Late Comrade Patrick Barigbalo Naagbanton was born on 25th August, 1970 into the family of Late Mr and Mrs. Naagbanton Naleeba of GaGberedodoo dynasty. His mother, Mrs. Theresa Lekie Naagbanton (Nee Baraol) is from Ga Ben dynasty, both parents are from Bodo City in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The father, Late Naagbanton Naaleeba married Patrick’s mother as his second wife. Patrick lost his father at a tender age; he was about two years old. Patrick, together with three other children left behind by the mother’s first daughter, Mrs. Nennaa Naakuu who died later, were in the care of the maternal family. Patrick’s mother, a farmer, worked assiduously and was supported by her brothers to nurture Patrick and the other children. Some relatives of Patrick’s father, Mrs. Site Kpegevula, her first son, Mr. Vinom, Mr. Keeta Dumpe and Mrs. Deemua Kurubor, all late, also often assisted Patrick.
Patrick, attended his primary education between 1979 and 1984 at Bodo City Primary School III, where he sat for the First School Leaving Certificate and passed with good grades. In the same year, he gained admission into Saint Pius X College, Bodo. While in the college, he delighted so much in literary and debating works and joined the debating society. He always took after his literature Master, Late Mr. Morris Naa who taught him poetry. According to his literature master, “Patrick must read one chapter of Things Fall Apartevery day.”He excelled as a literary student. Patrick was among the first batch of students who sat for the Junior School Certificate Examination (JSSCE) in Rivers State (1987) which was devoid of exam malpractice.
He was appointed chapel prefect of the college from 1988 to 1990, the longest period of prefect-ship as a result of changing the school system from 6:5:4 system of education to 6:3:3:4 system.
Patrick’s favourite hymn as a chapel prefect was “Fading Away Like The Stars of The Morning”. He was known by this hymn. In his secondary school days, and was always seen with copies of Dele Giwa’s and Ken SaroWiwa’s books among others for hewas inspired by their write-ups.
Prof. Scot Pegg plants a tree at Bodo in honour of a
long term friend
Patrick sat for the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) in 1990 and passed. Because of his interest in journalism, he gained admission into the School of Journalism, Enugu and passed. He also went to London School of Journalism, London in 2012 to further his education and graduated excellently in 2013.
Late Comrade Patrick Barigbalo Naagbanton took after his mother as a Christian and was nurtured in the Catholic faith. He was baptized and received Holy Communion in the Catholic faith. He was taught Catholicism by Late Herold Naa Visigah who always asked him to recite “Who created you? God”, so many times. In 1988, with the new wave of movement of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church through late Arch. Jude Berebon, Patrick became born again and joined the Catholic Renewal Ministries (Zion). He was properly taught about God and was convinced of his faith. He promised to preach the Gospel to the wider world but in the face of temptation, Patrick back-slid and turned away from the faith. He later embraced humanism, attributing virtually every occurrence in this life to science and nature.
Late Patrick, a handsome boy, grew up to be smart, healthy and industrious. He was good at interacting with all categories of persons, both elderly and his peers. As a young boy, he participated in many of the communal works in the community; and had keen interest in cultural dances and songs. In Bodo by then, wrestling was held in high esteem by the people. He participated actively in wrestling with his mates. He also liked masquerades like Agiri and Kanutete.
CEHRD staff and members of Tree planting Campaign group at the Tree Planting Day
One important thing about Patrick was his interest in information and its local channel of dissemination by the town crier. He delighted in the town crier, Late Mr. Nkpoo Sibara’s means of disseminating information in the community. This habit of his developed to the extent that his uncles could no longer bear with him. However, their attempts of trying to dissuade him from sneaking out to follow the town crier yielded no positive result.
Patrick developed keen interest in fishing and farming because this was the main source of survival for his family.
On completion of his secondary education, Patrick left the village and settled with his uncle, Mr. James Baraol in Port Harcourt where he was able to locate a group that was organizing thrift contributions popularly known as Akawo. He was employed as a field officer. His duty was to market the organization and source for interested contributors. He worked with the group for roughly three (3) months and decided to float his own company named ‘Baron’. He succeeded initially as he had already known many contributors and was able to convince them to join him. Also his easy way of interacting with people afforded him advantage. However, the company could not last as he diversified the business into money lending without collateral.
Dr. Judith Asunni pays tribute to Comrade Patrick
He later secured employment with the Port Harcourt factory of the Union Dicon Salt; a salt producing company chaired by T.Y Danjuma. A charismatic comrade, Patrick rose to the position of the union leader through workers’ solidarity after a few years of service in the company. He was elected chairman of the workers’ union. This position provided opportunity for him to demand an increase in the workers’ salary and changes in the condition of services from the management of the company.
