In a special thanksgiving service, the former Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Niger Delta Affairs and the Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Kingsley Kuku, moved the hearts and minds of his kinsmen. Adeola Akinremi writes
Dignitaries poured in from all over the country. The challenge of travelling through the waterway on wooding boats to access Arogbo community in Ondo State notwithstanding, one thing occupied their minds: celebration.
In April 2012, Kuku, the man for whom the people had gathered in a community that sits on water would have died, but for providence.
Yes, in the course of discharging his duty as the superintendent for the Presidential Amnesty Programme, he had travelled to South Africa to cheer up the disarmed Niger Delta militants enrolled on an aviation programme as pilots.
And while at one of the training schools, Kuku opted for a solo flight with one of the trainees to help build people’s confidence in them. But mid-air, the rear door of the jet trainer in which they were flying suddenly became detached because of mechanical malfunction. Kuku cheated death, he survived without hurt.
That perhaps explained one of the reasons he returned to hold a special thanksgiving to God at his local church, First Baptist Church, Arogbo, Ondo State on a recent Sunday. But the priest and the people who gathered at the church and at a rousing reception organised in his honour after the church service reminded him of more things: success stories.
The former Deputy Majority Leader of the Nigerian Senate, Senator Abdul Ahmed Ningi from Bauchi State, who attended the occasion, described Kuku as a rare gift to mankind.
“I have followed the Amnesty Programme under his leadership and I can say, Kuku was made for the programme. Life prepared Kuku for such responsibility and that was why he succeeded. I’m extremely happy with his stewardship during his stay as the chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme,” Ningi said.
In an emotional-laden tone, Ningi asked Kuku’s kinsmen to prevail on him to serve the country further, if called upon by the present government. He said: “Kuku strikes me as a person that is different and real who doesn’t pay lip service to duty. We need him to continue to serve. If President Buhari requests for his service, please tell him not to turn down such invitation. The good work must continue. I have not come across a man as loving and dynamic as Kingsley Kuku. It is just a matter of time before President Buhari will call on you to come and help continue the Amnesty Programme.”
For his part, a Port-Harcourt based clergy and Founder, Royal House of Grace International Church, who preached during the thanksgiving service, Apostle Zilly Aggrey, the mass of people that attended the service should serve as a reminder to Nigerians that commitment to nation building cannot be sacrificed on the altar of selfish interest.
“This man we are holding thanksgiving to God on his behalf has made a mark. He made gains through dedication to service. That is why we are all here. What he has done while in charge of the amnesty programme will be spoken of from one generation to another, because humans are involved and many of those who are involved are relatively young.
“The Amnesty Programme has achieved more than what many thought and with time, the effect of it would be felt, especially when pilots, engineers and other professionals trained through the programme return home to contribute to the country’s economy. You risked your life dealing with hard ijaw boys who fear nobody and you’ve survived as a leader. It’s worth celebrating.” Aggrey said.
With Apostle Aggrey’s sermon out of the way, Kuku, the Niger Delta region and Nigeria’s new leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, had prayers said for them.
Then, drums, dance and songs took over the coastal enclave as more people arrived to celebrate a man they called their friends.
It was an unusual day for boat drivers at the only jetty at Arogbo. The blackish Arogbo water was equally unsettled as boats criss-crossed its surface taking people in and out of the riverine community.
Undenaibly, Arogbo may as well pass for an urban city despite its sub-urban nature. Those characteristics that typify a rustic community are disappearing. For instance, it’s no longer a representation of rustic coastal community where dwellers and visitors find their way through the muddy, waterlogged roads in thick, water-resistant boots. And the wooden bridges connecting one house to the other have all made way for paved roads. Arogbo is illuminated from one end of the community to the other with the aid of solar power.
And unlike before when the presence of a car, van or Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) would have caused considerable stir in Arogbo, those who could afford the ‘luxury’ now ferry in their vehicles. A barge used to convey such cargo rests on the waters by the Arogbo jetty. All to the credit of one man: Kingsley Kuku.
That was what the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Onyema Allen made allusion to when he began to speak about Kuku at the reception. “I have seen Kuku she tears many times,” he said. “Those tears were tears of joy. In the last four years he has done many great things for Nigeria and for his community. He has pleased mankind. The lives he has touched today will be for the development of this country in no distant future.”
According to a member of the House of Representatives from Ilaje/Ese Odo Federal Constituency, Victor Kolade Akinjo, Kuku’s intervention in Niger Delta development has made him a man to watch. Akinjo who claimed his election had much to do with the support he got from Kuku said the Amnesty Programme truly became a success story based on innovation that Kuku brought into the programme.
“He is known for excellence. As a member of the Ondo State House of Assembly, he did well. He also fared well when he was with Timi Alaibe in NDDC and the Amnesty Programme gave him the opportunity to show he is a leader to watch out for. He has done a lot for the social re-engineering of this country,” Akinjo said.
The Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko led members of his cabinet and state officials that include members of the state House of Assembly to the reception that was equally attended by other bigwigs like the former gubernatorial candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party in Ondo State, Olusola Oke, ex-militant leaders, such as Government Ekpemupolo (Tompolo) and High Chief Ajube (Shoot at sight), and several All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftains.
At the end, Kuku engaged his well-wishers in words of appreciation, thanking them for the risk they took on water and land to join him in Arogbo. He paid glowing tributes to the man who appointed him, President Goodluck Jonathan, describing him as God-sent leader who showed up to stabilize a crisis-ridden Nigeria.
Kuku also thanked the Committee of Friends headed by a former Commissioner in Delta State, Dr. Chris Ekiyor, for a well- packaged special thanksgiving service.