Family of lawmaker, who died while celebrating electoral victory laments •My late husband placed constituency needs ahead that of family —Widow
•What my father said repeatedly before his death —Son •Why we re-elected him —Aide
The member representing Pengana Constituency in the Plateau State House of Assembly, Ezekiel Afon, has become a unique statistic of the recent elections across the country after he slumped and died while celebrating his re-election. His widow, Hellen, son, Nicholas and aide, Ali Tiga spoke with ISAAC SHOBAYO on his death. Excerpts:
Mrs Hellen Afon (widow)
How did you receive the news of the demise of your husband?
It was very shocking. Initially I did not accept it and didn’t believe it was real considering the circumstance through which he died. We were in the midst of celebration of his victory at the poll the very day the result was declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in our house, with some of his supporters and friends in attendance, when he slumped. I never believed something like that could happen at that time. He was not sick neither did he show any sign of ailment. He did not struggle with anything. It was shocking.
In view of your closeness to your husband, how will you describe his death?
His death is a big loss to the family and to the people of his constituency. We are going to miss him a lot; not only the family but the entire people of Pengana constituency which he represented for four years at the House of Assembly and who re-elected him; and the entire Bassa Local Government and Plateau State as a whole. He was the type who always wanted to make impact wherever he found himself and he impacted on people’s lives and always ensured that he put smile on face of people. He was so caring. He often placed the need of his constituency ahead of that of the family. The people of Pengana and his colleagues at the Assembly would miss him. He had said it times without number that the reason why he sought for political office was to help the people and uplift their standard of living.
Like any other responsible father, what were the plans he had for the family that he could not actualise before his death?
He always told his children that he wanted them to be greater than him and rise above his level in life. I remember the last time he was addressing those around, he told them not to use him as a benchmark for success but to always strive to be greater. He didn’t play with the education of his children. He wanted the best for his children and could sacrifice personal comfort to meet the educational needs of his children and other relations. He monitored his children’s education despite his busy schedule.
What is your advice to his constituents?
I thank the people of his constituency for their support during the election. The family deeply thanks them for their support and for believing in my husband. They believed in him, that is why they reelected him and gave him another mandate to represent them. Since he was a peaceful person and stood for peace, I want them to maintain that peace he stood for while alive because he was a detribalised person, not a bigot. He carried people along irrespective of their creed, tribe or religious affiliations.
Nicholas Ezekiel Afon (son)
How did your father die?
It was shocking. We were celebrating his victory after the election. We were outside making sure that the celebration went well when my mummy called me to call a doctor, that my father was down. We rushed him to the hospital where he died.
Did he show any sign of sickness on that day or had he been nursing any ailment?
I remember that early this year he was ill for few days but recovered before the election. Before the election he went round his constituency for campaign. He was strong and did not complain of any ailment. In fact, his death is still a big shock to everyone of us because he was not ill.
In what way will the family miss him?
My father was the bread winner of the immediate and extended family. Virtually everyone depended on him. He had a very big responsibility. People of Pengana constituency often said he was ‘a passionate lawmaker who showed tremendous concern for his people irrespective of their background’. The people of the constituency are sad, I can’t explain how much the people love him.
When was your last encounter with him?
The night before the election I was with him when he was addressing the people, some of whom were his supporters. He told them that God made him for everybody, not his family alone. He repeated this several times in the course of his address to the people.
What were his plans for the family, especially his children before his sudden demise?
He cherished education; his desire was for all his children to be well-educated and rise above him in life and follow his footsteps by touching the life of people, especially the less-privileged.
I believe you might have shared your ambition with your father before his death and probably he might have been guiding you to actualise your dream. How do you feel now that he is no longer there?
On this I am confused and don’t know what to do. Prior to his death, especially during the campaign, I shared some business ideas with him and gave him the proposal. He assured me that we shall sit down after the election to discuss them and he handed back the proposal to me without looking at it. But now that he is gone I don’t know what to do and where to turn to.
What is your profession?
I am a university undergraduate. I also engage in some businesses to eke out a living. I have a project I am working on now.
How are your siblings reacting to this unfortunate incident?
There is nothing we can do, we just have to adjust to the reality. We are four in the family and the last born, who is a girl, is still struggling to cope. The one after me, Jonathan, is a Civil Engineering student in China. I don’t know how he is feeling now but we hope he will join us for the burial.
I also want to say that his re-election was not a surprise to us because the people of Pengana love and trust my father and they believe in him. That is why they re-elected him. They believe he had more he could do. That is why they reelected him. I am appealing to the Plateau State government to find anyone who shares his vision to take that position which he left. We need someone with equal zeal and passion for the people of the constituency.
Ali Tiga (aide)
What is your relationship with the late Hon. Afon.
I used to be his legislative aide and we have been together for a very long time. He loved people around him and was a dedicated lawmaker who hardly missed a sitting. He was a legislator and also an administrator. He created more time for people than himself. You can hardly fault him because of his strive for perfection all the time. He was accommodating and had open hand; those of us that are close to him will miss him. He was more of a philanthropist.
What is your perception of the man and his relationship with other lawmakers in the Assembly and people of his constituency?
Politics is all about interest and attending to people’s needs. The vote that people gave him on the platform of APC after he defected from Peoples Democratic Party Pengana, irrespective of party affiliation, showed his competence and the love the people have for him. That is why they reelected him.
As one of his aides, what will you miss in him?
He taught us not to be boss but a father. He always told us to develop ourselves because opportunity might arise at any time in life. I know of people he pressurised to further their education and sponsored as well. He was a coach and I benefited a lot from his mentoring.