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“How I Saved Ibinabo’s Life on the Night of the Accident” – Eyewitness speaks to Charles Novia

This article you are about to read on now was originally published on Charles Novia’s  website.

Nollywood has been in a state of understandable inertia since the news came out of the blues that Ibinabo Fiberesima lost her case at the Appeal Court in Lagos and was sent straight to Prison on Friday the 11th of March 2016.
A lot of people thought that the case
was done with long ago and we were surprised that it had cropped up
again with the implications of a five year jail term for Ibinabo.
And the reactions thus far have not been
in anyway hostile to the Court’s judgement. Not at all. The industry is
enlightened enough to bow to the ruling of the law and respect it as it
behoves on everyone. The collective shock expressed is because Ibinabo
is a beautiful soul. She’s one of us. And one for all and all for one.
With opinions divided in the public
sphere over the judgement, it has been saddening to read uninformed
comments by lots of people about the case and some vitriol on the person
of Ibinabo by many who don’t even know her. Of course, everyone would
have an opinion and that cannot be taken from anyone. But such terms
which ring of untruths that ‘she was drunk that night and coming from a
night club’ or ‘she killed someone’ are absolutely untrue. It’s quite
sad that we have no investigative journalists anymore or that truth
these days battle with coloured lies and no one does anything about it.
In the past few days, Nollywood and
Entertainment chat groups on whatsapp ( and there are many but credible
ones I belong to) have been brainstorming on what next to do in this
case. The law is the law and of course it is a possibility that Ibinabo
would be behind bars for some time while everyone make efforts to take
the next legal options to help her. But the entertainment industry has
never been this united in showing sympathy and solidarity for one of
us.unprecedented. And so with chat groups proferring ideas on what to do
next ( with high profile celebrity visits already carried out to
Kirikiri to reassure Ibinabo by over fifty celebrities on Sunday the
13th of March) someone sent a munched shot of the instagram page of the
daughter of the late Doctor Giwa who was reacting to Ibinabo’s son’s
public plea for prayers for his mother. The munched shot showed that the
daughter was understandably bitter and pained by her father’s death but
to many who read it in the chat group, it betrayed a lack of the real
facts and had a one – sided narrative which accused Ibinabo of ‘being
drunk from a night club outing’ and ‘running away from the scene of the
accident’ after it happened. I also read the open letter of the sister
of late Doctor who understandably gave an emotionally – charged
one-sided narrative of what she believes happened and ended her letter
by applauding the Justice system for vindicating her understandable
anger towards Ibinabo for the past eleven years.
There’s a saying in Pidgin English which
says ‘na talk dey bring talk’ and what happened thereafter this week is
the stuff movies are made of. No pun intended. It was totally
unexpected.
One of the most important personalities
in Nollywood in the chat group, obviously distressed at the wrong notion
about Ibinabo by the deceased daughter blurted out that ‘you know,
Guys? There are facts of the case which I know and which haven’t come to
light all these years. My brother was an eye witness and saw all what
happened that night’
The reaction was one of stunned
questions. And immediately, I made the decision to interview the eye
witness to find out what he really saw and what it was that happened
which the public may not have heard these years. I decided to do this as
a public service responsibility first and also to put whatever the new
facts are in the public domain for posterity to prove or dispel. And if
these new revelations would help heal wounds and bring about a new dawn
of forgiveness and understanding, then so be it.
I got the number of the eye witness from
his sister in the chat room and called him. Now, let me state here that
this is no fiction. This fellow is real and is willing to expose
himself to the public anytime to state what he saw. I have decided not
to put his surname out ( even though he says he doesn’t mind) at this
point in time but that doesn’t detract from the real facts of this
story.
‘Good afternoon, Mr De Gaulle. Your
sister gave me your number to call you to find out what happened that
night. My name is Charles Novia’ I said, when he answered, my pen and
recorder ready.
‘Oh ok. Yes, she told me you would call.
My name is De Gaulle ( surname protected by me) You see, I’m ready to
come out to testify or say whatever happened that night of the accident
because it happened in my presence. I witnessed it and saw everything.
We were many who saw what happened that evening and I assumed that
others might have told the world what really went down but I’m surprised
to read so many untrue things about what happened at the scene of the
accident that evening’ He said.
‘Please go ahead, Sir. I’m taking notes and recording’ I said
‘ Ok. I saw Ibinabo a few years ago (
about six years ago) in Port Harcourt at a restaurant called Gessy ( or
Jessy?). She was with some of your colleagues and my sister was there
too. I told my sister that ‘Hey! That’s that girl whom I helped at the
scene of the accident years ago’. My sister was surprised and called
Ibinabo to meet me. And when I told her what I’m about to tell you, she
was surprised and quiet for a long time.
That evening, what happened was that the
Doctor’s car was coming from the Victoria Island axis of the first
Lekki Roundabout which leads into the Lekki Phase One Estate, while
another SUV which was being driven by Ibinabo was coming out from the
estate, if I remember correctly. I cannot tell who was speeding or what
but we heard a loud crash and then I think the doctors car somersaulted
while the other car driven by Ibinabo was flung a few metres to the
other side.
‘Was it midnight or late at night?’ I asked
‘No!’ Mr De Gaulle replied with much
emphasis. ‘ It was early evening. There was still the last trace of
evening light. It might have been just before seven o’clock or after
seven. But it wasn’t late
So what happened was that the Doctor’s
car was upside down and somehow his hand was crushed and he was trapped
in the car. Immediately a few Area Boys and bystanders rushed to him to
try and help him out of the crushed car. I quickly parked my car and
came out to help as I rushed to the doctors car. A few other cars
stopped as well.
