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#Tribute: Oronto Douglas – An Ijaw Who Built Bridges Everywhere In Nigeria

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by Lasisis Olagunju

He was not a president. He was not even a governor and, yet, he enjoyed the kind of aura you find around men of charisma and character. When he buried his father on December 15, 2012, the whole nation was in his ancestral village in Bayelsa. You would think he was actually more than a Special Adviser in the presidency. And when he bowed out of mortality on Thursday last week, the huge blaze was a testament to his uniqueness.  His mates at United Comprehensive High School, Wasinmi, Ogun State, called him OND. That was no academic qualification; it was a nickname derived from his initials. He was President Goodluck Jonathan’s Special Adviser on Research, Documentation and Strategy, Oronto Natel Douglas.

At The Trent, we remember Oronto for his wisdom, spirit, love for democracy, and his uncommon courage.

You may also view the page we opened in honour of Oronto Douglas on The Trent HERE. You will read heartfelt tributes to a great hero of the Earth.

I met him just once and the not more than 60 minutes encounter struck a chord with me. He carried in him a great mind. That was sometimes in 2013. I had learnt before then of his cancer challenges.  He did not look like someone looking ahead to death or someone counting down.

Oronto was warm. His thought and speech in that brief encounter were about building digital libraries across the country. He mentioned places he had traversed in his life journey and firmly said building libraries there that met today’s demands would solve more than one problem tomorrow for Nigeria. And before he bowed out last week, I was told he had met his target on this dream.

ALSO READ: ‘There Is No Country Called Nigeria’: Oronto Douglas’ 1998 Speech In USA [WATCH]

Even before he died, opinion in official and unofficial circles had converged on the fact that his appointment was one of the best decisions President Jonathan made in his six years as president. Despite his health challenges, reportedly confirmed in 2008, he still made so much impact in and on government policies.

While many were busy making stinking money, he was engrossed in making unusual friends for his principal. Having three others like him around this president would certainly have shielded him from the hawkish, odious handlers that viciously caged him for six years. But he died before age 50 leaving a young wife and teenage sons. The eldest is said to be in secondary school.

We are all born to die. It is a debt. OND has paid his own. Goodnight. Good man.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published on April 13, 2015. It is published on April 9 in memorial of Douglas’ passing. 

Lasisis Olagunju wrote this piece for Nigerian Tribune.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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