Military Officer, Elder statesman, Administrator
The late Captain Samuel Timinipre Owonaro was a notable patriarch and front-line nationalist. Also, he judiciously campaigned for the redemption and social-political development of the Niger delta in the dawn of Nigeria’s independence.
Who was Samuel Timinipre Owonaro?
He was born in Lagos-Nigeria in 1944 to an Ijaw descent. At age 22, he joined his childhood friend predeceased Major Isaac Adaka Boro with others in the Twelve days revolution of 1966.
For the disturbance of the Nigerian state, Samuel Timinipre Owonaro and others were sentenced to death by the late Head of State, Major-General Aguyi Ironsi.
Mercifully, himself and others were unconditionally released by the Major-General Yakubu Gowon.He enlisted into the Nigeria army. As a Captain, he fought for the Federal side and defeated the Biafra army. In 1979, he vied for the office Governor of old Rivers state but he was not successful. In 1985, he audaciously worked towards the improvement of the sanitary system and beautification of old Rivers state. He was once Chairman Rivers state Environmental Sanitation Authority. Samuel Timinipre Owonaro was an Eckist by faith and a polygamist. He passed on 16th June, 2020 at the age 76.
Samuel Timinipre Owonaro was born on the 22nd of July, 1944 in Lagos state, Nigeria to Mr Simeon Koromoweri Owonaro of Talaghawari Community in Kaiama and Mrs Oweimieyeseigha Doris (nee Binanigbein) of Oporiwari community in Olobiri, both of Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa state.
His father was probably an Anglican to have given him the name Samuel but his mother preferred calling him Timinipre. It was said, after his brief stay in Lagos with his biological parents, they thought it wise to inculcate the knowledge of the Ijaw culture and tradition in their son.
Later on, He was sent to Kaiama, South-east Nigeria where he lived with his maternal aunt late Mrs Omoto Kokoro Oruasah. She never failed on the mandate given her, she judiciously raise the young man in the culture of the Ijaw people. Coincidentally, It was at this occasion, that Samuel Timinipre Owonaro had encounter with late Isaac Adaka Boro the freedom fighter and they became confidants.
In 1952, he was at Proctor Memorial School. Thereafter, in 1954 he returned to Lagos and stayed with his parents. He continued his primary education at the Baptist Primary School Marine Beach, Apapa-Lagos and which he accomplished in 1960.
Thereafter, in 1961 his dad enrolled him into a private commercial institute in Lagos, he studied hard and got his GCE O’Level certificate. Subsequently, after the Nigeria civil war, he went overseas precisely to Canada and further his education in 1972, While in Canada, he enrolled with a distance learning program of Lasalle University Illinois and studied Real Estate Management from 1973 to 1975.
1966 and Twelve Days Revolution
At the age of 22 years, precisely in 1966. he joined his childhood friend late Major Adaka Boro and others in the “Twelve Days Revolution”. When Samuel along with Adaka Boro and Nothingham Dick surrendered themselves to be arrested at the end of their “Twelve days revolution”, they were arraigned before a military tribunal which found them guilty of treason and sentenced them to death. Samuel was terrible brutalized and animalised by the soldiers that arrested him. He had his left eye critically injured from the brutal flogging whip. Sadly, from the period of arrest throughout the trail, his injured eye was not promptly treated and so he lost his left eye.
The Civil War
While awaiting execution in Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison, a second Coup d’etat occurred in July 1966 which toppled the government of Major General Aguyi Ironsi and installed Lt Col Yakubu Gowon as Head of state. It was Lt. Col Yakubu Gowon that gave that granted amnesty to Samuel, Adaka Boro and Nothingham Dick.
Thereafter the trio were enlisted into the Nigeria Army, retrained and commissioned into various ranks of the army. Samuel owonaro was commissioned a Captain under the Direct Short Service Combatant Commission (DSSCC) Scheme of the Nigeria army, and served in that capacity until he disengaged voluntarily in 1972.
He was a casualty of the war. While in the battle front, during the civil war, Captain Samuel Owonaro was hit by a bullet which shattered his right femur, producing a compound fracture. That culminated into his acquisition of an unequal set of lower limbs. Despite undergoing several surgical procedures, he ended up as a wheelchair bound person for Nineteen (19) years (2001-2020).
In 1978, Samuel Timinipre Owonaro returned from Canada to Rivers state, Nigeria and tested his popularity in the murky waters of Nigeria politics. He was the governorship candidate of Rivers state Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), under the leadership of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. But he lost to the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and its candidate was Chief Melford Okilo of blessed memory, who won the contest. As a good sportsman, he accepted the outcome of the elections and moved on.
Samuel Timinipre Owonaro was survivor per excellence, kept trying out legitimate money raising ventures to sustain himself and family.
From 1979 to 1984 he engaged himself to doing businesses. As his mobility continued to be negatively compromised, he made a home stead fish pond in his compound in addition to four large fish pounds in Kalama his great-grand-father’s village, engaged in snail rearing, and attempted cold room enterprise.
When someone dies, an angel is there to meet them at the gates of Heaven to let them know that their life has just begun. - Author Unknown
In 1984, the Rivers state Military Administrator, Police Commissioner Fidelis Oyakhilome remembered and appointed Samuel Timinipre Owonaro, the Executive Chairman of Rivers state Environmental Sanitation Authority. Energetic Samuel Timinipre Owonaro performed creditable well and was admired by several residents of Port Harcourt for the face-lift his efforts gave to the city and the staff of the authority for his astute managerial skills well spiced with some sincerity and accountability.
A notable feat of his, was when he supervised the removal of pit and pore latrine system in Port Harcourt city resident homes/public buildings. Then, this was a challenge and stupendously eyesore of Port Harcourt city. It was so awful as the city stinks and unhealthy. So it was the person of Samuel Timinipre Owonaro that swung into action and changed the narratives by implemented the Water Toilet System in residents of Rivers state.
He did not fail to impact the lives of the people of Kaiama while he was living. He played several role in the general advancement of the town. In recognition of his leadership qualities, the people of Kaiama installed him the paramount ruler of the town with the title “TIBI OLA I” of Kaiama in 1995.
He was a skillful dancer as a growing young man, until his mobility was negatively affected due to injuries sustained during the civil war. Fine boy no pimples, a friend to female gender. He married more than once.
- 24 Club Road. Township, Port Harcourt, Rivers state From 1978 -1980
- Abuloma, Federal Housing Estate. From 1981-1985.
- Opobo crescent, GRA Phase 1 Port Harcourt. From 1985-1990!
Faith and Death
Towards the end of the third quarter of his life, he became a member of the ECKANKAR. The part of spiritual freedom and remained a committed student of its teachings till his death on the 16th of June, 2020.
I believe the worst regret in life is to miss the ultimate goal - our eternal home - Heaven. If we blow it on this single issue, nothing else matters. - Robert Rogers, 7 Steps to No Regrets