In an unprecedented 8 hour march to mark the centenary of the birth of the father of Ogoni nationalism and the first Ogoni to attend a university, Hon. T.N. Paul Birabi. Esq, MHR, an estimated 20,000 Ogonis on Saturday October 29, 2016 participated in a candle-light procession from Yeghe to Bori, the traditional headquarters of the Ogoni people.
The march was to commence a series of activities in honor of this great Ogoni personality and generally acknowledged father of modern Ogoni.
The eight-hour candlelight procession was initiated from T.N.Paul Birabi’s graveside in Yeghe with visits to the sites of some of his most outstanding achievements still standing today including the renowned Birabi Memorial Grammar School, The General Hospital in Bori, The Post Office amongst others.
Birabi died in 1953 after returning from the London constitutional conference which negotiated Nigeria’s independence. He is one leader yet to be honoured by the Nigerian state.
Speaking during the procession, Publicity Secretary of MOSOP and one of Birabi’s admirers, Fegalo Nsuke said Hon T.N. Paul Birabi has been one of the greatest motivation and role model that has impacted the lives of the Ogoni people.
Nsuke noted that, the launch of The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) started at the graveside of this hero of all times. “It was at the graveside of T.N.Paul Birabi in 1993 that the Ogoni struggle actually took off. And our leader at the time, Ken Saro-Wiwa had acknowledged that he was leading the campaign for the freedom of Ogoni in fulfillment of the dreams of Paul Birabi” he said.
Nsuke noted that Birabi is an exceptional example of selfless service that the Nigerian nation state lacks and needs to promote and emulate. It is on record that as member of the federal House of Representatives, Birabi was instrumental to the establishment of about 50 primary schools in Ogoniland prior to 1953, he established the general hospital in Bori and a high school which has had the greatest impact on educational development of the Ogoni community till date.
Nsuke further said that in Birabi’s 37 years on earth, he spent his resources and intellect in laying the foundation for what became an educational revolution for the Ogoni people, built a hospital that catered for the health of the people at the time, and it is the reward for his efforts that has produced the Ogoni we now have today.
Timothy Naakuu Paul Birabi became the first Ogoni to attend a university, He studied at Southampton University in the United Kingdom from 1946 and after two years at the University achieved a B.A. (Hons) degree in mathematics. He was also awarded the fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (FRGS) of Kings College London in 1948.
In his final remarks, Nsuke said, “We are glad to be part of this great moment celebrating the father of modern Ogoni. Born in 1916, Hon T.N.Paul Birabi was remarkably successful with an educational revolution that emancipated the Ogonis from a primitive society to what has become a celebrated nation today.
In his biography by eminent professors of history E.J ALagoa and Fubara, the following was said of him
“Timothy Naakuu Paul Birabi is generally regarded as the father of modern Ogoni nationalism. He stamped his style on the political, social and educational development of the Ogoni people and no history of Ogoniland would be complete without reference to this great mind and his contributions to the community and the advancement of his people.
Still revered by all Ogoni people , long after his death, he is accepted as the greatest leader the Ogoni community has ever had. He is yardstick against which subsequent leaders will be measured and his name still conjures amongst the Ogoni a reverence and call for unity which no other leader before or since has been able to achieve.”
In 1953, the funeral service remarks by former Nigerian president Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s at the grave side of the late Timothy Naakuru Paul Birabi, MHR., B.A., F.R.G.S. still remains the most apt description of this general, charismatic son of Ogoni.
Aziiwe said: “Nigeria has lost a worthy son and the Ogoni nation has lost a sun “. He is well and truly established as the father of Modern Ogoni”.