The last Monday clash between the protesting members of the Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky led Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) and men of the Nigeria Police might have come and gone, but the negative impact it left behind will forever remain indelible in the heart of a Zaria based couple who lost their son, Precious Ayoade Owolabi to a stray bullet during the crossfire.
The 21-year old Owolabi, a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) attached to Channels Television in Abuja, was killed in line of duty, while covering the violent protest that equally claimed the lives of other civilians and a Deputy Commissioner of Police.
News of the young Owolabi’s death initially sounded like a nightmare to the family, until his body was sent to their home in the ancient city of Zaria, Kaduna State last Tuesday.
That was however nothing until the slain Reporter’s corpse was laid to rest at Wusasa Cemetery amidst tears and anguish by his parents, siblings and relations.
Parents of the deceased in particular were still in shock as their son was lowered into the grave, after a funeral service that followed the farewell songs and a heroic final salute from members of the NYSC.
Precious’ parents said, their son’s sudden and brutal death was like slicing their hearts and collapsing the whole world on their heads.
The father, Mr. Owolabi Ayo, a Deputy Director, at the Department of Haematology, Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Zaria, recounted his last physical contact with Precious in Abuja, saying, “Ayoola was with me on the 14th June in Abuja.
He brought KFC chicken and said, ‘Daddy, you must have dinner with me, and this is the chicken I want you to take for dinner’. So, we had dinner together, we talked, we discussed about his place of primary assignment and other things.
“Up till now, it is just like I am watching a Nollywood movie. Because, I still can’t believe that, my son is dead. I didn’t know that, the straight flight to PhD I wanted for him, was going to be straight flight to heaven……. (crying)… oh my son, my son, my son…
“I wanted him to have a straight flight to PhD, because he graduated at the age of 20 years, when some of his age mates are still looking for school cert…. I told him not to worry about work, that God will provide. And we were planning towards that. That was the last thing we discussed physically.
“So, when the news of his death came to us on Monday, we were shocked to the bone, because that same day, about 20 minutes before we heard of his death, I sent him a WhatsApp message. Few minutes later, the elder sister called me and asked, Daddy where are you? I told her I was at home, where is mummy? I said she was in her room. Where is Deji? I said he was in his room. She now said, Daddy! Daddy! Go to the back of the house,. I asked her, what happened? You are far away in Abuja and you are asking me to go to the back of the house, to do what? She now said, the Channels Reporter that was reported dead, that was Ayoola. I just felt like the whole world just collapsed on my head!
“I don’t know how the Channels Television people got my daughter’s contact. But, that was how the whole thing happened. Like I said, she was in Abuja for just a few days, so, they tracked her down and broke the news to her. Then, she broke the news to us,” he said.
Talking about the personality of the late Precious, Mr. Owolabi said, “Precious Ayoola was born on September 16, 1998, by September this year, he would have been 21, he is not up to 23 that has been reported in the media. He was a very good boy, very quiet. Any assignment you give to him, he used to do it to satisfaction.
“Growing up was very easy for him, he was a very focused person. He had his secondary education at St. Joseph Seminary here (Samaru), where he passed his SSCE at one sitting. The same year, he passed JAMB and gained admission into University of Ilorin, where he read Theatre and Performing Arts. He graduated last year and started his NYSC.
“Getting a place of primary assignment was hectic for him. He was first posted to an NGO, he was rejected there, because they said they didn’t need any Corps member, then we started looking for where we could fix him up, then eventually, he reported back to NYSC and they asked him to look for wherever he could serve. They also asked him where would be appropriate for him, he said, media house. That was how he was posted to Channels Television.
“The boy enjoyed the service there. They also enjoyed him; to the extent that, they do gave him work on Sundays, which is supposed to be free for him. For example, this last Sunday, a day before his death, he was supposed to be with his elder sister, who was attending an event in Abuja, but when he was called, he said he was at his place of primary assignment, so they couldn’t see.
“Then, there was this training I wanted him to attend in Abuja. But, he sent a text to me, to show you how committed he was to Channels Television. He sent me a text that, he would not be able to do that training because the timing of the classes conflicts with his place of primary assignment. His place of primary assignment was top in his agenda. He was a focused person.”
CREDIT: THE NATION