By Ndutimi Alaibe
It is hard to believe. I can’t make sense of it. It does not in any way add up. This cannot be true. The harder I try to deny it, the deeper it sinks in; that my beloved brother, TONY IPRIYE URANTA is no more. For once, death has ceased to make sense.
Wait a minute! How did this happen? I knew Tony was indisposed. But nothing indicated that he was heading home so soon. Tony was not supposed to die. It never crossed my mind. We kept talking. We kept praying. We kept hoping for a miraculous recovery. Ideas and other resources to make this happen were deployed.
Then, suddenly, the news hit me on Wednesday afternoon. It wasn’t the news of his recovery. The news came in gasps. The voice I heard was not his. It was not altogether strange. But it did not convey good news. The message was brief; unwelcome.
No, this is still not true. Tony cannot die; just like that. Bad news has dark spots; even in broad daylight. Bad news makes the heart to beat faster. Bad news travels fast. It conveys sadness. It tastes sour, even bitter. This news was bad, exceptionally bad.
Tony and I worked together on several strategic projects for the good of the Niger Delta people. They were all on development and peace initiatives. We shared common platforms; like the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), where he was Executive Secretary. Tony was Executive Secretary of the United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy (UNDEDSS) and Executive Secretary of the Nigeria National Summit Group, among others.
I remember with delight the commitment and exceptional determination Tony displayed when we both served as members of the Ledum Mitee-led Niger Delta Technical Committee constituted in 2008 by the late President Yar’Adua in response to the Niger Delta conflict; to address the medium to long term regional development in the oil-rich region.
Tony was a quintessential peace advocate. I recall in 2015 when the famed Niger Delta Avengers commenced activities to shut down oil installations and threatened oil production and the stability of the region. One day, Nduka Obaigbena, Tony and I travelled in Obaigbena’s private jet to Warri to meet the stakeholders; and subsequently to Abuja in an effort to achieve a cease fire and ensure peaceful resolution of the crisis. The deliberations of that first meeting, which was chaired by elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, eventually gave birth to PANDEF.
His exit has come dozens of years ahead of its time. What shall we tell our children? He laboured and sweated for the Niger Delta but has not lived to reap the fruits of his labour. His voice was respected on national and regional issues. Today, that voice has been silenced in death.
To his beloved wife Baarong, and the entire family, we pray for God’s guidance and strength. We have lost a great friend and a patriot; a man of principles and a distinguished gentleman. He was and would always remain a symbol of peace.
Rest in Peace, Tony Ipriye Uranta!
Ndutimi Alaibe was at different times, NDDC EDFA and MD, Special Adviser to President Umar Musa Yar’Adua on Niger Delta Affairs and Bayelsa State Governorship candidate.