Kogi Stands Still As James Ocholi Goes Home Today

… Buhari Pens Emotion-laden Tribute

It was harvest of tributes yesterday at the High Court of Justice, Lokoja, Kogi State, when the body of the late minister, James Ocholi, who died in auto crash March 6, 2016, arrived from Abuja for the valedictory session.

Traffic leading to High Court of Justice, Hassan Katsina way, Lokoja, which hosts Kogi State House of Assembly Complex, Federal High Court, Central Bank, West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) and Alama Hotels was a beehive of activities, but solemn as the ambulances conveying the remains of the late three members of the Ocholi family entered the state.

The atmosphere was solemn as speaker after speaker paid glowing tribute to the late junior minister who died along with his wife, Blessing, and son, Joshua.

The event attracted judges of the Federal and FCT High Courts, a number of members of Inner Chamber, Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), and some members of the Bar and Bench.

Chief Judge of Kogi State, Justice Nasir Ajanah, said Ocholi’s humility was unequalled, and noted that his rise to the rank of SAN and a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria did not come as a surprise.

“Our solace lies in the fact that it is not how long a person has lived on this earth but what legacy he has left behind. Ocholi lived a pious and fulfilling life,” Ajanah noted.

Hon Justice Tom Yakubu recalled how Ochos, as he had always fondly called James Ocholi in the last 30 years, said “that the measure of a man is the height of his ideas, the depth of his conviction/commitment and the width of his sympathy,” pointing out that the deceased’s rich and robust ideas were demonstrated in his successful legal practice.

Dr Alex Izion, who spoke on behalf of the 1986 Call to Bar mates of James Ocholi at the Nigerian Law School, expressed deep sympathy, noting that Ocholi was an enigma and a gentleman whose contribution to the development of the nation and legal profession would be greatly missed.

The state’s delegation led by the governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, lamented the sudden demise of a great son of Kogi State, saying that only God has the capacity to halt further painful deaths.

Those present at the valedictory session in Lokoja yesterday were Justices Nasir Ajanah and Tom Abutu of Court of Appeal, Abuja; Justice Baba Yusuf of Abuja High Court; Justice Ibrahim Atadoga, President, Customary Court of Appeal, Kogi State; Justice Onyene Salihu, High Court of Justice, Kogi State, and Justice Elias Egwu, Customary Court of Appeal.

The cross section of SANs include J.K. Gadzama, Dr Alex Izion, Pius Akubo, D.D. Dodo, J.S. Okutepa, Chief Ogwu Onoja Patrick Okolo, Mrs Bisi Soyibo, Mrs Victoria Awomolo, Joe Abraham, Ben Anachebe Chuma Ume Umacuku and Sunny Ameh and Barrister Isaac Ekpa who told journalists that James Ocholi’s legacy would speak volumes for him.

Buhari’s Tribute
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday gave an emotion-laden tribute to the late minister of state for labour, James Ocholi (SAN), saying he (Buhari) had learnt fidelity, commitment and loyalty to party, to government and to God from the late minister.

In a statement personally signed by him, President Buhari described the late Ocholi as a man among men, an Iroko in a forest of trees.

President Buhari recalled that when the late Ocholi was campaigning to be governor of Kogi State on the ticket of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2011, he (Buhari) had accompanied him to visit all the local governments and the paramount rulers, and had urged the people to vote in a worthy man as governor, but he lamented that politics is a peculiar game in Nigeria in which the best often does not win.

“Ocholi did not win. But he bore it gracefully,” he noted. “In 2015, he threw his hat into the ring again. He sought to be governor on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), a party he had helped midwife. He still did not win at the party primaries, an eventuality he bore gracefully again.”

The tribute read in part: “How do I begin to pay this tribute to a man who was the epitome of civility, the archetype of intellectualism, and the paragon of loyalty?

“How do I begin to mourn James Ocholi, who you can describe as one of my right-hand men in the quest to reposition our country, and fashion a land of peace and prosperity, where no man is oppressed?

“A lot has been written about Ocholi since the tragic event of March 6, 2016, which took the life of our Minister of State, Labour and Employment, his wife, Blessing, and his son, Joshua; and a lot more will be written, for Ocholi was no mean man. He was a man among men, an Iroko in a forest of trees. How are the mighty fallen!”

He continued: “Among many other positive and pleasant things, I will always remember Ocholi for his loyalty to our beloved country, Nigeria, loyalty to our party, the All Progressives Congress, and loyalty to our administration, in which he had served for just about four months before death took him.

“When the APC was being negotiated into existence among the Legacy Parties, Ocholi did a yeoman’s job, contributing his quota to the legal processes. This he did under a junior lawyer, who was not even a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) like him then.

“But what mattered to Ocholi was the birth of a strong, solid party, which could wrest power at the centre and bring change to our country. Hierarchy is important in the legal profession, just as it is in the military, but Ocholi subordinated pride and ego, served under his subordinate, and APC was born – dream became reality.

Lamenting the lawyer’s sudden passing on, he said, “But we have this consolation: the departed has taught us fidelity, commitment and loyalty to party, to government, and to God. He will be sorely missed.”

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