I noticed that the other car was
motionless and no one really was paying much attention to that car. What
got my attention was the special number plates on the car which read ‘
DANIEL WILSON’ a popular musician in the nineties in Nigeria.
When I got to the doctor’s car, the area
boys and bystanders were gathered round the car and were trying to help
the man out of the car in the upturned vehicle. At that point, the man
was very much alive. I swear he was alive and groaning but he was alive.
His arm was crushed or underpinned by the impact of the car and I still
think that it was the inexperience of the area boys and bystanders in
trying to pull the man out of the car, which killed him faster.
I am sorry to say that but that is my
belief because of what I saw. The people who gathered round that car may
have meant well but they were also callous in responding to the
emergency and were dragging at the man, trying to pull him from the
crushed car.
The doctor kept crying out ( and I heard
everything clearly because I saw it and was even telling the crowd to
be gentle) and was shouting ‘ No! Take it easy! I’m a doctor. Don’t pull
me like that. Easy!’. I heard everything.
At this time, all attention was on the
doctor. And I heard someone in the crowd say that if anything happened
to the man, they would make sure the occupant in the other car suffers.
Immediately I heard that, I went to the
other car because I thought it was Daniel Wilson involved from the
number plates. I was surprised to see a fair-skinned lady behind the
wheel, unconscious and still. There was another lady in the car with her
in the front seat. I think it was a young lady of about sixteen years
or a teenager. That young lady was weeping and shaking.
After hearing what the guys at the other
side had said about the occupant of the car, my first instinct was to
get them to safety or to the hospital. I asked the young lady ‘ is there
anyone you can call to take you people to the hospital? You and this
woman have to leave this place now and get to a hospital’
I helped stop a taxi and helped carry the unconscious Ibinabo to the car and the taxi took them away.
Then I now returned to the other car of
the late Doctor. When I got there, another set of cars full of some
doctors had arrived the scene. The doctors said they were coming from
some kind of meeting or event near the beach or somewhere near if I
remember and that the bleeding occupant of the car was their colleague
whom they had seen earlier.
By the time I got back, the car had been
turned to a standing position but I believe it was too late for the
injured person in that car at that point.’
‘ So you say the doctor in the car was alive when the accident happened?’ I asked.
‘ He was. There was no immediate
emergency care to help him from competent medical personnel as what
would obtain today and the crowd tried to help him out and he was
calling out in pain. It was sad and painful. So when I saw Ibinabo a
couple of years later in Port-Harcourt and told her that I was the
person who removed her from the car and put her in a taxi, she was
speechless and quaky. She too could have died that evening. She didn’t
run away from the scene of the accident at all. I was the person who put
her in a taxi to a hospital ‘
‘Why did it take you such a long time to come out to tell this story?’ I asked
‘ I have been in and out of Nigeria
these past ten years. And I actually thought too that the case was done
with all this while. I was surprised to hear that she was just sent to
jail. Look, it was an unfortunate thing which happened. And I am ready
at anytime, ANYTIME if I am called upon to testify on what I saw. It
happened before my eyes. If my testimony would help put facts straight, I
am ready’
I got in touch with Daniel Wison who
corroborated that Ibinabo drove his SUV that night in question. ‘She’s
my sister. We are from the same state and local government. It was the
week of my mother’s burial and Ibinabo had come from Port-Harcourt to
help me with the burial. She was wonderful and really supportive. That
day, she needed the car to get to somewhere on the island and I asked
her to pick any from the pool of cars in my compound. I was surprised
when I got a call a couple of hours later that there was an accident. I
rushed to the hospital, St Nicholas, and she was unconscious. But when
she came out of it, she was delirious and traumatised. She was shaky.
Look Charles, Ibinabo is a gentle soul. It was unfortunate that the
accident happen but it was not intentional in anyway. And we have been
begging the family of the late doctor. Who said we haven’t begged? I
personally, made numerous visits to the house to see the widow and
elders of the family. We attended the burial of the doctor. I was there.
We begged and begged. Not because we think begging could bring the man
back but just because it’s human nature to forgive. So, it’s not true
that we remained aloof’ Daniel concluded.
It’s been much of a nagging battle for
me to decide if I should put out this story or not. The initial
hesitation was borne out of the fact that many people would misconstrue
the new testimony as somewhat of a convenient revelation just to help a
colleague, seeing that we are in the same industry.
But at the end of my internal
consideration, a part of me decided to put it out anyway. First, to
record a new chronicle of the whole sad accident which millions,
including me, never knew happened. It’s better to be on the side of
history which stands for true reportage of events in this case. And
since Mr De Gaulle is very willing to give his account to any reporter
or law enforcement agent for some measure of revision, I am prepared too
to give out his number to members of the fourth estate of the realm and
even the late doctor’s family to find out more from the fellow himself.
Finally, I have always maintained that
we all are bound by the laws of our society. Ibinabo is serving a
sentence passed by a law court and we respect that. We sympathise with
her and as an industry would share the comfort between her and the
family of the late Doctor.
But the final closure of this matter,
beyond the law and prison sentence she would serve, rests on the family
of the late Dr Giwa really. Now that there is a final vindication, as
gleamed from the letter by the late doctor’s sister, what happens after
Ibinabo serves her sentence? Would the family carry the hurt till the
end of time?
A platform for reconciliation and
forgiveness has to be set in motion. This is not just about the law now
but about healing. Healing. Healing for all parties.
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