Filed in News by on May 7, 2009

Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas at 70
By Steve Azaiki

IN 1991, I was invited by Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo’s Africa Leadership Forum to participate in the Farm House dialogue all the way from the former Soviet Union. On arrival in Nigeria, my good friend, Dr. Imoro Kubor asked if I could go with him to visit a very big man from Rivers State, who was then Minister of Aviation.

On arrival at Alabo Graham-Douglas’ house in Lagos, what endeared Alabo to me began to unfold. Immediately I was introduced, a small boy like me, Alabo made sure I sat on the same table with him and all those other big men to have lunch. Alabo practically served me at the table because I was very shy; it was my first time to sit at table with a Minister.

Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas, the brother of late Napo Graham-Douglas, first indigenous Attorney-General of Nigeria, was born at Abonnema in Akuku-Toru Local government Area of Rivers State. An Ijaw by tribe, Alabo Graham-Douglas is a distinguished statesman, politician, diplomat, businessman, author, philosopher, philanthropist, and commentator on national issues, academician, administrator and a patriot of the highest order.

On Friday May 8, 2009, Alabo will mark his 70th birthday. Thank God that he is 70. All his great brothers died earlier than 60 years of age. He will simply thank the Almighty God for keeping him for his beautiful, loving and dutiful wife Muriel, after whom he named his Hotel and his children. But for us, his followers, students, hangers-on, and close friends, it will be a celebration of life. Alabo has stood tall. He has risen to the top. And has stayed on top. We have lined up activities for him, including a public lecture, the launching of the Alabo Graham-Douglas Foundation for Leadership Development and it will culminate in a big and huge reception at the Civic Centre in Port Harcourt on May 8.

His associates and mentors, friends and well-wishers will be there. Former President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida will be the Chairman, Gen. T.Y. Danjuma will be the Father of the day, the Sultan will be there to add colour with His Royal Presence. His Excellencies, Chief Timipre Sylva and Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi will be the hosts and of course, I will be one of the ushers, as you know my former boss and mentor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, GCON, Vice President will be the Special Guest.

Alabo’s Foundation will continue in the tradition of his quiet philanthropic help to the less privileged, the class of people that occupied a special place in the heart of the late Sardauna and my late father, Headmaster C.D. Stephen.

Alabo Graham-Douglas remains a phenomenon that will continue to define himself with his style and commitment to worthy causes. He is a stickler for proper dressing and conduct both in public and private life. He lives by example, which makes him an exemplary leader.

He is sedate, but highly fecund in the power and depth of his imagination. An avid reader, prolific writer and engaging speaker. A man who read Botany and Zoology yet Alabo could discuss in-depth almost anything, medicine, law, chemistry, physics, aerodynamics, engineering, architecture, etc. He leaves his audience with strong impressions with the kind of profound statements he makes on national issues. But it does appear that issues for which he has been so passionate are issues of transparency, accountability, integrity, morality, equity and justice. These qualities distinguished him from most Nigerian politicians especially those who have served at very high levels in government.

Only recently, our revered leader, Chief E.K. Clark, who I described in my book, Oil, Gas and Life in Nigeria, as one of the most committed Nigerians, focused and consistent in pursuit for justice, publicly stated and even emphasised to me that, as leader of the Ijaw nation, he has appointed Alabo Graham-Douglas as his deputy. This is an excellent testimonial coming from our well-respected leader himself. Indeed there are only a few people among the topmost ranks of the national power elite who know Nigeria and the dynamics of power in such a semi-collapsed state such as Nigeria better than Alabo.

Alabo has always brought to the leadership and political office, impressive credentials, personal and political as well as a heavy burden of being an Ijaw and a minority. Yet he has towered and very detribalised. His superb intelligence and political acuity, his charming candour and disarming mien, his height and almost beautiful face, his keen awareness of clashing and competitive egos and ambitions, and his enthralling capacity to be a step ahead of his rivals. Alabo has such a gift for the conspiratorial in public , political matters that is akin to the collective predatory instincts of a pride of lions.

Alabo survived three presidents: Babangida, Abacha and Obasanjo. He combines the stubbornness of the Izon man, the devastating stealth of the searching Panther with the smoothness and graceful strength of a harmless colt. His mind is constantly patrolling the political environment like a tested spook. Where others see difficulties or formidable obstacles, Alabo sees possibilities.

In concluding this testament, salute to great leader, elder statesman and a patriot, I wish to state that our experiences in recent past, as a people, harrowing as they are, must not daunt us into despair. Rather, they should inspire in us a mindset that evolves excellence as a way of life. We must dethrone pervasive and arrogant mediocrity, which has continued to plague all spheres of our national life, with its attendant crippling and sometimes, tragic consequences.

We must come away from the indolence of outsourcing responsibilities that are clearly ours to God Almighty and ascribing the dire consequences of our inefficiencies and failure to His will.

We must wake up to our responsibilities as bonafide stakeholders in our society and co-architects of the destiny of our nation. We must transcend the misguided perception of responsibility and leadership as the obligation and preserve of a few individuals. The solution to our collective problem and the key to overcoming our shared challenges do not lie in such outdated and mundane perception of leadership and rather na�ve expectations.

Today’s world demands an acute sense of collective responsibility and positive active participation by all. It requires inspired leadership and genuine sense of commitment to duty at all levels of society and from each and every citizen no matter one’s station in life. The collective will of Nigerians is strong, powerful and positive and must be given an opportunity to express itself. I have digressed but is it not Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) who in a letter to a young clergyman, said, “Proper words in proper places make true definition of a style”.

Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas is a man of style. He loves good and elegant words. Happy birthday, sir.

  • Prof. Azaiki is the Coordinator of the National Think Tank, Nigeria.
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    Comments (2)

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    1. Eliza Marcela says:

      Olá, sou do Basil, e estou fazendo um trabalho de faculdade, sobre corrupção na politica, gostaria que você me ajudasse.
      Eu pesquisei bastante e achei o Alabo Tonye Graham Douglas, descobri que ele esta sob prisao domiciliar, gostara que você me confirme isso, se for verdade, para que eu possa concluir meu trabalho de forma correta.

      muito obrigada, Eliza .

    2. MICHAEL says:

      Remember NPRC. I was the Administration Manager and I employed your brother TO as my PA, he was my right arm during a difficult period.
      Please remember me kindly
      Warmest personal regards to all my friends and former colleages.
      Yours sincerely
      Mike Huntly

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