Joe Blankson: My husband’s legacy will be preserved – Wife

Joe Blankson with his wife Mercy and their two lovely kids
Joe Blankson with his wife Mercy and their two lovely kids

It’s been over a year since the heroics of Joe Blankson in the oil-rich state of Rivers, shook Nigeria. Mr. Blankson attained saintly status when he died; saving the lives of thirteen others by repeatedly diving into a river to rescue victims of an accident whose vehicle had plunged in.

Mr. Blankson’s selfless actions and determination to save others was almost akin to that of Jesus who gave his life for others. The family of Mr. Blankson lost a husband, father and uncle but Nigeria and the world lost another superhero.

Some Nigerians have taken to social media to call for Mr. Blankson to be properly honoured for what he did, something that is a rarity in today’s world.

In this interview, Mrs Blankson explains how the family has managed since the heroic passing of her husband, she outlines the emotional vacuum left behind and how she intends to remember him and sustain his legacy.

It’s been over a year since the heroic passing of your husband. How have you and the family held up?

Grief doesn’t magically end after a loved one’s death. Reminders often bring back the pain of loss. It’s been over a year but it seems like yesterday. It’s hasn’t been easy at all on me and the kids but we take solace in the legacy he left behind and the kind of person that he was while he was on earth.

Mrs Blankson and her two children dorning Joe Blankson's memorial shirt
Mrs Blankson and her two children wearing Joe Blankson’s memorial shirt

How have the children been coping without their dad?

Owen was four years old and Ibilolia was about seven months old when their dad passed on. Owen was so attached to his dad so he talks about him virtually every day. He is fully aware of how his dad died but at times he acts like he is expecting him home after a short trip. It’s really not easy and fair to him as a young boy who always looked up to his father for everything.

To many Nigerians he is a superhero. He gave his life for others. How has those who he saved remembered him?

Funny enough it was during his one year remembrance that one of the survivors narrated the story on how he was saving people, another survivor also called just before the one year remembrance and was pleading that he would not be available for the remembrance because he cannot face the family that my husband left behind. He said he still has flashbacks to the day tragedy.

We know promises were made to the family by the Rivers State Government, a former Head of State and others. Have they redeemed their promises?

I told myself not to answer any questions about the promises for reasons best known to me but the reasons wouldn’t change anything right? July 28, 2020 would make it exactly two years my husband died a heroic death.

After his demise, prominent Nigerians promised to help. The Rivers State Government made promises, I received a letter from former Head of State, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (retd) in which he acknowledged the sacrifice of my late husband and promised to support any cause in his honour. I find such gestures and pronouncements very commendable, and all I can do is pray that God should give everyone who promised the grace to fulfill such but now I’m focusing my prayers on other things. Life has to go on with or without the promises.

How have you and the family coped financially especially as regards the children’s school fees?

My family has been very supportive and some of my late husband’s friends too. I can only thank God for blessing me with such people as they have been of great support to me and the kids. I am also trying to get myself busy. I’m still searching for a job to support myself and the kids.

How do you want the government to remember your husband?

I established a foundation in his name; JOE BLANKSON SWIMMING ACADEMY. Joe Blankson saved 13 people but this foundation would save more lives by teaching people on how to swim. I want government to remember my late husband by supporting the foundation to build a standard swimming academy.

What are the plans for the foundation established in his name?

We had our first training on August 28 – August 29 2019.  It was just to create awareness. The foundation plans to start a one year program where children, youths and adults can register to learn how to swim. The foundation is still in need of support to mark its one year of existence and to make the swimming program a huge success.