By Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
Brief History of O.B Lulu-Briggs
High Chief Olunwa Benson Lulu-Briggs was the Paramount Head of Oruwari Briggs House of Abonnema in present day Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Born in 1930 to Benson Lulu-Briggs and Rachael Kioba Harrison Kio Lawson of the Atonaye Pakaa (Pepple) of King Amachree Royal House of Buguma Town in Asari-Toru LGA. O.B Lulu-Briggs lost his father at an early age and later lost his only brother, remaining as the only surviving son of his father.
History disclosed that as a result of his challenge of losing his father at an early age and being in the care of his grandmother, Agbani and his mother, he determined to survive and success in life no matter the challenges ahead. His motivation to acquire good education and exposure galvanised him to focus on private learning to get his academic qualification. He later went to the United Kingdom for advance studies.
Chief commenced his formal life as a constable in the Nigeria Police Force, later as a clerk at the Mandilas Company. He also had his career with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) where he rose to the ranks of principal Industrial Relations Officer. He served as secretary of NPA’s workers union, Chairman of the Maritime Trade Union Federation, Eastern Port and later retired from NPA in 1978, achieving his goal in success.
His Political Life
Chief O. B Lulu-Briggs went into partisan politics during the second republic. He was one of the founding fathers of the then ruling party, National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and served as State secretary of Rivers State, National Vice Chairman for the state and Deputy National Chairman, of the party, South. He contested governorship primaries of NPN in Rivers State against incumbent Governor Melford Okilo. During the third republic, he contested the presidential primaries of the Social Democratic Party alongside the late Chief MKO Abiola.
He was the chieftain of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) that resisted the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. At the birth of the 4th republic, Chief Lulu-Briggs was involved in the formation of the All Peoples Party (APP), the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Soon after Chief O.B Lulu-Briggs left public service, he set up a chain of businesses. He registered his popular company, Moni Pulo Limited in 1989 to operate in the oil and gas sector of the Nigerian economy. He was among the Nigerians given licenses to operate in the oil industries. From establishment of the Moni Pulo, he carved into other businesses even to world class standard, employed and empowered many Nigerian professionals. He founded the O. B Lulu-Briggs Foundation in 2001.
Lulu-Briggs philanthropic Life
His legendary giving came from his heart with love and compassion and grace. His is one of the Nigerian philanthropists of this generation. He devoted a part of his resources to the service of the church. He assisted in the building of church projects across the country. He cared about people and their plight. He gave hearing ears to people’s complaint and lament, inspired, mentored and provided supported where needed. He believed that everybody deserves opportunity to progress in life and be what God has destined for them. He provided financial support to the needy; Chief never stopped his philanthropic lifestyle until his demise on December 27, 2018 at the age of 88.
Family life and Controversy after death
High Chief Lulu-Briggs was a devote father and husband. At his death he had a wife, Seinye O. B Lulu-Briggs and children which one of them was a former governorship aspirant in Rivers State in 2019, Chief Dumu Lulu-Briggs.
The controversy that rocked the peace of the family of Chief Lulu-Briggs was made public after his demise in 2018. It was reported that his wife, Seinye took him to Ghana following his protracted illness where he was later confirmed dead few days after he left Nigeria.
This death of the great philanthropist did not go well with his children, extended family, community, Kalabari kingdom his tribe and to those who are benefiting from his benevolent attitude. His son, Dumu was not also uncomfortable with how his father was reportedly dead, hence he demanded for the corpse of his father for burial.
Not agreeing to the request by the children of the philanthropist, his wife instituted a court injunction in Ghana restraining the family including her step children from having custody of the late chief. About one year after the death of the prominent Kalabari son, the Chiefs, elders, women and youths of the ethnic nationality in the State pleaded for the release of his remains for burial.
