President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday extolled the virtues of the Special Adviser on Research, Documentation and Strategy, Oronto Douglas.
Douglas died on April 9, 2015 after a seven-year battle with cancer.
Speaking at the commendation service in Douglas’ honour at the St Peter’s Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion, Yenagoa, Bayelsa state, Jonathan said: “Oronto is somebody who is so dedicated to service, totally committed. If he believes in you, he will never betray you. He will stand by you until the end. Even if you are dying, Oronto will want to die with you.
“In politics, most people will be with you when things are okay but immediately when the wind turns they will disappear. But Oronto is not that kind of a character.
“I have worked with him as a deputy governor when he was a commissioner. He has been with me for eight years in Abuja. So I am one of those who can clearly attest to the qualities of Oronto. He was dedicated.”
He said he was particularly pained because Douglas was committed to documenting all his activities.
“When I moved to Abuja as the vice-president (in 2007), I appointed him to be my adviser on research and documentation. I am the most documented president for now because of Oronto. I don’t even know the number of volumes he has written,” he said.
The president also recalled the last days of the former environmental activist, who returned to the country from the US on March 26 after his doctors told him he had only a few weeks more to live.
“I remember when Oronto came back from his last journey to the US. When he was there and I contacted him, he said the doctors told him that he would die in three weeks and that he could decide to stay back in the US and die and that they would send his body to Nigeria for burial.
“He said if he wanted to come home, he needed to come back a little early so that he would be strong enough to board the flight. He told me that he decided to come back because staying in the US would incur more cost. People will be paid to take care of you until you die. Of course, bringing the body home too will be more difficult. So he decided to come back.
“He came home and I visited him one week after, that was two weeks to the time he was to die and I expected to see somebody who would be so sad, but not Oronto. All his discussions with me were how to document this, document that, to immotalise this.
“In fact, he was not talking as somebody who was sick. He was very, very courageous, very strong willed. Oronto was Oronto until the last moment. You hardly see such characters. He was selfless. In fact, he was not interested in accumulating wealth,” he said.
Condoling the widow, Tari, and two sons, Ogei and Daniel, the president said, “Just be happy that your father is leaving at a time that people appreciate him. Your father is leaving without stains. Your father is leaving as a noble person.
“If you appear anywhere today and tomorrow and describe yourself as a son of Oronto Douglas, people will know you. Most of us know him across the Niger Delta and indeed the rest of the country because of his involvement in civil society activities.
“People are appreciative. That alone is a big gift that silver and gold cannot get for you. As long as we are alive, we will continue to give any assistance that is required,” he said.