The only piece of news capable of and powerful enough to overtake the Gov Nyesom Wike COVID-19 wars (both against the virus and against his many detractors) could only be the death of Simeon Nwakaudu, the governor’s media aide (Special Adviser on Electronic Media).
At last, the Commissioner of Information, Paulinus Msirim, the pastor, issued what perhaps would be his toughest press statement. He announced the death, saying it took place at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH) which actually is about one year old. Nwakaudu used to relish in releasing statements of steps being taken to establish it. The Teaching Hospital was built from funds set aside to relocate the UST from Diobu to the Greater Port Harcourt City near the International Airport in Omagwa. Gov Wike stopped the relocation project expected to gulp at least N150Bn and used the deposit set aside for it to start the teaching hospital at the current site.
The government statement attributed cause of death to ‘brief illness’, something Nigerian comedians say is a killer disease. This one, indeed, was truly brief illness. Newsmen gathered that Nwakaudu was hale and hearty (?) as recent as Friday. By next day, being Saturday, he was said to have slumped.
He was thus rushed to the state-owned teaching hospital where he was believed to have got the best the place could afford. He became stable later to the great relief of his family and the Govt House community. A twist was said to have occurred later that Saturday evening and there was a relapse, requiring a return to the ICU (intensive care unit). This was the situation till Sunday when Simeon Nwakaudu gave up the ghost.
When the statement from the government talked about shock and deep sympathy, no one should underestimate it. Gov Wike has deep belief in Nwakaudu; in loyalty, in hard-work, in dedication to duty, in focus, and hard punches to the enemy camps, in everything. Nwakaudu sold himself to his job. He never dared to approach his principal from the left. He knew his limits and stayed within it. He never waited to be looked for. He was ever present, ever dutiful. He treated his principal as if he was meeting him for the first time. Other aides especially in the media section hardly went far.
Gov Wike talks on the go and releases barrages as he does. He does not want anybody to rephrase his thoughts; he wants his mind communicated. Nwakaudu captures his raw thoughts and words and releases them that way. He has the right punches in the right sizes for every opponent and target. He delivers them the way the boss likes it, raw.
Nwakaudu has his own character, which is to tell you the way he thinks it is and straight to your face. He is tireless and fearless. The pen suited this attribute. Wike did not mould Nwakaudu, and Nwakaudu was not molding Wike; each found the other.
The Umuahia Abia State-born young man joined the Pavilion in Makurdi, Benue State, when it was just being set up by the founder, Babs Usigbe, who just left the Benue State government-owned Voice Newspaper as its Weekend Editor. He became one of the strongest reporters who pulled in some of the biggest exclusives in a multi-ethnic state with many contending issues. He joined the state’s university to grab a degree in Masscom and later joined the Guardian as Benue State Correspondent. It was there that someone linked him to then Minister of State for Education (Wike) as media aide. Soon, Nwakaudu left the Guardian and stayed with Wike and they later moved to Port Harcourt in 2014 to fight the 2015 guber election. They won it and repeated the victory in 2019. All these years, that thin-looking reporter soon blossomed in stature and status. He however carried both stoically. It is not yet known if there were hidden health issues but who does not have.
Any person close to Gov Wike is a national figure, especially if you were one of his media aides. You will be authoring some of the fiercest and hair-raising statements. Wike takes on anyone and any battle; and you are the one seen to say them as his spokesman. There can be no dull moment with this governor. Nwakaudu was always ready for war.
Perhaps his closest friend was Mike Chukwu, who joined Pavilion about same time, as an editor. Both of them struck a deep chord. Mike later became a Masscom lecturer in the newly established Benue State University; the relationship transformed from Editor-Reporter to Lecturer-Student. Mike later joined newly established Ebonyi State University on better scales, but as he felt he had arrived, he died in a tragic way, died in his sleep. Many years later Nwakaudu has been forced to so do. Sad!
His family heard his name, and will surely hear his death. His native name for which he was popularly known in Makurdi is Chibiko, meaning, God please oh. Last weekend, death refused the appeal. His surname is Nwakaudu, meaning that begetting a child sounds bigger than acquiring any other property. It also means that when a son dies, the noise would be loud, very loud. Thus, from Benue to Lagos, Abia to Abuja, Imo to Rivers, its all about the demise of the great writer, the great media aide. But, at home, a tree has fallen. In the profession, a giant has crashed. In Govt House, a wall has cracked, a hole has emerged. It is no small matter.
Rest in peace, Simeon! I was there in your first day in journalism; I was there in your last day. Sure, we will meet again; in heaven.