The news of the sudden death of my friend, Hon. Independence Ogunewe, on Tuesday, March 3, 2018 came to me as a rude shock. We were both elected into the 6th Assembly in 2007 as members of the House of Representatives even though he had been there before me betwwen 2003 and 2007 in the preceding 5th Assembly.
By providence, we became friends and partners in the struggle for a corrupt-free House of Representatives.
Hon. Independence Ogunewe represented Ahiazu/Ezinhitte Federal Constituency of Imo State from 2003 to 2011 and he served as chairman of the House Committee on Aviation while I served as chairman of the House Committee on Information under the leadership of Hon. Olubunmi Etteh as the Speaker.
He was an urbane, intelligent and courageous lawmaker; and ultimately a God-fearing politician while alive. It was therefore not surprising that we easily bonded in the Green Chamber throughout our tenure.
It was the legendary American civil rights crusader, Martin Luther King Jr, who said that ‘If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he is not fit to live.’ This assertion may seems a paradox but potent and reinforces the fact that our choice(s) to a large extent detemines our place in history.
Ogunewe will be remembered alongside other like-minded members of the House, who fought for truth and stood by it throughout the lifespan of the House in the 6th Assembly when Speakers Etteh and Dimeji Bankole held sway respectively between 2007 and 2011.
At this juncture, particular mention must be made of the late Hon. Aminu Safana, who paid the supreme price in the course of that struggle on Wednesday, October 17, 2007. May his gentle soul continue to rest in peace, amen.
Going down memory lane: myself, Ogunewe and several others too numerous to mention here, defended the truth and stood by it against all odds when Speaker Patricia Etteh was falsely and maliciously accused of corruption in 2007 for allegedly having an intention to furnish her official residence.
That was few months into Etteh’s tenure as the first Speaker of the House of Representatives in Nigeria’s political history. A cabal in the House then couldn’t face the reality of a woman becoming the Speaker of the 360-member male-dominated House, hence the false accusations against her that were never substantiated.
Strangely, after her forced removal by way of resignation, she was given a clean bill of health by the investigative panel which investigated the allegations and she was apologised to, but the deed had been done.
In the post-Etteh era, we continued the struggle in the defence of truth, probity, accountability and trasnparency in the Lower Chamber. We took Etteh’s successor – Speaker Bankole – to task on the finances of the House.
Instead of providing answers to our questions, the leadership of the House rather picked on eleven of us including Ogunewe and myself and we were later suspended without fair hearing. However, the suspension was later quashed by a law court, forcing Bankole to re-admit us into the chambers.
It is interesting to note that after our stay in the Green Chamber, our bond of friendship became stronger and we remained in the struggle for a corrupt-free society. Ogunewe was with me at the Anti-Corrption Network (ACN) where I’m the Executive Secretary and he was my deputy.
Ogunewe was born in Warri on April 22, 1960 and hailed from Mbaise in Imo State. He was a good man to the end. I pray that the Good Lord will give his family, friends and associates the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss, amen.
Hon. Independence Ogunewe – a great man of courage and truth has gone to be with the Lord, may his soul rest in perfect peace, amen.
– Melaye is a former House of Representatives member and currently Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, representing Kogi West.