By Ibiba DonPedro
Chief Capt. Samuel Timinipre Owonaro
Arrangements are in top gear as Saturday November 28, 2020 approaches. Kaiama community in Bayelsa the picturesque community on the Nun River, is swaying gaily in preparation for the return to earth ceremony of Chief (Capt) Samuel Timinipre Owonaro. Owonaro died June 16, 2020 at the Niger Delta University Hospital Okolobiri, at 75years following a brief illness.
Owonaro’s life is the stuff of legend. He was one of the triumvirate of bold Ijaw youth who led a group of about 159 young men to declare a Niger Delta Republic on February 23, 1966.
Owonaro was one of the three stout hearted compatriots of Ijaw stock who led the insurrection popularly known as The Twelve-Day Revolution, which lasted from February 23 to March 6, 1966. The others were Isaac ‘Adaka’ Boro, leader of the group and Nottingham Dick. They had assembled, trained and armed a group of about 150 men on the platform of the Niger Delta Volunteer Service, NDVS through which they declared a Niger Delta Republic which was crushed by a force deployed by the Eastern regional and Nigerian government. These momentous developments occurred weeks after the first military coup led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu happened January 15, 1966.
Owonaro was born in 1944 in Lagos to Samson K. Owonaro and Doris, a lady from Olobiri near Kaiama in present day Kolokumo/Opokuma Local Government Area in Bayelsa State. His Father was a Customs officer who was also a historian and documenter of Ijaw history and migration.
When National Point visited Kaiama last week, his country home Tibi Ola Residence in Kolokoma/Opokuma Local Government Area was receiving a fresh coat of paint. His son Richard and nephew Dauebi were seen supervising work to clean up the premises to receive an expected multi-layered crowd of community people, government officials, activists across the Niger Delta, who would come to pay their last respects to a path finder and passionate advocate of Ijaw and Niger Delta emancipation and development.
Owonaro, Isaac Boro and Nottingham Dick along with an older generation of political activists led by Chief Harold Dappa Biriye, are credited with activism that led to the creation of Rivers State which came into effect May 27, 1967 under the Yakubu Gowon military government as tensions that led to the outbreak of civil war in 1967 deepened. Their heroic efforts as members of the Third Marine Commandos, along with passionate sons of the land like Boardman Nyananyo secured the Niger Delta for the Federal side during the war. The creation of Bayelsa State from Rivers State followed in 1996.
Adaka Boro was killed in still suspicious, yet unravelled circumstances near Ogu in Rivers State in 1968. His remains were taken to Lagos for burial at the military cemetery. In 2014, his remains were brought back for reburial in Yenagoa at the Heroes Park by the Henry Seriake Dickson administration in Bayelsa State. Nottingham Dick died around the same period and was buried in Bonny.
His death and passage rites are both a moment for deep reflection and celebration among those who appreciate the worth of his person and sacrifice paid by himself and compatriots. Rowland Ekperi, President of Izon Egberi Organisation Worldwide noted of the life and times of Owonaro that, ‘ It is a shame that the Ijaws in their characteristic manner fail to appreciate those who gave it all for the common good. Many that are parading themselves as Ijaw leaders today don’t have the patriotism, humility, intellect, vision and commitment the Chief had. He gave selflessly for the Ijaw cause.’
Activities for his burial began Monday with a candlelight procession in Kaiama. On Wednesday, November 25, 2020, a virtual Celebration of Owonaro organised by Izon Egberi Organisation will hold by zoom at 8pm Nigerian Time.