Remembering Harriman, By Sam Omatseye

Today marks a decade since the earth ate up a noble soul, the ebullient Chief Hope Harriman. He was a sort of avuncular figure in my life since I first met him in Denver when he attended the Ugbajo Itsekiri (National conference of Itsekiri in U.S.). He called me often from Nigeria until I returned home in 2006, and we met often to discuss Nigeria. I accompanied him and his wife to Ghana for a birthday party, and when we sat together at the hotel lounge or at a meal, he always paid tribute to me when he had any call. “I am here in Ghana at the La Palm Beach Hotel with Sam Omatseye, the chairman editorial board of The Nation.” He said it over a hundred times, and when he did not mention The Nation, he would say “Chairman editorial board of the new newspaper.”

His conversations dispensed wit and rigour, and he loved to joke, even at his own expense. Each time he travelled, he would call and say, “I am in Port harcourt..I am in Abuja..I am in London.” He was absorbed in American politics, and I hear that one of the last piece of news he heard on his death bed in Washington DC. was to know that Obama won his second term bid. He had the satisfaction of knowing that before he breathed his last.

He was a great fan of In Touch and an evangelist of this newspaper. He worked hard as a real estate agent, a pioneer. During an Oxbridge reunion, he introduced a European. Hear him: “I met him at the Waldorf Astoria lobby and he said, ‘Mister Harriman, I am going to make you a rich man.’ I replied him, ‘How can you make me a rich man. I am already a rich man. Didn’t you see that I came here in a Rolls-Royce!’” Once, I was having lunch with him. He yelled out to one of the stewards. “Get a plate of eba and vegetable soup with plenty of meat for Sam’s driver, so he knows that he is in a big man’s house.” His memory outlasts his bones.

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