By Iheanacho Nwosu
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu has expressed sadness and shock over the death of the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, James Ocholi (SAN) and members of his family in a fatal auto crash on Sunday.
In a condolence message to President Muhammadu Buhari, Senator Ekweremadu described late Ocholi as a seasoned professional colleague and a consummate public officer.
He said the “incident, which bleeds the heart, is not only a grievous loss to the Ocholi family, Mr. President, and the All Progressives Congress (APC), but, also, to the nation in its entirety.
“I note in particular, Ocholi’s splendid performance when he appeared before the Senate for confirmation as a minister a few months ago. Senators, across party divides, were unanimous in their agreement that he would be one of the standard bearers of your administration.”
Former minister of Petroleum Resources, Prof, Tam David-West, yesterday, paid glowing tribute to Ocholi, when he described him one of the finest Nigerians he ever met.
David-West described the minister’s death as shocking and recalled their days as members of the merger committee during the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“It is a loss to Nigeria, the international community and to the legal profession.
“We worked together in the merger committee that put together APC for four months. He was very intellectual, intelligent, always smiling. Anytime we ran into hitch, he will excuse us for 30 minutes and return with a solution. He played a major role in the formation of APC. People like him are very few.”
David-West described the late Ocholi as a committed Buhari loyalist of many years and added that he was disappointed that he was given a minister of state portfolio.
According to him, Ocholi, going by his brilliance and patriotism, deserved to be a senior minister.
“I was disappointed that he was given minister of state. He was a great Buhari loyalist. He was one of the best Nigerians I have met.”
Governorship candidate of the APC in the 2015 elections in Rivers State, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, also described Ocholi’s death as heart-breaking and a great loss to Nigeria.
“Nigeria has lost a patriot and statesman. James Ocholi, evidently, was a rare politician who was passionate about service to humanity. He brought into politics, his piercing intellect, fear of God, humour and conciliatory disposition, always working for the common good. His death has depleted further, the ranks of progressive politicians.
“I am also aware that at the Bar, where he distinguished himself as a knowledgeable lawyer, Nigeria has lost one of its finest ambassadors in government. He was a role model and advocate of best practices.
“So, when he was assigned the Ministry of Labour, I was confident he would deliver on his new assignment based on his character and experience. That hope of uncommon service to our fatherland was cut short when I received the sad news.”
… Obiano condoles with Buhari
Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, has commiserated with President Muhammadu Buhari on James Ocholi’s death.
In a statement, Chief Obiano said the Government and people of Anambra State shared the pang of late Ocholi’s death as a compatriot in the service of Nigeria.
The governor regretted that the loss of Ocholi and members of his family came at a time all hands were needed on deck to prosecute the president’s vision for a prosperous, progressive and secure nation. Noting that anyone who scaled the rigorous Senate screening for ministerial appointment had much to offe, he counselled the president not to be dampened by the loss but to see the situation as a challenge to realise the mission of his administration.