The untold side of late Godwin Daboh By Garba Shehu

There was time that the renowned Time Magazine put up the name of Adolph Hitler as a candidate for its annual “Man of the Year Award.” The whole idea, the magazine explained was in recognition of the profundity of the impact – good or bad – a man or woman may have made on the rest of humanity. This, understandably, caused an enormous outrage among many of their readers who asked the question “Why Hitler?”

Opinions are bound to differ on this enigmatic character. The late Godwin Adzuana Daboh was enriched with unparalleled goodness of the heart. He was also a profoundly mischievous man. To most Nigerians, Daboh was defined by his initial anti-corruption crusade. In 1974, he stood up against the icon of Middle-Belt politics, Joseph Saruwan Tarka, and pulled him down from the heights that he had attained. It is a matter for historians to determine whether Daboh lived up to the ideal of an anti-corruption crusader.

The cherishable aspect of this man’s life can be illustrated by the fact he lived a useful life and was kind and generous to a fault. As I write, there are destitutes, students and widows who will not be eating dinner tonight because Daboh is dead. His controversies appeared to have overshadowed his generous streak.

Daboh had a good understanding of the power of the press in all the battles he fought. In his lifetime, he bought and read nearly all of the newspapers he could lay his hand upon to keep himself abreast. He kept reporters close to him and I think it is on account of this he lavished affection on this reporter. I have missed a friend.

The number one rule of survival for many public figures was never to respond in kind to Daboh in the media. If Daboh attacked you, you’d read it and keep quiet. Those who made the mistake of engaging him in the press, almost always paid dearly for it. He had an opinion on everything and I think this explained his entry into publishing. When he started The Broom, they abused him and said he was not a professional journalist. Can you believe that Daboh set aside his family and business in Jos and Makurdi to embark on a two-year journalism training programme at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, NIJ, in Lagos? When he faced another challenge concerning his academic grounding, he embarked upon a three month training at a Bible School in the United States. When he returned, he added epithet of “Dr of Divinity,” to answer the new name of Dr. Daboh

As a “journalist”, he used the press’ power of exposure to full effect.

He once launched a blistering campaign of calumny against a fellow Benue man, Chief Audu Ogbeh who at that time was the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He went to Chief Audu Ogbeh to tell him that “you are my younger brother. I am doing this thing to get something from you. You are a stingy man and I know there is no way I can get something from you if I did not damage your name.” They had a good laugh over the matter and they parted as friends.

He knew journalists and their games and Daboh would let anyone take a cheap shot at him. I remember the day he stormed the press centre in Abuja, calling out the name of a journalist who has now transformed into a VIP, charging, “I gave you N20,000 and there is nothing in the paper. Where is my story?” The reporter mumbled a few words and the explanation he was trying to make was that the Editor in Lagos decided not to run it. Daboh said “No way, it’s my money or my story”.

As a politician, the late Daboh did lot of things that were difficult to understand. From my knowledge of him, he merely reflected the colours of present day politicians, nothing more, nothing less.

It was very strange that he fought his known master and benefactor, General Ibrahim Babangida in the run-up to the 2011 presidential primaries. It was shocking to many when he began to call IBB names. “We will disgrace him if he enters the race,” he said of IBB’s presidential aspiration.

As one of those who knew him, Daboh wasn’t ungrateful or rude to IBB. He was only doing what most Nigerians do, the politics of the stomach. He knew where his bread would be buttered. So he followed Goodluck Jonathan and helped him become President. Before this time, Daboh had to my knowledge called meetings of his kinsmen to canvass for a President of Northern origin. He insisted throughout that meeting that the president in 2011 must not come from the South.

Many readers will in fact recall that Daboh was that person who went to court to stop the Third Term ambition of President Obasanjo in 2006. The FCT High Court presided by Justice (Mrs.) Goodluck gave an order that the status-quo be maintained. Daboh’s lawyer and the court Bailiff rushed to Port Harcourt to serve the Senator Mantu Committee on Constitutional amendment which was about to vote on the controversial third term. Both Bailiff and lawyer were beaten by Mantu’s thugs at the Airport Hotel, Omagwa, Port-Harcourt. That was why they could not carry out the service.

Anyway, with Daboh’s support and that of others, Jonathan won and went on to be sworn-in in 2011. But it was not long before Daboh’s moment of introspection came. The election had come and gone and the promises made to him were yet to be fulfilled. Daboh took a deep breath one day and said “This Jonathan man!” He said he hadn’t seen anything from the President all this while, and “I have abused all my people, IBB and Atiku in the newspapers. How can I go back to them?” I think much later, something small came and he waited for the big prize which did not come until death came to snatch him away.

This write-up should really be the celebration of Daboh, a man of a rare kind heart. I remember talking to his lawyer Chike Okafor who illustrated to me more of the goodness of Daboh. On many of his days in court, Daboh would be moved by pity to bring out his checkbook to bail out troubled tenants and debtors. “How much is he owing?”, he will ask as he sees a man being led to prison. Daboh usually felt no hesitation doling out N10,000, N20,000 sometimes up to N100,000 to bail someone out.

So yes, while Daboh “saw money” as we say in Nigerian parlance, he lavished it on people he met whose causes touched him. That was why he was mostly broke.

Daboh had a way of getting out of trouble each time he fell into one. There was a day he had a falling out with his friend, the former Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, Abubakar Tsav. Using his police connections, Tsav got Area 10 Abuja Police Station to interrogate Daboh. He soon became their friend. Instead of being kept in detention, Daboh was seen buying jeans and T-Shirts for his police interrogators. That changed the tide. They called Tsav to come and substantiate his charges and he being an ex-police commissioner, he possibly felt too big to come to the station. That dissipated the case.

I was privileged to know Daboh as having had a covenant with his Maker. “If I reach 70 years, God may take me away at any point afterwards.” God granted him his wish and Daboh did not die until he passed the 70 year mark. He will surely be missed by widows to whom he gave a monthly upkeep; students who went to school because he paid the fees and destitutes who ate because the kind-hearted Daboh supplied the food.


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