By Luke Okoro
When you decided to go into partisan politics at the emergence of the forth republic in 1999, a lot of us wondered why? We wondered aloud for a number of reasons. With a first class and doctorate in Sports management, the issue of unemployment was out of your way. While in school, you did not show any signs of politics in you. Besides, your gentle nature, a character devoid of double-speak and duplicity associated with third world brand of politics, did not fit into your way of life. Above all, we had thought that you will be more relevant to your people in the civil service of Kaduna state or the Nigerian government. But you calmed our nerves when you explained you had a leading to go into politics. And that God would direct your steps because He wanted you to be more relevant to your people of Southern Kaduna, and in particular those of Kaura – where grassroots governance had eluded for several years. This you did in the last 16 years when you operated in Kaduna state government as either a commissioner or a member of the House of Assembly. You impacted lives for these years, you served your people with passion, commitment and sincerity. As you told those around, you wanted to drag many out of poverty. No doubt you worked hard at it.
That explained the groanings, the wailings and the uncontrollable lamentations of those village folks at your graveside on that fateful Thursday, May 21, 2020, when your remains were committed to mother earth in your private residence in Matuak Rimi, Moro’a. The disbelief of these village folks was similar to those of us in the Alumni Fellowship of Christian Students, FCS, University of Maiduguri, Unimaid, when the news was broken in our chat platform on the early morning of Saturday, May 16,2020. The reality of your passing dawned on us when you were buried. Those who knew you will attest that a man of sound mind, love and integrity had passed on to the great beyond. You were a leader with altruistic disposition. You were honest with with everybody that came your way .You did things as unto the Lord.
Tribute after tribute, people, including your former colleagues in the government and parliament testified that you were a rare character and that your community, your church and the state had lost a star, a shining example of what it takes to be whatever you had been – a diligent politician and leader, a devout Pentecostal believer, an exemplary father and loving husband. You represented the best of these species. The news of your death was one of my saddest days in life. You began your good works to your people before asking for their votes. The days in the parliament only provided you a ladder to climb higher, and you did.
As a lawmaker, your contributions were articulate and intelligent. You never stood in the middle or equivocated on any matter. No wonder you were politically persecuted when you choose to stay with the party that gave the mandate to represent your people
When we conversed last in early May, you told me that your severance package and 19 months of accumulated allowances and salaries were yet to be paid by the Kaduna State Government. Indeed, there is nothing else to struggle for as Dr Bityong has passed on. Let the living play politics with the fear of God before whom all living will appear one day for accountability and reward. I therefore plead with Governor Nasir el-Rufai to kindly pay the family of late Hon Bityong the entitlements of their husband and father. Nobody quarrels with the dead because death settles all scores.
As you were laid in that tomb, lifeless and cold, my thoughts raced to what would become of those youth who form the Bityong Football Academy/? What would happen to these youth who draw their livelihood from the academy? My thoughts also went to the various groups in your community especially widows, orphans and indigent students who are upbeat about life today because one Hon Bityong decided to deny himself – even basic pleasures- in order to add value to their lives. These added to the pain of your passing because these destinies may never be realized, especially the indigent students and the footballers in the academy.
Having served as general secretary of FCS Unimaid, you could not have done less. You drank the undiluted word. As the secretary, you brought your typewriter with which you carried out all secretarial works of the fellowship. You also helped to type project materials and class assignments of some members. You did these works without any financial cost to the brethren. I was a beneficiary. No wonder some of us could not hold our tears, indeed, courage failed us as we lamented your departure, a lamentation that became graver on that Thursday that you were committed to mother earth. The tributes poured in as brethren paid their last respects:
Our missionary brother, Apollus Jabbo noted thus: “You went too soon, you squatted me in Unimaid when I had no accommodation. You associated with the lowly and the highly. You visited me in my hometown in Bauchi and stayed some days. You hosted me in Kaduna anytime I came. You were always available. You prayed and supported my ministry to the nations with the Great Commission Movement of Nigeria. The lover of all people is gone to be with the Lord forever”.
Your Christian mum in FCS, Dr Bertha Ibrahim wondered if it was true that you were gone. She cried her heart out with a tribute that God should keep your young wife and kids in the hollow of His hands. Dr John Ojediran also lamented the brevity of your life: “Wonderful brother, great team player, the sun set for you rather early, but we are comforted with the impact of those few years”. Our dear Bishop, Dr Newton Ube wished to know: “How prepared your wife and children were for this your sudden departure?”. Dr Dan Adikpe: “Standing tall among men, you radiated energy, enthusiasm and warmth; touching many lives. You made a real difference.”
Yes you really stood tall among your contemporaries – as if you knew that your time on this side of eternity was short. We must be consoled because “you have finished your race” as Paul told Timothy, “and have kept the faith.”
Because I believe the scriptures, I am consoled, not to mourn like those who do not have hope of His coming. Yes, we shall see on that Resurrection morning – when Faith shall become sight – with the clouds rolled away for the saints to rejoice in defeat of death.
Till then, farewell Hon (Dr) Yakubu Nkom Bityong.
*Okoro, a Lagos-based journalist, can be reached on: 08051000462.