Walking into the Guzape Hills office of the Channels Television Station in Asokoro Abuja, a deafening silence received me into an environment known for beehive of activities of News.
As I approach the corners of the leading television station , where a service of song was being held for late Precious Owolabi, the Youth Corps member hit by a stray bullet during the Monday 22nd protest of the members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, quietness and total hush ebbed me into the frenetic mood of the gathering.
Whatsoever silence is ,that was exactly what the congregation was, the only sound I could hear was that of the sound of the hearts of sorrow, heartbreak and agony. It was an assembly of superiors, colleagues, friends and admirers of the departed soul.
Precious Ayoola Owolabi, a 21-year old graduate of Performing Arts from the University of Ilorin, the first fruit of his parent and the sparkle of hope of his younger ones.
A fine gentleman, ‘diligent at heart and hardworking officer’ as described by his senior colleagues, a persistent youth who ignored luxury and embraced austerity to secure his future.
Precious lived just beside us here, Kayla megwa said with tears dripping down her face, he lived around the office to be very close to the Newsroom, even on Sundays, Precious would be around to be the youth corps member on ground to assist for the prompt delivery of news.
The young Owolabi who was best described as ‘the leader‘ of other youth corps members in channels television lived in a place where water vendors popularly known as “Meru wa” were most patronised, all for him to be close to what he had passion for.
He would undertake any task given to him at any period of his presence in the newsroom. Although he was never assigned to cover any event on his own but was a protégé to an old hand in Channels television newsroom, the deceased was an attaché of a seasoned Reporter, Lucky Isawode.
Even on that fateful day, Precious, a nosy attaché who wanted to be a fine reporter, he had followed his mentor Obewo to cover the protest by the All Progressives Congress Party Imo North Senatorial candidate, Mr Ben Uwajumogu, who was demanding the issuance of his certificate of return from the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The two returned to the Guzape Hills office of Channels television where Lucky filed the report then proceeded to cover the Shiite protest.
Lucky Isawode, who described his attaché, late Precious as an adopted son who was more than a colleague narrated this, “on the day of the incidence, that sad Monday, we stood side by side about 200metres away from the scene of action.”
“In fact the precise pole , we were standing by , was by the bridge leading to the villa while the action took place between Bullet House and the National Assembly, we were all standing and my cameraman stood by the left hand side, Precious was by my right hand side, beside him was another driver, the fifth person was a print photographer all of us were standing together with the aim that if we needed to move in a jiffy, we would just dashed into our bus because I gave the driver instruction not to turn off the ignition so the ignition was running”
“Until just from no where we just heard Ah…and he collapsed beside me.
“I picked him up we thought it was just maybe bullet brush or teargas carnister, we didn’t know the magnitude immediately we stopped the coverage and we rushed to Amana Hospital on getting to Amana Hospital, they told us the bullet was lodged in his stomach and we would need to take him to the nearest hospital where they can perform a surgery on him immediately because they couldn’t handle a surgical situation at Amana, they recommended Garki Hospital and National Hospital,” Lucky recounted.
“Amana Hospital is in Area 8, Garki Hospital is also in Area 8, we decided to go to Garki Hospital which is the nearest hospital on getting to Garki, the surgeon to perform the surgical operation was not on ground, they kept calling him and when they were able to reach him, he said he was very far from the hospital and he was the only surgeon on duty and it was at that point we rushed to National Hospital by the time we got there life was running out of him,” the channels television reporter further narrated.
“So it is not true that he was sent to cover the event alone, he was my attaché, he was right beside me and we were far away from the scene of the incidence,” he clarified.
Lucky who was asked to talk about the deceased at the memorial service broke down in tears in the face of sobering crowd.
Precious Ayoola Owolabi, a play writer who had written four unpublished plays, very famous among his peers , had the dream to stage his latest play titled ‘3 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT’ this October.
The deceased had shared his big dreams with some of his friends and colleagues,on how he intended to use the play to chronicle the challenges of security facing the country and the need to urgently address the insecurity problems confronting the nation.
Precious Owolabi along with Usman Umar, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, FCT Command, paid huge sacrifices for their dear country.
A Reporter with the Leadership Newspaper Group Limited, Suleiman Aliyu was also hit by a stray bullet.
Some members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Shiite, were also reportedly killed while many others were injured.