Femi Ajayi's Outlook

Death has no mercy when it comes knocking at your door, it has no appeal like you would appeal to the highest court if, and when you were deprived of justice.
Monday, November 17, 2003

Dr. Femi Ajayi


aying tribute to someone very close to you and passed on to the other world, is very hard to do especially remembering the good moments you shared together. About a year ago, we lost Gen. George Agbazika Innih at the age of 64 years, almost the same time I lost my mother-in-law, Elizabeth Aina Daniel at the age of 72 years. Death has no mercy when it comes knocking at your door; it has no appeal like you would appeal to the highest court if, and when you were deprived of justice. While still living, we should strive to do what is right and appropriate within our ability so that in-coming generations would have something to be happy for.

Born on September 25, 1938 at Agenebode, Etsako East Local Government area of Edo State, late Innih had his military training at Mons Officer Cadet School, Hans, England (1962), Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, England (1962-1964), and Staff College, Camberly, Surrey, England (1972). He was at various times Platoon Commander, 4 Infantry Battalion, Ibadan (1964-65) Deputy Military Secretary, Supreme Headquarters, Lagos, Colonel General Staff 3rd Marine Commando (1968-69), Brigade Commander, 5 Infantry Brigade, Onitsha 1974-74, Military Governor of old Bendel State (now Edo and Delta) 1975-76 and Kwara state. (1976-78). He was Quarter Master General, Nigerian Army (1978-79) General Officer Commanding, I Infantry Division, Nigerian Army (1979-80).

Innih made positive marks in all the different positions he held in his lifetime especially after his voluntary retirement in 1980. His role in the Civil war especially the fall of Owerri in 1968 and the creation of the Owerri salient axes assigned to the 14th, 15th and 16th Brigades of the 3MCDO, under Majors George Innih, Yemi Alabi (later Makanjuola) and E.A. Etuk, respectively, were remarkable.

Innih was the President of Retired Officers of Nigerian Armed Forces Organization (RANAO), member of Bendel Consultative Council (BDCC) and the Benin Archdiocese of the Catholic Church, Papal Knighthood. He was Chairman/Managing Director Niger Valley Agro Industries Limited, Chairman / Managing Director Tamsaks Nigeria Limited and Chairman Bridgestone Finance Limited. In 1998, the University of Ilorin awarded him Honorary Doctor of Law degree. A knight of Saint Mulumba, he was also honored with the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR).

My first close contact with him was at an event in Atlanta during the visit of Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, in 1999 where I offered prayer prior to the dinner. My knowledge of him from a distance while he was the Governor in Kwara State did not change when I personally met him. After the dinner, discussion ensued and he remembered the good working relationship he had with my father-in-law, Chief J. O. Daniel. He recalled every moment he had with Papa as he called him; the man I had been wanted to thank for given Kwara State a facelift while a Military Governor of the State Mar 1976 - Jul 1978.

On my return from my National Youth Service Corps, in Borno State, 1978, Ilorin had changed tremendously - the NTA roundabout, Jebba Road, Taiwo Road, Post Office Roundabout, and the International Stadium among others. My father-in-law, Chief J. O. Daniel, who was a Permanent Secretary under him, used to tell us about this man's working schedule, that in as much as you made pounded yam available at the meetings, he would work till early morning.

I spread the news about his presence to my fellow Kwarans in the metro Atlanta. As luck would have it, it was very close to his birthday, September 25, turning 61 years then. We made arrangement with his lovely wife, who is down to earth as well, to plan a surprise birthday party for him. I could see why the man was very successful, like the saying goes; beside a successful man is a woman. She agreed with every plan without any alteration. Innih referred to the party as a coup supported by his wife and myself, and both of us would be punished heavily for that.

My fellow Kwarans agreed to the surprise birthday party for him. They all cooked different dishes, but appealed to them to prepare pounded yam, with delicious egunsi soup. He was surprised when everyone trooped in to his residence with bowls of food and drinks. After offering prayers his first request was for pounded yam.

As we were dining the former Consulate General in Atlanta then, Dr. Martin Uhomoibhi joined the party. That was a token of our appreciation for his contribution to Kwara State. He almost shed tears. That is how we became very close friends and treated one another like blood brothers.

It was at the party that he revealed to us that the University of Ilorin awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Law in 1998. According to him, he did what he did as Governor of Kwara State, because it was his responsibility to do that. How many of the Governors would say that, even the elected ones that we have today.

His wife is another highly respected individual. Each time she is in town, she would not hesitate to go with me to any of the Kwara meetings or functions. Gen. Innih has left a legacy that would be hard to beat. What we are going to do is to keep the goodwill on, while remembering him always. Today we remember him for all that he did for Kwara State and for humanity.

The last time I spent with him before he died was a memorable one on Memorial Drive, in Stone Mountain, Georgia. He was hungry that afternoon, and had already ordered for a Nigerian dish from Eko Joint along Memorial Drive, before I got to his residence. The plan was for him to come to my place for dinner. Since he had already ordered for the dish, we had to go and pick it up. I could still remember the joke we cracked in my little Honda Accord, to pick up the food. The joke would be kept with me. But it reminded me of how humble this man was. I found myself lucky to have met him and we were just like brothers the way we talked and chatted.

I could hear him saying:

I have fulfilled my mission on this earth
It is not how long that I live, but how well I lived my life
I am now challenging those of you that I left behind to continue where I stopped, because I died with unfinished tasks
What I had on earth was a gift from God
What I did was my gift to you.
Do not waste it
I am sleeping peacefully with the Lord
I want you to use wisdom
Be courageous to do what is right.
Give good services to humanity
Lift up somebody in your life so that greatness will be yours
I may be gone in body, but my spirit lives on forever.

We all going to miss George Agbazika Innih, however we'll keep his legacy alive, fondly remembered by his loving wife, Theodora, Sophia, Tony, Osilama, Gwendolen, and his grandchildren.

While my mother-in-law, Elizabeth Aina Daniel (1930-2002) who actually made my marriage worth its name would always be remembered. Her last word on her deathbed was "Nipa Ife Olugbala, ki yio sinkan" "Through the love of God our Savior, All will be well". She was born at Iwoye, Obbo-Aiyegunle, Ekiti Local Government, Kwara State, and spent most of her adult life in the House of our Lord, at Cherubim and Seraphim Church, Ilorin and Obbo-Aiyegunle, Kwara State. A designer, textile dealer, and a building contractor, a founding member of Shiloh Band, C & S Church, Ilorin, New Bussa (Kainji), Zaria, and Obbo-Aiyegunle. She dedicated her life to Jesus Christ, a legacy that my wife is following up now.

This is her message:

To Those I Love and to Those Who Love Me:
When I am gone, release me, let me go
I know it may be hard, but I have so many things to see and do
You mustn't tie yourself to me with tears.
Be happy that we have had so many years

I gave you my love
You can only guess how much you gave to me in happiness
I thank you for the love you each have shown, but now it's time I traveled alone

So grieve a while for me if grieve you must
Then let your grieve be comforted by God's trust.
It's only for a while, that we must part, so bless the memories within your heart

I won't be far away, for life goes on
So if you need me, call and I will come
Even though you can't see or touch me, I'll be near
Remember all of my love is around you soft and clear

And then you must come this way alone
I'll greet you with a smile and welcome you home.

Momo sleep well in the Lord!

George and Elizabeth would be missed, but the legacies left behind by both of them would be cherished forever.