.•Urges govt to fulfill promises
For the family of Mr. Michael Ahamefule Onukaogu, an Imo State-born father of three based in Lagos, June 13, 2013, would for ever remain indelible. On that day, his promising young son, Mr. Donald Onukaogu, a former Senate President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), died in a ghastly motor accident, alongside four colleagues in Umuahia, Abia State. They were travelling on an official trip to the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State at the instance of the former Minister of Education, Professor (Mrs.) Rukayyat Rufa’I, who persuaded them as NANS officials, to intervene on the crisis that led to the death of four students in UNIUYO. Michael spoke to UFOMBA UZUEGBU.
What brought you to Champion House?
What brought me here is the sad story of my son, who died on the 13th of June, 2013. His name was Comrade Donald Ugochukwu Onukaogu. He was the Senate president of NANS (National Association of Nigerian Students) who died in active service while he was travelling to Calabar on a rescue mission, to the school regarding the problem in the University of Uyo, where two students also lost their lives while protesting the hike in school fees by the authorities of the institution.
On their way, they had an accident with a commercial truck in along Umuahia – Ikot Ekpene road. There were about ten occupants in the vehicle. Five died instantly including the Senate President, late Comrade Donald Ugochukwu Onukogu, and a survivor who is having brain problem. He is mentally deranged till date.
Before they took off for Uyo, you said they were in Abuja. What took them to Abuja?
They went to Abuja for a meeting with the former Minister for Education, Prof. Mrs. Rukayyat Rufai , who invited them . At the end of the meeting, they departed Abuja for their various schools. But on their way back to their stations, the same Minister informed them that there was a crisis at University of Uyo and that they should proceed and confer with NANS officials there and try to douse the tension in the university. On their way, they had an accident, where five of the ten students died instantly, including the senate president who was my first son.
What has been the government’s response?
Since his death, the government has not responded in any way. Even the promises made during his burial ceremony are yet to be fulfilled. During my son’s burial, the government’s team was led by Comrade Jude Imagwe, who was the Special Assistant to the President on Youth and Students ‘Matters. He came and made these promises. He was even there at the first memorial lecture for the Senate president. Till date, they have not done anything, even the student that has brain problem as a result of the accident, has not been able to pay the hospital bills till date.
At the graveside, you said government officials made some promises to your family. What were the promises?
They promised that they would give my last son who graduated from the University of Benin, a lecturing job at the Federal Polytechnic Nekede. We went there; the Rector told us that we should go to Abuja and get a letter from them before they could offer him a job. When we called them, they said we should come to Abuja for the letter. We went and they did not attend to us even till date. They did not say anything about it. Even the insurance money, they have not said anything about it.
It’s been more than one year since the incident happened, how has the family been coping with his absence?
It has been difficult. The family has been suffering because my late son was our breadwinner. Life without him is unbearable. Even the mother cries every day. If the school authority did not increase their school fees, the students wouldn’t have rioted and if the students did not riot, the Police wouldn’t have come in. if the police did not kill the students, the Minister of Education wouldn’t have asked those children to go there. And if they didn’t go there, they wouldn’t have died in active service. Because it was their going there to make things work and make peace with the students and the school authority that they died. They died in active service and till date, nothing has been done at all. So, we are now calling on the school authority to come to the aid of the family and fulfill the promises they made to us.
You said he graduated from FUTO and went back to the university for his Masters programme……?
(Cuts in) Yes. While he was in FUTO, he was running double degrees. He was running a degree in Federal Polytechnic, Nekede and he even held the position of the State Chairman of the Imo State Youths.
As father of your late son, what fond memories do you remember about him? What kind of child was he while growing up?
While he was growing up, he was a brilliant child. When he was in St. Ann’s during his kindergarten and primary school; because of his brilliance, he was given double promotion to JSS 1 immediately and while he was there, he finished with a very good grade and got admission into Innocent International School, in Ijesha, here in Lagos. Because of his brilliance, he was the best student in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry in that school. He was very respectful up till death. If you read the profile written by the whole Nigerian universities and the Minister, you will know that he was a very good person.
He never insulted anybody. He was not power drunk.
He respected his elders both old and young, including those who were his senior and those after him. He never insulted anybody till death.