From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
It has been two gruelling months for the family of Matthew Jacob Oponomok, a member of the All Progressive Congress (APC) who was killed on August 18.
On the fateful day, hoodlums, allegedly led by a former militant leader, attacked the APC state secretariat in a bid to foil the inauguration of Mr Joseph Fafi as the new chairman.
Matthew, from Egweama community in Brass Local Government area of the state, died instantly beside an electric pole at the Bay Bridge Road junction, after the bullets of the militants hit him in the head.
Unknown to his 20-year-old wife, Esther Matthew Jacob, her husband would never return home. Esther is now a widow, and her husband’s lifeless body is now in the morgue at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Yenagoa.
Two months after the brutal killing, members of the family are asking questions and demanding answers. Who killed their breadwinner? Why have the police not arrested any suspects in connection with the killing? And what are the plans of the APC leadership for the immediate family that the deceased left behind?
A brother to the deceased, Festus, in an interview with Daily Sun said it seemed the APC leadership had abandoned the family, as nobody has been reaching out them. He described his brother as the breadwinner of the family before his death.
“Nobody in the party has come to us. When we heard the news, we went to the FMC Yenagoa and we confirmed that his body was the one taken there. Since then, we have been moving from one place to the other, from the police station to the hospital. But nobody has reached out to us. The family chief called the chairman of the APC, Mr Joseph Fafi and leaders of the party and what he told me was that they said they would get back to him. But we have not heard from them. Matthew Jacob was a politician who was well loved by the political leaders from Brass Local Government Area. He was a calm and cool-headed person. He loved his family and friends. He was the pillar of the family, our backbone. We are indeed proud of him and we are in pain over his death.’’
The widow, in an emotional voice, pointedly tasked the APC leadership to take up the responsibility of the family.
“I am not happy at all with this development. My husband was a caring and loving man. He was good to everybody that he met. His death is so painful. I am left with these children to cater for. It is my father that has been assisting us since he died. My daughter, Treasure, is seven months old and the boys, Destiny and Goodluck are six and 10 years old respectively. I want the APC leadership to take care of the children and myself because I want to go back to school because his promise to me was that I would go to school and become a lawyer.”
Matthew’s father-in-law, Pastor Michael Oziegbe, is bitter about the untimely death. He is baffled that the APC leadership has shown no concern to get the perpetrators and bring them to book.
Speaking with Daily Sun, Oziegbe said he detested politics, charged the APC to take over the responsibility of the family since Matthew died in the line of duty.
“I never knew he was a politician. It was when he died that I knew he was a politician. This is to tell you how humble he was. When I heard of the incident, it was painful. Many people would say I know what you are passing through, but they don’t understand. What has happened has happened. This is a young man that has shown promise. I missed him now. The pain is grave, but what can I do? Can I question God?
“Well, I want all the people that care and know the value of life to come to the aid of the family. The APC leadership should seek justice for my late son-in-law; that is the most important thing. When I say justice, I am talking about imposing punishment. Let the people involved know the gravity of the damage they have caused.
“The APC leadership should know that a family has been hurt. Look at my daughter; she is just 20 years old. Now the daughter in her hand is just seven months. Can you imagine the pain the wife is going through now? How can I answer this girl if she grows up and ask me where her father is? How can I tell the daughter that her father was killed during a shootout at the APC gathering, a party he loved and died for? It is really sad. The APC leadership should think of taking care of the family he left behind. Since the day of the incident, his aged parents are down. The elder brother would have been here with us but because of the condition of the parents at home, he had to stay with them at Egweama. The APC leadership really needs to look deep into this issue and help the family. We have an able and dynamic president, Muhammadu Buhari and I am using this medium to appeal to the president to help us in telling the APC leadership, Bayelsa State Chapter to help the family so that the deceased, wherever he is, would be happy that he died for a party he believes in.”
At the Bayelsa State Police Command, mum was the word when the reporter made inquiries about inve
stigations about the case. A reliable source said there was no update, as all those whose names were mentioned in connection with the shooting were yet to make statements.
But a leader of APC in the state said the family should not paint a wrong picture of the APC, noting that the party leadership had been in touch with the family since the incident.
“Perhaps they should say they don’t have the full information of what the party has done, or maybe the family is divided. Immediately the incident happened, it was brought to the attention of the member representing Brass constituency 1, Israel Sunny-Goli. He immediately met with the chief of the family and money was released to pay the mortuary bills and also to be given to the family. They should say the truth because the party has not abandoned them.”
The chairman of the party, Mr Joseph Fafi, in an interview confirmed that the party was in touch with the family. He said the matter had been brought to the attention of the leader of the party, Chief Timipre Sylva, noting that arrangements had been made to discuss with the family after the burial.
“Initially, we called the family and gave them some money. The burial is yet to hold because the police have not released the corpse as the case is still under investigation. We are waiting for the police and the government to conclude investigation. We even discussed the matter with the leader of the party, Chief Timipre Sylva who called the uncle of the deceased. After the burial, the party would sit with the family and discuss how to cater to the needs of his wife and children. We are in touch with them,” the party chairman said.