“Bosque”: An Indomitable Genius, A Tribute To Dr. Bolere Elizabeth Ketebu

This Life

I woke up on the morning of Saturday the 16th January 2021 with tears in my eyes and filled with a sense of foreboding, musing on the fact that in the next two days, the 18th January 2021 would mark the one month period from the interment of my first son Tonye, popularly known as “TGD”. Breaking the deep thoughts was a call on my mobile phone from my second son, Semabo. Without reservations or emotions, he broke the news: “Daddy we have just lost our mother”. “Don’t talk nonsense” I angrily snapped at him as I began to wail and break down in tears. He consoled me, narrating the sequence of health challenges that unsuspectingly deteriorated into death.

I was thrown into a whirldwind of emotions, overwhelmed with reminiscence and recalls of over fifty years of our relationship that demonstrated and depicted confidence, as well as unalloyed and unblemished affection which evolved over time into trusted love and protection. Colloquially, it introduced the acronym: “Bosque de reign; when the reign is over, everyone eyes will clear”.

At the end of the Nigerian Civil War, I was working at the Premier Refinery, “NPRC”, as an Administrative Assistant. There were only a few Science graduates in the school system at the time. Accordingly, the authorities used the Oil and Gas sectors and related avenues to obtain Science teachers to reinforce their schools sciences, I was invited by the Principal of Harbor Road Secondary School, Mrs. Ngo Ogan (nee Dede) to assist the girls in the biological sciences. I obliged and commenced making myself available twice weekly for lectures or tutorials.

Endowed with Brains
After a couple of lectures and interaction, I discovered a set of young girls who were copiously endowed with brains and intellect; this was further proven in the constant tests. I often affirmed to the Principal of the School of the standard of academic excellence of the girls.
However, one young girl was exceptionally outstanding; always scoring never less than seventy-five percent in all her test subjects, I got very interested in the success of this young girl, Bolere, and invited her, her twin sister Bekere and their mother we fondly called “Maa’le” to visit the Refinery site.

That visit was a turning point as it created a wide range of avenues to be exploited by the widow with ten children. Through favors of heaven, she became one of the biggest suppliers of foodstuffs and certain perishables to the Refinery catering services. She was adequately protected to acquire her Ohaeto abandoned property etc. but above all was the compilation and submission of all her children’s name through Bolere to my friend, the Governor of Rivers State, H.E. Alfred Diete-Spiff, for scholarships which he obliged because of our relationship.

It is remarkable to recall that after the conduct of the School Certificate examination which confirmed the expectation and hard work by the class, there was exuberant hope of confidence by all the girls.

I had advised the Principal to equally register the class for GCE (O-Level) exams. I personally ensured that Bolere registered. At the commencement of the GCE exams, because of her performance and confidence in the school certificate exams, she hesitated in going for the GCE exams. I put my feet down and assigned my personal driver Ashaga to take her to the exams and bring her back each time she had a paper.

As providence had it, the WAEC results of the Harbor Road Secondary School were suspiciously cancelled that year. We had to depend on the GCE results for further education because she was very confident.

By the grace of God, the results of the GCE provided all distinctions. The following day, as the University session had started, I arranged a space on one of the Refinery operated private flights and took her to my Professors at the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Lagos, Prof. Ukoli and Prof. Ekundayo (all now late). They were so fascinated with Bolere’s results that on the spot, they arranged through the Academic Offices and their departments a space for Bolere to join the preliminary class for the School of Medicine. On the same day, we went to see Mama Curtis (Matron of the Hostels) who on seeing me obliged to secure a hostel accommodation for Bolere. All fees for the session were duly settled and the Head Refinery Office in Broad Street, Lagos, Mrs. Bassey, was solicited to provide guidance.

It is pertinent to categorically state that the unique altruistic benevolence demonstrated and described were also extended to other girls save that Bolere’s extraordinary intellect demanded that special altruism without sinister motives or exploitative intentions.

When I was due to return to Port Harcourt after assisting Bolere safely and on the path to becoming a doctor someday, I passed by the hostel on my way to the airport to say goodbye. Then was the drama by this innocent young girl in a strange hostel in Akoka, Lagos. She cried and wailed her heart out, feeling insecure without me. In my attempt to calm her down that I suddenly appreciated the intense feeling and passion I’d cultivated for her.

On my return back to Port Harcourt to brief her mother, I was not diplomatic with my emotions when I informed her: “My Bosque greets you and she’s happily settled to read.”

Sometimes when such drama presents itself the human mind begins to speculate and evaluate prevailing circumstances that fringes on individual happiness and environmental survival in their existing habitats. Happy marriages run straight line graphs but epileptic marriages are characterized by hyperbolas and varied views are enunciated… Only the Almighty God in Heaven knows our hearts and is the true authentic Judge.

Dr. Bolere Elizabeth Ketebu and I had an intimate secret resolution to raise a family as soon as she got through the second MBBS. We fondly chose the name Ibiso (Goodluck) when our first baby arrived. We owned a home at 11 Ilesanmi Street, Surulere. Maa’le, a househelp, and a standby car with a driver provided the comfort and convenience required then.

As soon as she qualified and finished her housemanship, Botoba, our last baby, in a mysterious, God-controlled circumstance arrived.

It is remarkable to recall that when my biological mother died, my eldest brother, Dr. Melford Semabo Graham-Douglas signed her forehead with a virtue cross in white chalk. When Botoba was born, she had the insignia of a ‘white cross’ on her foreheadd. Soon after the birth of Botoba, she worked with the Rivers State Ministry of Health. Before she went to the United States for further studies. We concluded all outstanding marriage rites at Odi, old Rivers State, now Bayelsa State including completion of an access from the East-West Road to her parents’ home. Thereafter she went for further studies to specialize in Public Health and Administration. From the first day we met to the day she elected to severe the relationship, we never ever had any misunderstanding.
We never quarelled or exchanged hard words, having understood ourselves in all aspects of human endeavors from her infancy to adolescence.

A Great Achiever
She was a great achiever, prolific organizer, visionary and proactive with fixed goals and ambitions. Her political assiduity and desire to represent her people has always been an innate perception to serve and improve on the lot of her people and humanity. Dr. Bolere Elizabeth Ketebu was recognized by her state of origin, Bayelsa, where she served as a one-time Secretary to the State Government (SSG); she was appointed as Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland. Furthermore the impeccable confidence reposed in her integrity by the National Council of Women Societies where she was elected to serve as President, as well as various roles at the International Council of Women Society and a Board Member University of Lagos. She also won election to the Federal House of Representatives to represent her state. She was a highly effervescent personality, standing out in beauty and candor.

She was such a blessed lady who molded our children to be united, focused and consistent with their consanguineous hereditary. She left an indelible niche in space and time for ever. We shall all miss her, especially for Kalabari connections with whom she became intimately knitted, enabling her to speak the Kalabari native tongue fluently.

May the Great God, creator of heaven and earth, father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom He sent to the world; living 33 years was crucified, died, was buried and rose on the third day and ascended to heaven to atone for all of mankind’s sins repose Bosque’s soul in the bosom of His Father.

Bosque you departed an accomplished sage that shall be everlastingly remembered by us all; Ibiso, Daba, Semabo, Owanari and Tamunolobo bikiya (Botoba), I (Ex-Husband and father of all your children) and the Graham-Douglas Families of Abonnema you so endeared yourself.

Rest in peace.

•Tribute sent in by H.H. Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas on behalf of self and Chiefs of Orubibi Group of Houses and Community, Abonnema Kingdom.

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