Tribute to a brother, John Odey

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Life and its ironies and mysteries. How a man so full of life, so full of
energy, with an unusual capacity for love and friendship would be snatched
by death in his prime will remain the question on our lips as mortals
because we are mortals. The day mortals unravel the mysteries of life and
death that day they become divine. That day however will never come as
matters of life and death are exclusively within the province of the
Almighty Who shares his glory with no man.

John was unusual in many ways. My house as a young bachelor Commissioner in
the old Cross River State from 1984 to 1986 became a rendezvous for many
students of the University of Calabar and the Polytechnic, Calabar, young
men then who today occupy commanding heights in the private and public
sectors. I got to know all of them very closely individually and
collectively. John naturally emerged the leader of the pack, he was their
moderator, unifier, chief interlocutor and negotiator. His affable manners
and ability to make light of the heaviest and most difficult situations
guaranteed him results almost always. His loyalty to his principals and
commitment to his pursuits were self-evident.

John was a regular fellow who took matters of his Roman Catholic faith and
his belief in God seriously. He was deeply involved in church activities
and soon earned the respect of the clergy and the laity. He was a Knight of
St. John International expectedly. He was always ebullient and warm and
could never be missed in a crowd. He stood out especially among his peers.

He set out his working life in the private sector with Tofamid Industries
Ltd under the watchful eyes of General Anthony Ukpo (Rtd), to whom John was
always a son, indeed first son. He was to move into the murky waters of
politics where he got his definition. He pitched tent with APP briefly
before joining the PDP where he quickly became a Party apparatchik. He was
State Treasurer of the Party before becoming Commissioner for Agriculture
in the acclaimed Donald Duke’s administration. He moved on to becoming
National Publicity Secretary of the PDP and then Honourable Minister for
Information and later Environment. He had established himself as the
torchbearer of his generation and a leader not just of the Yala Nation, but
Cross River State and, indeed, Nigeria, all in barely 59 years confirming
the trite saying that after all it is not so much the length of our years
that matters but the life in our years. It is not so much the quantity of
our lives but the quality. John had life in every year of his life and
lived a qualitative and productive life. Mercifully I had the opportunity
of visiting him in Dubai while he was receiving treatment. He still
demonstrated that zest for life that had become characteristic. He looked
forward to the future of his family, people, State and country with faith
and hoped and looked forward to his continued contributions to society, but
the Almighty in His wisdom has called him to service in His kingdom.

He was the essential family man who strongly believed that the family was
the foundation of society. He was a loving husband to Mary Alache, and a
doting father to Anthony Ikaba, Grace, John (Junior) and Mary Rita with
whom my family and I share this grief. Our consolation is that he found
eternal rest, after his earthly exertions, in the bosom of his Maker whom
he faithfully served while on this mortal plane and after a life of love,
service and sacrifice to family, community, State, Country, humanity and
the Almighty.

Ajonny, when is the best time for one to die? The best time is when one
actually dies. For you your time came when you did. Rest in perfect peace
my brother even as you live in our hearts forever.

Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN, is former Senate Leader and current Chairman of
NDDC

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