The chiefs mostly from Oruwari Briggs War Cannon House in Abonnema, pleaded that the late philanthropist wife, Mrs Seinye O. B. Lulu Briggs should return back their son’s (Chief Lulu Briggs) remain from Accra, Ghana where he purportedly died.
The Kalabari people, including the chiefs and the second son of the deceased, Dump Lulu Briggs were in their black mourning attires when they had a briefing with the press, calling Mrs Seinye Lulu Briggs to return the copse of the prominent marchant back to his hometown in Abonnema for proper burial.
The State Governor, Nyesom Wike also made efforts to settle the family where he offered to bury the late Rivers son. During a meeting with leaders and People of Kalabari Ethnic Nationality at the Government House Port Harcourt, the governor said that the State Government is interested in according the late Philanthropist the respect he deserves.
He said: “I even told them to let the Rivers State Government be responsible for the burial. Let the State Government take the corpse. Government will hold the corpse and give him a befitting burial. All I want is peace.”
Governor Wike berated the people for living the corpse of the deceased in foreign mortuary for one year over disagreement amongst the wife and children.
The burial of the O. B Lulu-Briggs was delayed for about two years following disagreement between the wife of the deceased and his children..
However, on December 23, 2019, a High Court in Ghana ruled that the body be released to the family led by Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, the matter was appealed up to the Supreme Court before the body was finally brought back to Nigeria on March 16, 2020 into the waiting arms of the prevailing Covid-19 restrictions.
Burial of O.B Lulu-Briggs
On March 1, 2021, the Acting Head of Oruwari-Briggs House of Abonema, High Chief A. B. Ajumogobia, announced the burial of the prominent Niger Delta business mogul, High Chief Olu Benson Lulu-Briggs stating that his remains will be made to rest on March 13, this year.
Ajumogobia who is a retired Navy Captain, stated that “The major reason we could not plan the burial ceremony was because of more than fifteen months we could not take custody of the mortal remains of High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs because of the series of court cases that denied the family from taking custody of the body. The controversies that surrounded the demise of our Paramount Head were widely reported in the mass media”.
Activities for the burial began on March 8, with Drama and Tributes at the University of Port Harcourt, Choba.
Also, Service of Song in honour of the deceased was held on Wednesday March 10, 2021, with the presence of the former Governor of Rivers State, Dr Peter Odili, Senator Magnus Abe, OCJ. Okocha (SAN), other prominent dignitaries in the state and across the nation. The event also witnessed in attendance foreign dignitaries.
In his goodwill massage at the programme, Senator Magnus Abe, described the deceased as a pillar and foundation of social and economic life.
He said “O. B Lulu-Briggs did not use his money to chase after peoples life or forced people against their will. He is a pillar, foundation of our social and economic life.
He is a living example of what greatness should be. The work of Lulu-Briggs will live long in our lives”.
Also in his goodwill massage O. C J Okocha, stressed that Lulu-Briggs “took care of the less privileged, destitute in the society. He built medical centre to care for the health of our people. His goodwill will pave way for him in eternity”.
On Friday March 12, the body of the business magnet returned to his hometown through the Port Harcourt International Ariport, a brief stopover at his mother’s home in Buguma town, Asari-Toru and finally at state in his home town in Abonnema, Akuku-Toru. There was boat regatta and other cultural display in honour of the arrival of his arrival.
Prior to the day of his burial, Wife of Chief Lulu-Briggs, Mrs Seinye made a publication in some tabloid and which was circulated in social media discrediting his step son (Dumu) for making a move to bury his father without her full involvement.
Mrs Seinye also claimed that the corpse that would be presented by Dumu was going to be fake, demanded for the corpse of her husband even when she claimed the original documents of her husband was in her custody.
