Those who know him very well were not surprised at his decision to step aside as commissioner for urban development and physical planning in Rivers State, to allow for investigations into the collapse of the 7-storey building on Woji Road, GRA, Port Harcourt.
Tragedy had struck on Friday, November 23 and Port Harcourt stood still. It was a black Friday, that is. Scores of residents besieged Woji Road in the Government Reserved Area to either weep for those who lost loved ones to the collapsed building, or to assist in rescuing those who were trapped there, or to steal.
But while all that was going on, Dr Reason Onya, the commissioner in charge of the ministry was in sombre mood. He had reasons to be in that mood. It was his ministry that approved the documents leading to the construction of the ill-fated building. However, he was not in office in 2014 when that approval was given.
Somehow, the file on the approved building was nowhere to be found in the ministry. Another file was presented to him by those who should know about the history of the building. He validated the approval. And less than two months after, the building caved in. People died. Many were injured. Rescue activities are still going on. and the state government is ready to investigate the processes that led to the approval and all that.
Under this circumstance, a typical Nigerian office holder would stay on in the office and even shift blames. But not Onya. He chose to step aside so that the investigators can have an unfettered access to every information they require from his office for the investigations. It looked strange. But Onya did it, to keep his integrity.
Flip back to 1998. Onya used to be an environment rights activist. He almost lost his life in the struggle for a better deal for the Niger Delta people. He put his life on the line as he resisted governments in power whenever he felt that their activities were not in the interest of the people. From then till when he decided to go into the academic world, where he studied to become a doctoral degree holder, he did not change.
It was expected that he could change after he became commissioner. He did not. In fact, in the early days of his assumption of office, he went into the streets to warn street traders not to make any attempt at bribing anybody in his office to enable them continue to sell their wares on the roads. He did not waste any time in telling them that as a lecturer, he was satisfied with what he had achieved in life and was not ready to trade his integrity for anything.
So, it was not surprising that he decided to do what nobody had done-quit his duty as commissioner just because a building which approval was given by his ministry had collapsed, even if he was not the one who gave the approval.
In a post he made on facebook, Onya wrote: “My dear good people of Rivers State, after due consultation with my family on the collapsed seven story hotel building that was under construction at Plot 119, Woji Road, GRA Phase 2 Port Harcourt on Friday 23/11/2018, I decided to “step aside” as the Honourable Commissioner for Urban Development & Physical Planning on 28/11/2018 during the State Executive Council Meeting. Historicism: The building plan was approved on 18/7/2014 and revalidated by me on 14/9/2018 because the file was missing. To those that lost their loved ones, I am pained, so pained that each time I visit the site my heart bleeds, each time, I hear news on it, I am perturbed, thus, the decision of “stepping aside”. I am sincerely sorry for all the pains, you all have gone through in the cause of this that my official assignment is involved. To His Excellency and the State Executive Council Members, I am extremely grateful for the acceptance and may the Good Lord guide our parts for better political economy and developmentalism of our beloved Rivers State, nay Nigeria.”
The post generated reactions from scores of people. This is how some people reacted:
Eric O Sharpillo Agwenitani You earn further respect from me sir
Hope Uwoh Ha! This is too much to tk. Nonetheless Sir, i respect your decision. The good lord will intervene for all the victims trapped in the building. You're a good man. Kai! The lord is your strength.
Mandy Duru You are a rare gem. Humility in and out. Its well with all those that are affected. May God grant u the grace to bear this loss. Amen
Adi Chukwuemeka First in the history of this nation. Sir you have shown a good example to our political office holders. My dear brother I now honour and respect you more than before for this singular decision. God bless you
Simon Amaechi Ufomba A great man indeed, a very different breed.
Samuel Emeka Your type is rare in our world. Hard to see a man who values people's lives more than money and affluence.
John Femi Omonayin You are a rare gem
Charles Oguzor You have a good heart sir
Joy Vincent Big Uncle you did well and the good Lord will bless you for this and others. In JESUS NAME AMEN
Timi Dare Wao. A Man who has integrity God bless you sir
Soye Granville I always admire you sir. You are a decent politician and God will give you wisdom to continue to do only that which is right at all times, I was actually worried when I saw the press release to that effect but I trust your judgement sir.
