The death that shook Bayelsa

July 27, 2019
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IN 2017, Mrs. Agatha Goma spoke briefly and aptly about her personality in an interview. She said: “My personality is one that doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and I’m always out to get the job done. I believe in excellence and always strive to get it at all times.”

But when death struck on July 14, 2019, it broke the resolve and will of the young woman to say “yes” to life. Nobody saw it coming. It was indeed a dark Sunday. The way and manner Goma, a go-getter, succumbed to death by breathing her last shows the inevitability of death and its superiority over mortar humans.

The news of her death came like a bolt from the blue. Like a gas emission that begins slowly and eventually saturates the air, the news of Goma’s surprising departure started like a rumour and became a reality as it travelled with the speed of light. It was a mixed feeling. Most people doubted the veracity of the report, some took it with unusual tranquility while others screamed indisbelief.

But the energetic Goma is no more. The politician and pastor died in her sleep shortly after returning from a church service. She laid in a couch and eventually stopped breathing. All the medical interventions failed to resuscitate her.

Her church members gathered and on top of their voices interceded God, but Goma could not wake up. She is still in that posture sleeping without pulse. The death of Goma is a big blow to Bayelsa State, especially to women. She was a model of womanhood and an epitome of excellence. Goma showed resilience, doggedness and determination.

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She rose to reckoning in a society that lays emphasis on masculinity. Prior to her death, she was a Commissioner for Local Government Administration, one of the best brains in Governor Seriake Dickson’s executive cabinet. Goma was born on June 14, 1964.

Her father was a policeman and she had to live in different parts of the country following the various transfers of her father. She attended her schools in Lagos, Benin, Jos, Port Harcourt and even in Sokoto. She attended the University of Calabar where she studied English and Literary Studies. She got married to a pastor and had five children. Her political career started at the age of 27 when she was voted into the Rivers State House of Assembly. She was the Deputy Minority Whip at the time.

Thereafter, she became a political appointee in Bayelsa State during the first civilian administration in 1999. Goma was one of the pioneers who established the Niger Delta University (NDU) and served as commissioner in the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development. She was elected into the Bayelsa State House of Assembly from 2011 to 2015 and served as a special adviser before Dickson appointed her as the commissioner for local government administration.

In fact, death left a huge vacuum in the state. She was one of the trusted aides of Governor Dickson. It was also a double jeopardy for the family of Goma. Her children are now orphans, because she buried her husband late last year.

The tears, outcries and lamentation that accompanied her death showed that Goma touched lives when she was alive. One of the persons who sobbed over her death is a broadcaster, Gabrielle Amunike. Amunike, who works for the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), recalls with fond memory her encounter with the late young woman. She said: “She was more than a friend to me. I met her years back when she was the only woman in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly. I was looking for someone who would sponsor my TV programme, Amazons of the Niger Delta.

“I was given her phone number and I called her. She said, ‘Come to my House’ and she directed me. As I spoke, she listened quietly. I explained the programme to her and what I needed to bring it on air. “She looked at me and said, “My girl, I don’t know you, but I believe in what you want to do, and I will assist you with the little I have.”

She called for her cheque book and signed almost half a million to me. “Her little meant so much to me, because it was all I needed to start that programme. My story in the journalism profession cannot be complete without her name. I am grateful for all you did for me and all around you. You are indeed a rare gem. I am missing you already. Your memory will forever remain green in my heart.

“I don’t know what else to say. Here is indeed a woman without tribe. Even though she passed away, she will forever be my inspiration and my hero. May God protect and guide the children you left behind. May they find favour and grace anywhere they go.”

Since her death, Goma’s home has been a beehive. High profile personalities and politicians have been trooping into her Yenagoa home. Recently, Governor Dickson, Senator Douye Diri and the state Chief Judge, Justice Kate Abiri, visited the home to commiserate with her family. Dickson expressed deep shock over her death. He said: “I have repeatedly stated that we need more leaders in the state.

Agatha Goma was clearly one of our best. She was one of our most experienced politicians who have served in various arms of government.

Her future was indeed very bright and she was doing very well until her sad and sudden departure. “We all are in shock at what is clearly a major tragedy and we cannot pretend about it. Both the family members, members of the Restoration Administration as well as the state are mourning. “We pray God to grant the departed eternal repose and give the family of the departed the fortitude to bear what is clearly an irreparable loss.” Also, Diri, during his condolence visit in company with the state’s Commissioner for Labour, Chief Collins Cocordia, said her death was shocking.

“For all of us who knew her, her character as a mother and a hard working woman while going about my governorship ambition, she was one person I had pencilled down. Unfortunately, she is no longer with us. “We pray that God console the Governor, the people of the state and her family,” he said The Caretaker Chairman of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, Chief Kia Nigeria, also mourned the departure of Goma.

He described her as one of the few persons who lived a purposeful life, irrespective of her station in life.

“Agatha will not only be missed by her family, rather the entire Bayelsa State,” he said. Also, a governorship aspirant and retired federal permanent secretary, Amb. Godknows Igali, expressed heartfelt condolences on the sudden departure of Goma. Describing her demise as shocking and a colossal loss to Bayelsa State and the Ijaw nation, Igali extolled the virtues, intimidating track record and impeccable personality of Mrs Goma, describing her as a rare gem, an Amazon and a woman of substance much loved by all.

Also, a former Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe, sympathised with Dickson, the state executive council and the Alaebiri community in Ekeremor Local Government Area following the death of Goma.

He said: “I specially commiserate with the Bayelsa State Chief Judge, Justice Kate Abiri, over the loss of Mrs Goma who was her beloved sister. “The death of Mrs Goma comes as a double tragedy to the family and the entire Bayelsa people because she had earlier lost her beloved husband last year and was yet to fully recover from the loss. “Though not obviously sick, she was said to have died in her sleep at her residence in the Commissioners’ Quarters in Yenogoa.

“I recall that Mrs Goma has served Bayelsa State in many capacities. She was a member of the State House of Assembly before her appointment by the previous administration as Commissioner for Education. “Based on her sterling public service qualities, she was re-appointed as Commissioner for Local Government by the present administration.

“Mrs. Goma’s impeccable record in public service of Bayelsa State made her an invaluable asset to the past and present administrations in Bayelsa State. Her devotion to her family, particularly to her late husband cannot be quantified in any scale of evaluation.

“She lived peacefully and died peacefully. In her lifetime, with less noise and fanfare, she silently contributed to the growth of Bayelsa State. Only a few individuals have had the honour of serving in three successive administrations back-toback. “Only a few public servants have had the opportunity of being appointed Commissioners more than once. Mrs Agatha Goma was a rare gem who could not be ignored by any serious-minded political leader.

“She came well ahead of her time, played her unique role and has returned to her maker before her time.

“To Governor Dickson and Members of the State Executive Council, let the memory of her unquestionable commitment and comradeship fire your passion and dry your tears.

“I suggest that in memory of her selfless service to Bayelsa people, a certain memorial be instituted by the state government to serve as an inspiration to other public servants.

“To her precious family, I understand your pains because I have lost loved ones. So, I know how this moment feels. “However, I want you to be consoled by the fact that she lived a life worthy of emulation and has left behind indelible marks. “While we cry, we must thank God for who she was.

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