Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, at the weekend, recounted his encounter with the late Captain Samuel Timinipre Owonaro (Rtd) before the Ijaw nation and Niger Delta hero passed on in June this year.
Chief Owonaro is fondly remembered for his heroic role in the ’12-day Revolution’ alongside two other late Ijaw icons, Major Isaac Boro and Nottingham Dick, when they declared the Niger Delta Republic on February 23, 1966.
Pouring encomiums on the Kaiama-born freedom fighter during his funeral at his hometown, Governor Diri narrated how Capt. Owonaro expressed joy when he visited him after he was sworn in that he lived to see the creation of Bayelsa, a homogenous Ijaw state.
He said he was also happy that a Kolokuma/Opokuma son became governor in his lifetime and that his agitation with the late Boro was therefore not in vain.
The governor announced the renaming of the Ijaw National Academy after the late Owonaro.
A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. DanielAlabrah, quoted the governor as saying: “Immediately after my inauguration (as governor), the late Captain Owonaro was one of the first persons I visited. During that visit, he told me that you came here with the convoy of a governor, I’m satisfied.
“Today, I have seen a governor from my extraction of Kolokuma/Opokuma. Now I can go back satisfied with what I have seen to tell my compatriots, in particular Isaac Boro, that our struggle was not in vain.
“That I have seen a Bayelsa state created, I have seen a son of Kolokuma/Opokuma as governor.
“May I publicly acknowledge the former governor of Bayelsa, Chief Seriake Dickson, who God used to produce a son of Kolokuma/ Opokuma as governor of this state.”
Senator Diri described the deceased as one who led an impactful life and left the legacy of a role model to the younger generation.
He stated that a way to immortalise Owonaro is by ascribing a state edifice as a monument in his name.
“As a young man, part of how the imprint of late Isaac Adaka Boro impacted on me and very many of us in the old Rivers state is the Adaka Boro Park named after our Ijaw hero.
“And so, today, may I also pronounce that the Ijaw National Academy henceforth be named as Captain Sam Owonaro Academy. In the same vein, I hereby direct the Commissioner for Works and other relevant commissioners to look out for a street-worthy to be named after Nottingham Dick, one of the three heroes,” he said.
The governor stressed that Owonaro over the years had affected the lives of not only the people of Kolokuma but the entire Ijaw nation and Nigeria as well.
Also speaking, former governor of the state, Chief Seriake Dickson, thanked God for raising young and fearless men like Isaac Boro and Captain Owonaro, both from Bayelsa, at a time the nation ignored the plight of the minorities and when people glossed over the cracks in the country that were not fully resolved before independence.
In his remarks, a former president of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), Chief Joshua Fumudoh, said the Ijaws will forever remember Owonaro, who, according to him, was the “last-man-standing” and for keeping the memories of other freedom fighters alive before his death.
Chief Fumudoh called on the younger generation, especially the Ijaw youths, to learn from the contributions of their senior compatriots and be determined to contribute their quota to the betterment of the Ijaw nation.
The only surviving son of the late Ijaw icon, Mr. Lloyd Owonaro, in his remarks, thanked Governor Diri and the state government for immortalising his father and expressed the optimism that the struggle his father lived for would last forever.