Tribute to a brother, John Odey
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 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.