He was sacked along with others for spreading radical worker consciousness months after, and a death squad (comprising armed thugs and security agents) rented by the management of the salt company was unleashed on him and few vanguards of the workers struggle. He went underground and started shuttling between Port Harcourt and Lagos, travelling mostly by night buses, linking up with the likes of Gani Fawehinmi. Beko Ransome-Kuti, Chima Ubani (all dead now) and others.
With the fire to drive change burning in him, Naagbanton, troubled by the authoritarianism of the Babangida rule, joined the Campaign for Democracy (CD), a national coalition of radical pro-democracy and human rights activists, students, peasants and Marxist intellectuals and toilers based in Lagos, who were, fighting to terminate the military rule. Comrade later joined the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), the first indigenous national human rights body founded in Lagos in 1987. He became CLO’s Rivers State secretary and chairman respectively, and afterwards, the zonal chairman, south south which made him aboard member of the organization at the national secretariat. He was arrested by security agents for anti-government activities on the platform of CD just after the cancellation of the June 12 presidential election in 1993.
Cross section of guests at the night of poetry and tributes
Patrick joined the Oil Watch programme of the Environmental Rights Action (ERA) based in Benin City, Edo State, as its head of field monitoring few years after. As an exploratory journalist and like the proverbial leopard which doesn’t change its spots, while with ERA’s Oil Watch programme, he was also doing his independent journalism stuff. When Ken Saro-Wiwa, the celebrated writer, satirist and activist took over the leadership of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP),Patrick joined him, and was there until Saro-Wiwa and others were hanged by the Nigerian state and its collaborator, Shell.
He partook in the Kaima Declaration of the Ijaw (struggle) which birthed the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC). He also partook in putting together the Oron Bill of Rights and had spearheaded general non-violent resistance struggles throughout the Niger Delta region and beyond.
Apart from his fervent disgust for injustice, which, crystallized into his self-sacrificing activism, scrupulous Comrade Patrick possessed an uncommon potential as a serious researcher and independent investigative journalist. He researched and wrote for over Ten local provincial Print media houses, Eight National and Ten International print media, including the New York Times and Sahara Reporters. He conducted researches for both local and international organizations such as Ijaw Council for Human Rights (ICHR), Yenagoa; Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL). Port Harcourt; CLO, Lagos; Action Aid International, Nigeria (AAIN), Abuja; Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), Port Harcourt; Niger Delta Human and Environmental Rescue Organization (ND-HERO), Port Harcourt; and Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Abuja, Small Arms Survey (SAS),Geneva, Amnesty International (AI), London, UK, Bergen Risk Solutions, Oslo, Norway, Earth Rights International (ERI), Washington, USA; Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR), New York, USA; Jamestown Foundation (Global Terrorism Monitor), USA; Centre for the Study of Civil War (CSCW), Oslo, Norway and others.
More faces at the tribute night
His research and journalistic beats covered violent conflicts, elections, security, human and environmental abuse, arms proliferation or trafficking, corruption and organized crimes (both domestic and international). Until June 2012, he was the coordinator of the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) based in Port Harcourt, which he founded and from which he voluntarily resigned to join the British Council (BC) under its conflict programme, the Nigerian Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP) as its regional coordinator for the Niger Delta region states of Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta.
On 26th October, 1998, Patrick won The News Magazine prize for his topical article on the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. He was also in 2001, a recipient of an international award on human rights from the School of Law at the Indiana University, Indianapolis, USA. Other awards won by Comrade Naagbanton are: Ken Saro-Wiwa Award for Environmental Education from the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Rivers State branch, Bebor International Nursery and Primary School, Bodo City, Gokana Award for Educational Advancement. International secretariat of Amnesty International (AI), London voted him the Human Rights Defender (HRD) in 2011.
In spite of his massive contributions to intellectuality and scholarship and the fact that his articles have appeared in scholarly magazines, and have been quoted copiously locally and internationally, Comrade Patrick Naagbanton did not want to be called a scholar or an intellectual. Like a Troubadour in South African poet Denis Brutus, he has traversed the entire span and scope of Nigeria, West Africa, some parts of Africa and the wider world.
Patrick Naagbanton, an independent journalist, travel writer, researcher, investigator, book reviewer, biographer and poet, conducted research, examining violence associated with elections and undertook mapping and profiling of arms and armed groups operating in the Niger Delta and some parts of Northern Nigeria especially, and also wrote articles under the penname- ‘Bestman Wellington’ for the Washington, US, Global Terrorism Monitor (2007-2008).He was also a consultant for Action Aid International Nigeria (AAIN) under the DFID-funded Human Security in Conflicts and Emergencies programme.
As a journalist, he stringed for major international newspapers, magazines and news agencies like The Guardian, London(2011), The New York Times magazine(2010), The New Internationalist(NI), UK(2014), The Telegraph, UK(2006), The Bloomberg, New York(2007), The African Confidential, UK(2007, 2011), The Associated Press, Lagos(2004),The Sahara Reporters, New York and had served as editorial board member of several provincial newspapers and magazines, in addition to writing copiously for leading national and provincial newspapers.
