Adieu Senator Martins Yellowe (1946-2009)

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Adieu Senator Martins Yellowe (1946-2009)

By Atsar Terver

For Senator Martins Yellowe, the Sun has set forever never to rise again on this side of eternity but we know in the ethereal existence, a new day has just begun. A welcome party is ongoing in heaven for a man who gave his all in the service of humanity and his Maker.

Even on the darkest night, if you look intently into the sky, you may spot a star. Senator Yellowe was like a star in the dark night (1999-2007) of Nigerian politics. Even as a member of the People’s Democratic Party known for, his politics was not of the do-or die stock .A rare breed moulded by the ethics of the medical profession to which he belonged, he was a gentleman to the core. He was one Senator (though not the only) whose name was never associated within any of the numerous scandals in the Senate of his time.

I met Senator Yellowe only once but he left an indelible impression on me. It was on 6th November 2006 at the Biennial International Conference on Health Safety and Environment on the Oil and Gas Industry in Nigeria organised by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) at Mirage and Channel View Hotels in Calabar. He was there in his capacity then as the Chairman of Senate Committee on Environment. Dressed in simple native attire with his traditional Niger Delta hat, and a pair of sandals, he exuded an aura of friendliness, simplicity and humility rare among Nigerian politicians of his cadre.

 I recognised him immediately because, I had seen his campaign posters in Portharcourt   and a couple of times on television as a regular contributor to debates on the floor of the Senate, where some Senators never said a word throughout their tenure in the Senate.

I watched every move of Senator Yellowe at this conference, because I was (and is still) very critical of the roles and conduct of our Senators in the Nigerian political space. Their arrogance, outlandish lifestyles, avarice, greed for power, their non-connectedness to the people they pretend to serve and above all the lack of in-depth knowledge they sometimes exhibit on national issues under their portfolio; I looked out for these faults in Yellowe so I could get something to criticise, but I was grossly disappointed and completely disarmed.

The first act of disarmament was the absence of stern-looking, dark-goggle-wearing security (thugs) around him. I wondered how on earth could a whole Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria attend a conference without a convoy of aides. How could he bear the ‘embarrassment’ of moving around without siren? How would people know an important personality was in town? How could he be carrying his conference bag himself like a ‘common’ participant? It was the arrival of Donald Duke that saved the day. Otherwise, the conference would have gone on without any feel of government ‘presence.’

When it was lunch time, I tactically positioned myself in a corner to see the kind of special treatment he would be given or rather he would demand from the waitresses. Again, I was disappointed. Senator Martins joined the queue! He picked his plate and waited patiently for his turn. I am sure the lady who dished out his food, did not even know the man facing her with a bowl like an ‘amanjiri’ was a Very Important Person (VIP). He took his food to the table and joined a group of participants who obviously were also unaware of the VIP in their midst. He greeted them first. Two of them returned the greeting; the other was too busy with his chicken to care.Soon the table was full of laughter. It was Senator Yellowe and his sense of humour. 

Back to the conference hall, Yellowe participated in all the sessions diligently, taking notes and contributing to debates in a way that revealed his deep understanding of the health, safety and environmental Issues associated with Petroleum exploration and production. I was amazed at his diversity of knowledge and insight on the many technical issues that ware tabled at the syndicate sessions ranging from community / contemporary Issues, emerging technologies, environmental studies, technical Safety Control, Oil Spill Control and management, legislation, regulation and compliance, waste management and Radiation Safety among others.

What came out from his submissions was that, this Senator was indeed highly intelligent yet very simple and down to earth. It is therefore no exaggeration the encomiums that the current Senate President David Mark Poured on him while announcing his death yesterday. He stated that Senator Yellowe, sponsored the highest number of bills in the Senate during his 8 year tenure. He was also at one time honoured as the best Senator of the year. This is the man that went to his long home (Ecc.12:5) yesterday.

A two time Senator between 1999 and 2007, he contested the PDP primaries for the 2007 Governorship election in Rivers State but in line with non- do-or-die politics, he walked out and away from the primaries along with five other contestants when it became apparent that the exercise was not going to be free of irregularities and illegalities.

As we mourn his exit, we should also reflect on his political legacy and statesmanship. The current Senators need to borrow a leaf from him if they hope that their epitaphs should one day be written in glowing terms like Yellowe’s. If they do this, they would not need to arrange conferences to ‘demand’ for return tickets to the Senate but rather their people would gladly give it to them.

Yes I can agree with Senator Mark that continuity is crucial to grooming an experienced, stable and effective legislature but I fail to subscribe to the ‘automatic’ ticket being canvassed. The return ticket to the National assembly needs to be earned from the electorate. Those who stole the peoples’ mandate, and are ‘representing’ them against their will should be ready to face the electorate with their scorecards. The call for automatic tickets is not only undemocratic but also an attempt to shy away from the people, whose mandate they falsely claim to have. Indeed if they had the mandate of their people, and have performed creditably, then the need for such a call should not have arisen in the first place.

But that was a diversion; I set out in this piece to mourn the departure of a great and exemplary politician. His departure is a big loss to his family, The people of Rivers State, and the Nation at large. My heart goes out to his immediate family. May the Almighty God in his infinite mercies grant them the fortitude to bear the unbearable loss.

Adieu Senator Martins Yellowe.

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