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En’ojo James Ocholi: The Best Way to Die


I think I’ve just figured out the best way to die. But why would I be exploiting the heart-wrenching occasion of the demise of Nigeria’s Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, En’Ojo James Ocholi to publish my revelation? And what right do I have, for that matter, to be doing this? In law, I think they say it is establishing locus standi.

When my amorous tango with an Igala lass was hurtling irredeemably towards matrimony in the early 90s, I hadn’t the foggiest idea what I was getting myself into. My narrow perspective could only afford me the illusion that my would-be in-laws should be falling over themselves to have me. What I did not reckon with was that the Christian community in Benue State of the late 80s and early 90s guarded its own quite jealously. So for nearly two years before I earned the privilege of finally standing before my in-laws in Idah, I was under the severe surveillance and scrutiny of this closely-knitted family. They were not about to allow any impostor masquerading as a Christian youth corper to hoodwink one of their own to certain doom.

The entire Christian community and most particularly those of Igala stock did a marvellous job of exposing me to almost every personality among them that mattered. Not that I was overtly threatened in any way: far from it. Igalas are more sophisticated than that. But you had to be brain damaged not to discern the subliminal message delivered with such deliberate courtesy. 

It’s something like this: “Hey, you can see we are one big, blessed family, and we look out for each other. When we do release our daughter to you, we trust you’ll treat like the one we love and cherish. But just in case you harbour some sinister plans of doing otherwise, we do have some bigwigs among us who will ensure you pay dearly.”

Among the intimidating Igala bigwigs, two stood out. The first was Justice Alhassan Idoko, Chief Judge of Benue State at the time and the other was a young, enterprising lawyer: James Ocholi. Living in Makurdi, I got to meet Justice Idoko quite regularly but I only rendezvoused with Barrister Ocholi after tying the nuptial knot, yet the shadow his exemplary reputation cast over me was no less effective.

Here was Christian lawyer who was as committed to spiritual pursuit as he was dogged in his professional career attainment. The fact that he was clutching tenaciously to the Bible was never a disincentive to his determination to claw up the often treacherous legal ladder. From afar, I continued to monitor the unfolding of his remarkable life and I was liking every bit of it.

I was not the least surprised when he became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Whatever your misgivings about the process that coughs up these distinguished legal luminaries, what is indisputable is that no nitwit ever makes it that far. And he attained this despite daunting family challenges that were as mesmerizing as they were debilitating.

About the time I came to Makurdi in the later 80s, he had been involved in a road traffic accident that left him with a few major fractures. Recuperating then in the home of Florence and Paul Iyaji, brethren were falling over themselves to nurse him back to health; and this, for obvious reasons. To be our brother’s keeper is normal Christian conduct, and more significantly, Brother James would have given much more care than he was getting had another been incapacitated. He was that effective a member of the Christian community. We desperately needed him up and running.

And this explains the utter alarm that greeted his decision to take up partisan politics. It was akin to the trepidation one would feel if a loved one was being dispatched to the Boko Haram infested North East. Many brethren who had gone that path had been brought back dead, deformed or deranged. Some never even made it back.

But Brother Ocholi acquitted himself creditably in all the time he spent out there. He never sacrificed his Christian and moral convictions on the ephemeral altar of political expediency. When, in the midst of moral morass, a man elects to stand for truth, he soon sprouts a company of those with spines truly erect. That’s what the Reverend James did to all of us. 

Sunday 6th March 2016 will be etched in our memories forever. That day, Brother En’Ojo James Ocholi left; and in the company of his missus and their baby. There is no amount of philosophical or spiritual spin that can render their demise any less tragic. How would they have died that would have made us feel better? And what is the best way to die?

Many Christians especially of the Pentecostal persuasion believe they are not supposed to die violently. The death of Dr Myles Munroe last year in a plane crash left a trail of confusion and consternation. The gamut of Scriptures provides little support for this doctrine of peaceful dying. The lives of many people of faith came to violent ends. If I can gladly call Good Friday, the day the one I choose to call Saviour and Master was extra-judicially murdered, then I can come to terms with any manner our terrestrial sojourn eclipses.

For me, the manner of dying is inconsequential as long as one dies in faith. And what does it mean to die in faith? It means to live and die doing what pleases our Maker and ennobles another, so that at the point physical life ceases, we have discharged our responsibilities to all; owing nothing.

As a brother and worthy in-law, Brother James owes me nothing. I’ve been monitoring reports from his family, friends and associates and they are saying the same thing. Both the Igala nation and Kogi State concur that the man has paid his dues: fully. Ditto; the legal profession. It is a grateful but grieving nation that has published the indubitable fact that his account is in the good. And the Church, through teary eyes, proudly testifies that the man died in very good standing.

So that’s the best way to die: debtless and empty; having discharged all we were fitted for. That’s how I plan to die; and if I can help it, that’s the way I’ll compel you to. 

Olugu Olugu Orji mnia, nnanta2012@gmail.com, oluguorji.wordpress.com

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