A few weeks back, I got a phone call from someone I couldn’t quite remember. She said Oronto Douglas (OND) had sent me to her with financial assistance when she first gained admission into the university about four or five years ago. She informed me that she had just written her final exams and would be proceeding for her NYSC in a couple of months. She also told me that she never met him while he was alive and was sorry that she would now never be able to say thank you to him for helping her realise her dream. She expressed sadness that her wish of him seeing that she made good use of the support and encouragement he rendered to her during her first year in the university would never come to pass.
When she mentioned her name, I immediately recollected her case, and that recollection brought back memories of the many occasions the late Oronto Douglas had asked me to reach out to people on his behalf, confirm their stories and see how he could best be of assistance to them.
It was these random acts of kindness to family, friends and complete strangers he met at home and abroad that makes it impossible for him to be forgotten by the very many people, including me, he impacted with his generosity. You see, OND had a larger-than-life personality, but what was even bigger than his smile and his ability to find clarity on every issue and situation brought to his attention was his kindness.
As I remember him today, the third anniversary of his passing, I remember that about him. I also remember his battle for environmental justice and his immense sense of patriotism. I remember how he’d spend hours strategising on ways to get our young people in school, which resulted in the setting up of community libraries even beyond his home state of Bayelsa.
For many years, OND put up a good fight against cancer. He lost that fight in the early hours of April 9, 2015, but he won the battle of life because his memory lives on and his impact can never be forgotten.
OND, continue to sleep in peace.