Victor Solomon We are proud of you boss. God bless you boss!!
Nmegbu Wisdom You have done something rare and noble. May God strengthen you and family in this period too.
Ernest Allibrochonma This is good, only few persons will do what you have done. Only few politicians can do this too, you are one, you have shown that you have integrity.
Pepple Misa Wish we had more of your type. May our good LORD grant you grace
Heoma Michaels Wow. What a huge sacrifice... All I see here is integrity! God one sir.
Ajibike Seun Ajayi Reasonable Mr. Reason. Thumbs up sir. You are admirable
Wisdom Ukeame Ubele You are a God fearing man sir... May God blessings never lack in your life...
Wiseman Bravo The best amongst equals. God guides your steps
Nneka Nwabude You will live long sir and the joy of the lord shall remain your joy.
Utula Stanley You have made your people proud . Ahoada, we are proud of your work sir
Bryt Nwoka You're the best public office holder I've ever seen sir
Enemuwa Peter Decision in a right direction. That makes you exceptional the boss.
Larry Nwanodi You are a true leader and indeed God fearing. In fact, it takes a man with high level of integrity to do what you have done. You have shown here that people's lives matters more to you than your job. This is how a true leader and servant of the people should react. I wish all the best in your endeavours.
Itimitang Hilton Philip-Idiok I am not surprised. This is the Reason Onya I have always known all through the years - Integrity personified and not one to shirk from responsibility. God bless you.
Meshack Ene Leading by example.
I learn from you. My mentor with integrity. Keep it on.
Chessy-micheal Okwuonu This is highly admirable Honorable. A pure show of the fear of God and love for humanity. God will continue to lift you up worthy ambassador of our great IUO. from this humble Son of Rivers State. Am personally proud of you sir. Reason has got Reason of the rite decision
Adagushimie Odueley That's d right step in d right direction, You have shown others the way. God bless you sir
Chukwudi Ehilim I am happy for your decision. It shows that you are a man of integrity. Those who sabotaged yo u will never go unpunished. May the soul of the departed, rest in peace
Lenson N. Igwe Reason is a civilized man and he is not seen his position as his last hope. Can we now see the reason why I tell people to have something doing before they come into politics Lasbry Amadi Reason my brother you are not part of the construction managers only a head of authorizing department of Government. I am not surprised that you are doing this because of your conscience and whom we know you as.
Muyiwa Adeyemi Leadership is about taking responsibility. You have proved, once again, to be a leader. For some of us who knew you in the days of struggle will not be surprised by this singular action of yours.
Kenneth Obowu I'm not surprised as you have always shown traits of integrity even before you became a commissioner. Such traits are difficult to come by in this part of the world. My Boss,I am proud of you Sir!
Charles Chijioke Owiriwa I'm so pained that this unfortunate incident has turned this way. For this bold and uncommon step you have taken, take it from me that you have a date with history. You are a great leader who leads by example. You will never lack.
Ile Kingsley This is a show of integrity which is not common in Nigerian public office holders. Your courage to this direction is apt and timely. We needed more of your kind. Remain Blessed.
Uche Ozoani Onyia A great example. How noble of you my in-law. You will go far in your pursuits. May God lead you all the way!
Ray U. Morphy Reason Onya, my old friend, you make me proud. I didn't even know you were appointed commissioner in Rivers State. However, I am saddened by the events that led to your resignation, a resignation which is the right thing to do in the circumstance! You are a good man and I commend your action in this sad circumstance.
Mmo Live Uncle Ray, you continue to set a standard that is beyond the integrity of our time. I simply love you and I am so proud of you. You are indeed a bacon of hope and an amazing human. I am hopeful that we will enjoy more of your leadership prowess .
Tamunomiebaka Dick-Williams For the way power is sweet in Nigeria and one is resigning for a failure that was in actual since not his fault, then we still have people with integrity. YOU RESIGNATION SHOULD PAVE WAY FOR ALL WHO ARE DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN THE processing AND APPROVAL PROCESS TO SIMILARLY RESIGN OR BE SACKED. Then we know that justice is done.
You are a winner. Congratulations.