COME EASY, GO EASY: The Sad Story Of Abel Onovughe

Abel Onovughe was the scion of Chief Iroro Onovughe a timber and rubber merchant who made a fortune in the sixties and seventies in Warri, then Midwest State.

Chief Iroro was born in Ughelli to a palm wine tapper and grew up in dire times. His father was a drunkard and perennially broke. The father would tap gourds of palm wine and end up guzzling it. Seldom would he bring back even a gourd of palm wine from the forest for sales in the local market.

Chief Iroro Onovughe at the age of ten then when he was eligible for primary school couldn’t go to school but had to join his father in the business of palm wine tapping. Seeing his father drunk and listless shattered him.

Oftentimes he’ll be saddled with the task of dragging his father home after a drunken stupor.

Little Iroro Onovughe soon took over his father’s business and by fifteen he was a renowned palm wine tapper whose products was sought by the high and mighty. He vowed he’ll never drink palm wine because he saw how it messed his father’s life and so after tapping the palm wine he’ll get others to taste it for him.

At the age of twenty he added a distillery to his trade and started fermenting palm wine into local gin. The richest men in Ughelli like Chiefs Uloho, Cassidy, Ogigbah and Olori were his patrons. Clients were coming from as far as Sapele and Benin to procure palm wine and local gin from him in wholesale.

By 1962 Chief Iroro Onovughe relocated to Warri and diversified into rubber and timber. He was supplying wood to African Timber and Plywood (AT&P) in Sapele and exporting rubber to England.

Chief Iroro Onovughe became a millionaire. He was the biggest depositor with then Barclays Bank in Warri and it was rumoured he used to deposit tranches of bags stuffed with pounds. Chief was a teetoller who never drank nor smoked but his weakness was women.

He married ten wives and had over thirty concubines. At his death in 1980 he was survived by forty seven children. Abel Onovughe was his first child.

Abel was in England schooling when his father kicked the bucket and was summoned back home for the burial arrangements. He flew into Lagos and was chauffeur driven to Warri.

His first port of call was to visit the mortuary to see the corpse of his father. He was escorted by family members and the General Manager of his father’s businesses, Mr. Felix Oshevere.

The next day Mr. Oshevere briefed Abel on the assets and liabilities of Onovughe & Sons Ventures Limited. Cash at hand; N13m. Fixed Deposit in banks; N250m. Current Account; N85m. Stock; warehouses filled with goods. Workers; 72 men and women.

After the burial ceremonies of Chief Iroro Onovughe his heir apparent Abel was prevailed upon by the family and Mr Felix Oshevere to stay back and manage his father’s estate.

His mother told him, “Abel, wetin you want to go do for Obodoyibo? Forget school ooo. Who you go leave your papa business for?” “Mama, e good make I finish my university na. Papa don pay my school fees till final year.

Make the money nor waste. The General Manager fit dey run the company till I finish school. Papa tell me say make I nor take school play”, retorted Abel to his mother. The mother flew into a rage. “Abi my boy, you be mumu.

Your papa don die. Leave wetin your papa talk. Your papa go school? Yet he get money. You be mumu. Oga Felix na thief. I hear say he get three house. E go thief your papa money finish”, quipped the mother.

Abel could not sleep the whole night. He loved London. He had always looked forward to his convocation. But he can’t disobey his mother.

He never really had a relationship with his father. His father was unapproachable and standoffish. From childhood his mother was his world and always there for him.

He resumed work the next day and took over his father’s office and moved into his father’s palatial mansion. The first assignment is to reorganize the company. Abel called the mother to the office and asked her what to do.

The mother told him to sack Mr Felix Oshevere immediately. In short he immediately fired him and the five departmental heads.

In six months the fortunes of the company nosedived to depression. AT&P blacklisted it for poor service delivery. Mr. Felix Oshevere and the other sacked workers joined forces and set up an export company and took over the overseas costumers and Onovughe and sons became moribund and closed shop.

Abel started drinking, clubbing and womanising. He started making heavy withdrawals from the fixed deposit account and would fritter it away on grooves.

He was the happening guy in town. He was driving the latest cars and was the cynosure of all eyes. He met Alero the daughter of Chief Oritsegbubemi Aletor one night at Palmgroove Hotel and was captured by her beauty.

Itsekiri girls are nubile. Alero was tall, slim, soft spoken and sophisticated. They got married the next month in an extravagant ceremony.

Abel’s younger brothers one day rebelled against him. Ten boys now grown seeing Abel squandering their father’s wealth. The second son led the rebellion and one morning they went in a group to him. “Bros, nor be only you papa born ooo”.

You dey run the show like say na only you be papa pikin. We gree say you be our senior but we don tire for you. You nor dey take care of us. Papa companies don scatter.

Bros, we want say make we share the properties or blood go flow”. Abel looked at their bloodshot eyes and danger bells rang in his head. For the first time in his life he was scared stiff.

The properties was shared according to “gates” or same mother’s children as is customary in Urhoboland as Chief Iroro Onovughe died inestate.

Abel was given the palatial mansion with ten rooms and three parlors and he also got a Warehouse and two tenement houses as senior son. There was no cash to share. He had blown the entire fixed deposit account.

Abel never invested but was depending on rents. After a short while he started selling one property after another until only his residence remained. In a few years his fleet of cars broke down, he sold one or two and abandoned one in a mechanic workshop.

Abel developed high blood pressure and didn’t manage it properly and had a massive stroke and was bedridden for four years. Abel died miserably. Adieu Abel.


Story By Ufuoma Bernard


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