It is in recognition of his distinguished role in Human and Environmental Rights crusade that COMRADE GENERAL PATRICK BARIGBALO NAAGBANTON was conferred with the Development in Ogoni Distinguished Merit Award in the Area of Human and Environmental Rights Defence.
It is worthy of note that Patrick while striving to succeed in life never forgot his books. He spent not less than four (4) hours a day in the Rivers State library reading. He cultivated the habit of reading newspapers early in his life and contributed by expressing his personal opinions on current issues which were published in the Nigerian Tide and some other local newspapers.
He also worked for local and international reputable media organizations, such as the Port Harcourt Telegraph, Port Harcourt; The Beacon Newspaper, Port Harcourt; Sahara Reporters, New York; the Guardian, London; The New York Times, New York; Bloomberg (news agency), New York; Africa Confidential , London and The New Internationalist, London; Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Benin City; Amnesty International (AI), London; Small Arms Survey, Geneva, and the Center for Constitutional Right (CCR), New York.
Patrick was the founder, intellectual life-wire and co-trustee of the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) during the first ten years of the organization which is now based at 6 Abuja Lane, D’ Line, Port Harcourt. He was the second person to chair the Bebor Board of Governors, of the popular Bebor Model Schools now at Bodo City, Bane (Ken Saro Wiwa’s home town) and Bori. He was, in addition, a member of the Bebor Int’l Friends Committee Worldwide. He accompanied the Canadian delegations that built the first five-classroom blocks at Bebor. He was one of the most tested and trusted friends of Chief Prof. Scott Pegg who presently, is the founder/chairman of Bebor Int’l Friends Committee, whose membership are based in over 100 countries.
He was the publicity secretary, International advocacy officer of this organization. His galvanization of supports in alliance with the legendary Scott Pegg has led to a transformation of academic and infrastructural facilities for Bebor autonomous schools and other allied schools in Ogoni and the greater Niger Delta. Scott Pegg nick-named Patrick, ‘the Ogoni Super Hero’.
Explaining his love for travelling and writing Patrick wrote in his short notes to a close friend:
“Am not afraid of the deltaic waters and its elements-I always enjoy sailing in them than travels by air or road. Am safe and fine after my ‘sojourns’ in ‘The River Between’.
“In spite of the sprawling specter (insecurity) and an unhappy weather, I can’t stop wandering and writing on the unsafe, unhappy roads. I was cursed during my boyhood years, to wander and write by two great Nigerian men. First by Nkpoo Sibara, the great town crier of Bodo, my hometown in Ogoniland in the 1970s. Secondly, by Cyprian Ekwensi, the father of Nigeria city literature. He inflicted me with his SOKUGO (wandering sickness) of his Burning Grass fame”.
Mr. Naagbanton was one of the intellectual engine rooms for the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). He was among the masks behind the ghost name of “Nwibani Nwako. He was at the head of the MOSOP crisis management committee during the Abacharegime following the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa. Through his intellectual input, the Ogoni struggle for equity, justices and freedom blossomed.
This man of great history was a principal lead facilitator of the Bodo community delegation of the Bodo Mediation Initiative setup under the auspices of the Government of Netherlands to mediate in the dispute between Shell and the community in respect of massive oil spills in Bodo creeks between 2008 and 2009. The mediation produced a record compensation in which more than 15, 000 people received direct cash payment, the first of its kind in Nigeria and the first such initiative in black Africa. The Bodo remediation/mangrove re-vegetation which was the by-product of that effort is presently being executed in phases at the Bodo creeks in Gokana Local Government Area.
When Late Patrick was matured for marriage, he chose a wife Victoria and performed all the traditional marriage rites. He wedded at Corpus Christi Catholic Church, Port Harcourt. The marriage was blessed with a son, Master Ernesto Patrick Naagbanton. Life is full of ups and downs and in like manner, Patrick’s marriage was riddled with problems. Somewhere along the marriage, disagreement occurred between the couple and they divorced.
He later married Miss. Avary Imabel Paago in accordance with the traditional practice of Bodo People. The marriage is blessed with three (3) children namely: Kakavurabar, Leka Asidy and Nuka.
Patrick was a man known to be very healthy all through his life. He was hale and hearty until Friday 13th September, 2019 when he was knocked down by a reckless driver along the Rukpakrusi Eliozu section of the East-West road in Port Harcourt. He sustained multiple injuries and was rushed to Save A Life Hospital, Port Harcourt. All efforts made to resuscitate him proved abortive and he eventually passed on eight days later on, 21st September, 2019 at exactly 5:30pm.
HE IS SURVIVED BY
1.Mrs. Theresa Lekie Naagbanton-Mother
2.Mrs. Avary Mabel Naagbanton -Wife
3.Ernesto Jeptha Naagbanton – Son
4.Kakavura Naagbanton – Daughter
5.Leka Asidy Naagbanton -Daughter
And a host of other relations.