By Owei Lakemfa
I can’t believe I’m writing this. The events are a nightmare that will not go away. Pa Joseph Oritseretsolokumi Ayonmike, an 83-year-old man of culture and immense intelligence, and his wife, Dr Chinyere ‘Chichi’ Shirley Ayonmike, opera soloist / duo, Technical and vocational education and training, TVET, expert and lecturer at Delta State University, were found on Monday, June 28, 2021 murdered in their home in Warri. They had been shot, stabbed and cut with a machete.
Pa Ayonmike who took me like a son, called to criticize my columns. Several times he rated them high and sometimes questioned the conclusion or considered it low. We discussed almost everything under the sun; from his ancestral origins, including why he spells his last name with an “n” when his famous older brother, Johnson Oritsegbubemi Sunday “JOS” Ayomike did not, until his studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE and his love for classical which led him and his wife to found and lead the Warri Choral Society, WCS.
Our last discussion, on June 4, lasted about 39 minutes. Basically it was about finalizing plans for my visit to his home in Warri in the new month. He wanted me to write his story, especially his experiences in Abuja, a beloved city he watched grow forests, bushes and paths.
In 1986, he completed and managed the city’s first five-star hotel. His dreams of maintaining the hotel had started to crumble when the Babangida regime, by decree, devalued the Naira, which had a negative impact on the offshore loan he had obtained from the ABN Bank of the Netherlands. Low. The continuous devaluation has become so severe that a loan he was planning to pay off in a few years has become like an albatross around his neck.
He also dreamed of being the founding mayor of Abuja and believed that being the favorite among fourteen aspirants meant coming home to victory. However, the military regime did not want him as mayor and therefore the president of his party asked him to step down.
He refused and continued to campaign, believing things would be settled at the ballot box. But when his house was riddled with bullets while he was fortunately on an election campaign, he not only withdrew from the race, but also fled Abuja for his beloved Warri.
He told me in this last conversation that he had prepared a special room for me in his house which was as good as many hotel rooms. I laughed and said I believed his assessment of the room since he once ran a five star hotel.
He did not fail to remind me that his house was a black door just after Nana College, Warri. I had missed an opportunity to visit in 2020. It was around the time her daughter, Toritse, was getting married. But containment linked to COVID-19 has forced a postponement. When it was rescheduled, he called not only to give me the new date, but also the room number of the hotel he had reserved.
I tried to book a flight to Warri, but couldn’t. I was going to learn that if other airports were reopened, Warri’s would remain closed. At that time, bandits ruled the road from Asaba to Warri carrying the victims in loaded buses while the Benin-Warri road was almost impassable. I apologized and we agreed that I should visit this year.
I met his wife, Dr Chichi, on September 22, 2018 at the MUSON Center in Lagos. It was during the couple’s 61st Warri Choral Society concert. She had been introduced to classical music by her father who enlisted her in the choir at the age of eight.
She explains why she has spent her life singing: “Music is the language of God which is then translated into sound. Sound is then brought into this world as music at three different levels, with classical music at the highest level.
Sound, in addition to having healing effects on the listener, is a wonderful communicator, transcending human barriers of race, culture, etc. etc. The only thing that matters is that you should have the gift of being able to hear and understand sound. . “
The theme of the MUSON Center show was “Handel est un Africain”. Pa Ayonmike made the link between Handel and Africa after performing 18 of Handel’s 28 oratorios.
This performance was part of his practice to empirically reaffirm his theory on the famous musician, and Dr. Chichi on this memorable evening put on a superlative performance while being the conductor of the 60-member orchestra.
In my October 1, 2018 column in the VANGUARD newspapers, titled: “Ayonmike, Handel and the African,” I wrote about this performance: “The women were beautifully dressed in colorful Nigerian clothes, and the men in traditional top and black pants. All wore black shoes.
There were three traditional dancers, including a lady who, in slow, sometimes fast, dance steps from the Niger Delta, accompanied by twists in the air and acrobatic demonstrations, kept the audience bewitched as the Agip recital hall exploded in angelic airs. voice.”
In August 2020, a seemingly well-established non-governmental organization, an NGO, invited Dr Chichi Cerebral to join its board of directors. Pa Ayonmike sent me a copy of the invitation and other documents asking me to find out about the NGO and indicate whether Dr Chichi should accept the invitation or decline it.
Beyond his claims on the internet, I asked about the organization among NGOs and civil society organizations in the country, but I gave up. It was strange because these organizations tend to collaborate and exchange information.
I called him to tell him that the NGO does not seem genuine but that I will visit its offices in Maitama, Abuja, discuss with its officials and do a general assessment.
On September 3, 2020, I sent him photographs of the claimed address of the NGO premises with a one paragraph report: “Sir, these are the claimed premises of the NGO that wants Madame to be part of her. board of directors. The organization does not exist on the premises of…., Maitama. In these premises, there is a law firm on one wing and a private company on the other. Staff and security had never heard of the NGO before.
At 83 years old, Pa Ayonmike, a citizen of the world with rich experience in international affairs and one of the patriots who could help us get back on the path to progress, and his intellectually gifted and gifted wife, are sorely lost. .
But let’s save our tears for a country that wastes its best, allows banditry and crime to fester, and submits to the domination of Africa’s worst elites. I wonder how Pa Ayonmike would have reacted to this tribute.