By Daniel Yaro
The theology of predestination forbids inferring the untimeliness of anyone’s death. By that theology, the life of each mortal on earth has been marked out from birth to death. It does not dismiss imaginativeness and creativity but predestination does not admit of the ability of anyone to alter the course assigned him or her by the Creator. In this sense, we cannot but restrict ourselves to critically mourning Chief Hyacinth Edeh who died on July 9th, 2016 at the not so ripe age of 68. This is notwithstanding the fertility of his imagination and unbelievable stock of energy even at 68.
But the real tragedy is that Hyacinth Edeh never held a political appointment in his life time. His sense of service to community is such that no one who knew him would hesitate to bet that he would have stunned everyone in performance. It is difficult to find anyone like Hyacinth Edeh who was completely driven by public spiritedness in every office he occupied or sought, be it journalism, his profession, his Chairmanship of the Benue State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, (NUJ), then Personal Assistantship to the Head of Service of the Federation between 1999 and 2002 and Federal Directorship. When the status quo failed in his expectations, he creates something. As much as it would not be correct to credit him alone for it, he would occupy a huge space in the struggle for and the eventual formation of Idoma National Forum, a very innocent agenda that became so feared by the politicians, or some of them, in Idomaland. But the High Chief never gave up.
It is actually tempting to conclude that he permanently saw and carried himself in the image of his traditional title, Ejila Ka Ebeneogbogwu which translates to the head of the warriors at the frontiers of the community. That is ancient Adoka’s security response to the history of attacks the Idoma areas experienced in those days which Historians might put to the slave raids or the Jihad. Adoka is one of the twenty two districts that made up the old Idoma Native Authority. The others are Agatu, Ochekwu, Ichama, Otukpa, Okpoga, Orokram, Owukpa, Agila, Igumale, Ijigban, Ulayi, Utonkon, Akpa, Otukpo, Ugboju, Onyangedde, Oglewu, Oju, Ito, Woku and Edemoga.
Only the traditional image of himself might explain his ability to bounce back, completely irrepressible even as it equally colored his politics because it made it difficult to know when he was ethnicist or culturalist. For a man who always asked others to put themselves in the other person’s shoes, Edeh was above ethnicity. It is not surprising a mourner described his profile as an inspiring narrative. And he had mourners in abundance: journalists, federal and Benue State civil servants, the church, politicians and the traditional authority, each of which was a space for action for him.
Abu Obe whom Edeh served as Personal Assistant when he was Head of Service of the Federation announced himself as the chief mourner. He said Edeh will be missed by everyone. As if supplying the list of everyone, Mr. Austin Iwodi, former member of Benue House of Assembly, said the Adoka community and Benue State had lost a leader. “He was there for the youth, the traditional institution, elders, market women and others. He distinguished himself in many areas of life”, Iwodi said. Ralph Igbago, former Deputy Speaker of the Benue House of Assembly credited Edeh with doing a lot for Idoma while serving as PA to Abu Obe. Agbo Oga, former member of the House of Representative as well as one time Chief of Staff to Senate President, David Mark disclosed how helpful Edeh was to the community, pointing out how passionate and dogged to every fight he was involved in.
The tone of the speeches at the NUJ Secretariat in Makurdi was the same. Chief Godwin Ikerave, a former member, House of Representatives and one time Chairman, Benue State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, (NUJ) who spoke on behalf of former chairmen of NUJ recalled succeeding Hyacinth Edeh in office. In their days, NUJ politics in the state was devoid of acrimony and ethnic stereotype now witnessed, he said, declaring that such was how Edeh contested and defeated David Agur, who is Tiv. David Agur, on his part, described Edeh as detribalised and one person who never kept malice.
Chris Atsaka, incumbent Chairman of the NUJ in Benue State spoke of how he first heard of the deceased when he was in the secondary school and never knew that destiny had directed that he would inherit his former seat at the NUJ.
It takes a man strong even in death to attract the attendance and genuine graveside statements as Edeh got at Okpeje, Adoka on August 5th, 2016 despite the prolonged down pour and the current national cash squeeze as it affects Benue State.