AT 98, Chief Jerome Udoji, could only be said to have had a blissful life, leaving behind him, words of endearment of a man who spent greater part of his life to promote the welfare of mankind.
The renowned economist, lawyer and civil servant stood out as a rare example of a simple, committed worker who did not put personal interest first in service to motherland.
Born in 1912 into the family of Ezemba-Dogbu in Ozubulu, Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State, Chief Udoji was educated at St. Michaelâ€™s Catholic School Ozubulu and later went to St. Charles Teachers Training College Onitsha. His teaching career took him to Western Nigeria where he taughtÂ briefly before proceeding to University College, London to obtain a degree in Law.
He settled in Western Nigeria on his return to Nigeria and joined the colonial service in Ado-Ekiti province, now Ekiti State where he rose to the post of District Officer. He progressed to become the Personal Assistant to the Colonial Secretary in the Western Region before Nigeria got her independence in 1960.
Chief Jerome Udoji, is however best remembered for the series of reforms he introduced in the Nigerian civil service as the Chairman, Nigerian Civil Service Commission in 1972.
It was a position that he used to restructure the post-colonial and post-civil war bureaucracy in Nigeria. He was the Chairman of the Salary Review Commission that proposed an enhanced salary structure for civil servants.
The so-called Udoji AwardÂ in 1974 was a welfarist attempt to enhance the purchasing power of the civil servants. It was the first time that Nigerian workers enjoyed salaries that enhanced their capacity and improved their purchasing power,Â after the countryâ€™s independence and civil war.
It is imperative to note that since the 1974 Salary Review exercise, successive administrations in Nigeria has been on the war path with workers over the issues of increased salary and welfare package.
The impact of Udoji Award on other sectors of the economy was far reaching. Remarkably, it came at a time petro-dollar earning from oil export was on the rise, but more importantly at the point when some sections of the country was recovering from the social-economic set back ofÂ the 30 months civil war.
Specifically, the Udoji Award was a welcome relief for civil servants in Eastern Nigeria who were moved from the penury of the civil war.
Consequently, the Udoji era is generally regarded as the golden era of the Nigerian Civil Service.
This Keynesian welfarism, significantly,Â lifted the morale of civil servants in line with what obtained in other parts of the world. The successes of Chief Udojiâ€™s modernization of Nigeriaâ€™s civil service, prompted the Kenyan Government to request for his services after his retirement from the Federal Civil Service.
Nigerians who experienced the Udoji Award are full of commendation for his good work. Chief Udoji was a devout Christian, a Knight and a community leader who never compromised standards and integrity. He was a rare breed whose patriotism and commitment to service was non peril.
On his retirement, he occupied himself with corporate business activities and was on the board of many companies. He was one time, president of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN).
Family of the octogenarian bureaucrat, lawyer and economist, his friends, colleagues and indeed the entire Nigerian nation have lost a rare patriot whose commitment to uplifting humanity should be a shining light for others to follow.