By CrossRiverWatch Admin
The last time Ibil, a community in Nkum – Irede Ward, west of Ogoja Local Government Area, was in the news was about three years ago. June 16, 2018 precisely, residents of Ibil, woke up to the pernicious angst of nature in a magnitude they had never experienced in their living memory. A very violent windstorm had ripped through the community leaving trails of massive destruction, sorrow, tears and hopelessness.
The small community lost a newly completed Catholic church building and the rectory, schools were completely wrecked, homes were blown off from their foundations, age long trees were tumbled, electricity supply poles and lines were pulled down, farms were obliterated, putting Ibil, the usually sleepy agrarian community in the news for the wrong reasons.
Ibil cried for help. I am not sure how much of it they got. But that dusty community, over 40 minutes drive from Igoli, with the least of Government presence, witnessed a pilgrimage of the creme-dela-creme of Nigeria last week during the funeral of nonagenarian, late Pa Leonard Jarigbe Agom, who passed on at 90 years old.
Apart from the high and mighty, dance groups and neighbours from places in and around Ibil like Aburumbede, Aburumbidi, Afamju, Egue, Eja, Ekuaro, Ijama, Ishindede, Isih, Mbenkpi, Monkom, Ndar, Nfom, Ngulya, Njakina, and Ntara and more, were around Ibil to honor a man who they say his life impacted them in no small measure.
Having concluded the requiem mass at St. Benedict Cathedral in Igoli on Wednesday, February 3, 2021, the funeral hearse proceeded to Ibil for a vigil which held at the family compound. At the St. Michael Primary School, Ibil, which is just a stone throw away from the Agom family compound, Reverend Father Agantem Eworo officiated an open air Catholic Mass the following morning, where over ten million naira was also raised for the reconstruction of the Catholic Church and rectory. The body of the late technocrat was thereafter interred in the family compound amidst tears and wailing by family and loved ones.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Governor Duoye Diri of Bayelsa State, all sent condolence messages eulogising the sterling virtues of Ndah.
The Chief mourner and son of the deceased, Hon. Jarigbe Agom’s colleagues from the National Assembly, Senator Sandy Onor, Rep. Daniel Asuquo, Rep. Etta Mbora and several other reps. from outside Cross River, thronged Ibil to commiserate with Hon. Jarigbe Agom.
In his condolence message, Speaker Gbajabiamila, who was represented by Hon. Anthony Agbo from Ebonyi State, said political leaders should emulate the deceased who lived for humanity.
According to Gbajabiamila, “It is never easy to lose a loved one, especially a parent who has been there from the start. One whose hands have raised you and whose words have charted the course of your life in ways both obvious and subtle. It takes the grave and mercy of God almighty to bear such a loss and carry on”.
In his condolence message, Governor Nyesom Wike said of the late Ndah: “As a civil servant, Pa Leonard was a tireless worker for the development of his State and progress of his people. Above all, we will also remember him as a genuine Christian and committed Catholic who dedicated his long life to the service of God and humanity.
“Pa Leonard’s passing away has left an irreplaceable void and loss not only in you and your family but also in the entire Ogoja community and Cross River State. We will miss him, but his priceless legacies will continue to keep him in our minds forever”.
Governor Ayade in his own condolence message said, “Late Mr. Leonard Agom Jarigbe was a respectable gentleman, a fine administrator and a community leader. An acclaimed civil servant par excellence, he rendered dedicated and committed service to his fatherland and was a positive reference point to hard work, excellence and integrity. He was an acclaimed disciplinarian who brought up his children and others who passed through his tutelage with the proper academic and moral upbringing. He will indeed be missed by many.”
Governor Duoye Diri of Bayelsa State, also extolled the late patriarch saying, “We recall the professional, spiritual and social achievements of your late father, as a devout Christian and accomplished administrator, Pa Jarigbe during his lifetime impacted positively on the lives of many and contributed to the development of his immediate community, Cross River State and indeed our country Nigeria.
“His exemplary qualities are evident in the lives of his children and close associates, there is no doubt that his, immediate family, the ogoja community
and indeed the nation has lost a great man. Although his demise is a painful one, we thank God for the life he lived and the ripe age he attained”.
Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, while speaking of his late dad, described him as his role model and vowed not to disappoint him even in death.
“You remain a role model , because you were imbued with so much knowledge that could make a man achieve whatever he wanted in life . I remember you said to me ‘my son, sacrifice pleasure, in order to have pleasure that would last’. You thought me service to my people and I promise not to disappoint you, even in death”.
A mourner at the venue who identified himself as Mongim Mgbe, in a lengthy tearful eulogy, described the deceased as: “Ndah was a beacon of strength, moral fiber, and inner will, a bastion of strength for our community. One of the very few Executive Secretaries left in our LG system after the creation of Akwa Ibom state from Cross River in 1987. This larger than life man, whose years have spanned further than many realized, he was a hero of Ibil.
“He was also a steadfast family man, a technocrat, educationist, humanist, devout Catholic, a community builder, a tenderhearted and protective husband, father, and grandfather. He was a great man, a great hero, and he doubtlessly died true to himself. His hand was a hand that lifted us up with inspiration. His back was the strong back of a sheltering protector. His wisdom, that of an insightful teacher and leader. His confidence, driven by a profound optimism about the human spirit and possibilities of Ibil. Ibil will never hear him rally us in the face of an uncertain future again, yet in reality, we will see him, hear him, experience him in the faces of his family and friends, and in our hearts and minds forever.”
He was a father of 11 children.
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