They say Alabo is Chief. Alabo is what you call a distinguished titled man from his part of the country. Rather than being known as a Chief, he chose to be known as Alabo giving the name global recognition.
As a young boy glued to NTA News during General Babangida’s regime, I used to look out for Alabo.
His regalia held a fascination for me. I used to wonder how such beauty was woven from the Niger Delta. He was a sight.
From the Bowler hats, to the gold trimmings on the cloth, to the beautiful cufflinks down to the shoes, he was a beautiful cultural testament.
I was a huge fan. I would stare and fall in love. Didn’t care about what he was saying, just his imposing aristocratic mien got my attention.
It was later I found out he was my sisters’ father – Bikiya and Ibiso. Bikiya has been my friend for a decade. It is to her eternal glory that my journey to theatre must be given.
From a crush, the relationship has grown to a finial bond that the whole of Lagos will be shouting- see your sister, see your brother. Her hugs were eagerly expected.
Ibiso came in much later and I used to struggle to remember her and Bikiya will shout- Joseph Edgar my brother, you cannot remember your sister, Ibiso and with shame I will rush to her and also give her a hug.
It is thru their eyes that I see Alabo. Alabo gave his kids the best of training. By this I mean ‘home training’ and not just the obvious academic trainings with which they carry in their beautiful bodies.
Bikiya and siblings are a symphony of piety. Their love for the Arts and humanity can only be traced to the great Iroko that was Alabo.
Their love for food and a good quality of life can only be seen from the prisms of an Iroko who although terribly busy from the cacophony of public life, still took time off to imbibe in his children.
It is no wonder that when the competition of loss hit us, Bikiya and Ibiso took it in their strides, while I wobbled into muffled tears and deep sadness.
We both ran into a turbulence of death. An unholy competition of sort where we began to lose loved ones starting from the gifted Albert Okumagba to critical members of both families.
I would call Bikiya in tears to say sorry about mummy and Bikiya would call in tears to say sorry about your mother.
The next time it will be me calling in tears to say, Ohhhh sorry about your brother and she in turn willl call to say ohhh sorry about Mena.
And then she will call to say, ‘ Edgar, Alabo is sick in Abuja and I will say, ‘what is going on’ and she will give me that very beautiful soothing voice, ‘Edgar it will be ok’.
Yes it is ok cos Alabo lived a colorful and enviable life. A deep dive into his profile will show you a man of men. A man who lived more than two lives in one.
He touched lives on various platforms- public service, the Arts and humanity. He engineered the establishment of many institutions and monuments both at the state and National levels.
Institutions that still carry significance even till today while still wearing his bowler hat and looking as handsome as a Duke.
I never got to meet him, but I didnt have to. Every day I feel his impact in theatre. In the people he molded and in the structures he helped built.
Prof Ahmed Yerima who today is the most gifted theatre writer and director and I dare say the most successful and bankable in modern theatre was his student.
I have heard stories of Prof eating beans in his house as a serving Minister. I have heard stories of Prof walking in on the great Alabo ironing his shirt on a very important National assignment outside the country and screaming in whatever dialect and collecting the iron and doing the needful.
I dare say, it’s cos of Alabo we have the modern theatre we have today. It’s cos of his vision and boldness that today, we can drop the kinds of Productions that we are dropping.
Alabo lived a life for God. Touched people and has left us with the indelible mark of a great Ijaw chief.
We remain grateful to the almighty that he passed though this side and has left us with beauty.
Sleep well the great Alabo and be rest assured that at least Bikiya and Ibiso are in good hands – mine.
Don’t vex Sir.
Being tribute delivered to yhe Orubbibi – Douglass Family if Abonnema River State by Joseph Edgar, the Duke of Shomolu