remained remarkably high. He is only comparable to Hyacinth Edeh, his compatriot and senior colleague who left for Heaven two years ago.
If one has created an angelic image of Chief Adoka Adaji, that would be excusable by the fact that he was filling a big gap, connecting people and transcending little bitterness here and there as well as widening opportunities for problem solving. His life resonates with the maxim that one does not serve humanity only when one is Secretary-General of the United Nations. One is also serving humanity if one is helping out even in a village because every village is a space of human beings and every village has its own specific challenges which must be contextually problematised and understood. Of course, village here hasn’t got a fixed, single meaning. May we learn to live without Adoka Adaji and may his spirit reproduce his successor!