By Tivlumun Nyitse PhD
Under the bright sky and the scorching sun in the prescient ambience of Tse Awunah, stuck in the woods of Gwer West Local Government of Benue State on November 4th, 2020, the remains of late Brig-General Charles Igbahyee Dewua were laid to rest. It marked the abrupt end of the thrilling career of this gallant soldier whose dream was to hit the top of his career in the Nigerian Army as a major general that was almost within reach but it was never to be, no thanks to the inevitability of death.
At the funeral of General Charles, I was to speak on behalf of the University of Ilorin Alumni Association but along the line, the programme was abridged and I never got to make my remarks which I had already titled “The Last of The Troika” in my mind.
I had met and we had become friends before our paths crossed again when I finally gained admission in to the University of Ilorin in 1980. At the time I got to Ilorin, there were very few students of Benue State origin in that university as many of them preferred either Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria or the University of Jos, which were more contiguous and probably well known in Benue State. Charles and several others were already established and made us feel very welcome in the new environment which, apart from the academic tapestry and divergence it provided, also had a cultural milieu far apart from what we from Benue were used to. I also met Mr. Saint Shiaondo Aarga (mni), who had been introduced to me through a secondary school classmate. Let me add here that myself and a few others like Ambassador Apollos Agev, Isaac Gwaza, Francis Ameh, Ahilo Augustine , etc, were the second generation of students from Benue State to attend the University of Ilorin in the early 1980s.
Almost every other day after dinner, it was common sight to find Charles Dewua, Isiah Bura whom we popularly referred to as Party Chief because of his interest in Nigerian politics and Terkende Yeke who, to me, was like Moliere in George Orwell’s Animal Farm who would spend the whole day romanticising about the sugar candy mountains where life will be all bliss, together. This troika formed the nucleus of conversations and debates that we engaged in almost all the times we had to come together, most times unscheduled. It was difficult to find one without the other two. They drew the Benue students population together through this informal forum and it was impossible to hold any successful meeting of the National Union of Benue States Students, (NUBESS) in the university without this troika. That was how influential they were!
They formed opinion on almost every matter that came up for discussion and provided barometer on almost all national and international issues. Charles especially led the debate on international politics including sometimes mundane issues like the comic characters in American wrestling theater like Mighty Igor, Mill Mascaras, Argentina Apollo, Eric the Red, etc. They formed a formidable partnership that couldn’t be ignored even whimsically. Right then it was clear that Gen Dewua would end up in one of the military forces. He was sometimes brash, felt irritated with slow thinking colleagues and took decisions rapidly which most times were less risky compared to those on which a field commander leading his troops takes but which he later become.
General Dewua really loved the sciences especially Mathematics and Physics in which he eventually took an Honours Degree in 1985. At every point that one interacted with him, he was constantly applying the theories in these disciplines to provide solutions. In fact he was one of the best Ayo players in the students union common room and when I asked him why he always won, he answered that he normally applied his knowledge of Mathematics and Physics which he said made it very difficult for any competitor to defeat him.
As a Signals Officer in the Nigerian Army, late General Dewua was said to have demonstrated high level competence in the discharge of his duties as he commanded almost all the units under this arm of the army and was said to have done so excellently. Charles was very free with his resources as he was compassionate and shared the concern of his fellow students who were in need, even at his own expense. Many times, he would share his meal tickets with other students to the point where he would even be made to skip some of his meals. This I know because we were quite close to the extent that I served as his personal “banker”. Having worked for almost a year after leaving secondary school before I entered the university, I had a better understanding of how to manage little resources and Charles would always entrust me with his monies when we were paid our bursary allowances by the Benue State Government.
Why is General Charles the last of the troika? It arises from the sequence of death of the others. Terkende Yeke who later became a successful banker with Afri Bank now Polaris Bank died and was, after a few years, followed by Isiah Bura who was a teacher at Queens of the Rosary Girls Secondary School, Gboko. That makes General Charles the third of the troika to go, completing the circle of their journey to eternity which they had started together at Ilorin as vibrant young men in 1978.
As we mourn the sudden demise of Brig General Dewua, my heart goes to the young family he has left behind. My prayer is for the good Lord to continue to show them mercy, grant them the strength to bear this unforgettable loss. May they, however, be consoled that their benefactor, Brigadier General Charles Igbahyee Dewua lived an eventful life worthy of emulation. Adieu.