Home Tribute Chief (Hon) TKO Okorotie, JP, OFR – A Personal Tribute

Chief (Hon) TKO Okorotie, JP, OFR – A Personal Tribute

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Chief (Hon) TKO Okorotie, JP, OFR – A Personal Tribute

I do not claim any personal interest or special knowledge of the life of the enigmatic Chief TKO Okorotie other than the fact that he called and accepted me as “My son”; from the very first day he met me A unto the last day we parted. For a man whose quiver is full of so many arrows, I count it a blessing to be so called.

His love for the unity of Nigeria inspired him to give his consent and blessing to my marriage to his first daughter, Jane TAMARAPREYE to whom I have been married for 30 wonderful years. Chief Okorotie never did anything in half measures. The formalization of my marriage to his daughter was like a carnival. It was also a double marriage. My wife and her younger sister, Margaret were married on the same day. By all accounts, Yenagoa has not witnessed a similar event before or after the Okorotie Daughters’ Double wedding. At the time, Margaret and her beau, Peter Moke, shared identical names with the incumbent first couple of Bayelsa State. To the glory of God, both our marriages have thrived and continue to stand the test of time.

We leaned on God and the examples set by our parents and Chief Okorotie and his wife. They never interfered with our marital issues and only offered prayers and counsel when invited.

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My wife recalls growing up gleefully in Lagos where she was born and had full and undivided attention of her father until they had to relocate to Port Harcourt after her father entered politics and became Chief Whip of the then Rivers State House of Assembly. She would wake up early and prepare for school only to come downstairs and meet her father holding court with so many people in the house so early in the morning and sometimes till very late in the night. From an early age she said she learned to share her beloved Dad with the rest of the world. Her father, her very first love was not hers to have alone.

Chief TKO Okorotie was a politician cut in the mold of Winston Churchill; the cerebral British politician and wartime Prime Minister who spoke with uncommon wisdom and impetuous authority. His diction was flawless, his reasoning and delivery compelling and his sartorial taste was bespoke.
Were he not from the Niger Delta or better still, were Nigeria not such a land of unequal opportunities for all nationalities, Chief Okorotie would have made an excellent choice for national leadership.

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He was adored by his people and he revelled in their adoration.
I once rode with him in his official car as Governor’s Special Representative soon after he was recalled from Abuja to Yenagoa as Senior Special Adviser to then Governor DSP Alamieyeseigha on Political Affairs . This was at the thick of political conflict between the Governor and Rt Hon Heineken Lokpobiri, who was then Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly. We came across a bunch of youths on the streets of Yenagoa, leading to his residence in Opolo Estate. The boys were bent on extorting a toll on all vehicles plying the road. They were in their numbers and had surrounded the vehicle, holding up green leaves and chanting war songs. My heart was in my mouth! Unruffled, Chief Okorotie insisted on coming down to trek to his residence if they will not allow his car to pass without a toll. One of the boys recognized him and immediately hailed him as “Okublackie” and let out a long string of incomprehensible words in Ijaw, throwing his arms in the air in acknowledgment and adulation. The others quickly joined in similar gestures and immediately opened up a path for his car to drive in, unmolested. Once clear of the melee, he sighed and apologized to me for my apparent distress. “These are the deprived youths we are fighting for’ he said to me. “Nigeria has neglected these boys and girls and if care is not taken, we shall soon have a huge national crisis in our hands!”.
He sounded prophetic. It didn’t take long before the boys picked up arms and took to the creeks.

Chief Okorotie was a nationalist. On his many trips to Abuja as part of one delegation or the other to discuss with delegations of other ethnic nationalities on issues of reparations and resource control, equitable political representation and national security, I ran his personal logistics. He would express his confidence that Ijaw nation has a pride of place in a truly federal Nigeria. He disputed the statistics that placed the Ijaw as 4th largest ethnic group and insisted that his people rivalled every other ethnic group in size and spread. What they lacked was a rallying point and visionary leadership. This was the gap that Chief Alamieyeseigha sought to fill as Governor General of Ijaw nation and Chief Okorotie was a prominent part of that movement.

Chief Okorotie excelled at everything he did. From drafting memos, reports, speeches and formal documents to hosting meetings and negotiations on any issue. He paid attention to details. He was a vast repository of knowledge and could easily recall names, faces and events with pinpoint accuracy. In matters of protocol, statecraft and diplomacy he was primus inter pares. An orator and irrepressible wordsmith, he is credited with coinage of the name BAYELSA and the GLORY OF ALL LANDS. I learned a great deal under his tutelage.

One of the admirable traits I loved about and shared with him was a great love for books. The airport bookstores in Port Harcourt, Lagos and Abuja were his favourite. He never traveled through the airport without buying a book or newspaper.
He had a vast network of contacts and friends across Nigeria with whom he kept regularly in touch.
His feet were so large that anyone would struggle to fill his role. I remember once, one of his successors as Governor’s Special Representative took time to practice how Chief Okorotie walked or talked so he could look and sound like him to fit into the office and position. Such was the persona and charisma that he carried into everything he did. He was simply inimitable.

He once sought my counsel on which role I thought he was best suited for outside of his state. According to him, Governor Alamieyeseigha had offered him a role either as a Senator or an Ambassador. I thought he would excel at either and encouraged him to go to the Senate. His loyalty to Governor Alamieyeseigha was his greatest undoing.

None of these came to be, Governor Alamieyeseigha went the way of elders and leadership slipped to others who went on to excel even on a global scale.

Even though he facilitated appointments for several Niger Deltans at the federal level,
Chief Okorotie never pushed for any of his biological children to take up appointments with government. “I can only give you education” he would always say. “You have to beat your own paths to success as I have done mine”.
He was a committed family man who did his duty by his wife and all his children. His only regrets were the untimely deaths of two of his children, a son, Victor Pere and daughter, Louana. And much later, the passing of his beloved wife and confidante, Chief (Mrs) Christiana Akpobomoere Okorotie. As a man of deep faith and conviction, he took everything in his strides and submitted to the will of God.
By his example, he has taught us not to mourn him like unbelievers. Hid funeral was simply just that; a FUN carnival. He was buried amongst his kith and kin in Ekeremor, with full honour and pomp and pageantry. Prominent sons and daughters of Bayelsa State, including His Excellency the Governor travelled from far and near to honour him and commiserate with the family. And so my wife, children and I join Ebikebina Okorotie and the rest of the family he left behind to rejoice in the knowledge that our father has gone on to a better place. May his legacy of tolerance, excellence and unity of Nigeria continue to inspire us towards building a more perfect union.

May the soul of Chief TKO OKOROTIE rest in perfect peace, amen.

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