By Jude Atupulazi
There are people you do not readily associate with death and dying and this is regardless of the fact that all men must die; being mortals. The late Chief Sir Frank Anthony Igboka, President General of Nimo Town Development Union, NTDU, was one of such rare people. On April 16 this year, the life was brutally snuffed out of him by gun totting hoodlums not fit to run errands for him. It was an incident that shook many an Anambraian to their marrows. And to his townsfolk and those who knew him well and had associated with him, the extent of the shock was better imagined than told.
I happen to not just be his kinsman, but his friend. But without letting emotions get the better of me, I dare say that Igboka was, while he lived, the strongest Nimo man and perhaps, in Njikoka too; as far as fearlessness, courage and ability to fight crime and criminals were concerned. And it was exactly because of these qualities that his people unanimously elected him to serve as their President General, or PG, for short. Owing to the success he recorded in his first three-year tenure, he was yet again elected to continue the good work. And once more without letting my emotions get the better of me, I posit that he was the best PG in our history as he even went beyond his mandate of fighting crime to provide infrastructural development.
It was under him that the town's Village Square, the famous Egwegwe, finally took on a modern look – thanks to the pavilions he built, replete with a press gallery to be used by journalists covering events at the square. Under his leadership, the town's market was enlarged by way of the many modern stalls he built in and around the market; thus giving the place a busy look.
He took pride in surveying the fruits of his work as represented by the facilities he put up in the market and areas surrounding it. Inside the Village Square was what we call Bush Bar. There, food and drinks are sold and Igboka was among those who delighted in patronizing it, not just to eat and drink, but to relax with friends. Ironically, it was while going home after visiting the Village Square, that he was shot and killed in his car in front of the town's market. Since then, a dark pall had been hanging over the town's atmosphere; while those connected with his killing have not known peace.
But as in such cases, a million lives of the hoodlums who extinguished Igboka can never do for this one wasted life in atonement. The dark deed has been done and the family, town, state and friends are still mourning.
Igboka was no ordinary guy. He was a one man riot squad; a one-man army and combatant. Among his unique qualities as a great leader of his community was his penchant to easily distinguish between indigenes and non-indigenes. He was able to achieve this because he was a ''home boy'' PG; not the type that stays ''abroad'' and issues directives from there.
Igboka was truly a home boy. He loved Nimo, lived in Nimo and served Nimo to the best of his abilities. To be honest, Igboka was no saint; so are you and me. But he gave his best for the town.
He was a hugely popular personality whose jokes and cheerful mien had a way of melting the strongest hearts. He was a go-getter, a hard bargainer, a task master, all rolled into one. He was known for his willingness to go after criminals alone; the reason he was feared and loathed by those people.
Some years ago in the same Nimo, a kidnap attempt had been made on him but he ended up snatching one of the hoodlums' AK-47 Rifle, while the attackers fled. This singular incident boosted the Igboka myth; together with his famed bravado. Thus, when it was time to elect a new PG for the town, and Igboka queued up as one of the candidates, it was a no-brainer that the vast majority chose him, especially when it was coming at a time when crime was on the upsurge in the town.
It is a proven fact that the average human being wants protection and to be able to go to bed and sleep with both eyes closed. The town needed a warrior and found that in Igboka.
He never looked back. He set about his new task as though he was possessed and it was clear that he loved his work. He launched an offensive against criminal elements in the town. As part of that war, he facilitated the establishment of a police station in Nimo.
When this idea was initially mooted, it had drawn mixed reactions, notably from among those on the fringes of criminality. Igboka and other sane minds won the war to have the police station in the town and today the station has transformed into a divisional headquarters.
While some may argue that they have not seen any difference its presence has made in the town, there's also no telling what might have been had it not been there.
Igboka served Nimo with all he had. He had a single minded devotion to his job and everyone saw it. Being human, there was no doubt that there were aspects of the job he could have handled better; but generally the people were satisfied with his general input. At least, many people agreed that there was a town union government in place, given the quantum of developmental activities in the town. The people couldn't have asked for more, especially given what used to obtain.
It was his relentless encounters with the bad elements in the town that ultimately culminated in his death, leading many to see him as dying in active service.
Now, plans are afoot by the community and many of his friends to give him a befitting burial. These have cut across political party and filial leanings. Many whatsapp groups have been formed too, all geared towards burying Igboka like the hero he was. He would not have wanted nothing less, being a showman.
But beyond these preparations is the need to build a monument in his memory in Nimo and this is solely the responsibility of the Nimo Town Development Union. For instance, his statue could be erected in front of the Nimo Civic Centre, a.k.a. Egwegwe Square, being that he played a prominent role, more than those before him, to turn that place around.
I wouldn't subscribe to renaming the place after him as the name, Egwegwe, is too sacred to be changed. It is a name given this square by the town's progenitors. Naming a pavilion there after him is too small either. Thus, the only big way to honour him there will be to erect his statue either at the gate or in the middle of the square. He deserves nothing less for sacrificing his life that we may sleep in peace.
Also it behoves the community to ensure that his immediate family do not live in want and penury. The town can even appeal to the state government to offer his children who are in school, scholarship and automatic employment afterwards. This will encourage others like Igboka in other communities to live a life of service, knowing that their efforts will not end up in vain.
Of course, my suggestions are not final. It is for all those who have a say to think up other means of expressing their gratitude to the man who died that they may live.
Personalities like Frank Anthony Igboka do not come around often. He wasn't the most educated. He wasn't the richest. But for sure, he left imprints that will be extremely difficult to match by anyone. Tony Igboka was Tony Igboka. He was no one else and no one else will be like him. This is why many are still doubting that he will not suddenly emerge from wherever he is now and resume his day to day activities. But deep down, they know the truth: he is lying stone cold in the mortuary, awaiting the day his remains will be committed to Mother Earth.
Such is the fate of all men; a frightening fate; but nevertheless one that no one can dodge, regardless of sex, power, faith or race. So long as we remain mortals and are breathing at this moment, that time surely must come when, as Tony Igboka is, we will be. He was once like us; not too long ago. But today, he is no more.
As difficult as it is to mutter these words, I'm compelled to utter them: Frank Anthony Igboka: fighter, hero, leader; rest thee in peace till we meet to part no more. Chai! This life!