By Josef Omorotionmwan
THIS column is today taking time off from the murky waters of politics to bring you the profile of a purist; a true democrat of our time; and one man in whom there is hope that Nigeria is still possible – Chief (Dr.) John Odigie-Oyegun.
This is one man who, in all respects and by all known standards, has distinguished himself in several ways and is already on top of history.
Chief (Dr.) John Odigie-Oyegun, you were born in Warri, in the present Delta State, on 12 August 1939 to late Daniel Osagiede Odigie-Oyegun, MBE, and Mrs. Shaka Odigie-Oyegun (nee Amurun). You hail from Ovia South West Local Government Area of Edo State.
This past weekend, you celebrated your 75th birthday in the process of which Benin City, the Edo State capital, was painted red as your friends and well-wishers, across political divides, came from all over the country and beyond. This column joins in rejoicing with you on the attainment of the age of 75 years. We are confident that you feel self-assured that you have worked hard enough to enjoy the happiness, honour and privileges, which this age confers on you.
Clearly, you have for long been preparing yourself for a respectable leadership role in the affairs of your community and the larger society. There is no better way of appreciating the fact that you have spent a good part of your life for self-development through education and management training in Nigeria and abroad.
You are indeed a man of great vision and determination. Against all the vicissitudes of life, you had the iron determination to succeed and you were not to be deterred by any obstacle on your way.
Going by the standard of that time, when children were required to stretch their hand over their head to touch the opposite ear as a mark of eligibility for school enrollment, you went to the Sacred Heart Catholic School, Warri, at a tender age. You later proceeded to Holy Cross Catholic School, Benin City. In 1952, you went to St. Patrick’s College, Asaba for your secondary education. Thereafter, you attended the University College, Ibadan, where you graduated in 1963 with B.Sc. honours in Economics.
Before venturing into career politics, you held several important positions of responsibility in which you distinguished yourself as a prodigy, a man of excellence and an extremely humane individual.
During your working career, you found yourself in positions requiring superior intelligence and judgment. You rendered service to humanity without counting the cost. All these gave your experience a richness that further prepared you for greater responsibilities and service to human kind.
After your University education, you were in the employ of the Federal Government of Nigeria where after 13 years, you were appointed Permanent Secretary at the age of 36 years, thus making you the youngest in your generation. In 1985, you retired voluntarily from the Civil Service.
You had a short sojourn in the business world, where after two years, you became the National Chairman of the Nigerian Trawler Owners Association. The huge successes you recorded in the Civil Service and the business world were foreshadowing for your foray into politics. In 1991, you became the first Executive Governor of Edo State, having been elected on the platform of the defunct Social Democratic Party, SDP.
Your involvement in the activities of humanity has been of immense benefit not only to Nigeria but also to the entire human race. You have faithfully served a wide and varied constituency, always ensuring that justice is applied with universal equality.
Odigie-Oyegun, we salute you. We salute your courage; and we salute your democratic credentials. We are not in a hurry to forget that at the collapse of the ill-fated Third Republic, you went into the trenches. As a patriot, you sacrificed all to fight and accost the military government in Nigeria on the platform of the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, where, you were the Secretary in the Diaspora. Essentially, you were in the vanguard, fighting relentlessly to save the nation from the shackles of military oligarchy and dictatorship. You kept vigil so that the rest of Nigeria could sleep.
We salute your uncompromising stance as an advocate of the total emancipation of man. In all this, you have always refused to be intimidated by the aggressive media campaigns of your opponents.
We admire your style. The recent struggle for the National chairmanship of the All Progressives Congress, APC, provided a litmus test for your smooth operation. While some of your opponents were, as usual, busy climbing the tree from the top, you were quietly engaging the grassroots throughout the country. You spread your dragnet from Calabar to Maiduguri; and from Lagos to Sokoto. Your tactical maneuver paid off and in the end, you emerged winner.
It is instructive that although you are a devout Roman Catholic, your greatest support came from the predominantly Northern Muslim population. To that extent, you are also a unifying factor in this country.
Your Excellency, Sir, you are a man of stoic discipline. There is never a dull moment in your life. You have a Christian life that is worth emulating. Among other things, you are an active member of St. Vincent De Paul, a Roman Catholic Church Organization for the upliftment of the poor and the down-trodden.
Morning shows the day. If this is the solid figure that is leading the progressives to the 2015 elections, then, there is hope. Victory is assured!
Chief (Dr.) John Odigie-Oyegun, Administrator per excellence; humanist; politician extraordinaire; strategist; tactician; adept in political engineering; exponent of human kindness; symbol of political honour, confidence and hope: In recognition of your immense contribution as well as your total immersion in the service of humanity, this column is pleased to confer on you, THE AWARD OF EXCELLENCE, with all the honours, privileges and immunities thereto appertaining, this Eleventh day of September in the Year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Fourteen.