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OPUDA (ALABO) Dumo Lulu-Briggs @ 60: This Story Is Still Being Written

By Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo

The Town Hall (Ama-wari) in Abonnema, a Kalabari-Ijaw community is filled with an array of Kalabari chiefs adorned in majestic robes. The Abonnema Council of Chiefs is receiving the next Paramount Ruler of Oruwari War Canoe Chieftaincy House. He is Opuda (Alabo) Dumo Lulu-Briggs.

His elevation to the top of the Kalabari chieftaincy institution is legendary. His installation of three different chieftaincy stools in quick succession is like a fairytale.

Many of the Chiefs seated in the Town Hall were also present, ten years earlier, in the same town hall, when Dumo Lulu-Briggs’ installation to a far lesser personal stool was disrupted. Many had sworn then, that he would never be a chief in Abonnema.

That same Dumo Lulu-Briggs is inside the Abonnema Town Hall and previous misgivings have given way to merriments. He is presented to the Abonnema Council of Chiefs as the second in order of precedence to the Amanyanabo of Abonnema, King Disrael Gbobo Bobmanuel II, Owukori IX, Ksc, JP. It is the third chieftaincy title he has received in six short months. It is Saturday 31st July, 2021.

At 60, Opuda (Alabo) Dumo Lulu-Briggs is the Paramount Ruler, Oruwari War Canoe Chieftaincy House of Abonnema and the Innikeiroari VI of Kalabari Kingdom. He is the Ebuye Lulu II of Abonnema and the High Chief of Ke, Eburutu. He sits on two highly revered Kalabari traditional stools.

His hometown, Abonnema was founded in 1882 on the banks of River Sombriero. Also known as Nyemoni, Abonnema grew into a major seaport and home to multinational trading companies in the early 20th century, exporting palm oil and kernels – An emerging metropolis, the town earned the popular appellation, ‘York City’.

Even before the birth of Dumo Lulu-Briggs, the Abonnema seaport had begun to lose its significance. The town had fallen victim to the vagaries of the first republic politics of Eastern Nigeria and the growing influence of the port city of Port Harcourt. Today, the seashore of Abonnema is littered with relics of huge warehouses that tell the story.

A survivor of many life challenges, physical and emotional, Opuda (Alabo) Dumo Lulu-Briggs’ accomplishments belie his humble beginnings. Like gold, he passed through the furnace of adversities.

He was named Dumo which means ‘life’ in Kalabari. His mother had lost five children at birth and feared that this child might die too. He was named Dumo ‘Life’ and he survived.

He almost lost his life in a road accident, driving himself from Lagos to Port Harcourt. He was severely injured and needed a blood transfusion. The nearest place to get blood was a two-hour drive from the hospital. The doctors were about to give up on him when it was discovered that one of the occupants of the accident vehicle was a universal donor. Without screening, two pints of blood were taken and transfused into Dumo. He survived.

The son of a Port Harcourt truck pusher. His father was also an agricultural labourer in Bida, Niger State. A Police recruit who left the Nigeria Police Force to join the Nigeria Ports Authority as a clerical staff. He had no formal education beyond primary school.

Growing up Dumo had more food to eat in his neighbours’ houses than in his own house. He hawked ‘cold ice water’ on the streets of Port Harcourt, carrying a big basin on his head. He did this to earn some pennies for his poor mother.

He was nutty. He ran away many times from home to escape the cane of his strict father. He slept under the staircases of neighbours. He played ‘agaba’ masquerade.

His mother prayed for him. She cried as she held his feet and she said to him that he could be anything that he wanted in life if only he took his life a bit more seriously.

His father gifted him a Bible as he proceeded to the boarding house at the Government Comprehensive Secondary School, Borikiri, saying to young Dumo that “everything you need to know in life is in the Bible.”

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For his primary education, Dumo Lulu-Briggs attended St. Andrew’s State School, Mile 1, Diobu and Municipal Township School, Moscow Road both in Port Harcourt.

Things were difficult but the society was supportive; the institutions in society were strong and they supported his aspirations. He was encouraged by neighbours, friends and families who made him a part of their family.

The pleading voice of his mother kept echoing in his mind. He was determined to lift her from excruciating poverty. He was also determined to make his father proud. Life got tough but he got tougher than his circumstances.

The fortunes of his father improved and life became better. The son of an ex-truck pusher, Dumo Lulu-Briggs had his tertiary education at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; Nigeria Law School and London School of Economics (LSE). He holds LLB, BL and LLM degrees.

He worked as the Legal Adviser/Company Secretary as well as Contributing Editor to Associate Media Limited. He was Solicitor and Notional Head of Chambers, Edu & Mohammed (Solicitors) and Principal Partner in Nwoka & Lulu-Briggs Law Office.

He was at various times the Company Secretary/Legal Adviser; Managing Director; Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of Moni Pulo Limited.

He attended several executive courses at Harvard University, Cambridge University and Southern Methodist University, SMU, Dallas, Texas, USA.

He is a member of, the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), International Bar Association (IBA), and Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorers (NAPE). He is a Fellow of, the Institute of Corporate Managers and Public Administrators of Nigeria (FCMPA).

Opuda (Alabo) Dumo Lulu-Briggs served as Chairman of of, Board of Directors of two federal parastatals: Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, Akwa Ibom State and Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, Imo State. He was a Member of the Rivers State Economic Advisory Council.

He sits on the board of several companies including Platform Petroleum Ltd where he is Chairman. He is also Chairman of other companies including DLB Concerns Ltd, DLB Marine Ltd, De- Plaza Privilege, DLB Energy Services Ltd and Bluewaves Marine and Construction Co. Ltd.

A politician with a populist inclination, he has been in active politics since 1992. But he is not a regular politician who would do anything to get into power. He is not in politics for money or recognition, he already knows how to succeed in business.

His political philosophy is rooted in the mantra: “The We Agenda … Putting people first”. For him, politics must be about the people.

Philanthropy personified, he says that “the rich among us must understand that we are only custodians of wealth and should use it to uplift those around us.”

His altruism is boundless. Most of the beneficiaries of his philanthropy he may never know. He derives much pleasure from doing good.

“My legacy is the lives that I have helped. That’s the only legacy that I have. It is not what I have done for myself or what I have done for my family. It is what I have done for people who are not even remotely connected to me, that’s my legacy,” he says.

In spite of his lofty attainments, Opuda (Alabo) Dumo Lulu-Briggs remains a regular guy, embracing everybody. He keeps friends, some of whom he had known since he was five or six years old; neighbourhood kids, and schoolmates in primary and secondary school.

Looking back with a thankful heart, he says:

“As a young boy, I sold water on the streets of Port Harcourt and washed dishes. I know and understand the pains of the poor whose numbers are rising while the number of the rich is dwindling”.

“Oh yes! I sold pepper soup, I sold beer. I sold the drinks myself and I washed the dishes sometimes myself. It was in Port Harcourt at my place on Aggrey Road”.

Opuda (Alabo) Dumo Lulu-Briggs is married and has four wonderful children. A committed Christian, he contributes to church growth and activities.

At 60, the story of his life is still being written. Many are involved, many have been involved and many more will be involved in writing this story. It may be halfway done, maybe not. The story began on 13th June 1964 at a serene government hospital in Ebute-Metta, Lagos.

Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo,
Director, Communication, Dumo Lulu-Briggs Political Organisation

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