• Gloom, tears at his country home
From Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja
The road leading to the ancestral home of the late Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr. James Ocholi (SAN) was bumpy and tortuous. It was a complete rural road with the common features of a Nigerian road: neglected and completely ravaged by erosion.
From Lokoja to Ogbabo village where one picked a okada to Abocho and then to Ogbabede, the district headquarters of the area, down to the country home at Udonebiomi,the discussion centred on his death.
The mood in the community was sombre, with every one looking downcast and confused. In fact, many still regard the sudden fate that befell the Ocholi family as a dream. They expect to wake up and be told it is not true.
Many folks in the community did not know the late minister as he spent his early life in Idah, the traditional headquarters of the Igala where his father was an administrative officer in the ministry of agriculture, until a few years ago when he returned and built a big house in the village. Since then he had remained close to his people.
His last visit was on January 27, when the community organised a reception for him as the first person in the community to be appointed as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
However, it was gathered that the late minister was very humble and humane; he lived a quiet life as a born-again Christian.
Until his death he was the Prochancellor of Salem University, the offshoot of Foundation Faith Church.
The minister was killed alongside his wife and son in a road crash on Sunday at Doka village along the Kaduna-Abuja highway. While the 55-year-old SAN and his son died on the spot, his wife passed on a few hours later at Doka clinic.
An interim report released by the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, Boboye Oyeyemi, on Monday attributed the accident to a blown tyre which resulted in the loss of control. The minister’s car, a Lexus SUV, reportedly summasault several times.
Since the death, there have been outpouring of grief and encomiums on the minister who many described as distinguished lawyer and humane politician.
Daily Sun was at the village of the late minister and spoke with the traditional ruler, the Obioha of Ogbadebe, Chief Joseph Achimugu, community leaders, childhood friends and classmates.
We’re devastated –Obicha of Ogbadebe
We feel devastated at the loss of one of our foremost illustrous sons. It was terribly painful especially as a whole family was almost wiped off. The whole community looked up to and depended on him, but it is sad he had to go so soon.
Well, we don’t believe he was killed because most of us here are christians, but we hand over everything to God. As you can see, we are already preparing a place to host dignitaries that would come for the burial, the date of which we are yet to decide.
He was gentleman per excellence
–President, Ogbadebe Community.
Death is a natural phenomenon that every mortal must taste, but when it wipes out a family like the way it happened to our son, mentor and leader, it could be very devastating.
He was very humane, humble and a gentleman to the core, a higly intellectual and renown legal luminary and profound counselor
The memorable moment I had with him was January 27 when we organised a reception for him. He came with all his family members including his wife, notable legal luminaries and several of his political friends. After the reception, we had a closed door meeting with him where we tabled the needs of the community.
He prepared to be a lawyer from childhood -Rev.Ogala Sanni
His death has robbed us of a highly intelligient, honest and detribalised Nigeria. We have been friends since 50 years. As a young boy, he already knew what he wanted to become in life. In those days when we gathered as friends, he would be telling us he wanted to become a great lawyer in future, by then some of us didn’t even know who a lawyer was. By the time we were in form three, James was already reading novels and acting as a lawyer, he would participate actively in any debate.
He was ahead of us in terms of socialization, probably because his father was a civil servant while most of us, his friends, were farmers children. After his secondary school, he was already attending courts, watching lawyers talk before he got a scholarship from the old Benue government to read Law at the University of Jos. It is sad we lost this gem and some of his family members in this tragic way.
He was a detribalised Nigerian – NUJ
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Kogi State chapter in a condolence message signed by its chairman and secretary, Ali Atabor and Adeiza Momoh Jimoh respectively described the death of Ocholi, his wife and son as a great loss to the state and the country at large.
The statement said members of the union in the state were disturbed by the sad incident, saying the relationship that had existed between the minister and journalists in Kogi State was cordial.
“Ocholi in his dealings with the union and its members over the years had proved to be a highly intelligent and detribalised Nigerian who related with people only on the basis of what you have to offer and not where you are coming from. It is our prayer that the almighty God will comfort the family left behind and grant the souls of the departed eternal rest,” the union said.
His politics of compromise brought stability to Kogi -Solomon Dalung,
From Magnus Eze, Abuja
The minister of youths and sports described him as close confidant who would be sorely missed.
“He was a brother, close friend and colleague. I had very close relationship with him. I received the news of his demise with great shock and have been devastated. He was a very fine gentleman: kind, loving, jovial and a bridge builder.”
“James could sacrifice anything for the interest of others. No wonder he died in this circumstance because the circumstance of his death was nothing less than selflessness. It was the sacrifice of serving his nation that led to the loss of his life. We will miss him; we will miss his company, we’ll miss his fatherly wisdom and counsel. I will miss him as a friend in the Federal Executive Council. Indeed, the buffer of all contentious issues is gone.
“I would always remember James for his politics of consensus. Once James is convinced that there is someone who can do what he would do, he will support the person. It was his politics of consensus that led to the relative stability that we have in Kogi, otherwise we would have had more problems on our hands if he wasn’t somebody full of consensus. Even the Kogi State governor confirmed this. James also would be remembered as a great leader. He would be remembered too as a hardworking person because he grew from nothing to
something. We will miss him for his hardworking life.”