Godwin Daboh Adzuana, Mr Controversy, Dies at 70

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Dr. Godwin Dabo Adzuana

By Eddy Odivwri

Long before Arthur Nzeribe hit the political stage with the tag of maverick politician, the likes of Dr. Godwin Dabo Adzuana had indeed made a career of political mischief defined by controversy.

But Thursday, death closed the final chapter of that profile with the death of the controversial politician, at the age of 70.

For over four decades, he remained a player in the political landscape of Nigeria. Hitting it out early, Dabo, as he is easily called, seized the headlines in 1974 when he launched into high-scale controversy with late Senator J.S Tarka. Dabo had accused Tarka, then (federal) Commissioner for Transport and later Communication, in the Gen. Yakubu Gowon administration of corruption.

The rage of the controversy got to a head, forcing Tarka to then resign from the government. That was the age of conscience and principles. Not anymore.

Today, barefaced rogues in government not only stay put, they hire platoon of lawyers to disorganise and frustrate the case against them.

Tarka, at the time Daboh took on him, was a revered elder statesman regarded almost like a political deity in Tiv land. For a 27-year-old Daboh to have had the courage to take on Tarka who was then 42, was thus considered the height of adolescent misdemeanour. Soon, the altercations that followed soon branded the controversy as “You Tarka me, I Daboh You”. It was a running headline in most Nigerian newspapers at the time.

Many had argued at the time that the audacity of Dabo was powered by politicians who were afraid of the rising profile of Tarka. Therefore they used an infantile pawn in Dabo to embarrass him. But he paid for it. He was tried and jailed in Ibadan. It was the government of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida that eventually granted him state pardon.

That controversy, as it seems, collocated with the identity and personality of Dabo till Thursday, when he breathed his last.

Speaking about the controversy last year, he noted, with penitence: “Looking back, I would say the incident between me and Senator J. S Tarka was a misunderstanding between brothers which was blown out of proportion.”

Generally believed to be a government contractor, Dabo had gone into publishing in the late 80’s, when he published Broom Newspaper, which dwelt largely on Benue politics with a breezy overview on national issues.The paper soon went extinct as it got dogged in rounds of controversies and arising litigations.

The early mortality of the paper may not be unconnected also with the fact that people got to understand that he was a secret service agent. That, and other character trends of the late politician caused many to associate with him with caution and circumspect.

But even after the prison experience, Daboh did not become less controversial. With a living style that was seemingly chaotic, he spoke of escapades and social adventures that did little to burnish his image. This came to the fore when he announced being “Born Again” and had to recount the tales of his not-so-bright past.

As a politician, he associated with political movements and processes. Despite his controversies, he remained a factor in Benue politics, even as he managed to tower beyond the clannish range of local politics. And that is why he could hardly be ignored by politicians. He had his immense values.

At the dawn of the present republic, he belonged to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Recently, he formed the Move Nigeria Forward group and Benue Elders’ forum for which he was the chairman.

Contrary to general expectation, Daboh had supported President Goodluck Jonathan, while opposing Gen. Babangida, whom he had once said, is his everything.

“Whatever I am today, I owe all to IBB, he is my leader, saviour, everything to me. When I was tried and wrongly convicted over the Tarka incident, IBB granted me state pardon,” he had said. But he not only opposed his presidential ambition, he claimed that IBB had bribed him with huge sums of money to secure his support.

Often brusque and undiplomatic in his criticisms, Daboh considered himself as a social critic, although this was hardly given prized regard.

But he manages to worm himself into several governments. And that also explains why tributes and reactions have continued to trail the news of his death yesterday.

For President Jonathan, Dabo was a great grassroots mobiliser and “a bold politician who was not afraid of canvassing his views based on the principles of his belief”.

In a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, he expressed the condolence of the president who prayed God to comfort the family for the irreparable loss.

“President  Jonathan commiserated with the family of Chief Daboh, the government and people of Benue State, the PDP family and the entire nation over the untimely demise of this great politician,” it said.

In the same vein, Senate President David Mark, in a condolence letter to Daboh’s family Thursday eulogised the lifetime of Daboh, noting that he was a political strategist and a goal getter.

He added: “We shall miss his political engineering, his wit and humour even in the face of adversity. He was daring, fearless and courageous. He never shifted ground once he believes in a course.”

Mark said the people of Benue and indeed Nigerians would miss his political sagacity.

He said no matter how much you loved or hated him, Dabo was a politician of note who could not be ignored.

He however enjoined the people of Benue State especially the bereaved family to take solace in the fact that late Dabo lived an eventful life and left his foot prints on the sand of time.

In : Politics