By David Diai

Former Governor of Rivers State, Sir Dr Peter Odili, distinguished Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, who represented Rivers South East Senatorial zone in the Senate from 2011 – 2019, former Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, National President, Onueze Okocha and Mohammed Bello Adoke who served as Attorney General of Nigeria and Minister of Justice under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, from 2010 – 2015, were amongst distinguished distinguished dignitaries and well wishers, including Chief Timi Alaibe, former MD of NDDC, who joined Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs and his family members, for the Service of Songs and Tributes in Honour of their late father, High Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs, Iniikeiroari V of Kalabari kingdom.

It was indeed a proper Service of songs in every sense of the phrase, at the EIU Events centre, on Abacha Road, Port Harcourt, as congressional hymns, praise worship songs, joint choir renditions and breathtaking solo performances filled the ambience with a combination of melodious choruses and deeply exhilarating elegiac dirges which evoked emotions as moving tributes and the sentimentality of anecdotal platitudes captured the extraordinary life, quintessential essence and superlative deeds of the phenomenal High Chief O.B Lulu-Briggs.

The packed evening was beautifully mastered with flawless diction and seamless flow by the excellent Oby Ivy and kicked of with an opening prayer by Archbishop Kala Dokubo of the African Church, which ushered the mellow musical medley of congressional hymns and Bell anthem from the joint choir conducted by Enitan Iyalla, before erupting into a pulsating praise worship performance by Port Hacourt’s finest gospel diva, Mercy Chinwo.

And then Chioma Igbojekwe, the opera singer and soprano minstrel known nationally and globally as ‘Oma Pitch’ rendered a breathtaking solo performance like a magical sylph, which literally brought the Angels down and invoked goose pimples as fairies fluttered all over the atmosphere with the mystique of her high pitched soprano sweetness that can only be gifted on a human by Thalia and the Mousai, the goddesses of beautiful music. It was a timeless moment beffiting the celebration of a man who has transcended to the pantheon legendary, iconic heroes.

Lemuel Iyalla, Sodienye O’mailey and Ibifuro Olungwe simply took the evening of songs to surreal heights with solo performances, duets and choral choruses with the Riv harmonious troupe and the Garden city orchestra in glorious voices that brought a tear or two to several misty eyes when the timeless classic ‘Time to say goodbye” by Andreas Bocelli and Sarah Brightman (originally composed by Francesco Sartori, Lucio Quarantotto and Frank Peterson) and ‘Dont cry for me Argentina'(composed by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice and made popular by Julia Covington and Madonna) coursed through the ambience. The Afiba Choir capped the service of songs with ‘their bodies are buried in Peace’.

Dateme Lulu-Briggs and Melody Lulu-Briggs read the first and second scripture readings and the tributes which followed were inspiring, motivational and uplifting as they were motivational.

Magnus Abe described the late High Chief OB Lulu-Briggs as a pillar in this community, amongst other great attributes and a leading example of what greatness can mean, even as he urged those gathered not to weep over him because he was a good man, who lived a good life and observed with quiet conviction that Dumo Lulu-Briggs was a carbon copy of his great father and High Chief OB Lulu-Briggs lives on in all of us.

OCJ Okocha celebrated the unparalleled philanthropy and humanitarian outreaches of High Chief OB Lulu-Briggs which touched many lives and impacted on the indigent, the windows and less privileged. He also recalled with particular anecdotal thrill, the great empathy of High Chief OB Lulu-Briggs, which he was a beneficiary of when his own life was threathend by arachnoid aneurysm, which required brain surgery in Britain and how High Chief OB Lulu-Briggs came all the way to his small apartment at Killburn Road to empathize with him after his surgery.

Ifie Sekibo, MD/CEO of Heritage Bank, who said that High Chief OB Lulu-Briggs picked him up from scratch to work for him, went down memory lane on how High Chief OB Lulu-Briggs mentored him and Dumo from practically being greenhorns with no experience in business, to become the seasoned corporate titans they metamorphosed into over the years, even as he recalled a particular hairy restiveness in Bakassi, when Etim Okon Edet, Chairman of Cross Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers, who was himself amongst the audience at the Service of songs, was then a youth leader.

Rachael Lulu-Briggs, who gave the tribute on behalf of the family, celebrated their father as a great, generous, loving and forgiving man with a large heart and also their step mother and wife of High Chief OB Lulu-Briggs, who was there for him and helped him build the foundations and outreaches which defined the life and times of the Lulu-Briggs patriarch and Most Revd. Dr. Benebo Fubara-Manuel, President, Christian Council of Nigeria and Vice President, Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa, who delivered the sermon harped on the themes: “Oh Lord, let me know my end; Help me not to forget; and Let me know the measure of my days on Earth”.

Delivering the vote of thanks in a sombre, subdued yet grateful tone, Dumo Lulu-Briggs, who is the chief mourner, recalled how early misfortune and family tragedies truncated his father’s dream of formal education which lasted only four years, after which he took life by the scruff of the neck and wrestled himself to greatness.

“He grew up to become the man that he was”, Dumo told the audience, “And it gladdens our hearts to know that when affluence came, he embraced the world with the warmth of that affluence and he gave like giving was getting out of fashion.”

Speaking further Dumo said of his father: “And he will always say to you, that to thyself you must always be true and as day follows night, that which will be will be. He taught me that love is not an exchange. So you don’t love because you expect to be loved in return; that love was an act of faith, that you just do it because you have to do it expecting nothing in return and you’re doing it because you believe in God.

“And from his story, it is very clear that your background is not the reason your back is on the ground. That you can get moving. So on behalf of the Lulu-Briggs family, I thank all of us who are still here; traditional rulers who have come from Bakassi in Cross Rivers State, friends of my father who had come from Plateau State, the former Governor who came here and all those who spoke very glowingly of my father.

“One of my teachers, I have tremendous respect for him, OCJ Okocha was here, my friend Magnus Abe was here and of course we had all the wonderful singing from the choir, the orchestra, from Oma Pitch, who the Angels down and I think we truly are blessed. I can thank you all enough, none of us will ever thank you enough. But I will still say thank you so so much on behalf of the Lulu-Briggs family.

His next comments were greeted by a sincere and appreciative round of robust applause of endorsement. He said,. “My younger sister Rachel is here and she spoke very glowingly and we would like to say that we are a family. We are a family, all of us. We want to be a family with everybody, our step mother, with all. There’s nothing that has happened that we shall allow to define us. The life of our father must be the only mirror through which we see the world. Be was a very forgiven person. He was a very loving person. And so we forgive all ourselves and all of us.

“We pray, the clergy pray with us that we keep the flag flying and we do not bury the Lulu-Briggs family with our dearly departed father. So we must come together. And on that note, we say thank you, thank you and thank you again. God bless us,” he concluded.

The loaded evening of songs and tributes, which observed all mandated covid-19 protocols, with a well kitted medical team with PPE, conducting temperature checks and spraying sanitizers to all guests, entering into the hall, ended beautifully,with the requiem hymns ‘Abide with me’ and ‘Fast falls the even tide.”

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