Requiem for late Stanley Nwabia holds in Abuja

Stanley Nwabia
Stanley Nwabia

Deji Adeyanju, a political activist and commentator, said anger was the first emotion he felt when he learned of the passing of his friend on Sunday morning.

But social crusaders cannot be bitter or angry after one of their own died in avoidable circumstances, he said.

Instead, they must unite in empathy, sympathy and understanding that there is more work to be done in changing a system that has been moribund for decades.

Stanley Nwabia died while undergoing a blood transfusion in Lagos on Sunday morning. About 55 people gathered Tuesday evening for a requiem in his memory at the Unity Fountain in Abuja.

Stanley Nwabia requiem
Stanley Nwabia requiem

Mr Nwabia, 41, left behind a wife and four children.

“We appreciate his family for sharing him with us for so many years,” Ariyo-Dare Atoye, one of the deceased’s associate, said as he choked up. “You could always count on Stanley to get up every day and defend the Peoples Democratic Party and democratic ideals, and did it very well.”

“The street is diminished and our rank is depleted,” Mr Atoye said. “Both those in government and those in opposition will surely miss his presence.”

Mr Adeyanju said Mr Nwabia’s sharp humour, doggedness and tolerance for divergent political views helped set him apart as a prominent opposition voice on social media.

“Stanley was just exceptional, notwithstanding how much you disagreed with him,” Mr Adeyanju said.

Several others at the candlelight sit-in said Mr Nwabia would be remembered simply as a jolly good fellow.

“If you needed someone to make a tweet blow it’s Stanley you would call,” Ndi Kato, a social commentator who said she was a confidante of Mr Nwabia, said. “If you’re afraid to take on anyone on social media it’s Stanley you would call.”

Born on December 13, 1978 in Lagos, Mr Nwabia grew up in the commercial capital and lived there until his death. He was a voice over artist and multimedia producer.

He took ill on September 28 and his family rushed him to the hospital. He died overnignt following a problematic blood transfusion. Doctors have yet to release a statement on what went wrong.

Burial arrangements were still being planned by the family as of Tuesday evening. In the meantime, friends on social media have launched a fundraising drive for the young family he left behind.

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His sudden death on September 29 rippled through the political Twitter and permeated the larger Nigerian blogosphere. Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar was amongst those who commiserated with his family. The PDP also issued a statement mourning the development.

Ten days earlier, he had tweeted a picture of himself asking for suggestions on whether or not he should shave his beard.

A flurry of opinions, from the witty to the mundane, trickled in. It was unclear whether he ultimately took any before his death. The picture later came in handy for several media houses that carried news of his death.

His social media exploits earned him a wide array of friends, including Messrs Adeyanju and Atoye. Together, they collaborated on several efforts to counter pro-government narrative on social media, at times disproportionately.

For opinion shapers on the other end of the political aisle, however, Mr Nwabia was too toxic for civil conversation. His acerbic swipes were often met with scorn, while those who felt deeply offended took solace in blocking him.

His February 2017 stinging takedown of blogger Japheth Omojuwa was widely criticised as too uncouth and personal, with many saying the attack revealed more of his character than it did Mr Omojuwa.

Mr Nwabia never apologised for the incident, and there were no immediate indications if it had any detrimental impact on his overall acceptance amongst opposition supporters over the years.

The bipartisan show of sympathy that poured in in the wake of Mr Nwabia’s death also included Mr Omojuwa, who tweeted a prayer for his soul after Nigerians had gone to bed on September 30.

Before his death, Mr Nwabia also hinted that his confrontational takes against those with whom he held dissimilar political views were not always personal.

Following the arrest of Omoyele Sowore, Mr Nwabia openly declined to join calls for the release of the Sahara Reporters publisher, saying he felt little sympathy because Sahara Reporters was amongst the media outlets that propelled Muhammadu Buhari to power in 2015.

But his last tweet on September 25 was a call for Mr Sowore’s release: “Oh well, let bygones be bygones. #FreeSowore,” he wrote.

Mr Sowore remains in the custody of the State Security Service, two months after he was arrested for planning a protest. The government arraigned him on Monday on charges of treasonable felony and fraud.

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