In the article titled “A LETTER TO MY BELOVED HUSBAND,
HIGH CHIEF (DR.) O. B. LULU-BRIGGS”, Mrs Seinye stated: “My dearly departed husband, it would interest you to know I still have your international passport and the permits required to bring your body from Ghana to Nigeria for burial. As I write this letter, I have no idea where your body is or how it was smuggled into Nigeria if in fact it is your body Dumo intends to bury on March 13, 2021. I have made my concern known to the King of Abonnema who in a meeting directed Dumo to tell me and his siblings where your body is so that we can view it ahead of the burial. Dumo has refused to yield the committee’s decision.
“Finally, I want you to know my dear husband that I have been excluded by Dumo and his cohorts from being part of the planning and execution of your funeral, contrary to the first wish in your Last Will and Testament which is now a public document”.
It was noted that Mrs Seinye was allegedly not present at all the activities for the burial of her husband including the day of his interment which was held at the Abonnema sandfield.
Tributes and attendance at Lulu-Briggs burial
Late High Chief Olu Benson Lulu-Briggs received several commendations and tributes following the kind of legacy and philanthropic lifestyle he lived when he was alive.
Former President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike and Deputy, Dr Ipalibo Harry Benigo, Wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Aisha represented by Mrs Alanyingi Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva; Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah; former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Sir Austin Opara; Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party Rivers State chapter, Ambassador Desmond Akawor were at the burial ceremony.
Also present were, His Majesty king Dandeson Douglas Jaja, Amayanabo of Opobo Kingdom and Chairman Rivers State Council Of Traditional Rulers; The Amayanabo of Abonnema, King Disrael Bob-Manuel; Chairman of Rivers Elders Council, High Chief Ferdinand Alabraba; former Managing Directors of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Timi Alaibe and Ms Joi Nunieh, other dignitaries.
During his tribute speech at the burial ceremony, former President Goodluck Jonathan described late Lulu-Briggs as a philanthropist that touched so many lives positively, saying that he contributed to the success of his election as a vice president during the time of the late President Musa Yar’Adua which gave him opportunity of being the president of Nigeria.
Jonathan expressed sadness that Lulu-Briggs would leave at a time he’s more needed but encouraged his son, Chief Dumu to carry on with the legacy his father left behind.
He said: “It is a sad moment for us all. I know Chief I. B. Lulu-Briggs very well in 2007 when I got into national politics, when the PDP nominated me as a Vice to the late President Yar’Adua. He contributed to the success of my position.
“Yes he has his direct children but we are also his children. Lulu-Briggs started his life from a humble beginning but end successfully. He came from a very sophisticated community Abonnema. He touched lives of so many people and that is why you see the crowd here today.
“My prayer is that God give Dumu the grace to carry on the legacy of his father”, President Jonathan added.
Also speaking, Wife of President Buhari, Hajia Aisha Buhari, said the Late Lulu-Briggs was known in Nigeria for his proficiency in the oil and gas industry.
Represented by Wife of the Minister of Petroleum, Mrs Alanyingi Sylva, Aisha said “His son Dumu is well known to the first family, hence the visit. Dumu should continue to fly the Lulu-Briggs flag high”.
Earlier in his sermon, Pastor Belemina Obunge, SA to the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, urged the congregation to always work on their integrity and inspire others to greatness in life
“I believe we are all here because a legacy has been created. Your greatness is seen in your ability to improve the lives of others. Our purpose in life is to make impact and inspire others positively.
“If you miss out on integrity, you have done harm to your children than good”.
Meanwhile, the Chief mourner, Dumu Lulu-Briggs thanked the dignitaries for coming to sympathise with his family as they finally laid the philanthropist to rest.
He acknowledged the presence of the former President Jonathan, other dignitaries, commending the state Governor, Nyesom Wike for giving his father a state burial.
Dumu added “It had not been easy for the sacrifice you all made to be here. Our father humble beginning to successful end should be an encouragement and inspiration to all who want to succeed.
“I thank the former President Goodluck Jonathan, representative of the first lady and every other dignitary for honouring my father. My thanks also goes to His Excellency Nyesom Wike for deciding that he would give my father a befitting state burial”.