It was the legendary English playwright, Williams Shakespeare, who in his world’s famous works, Julius Ceasar, says “Ambition is made of sterner stuff.” This all-important adage has, over centuries, continued to hold true at all times in the life of men, mostly the strong-willed.
So it is with the meteoric rise of a rural-cum-cosmopolitan home boy from a humble beginning who climbed the arduous ladder to attain a graceful height, all propelled on the “I can do it spirit,’’ nurtured by his Catholic upbringing. We are talking of no less a personality than the amiable Mike Mbama Okiro, who through dint of hard work found himself in a seminary with his eyes set high on helping to salvage and redeem sinful men and women with God, our Ultimate Maker. Alas! This was not to be! The dream of becoming a Catholic priest was punctuated due to the outbreak of the Biafran War of July 29, 1967 – January 15, 1970. The young Okiro, like others, was forced to return home and wait patiently for the end of the dark days to return to his gospel classes. This optimism turned out a pipe dream as Okiro was to find himself entangled in the heat of the war, not by personal conviction but more so to put a flight to the despicable and embarrassing humiliation in the hands of his own biological younger brother, Tony, who had suddenly become a Captain in the Biafran Army!
When the vicissitudes of the war ended, returning to the Seminary posed its challenges. Okiro had no option than to seek the ‘golden fleece’ through the conventional school system. So, his sojourn for university education began. While in the university, students activism attracted him so much, perhaps, to satisfy his quest for being on the pulpit by another means to preach the Lord’s message for social justice by kings and rulers, and in this case, the Nigerian government and authorities at various levels. As a student activist, Mike through the instrumentality of his pamphlet, ‘Radar’, exerted commanding influence on students and the entire university community, emerging as the king behind the throne. His deep understanding of students’ unionism and reactions to students’ demands by the Nigerian authorities was to later help shape his managerial and tactical skills as a police officer. This was exemplified in his profound ability to convince then Rivers State Governor, Chief Melford Okilo to personally receive and address protesting students right on the turf of Government House, Port Harcourt! This is one uncommon leadership strait that is difficult to find among present day Nigerian leaders. So, where did we get it wrong?
Out of the university, Okiro who was assailed with various job options resorted to seeking divine assistance only to find himself in the Nigerian Police Force (NPF). His entry into the NPF could be considered intriguing given his father’s disapproval at the beginning and later approval as his career began to bring respect and dignity not just to the Okiro family but his Egbema kingdom too!
However, what is more intriguing is how the young officer was able to navigate through the murky waters by bracing all odds aimed at frustrating him out of the force and his eventual emergence as the Inspector General of Police (IGP) before bowing out meritoriously in 2009.
That’s not all. He was after retirement found worthy to be appointed Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), a body with the final authority on all police matters in the country.
Another striking footprint was Okiro’s forays into politics when he sought to be elected as Senator representing the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the Nigerian Senate. The experiences learnt reminded the ebullient well-bred former police boss of his father’s pessimism of Nigerian politics when in 1979 he abandoned his police duty post and wanted to contest for a legislative seat when the Military announced formal transition and handover to an elected civilian government.
Mike Mbama Okiro, now a consummate elder statesman, is passionate about the continued unity of the Nigerian nation and remains committed to doing his all for the attainment of this altruistic goal. This is evident from his underground work in building bridges across the board utilizing his cosmopolitan connections and professional training within and outside Nigeria for the national cause.
As the author of the book, Mike Mbama Okiro: Striking Footprints, Dozie Okebalama takes readers deeper into the early life and working career of one of the foremost Inspectors General of Police Nigeria has ever had, there is yet another striking footprint worthy of note. Mike Okiro’s compassion, understanding, and forgiving spirit. It’s all evident as Okiro’s encounters with younger officers, colleagues, superiors, bosses and national leaders reveal. If, in doubt, go get a copy of this all revealing book, flip through and find yourself reveling in the drama, particularly with ex-IGP Sunday Ehindero, then Military Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo (RTD) and how it all played out when the stubborn Ogun pounded yam and egusi soup lover eventually emerged as elected civilian President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria!