It is with a heavy heart and a very deep sense of loss that Chief James Onanefe Ibori mourns the passing of Chief Samuel Vbrogbor Sodje whose transition to the great beyond occurred on Thursday 3rdNovember, 2016.
In a statement signed by Ibori’s Media Assistant, Tony Eluemunor, the former Delta State Governor said that from all angles, Papa Sodje led a glorious and fulfilling life. If his life was measured by length of years alone, he was fulfilled because he died at the ripe age of 83. If by sheer personal accomplishment, Pa Sodje was not only a high achiever but he was a veritable trail-blazer. As far back as the early 1960s, Pa Sodje had started growing his textile business, engaging in his commercial activities between Nigeria and Britain and promoting Nigerian goods in the Western world. Thus, by 2016, his business activities had been fully grown, and had become very secure, and most of all, had been handed over to a younger generation to run as a part of his incredible legacies to his children and grand-children.
Yet, the icing on the cake for Papa was that his 11 children became highly successful even in his own life-time, so he lived long enough to cherish their great successes. For instance, one of his children, Chief Solomon Sodje is an Abuja-based lawyer. His two daughters are top USA bankers, just like their brother Steve while a third daughter is a model and businesswoman. The most visible of his children are Pa Sodje’s gift to the world of sports; the outstanding four Sodje footballers and one Rugby player.
In football, Efe, who played for Nigeria at the 2000 African Cup of Nations and the 2002 Japan and Korean World Cup and wore the national colours up till 2005, is now a football club administrator in Britain after a glorious career as player for Huddlesfield Town FC and Crewe FC. Following in his footsteps, are his other highly talented brothers; Sam Sodje has played for Reading and Charlton FC and also for the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles as well, Akpo Sodje has played for Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton FC. Steve Sodje is still playing for some top clubs, while Bright Sodje is a professional Rugby player.
The truly remarkable thing about Pa Sodje who was from Kokori, Ethiope-East Local Government Area of Delta state, is that despite his long stay overseas, he remained every inch a patriotic Nigerian till the very end. Thus, he was very passionate about matters concerning Urhobo people, the Niger Delta region and Nigeria as a whole. Owing to this, he was fully involved in Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) matters even as he remained a pillar of the Peoples Democratic Party , PDP, (UK Branch). This leader of the Nigerian community in the UK took a deep interest in the layers of political persecution heaped upon me by the exploiters of the Niger Delta region and their South-South agents. His interest stemmed from three complementary angles – the Urhobo nation, the Niger Delta Region and the Nigerian state.
Here was a man old enough to be my father, a man of means who had engaged in international business even before Nigeria acquired political independence from Britain, so he was not supporting me for pecuniary reasons. It is noteworthy that the grand old Pa Sodje was in court every single time the case against me was heard. In fact in one of those occasions he suffered a heart attack.
I will never forget this amazing man who was ready to stand up for what he believed in despite the mass hysteria media manipulation had directed against me. He knew I was a victim of political persecution and did all he could to show me his support. It was his own special way of fighting against the injustice in the political system.
I thank God for the successful life he lived and the great achievements of his children. My condolences go to his wife Chief Mrs. Elizabeth Sodje, his 11 children, grand-children and great-grand-children.
Pa Sodje’s family should take solace in the fact that the patriarch of their family left behind indelible legacies and that his life brightened those of others … including that of my humble self. I pray God to grant Pa Sodje eternal rest and give the family the fortitude to bear this great loss.
Signed: Tony Eluemunor