Ocholi: Death and destiny
Was March 6, Barrister James Ocholi, SAN’s own ides of March? If so, it came nine days too soon. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, March 15 was the ides of March which Spurinna, a soothsayer, had warned Julius Caesar, the Roman Emperor, to be beware of. The ides of March was to be the emperor’s date with destiny. The soothsayer had warned that Julius Caesar would be assassinated that day on his way to the capitol. The prophecy proved to be true and it, indeed, came to pass.
Ocholi did not enjoy the luxury of a soothsayer. On March 6, that fateful Sunday, when he set out of his house with his wife, Blessing and his son, Joshua, to celebrate with a family friend in Kaduna, he did not know it was going to be his last journey, his own date with destiny. On his way back to Kaduna he died tragically in a motor accident along with his beloved wife and his son. Ocholi went too soon in the prime of his life and at the height of his glory. He had crowned his achievements in a life of 55 years on earth with an appointment to serve his fatherland as a minister.
A brilliant lawyer, he was made a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 2006. His mission in politics was to serve and he gave his best, though he did not realise his ambition to become the governor of Kogi State. He impacted positively on the murky politics of the state with sheer intellect and fair-mindedness that was rapidly becoming a scarce commodity. Those of us in the trenches with him knew it was an insurmountable task but he was determined to give his best. President Muhammadu Buhari saw in him these sterling qualities of candour, hard work and a passion for excellence and achievement and picked him as minster. But death, as usual, has rudely intruded in the affairs of man and put an end to his ambition and whatever he had planned to do with his new assignment.
Since the creation of Adam and Eve, death has remained an unwelcome intruder in the affairs of man; it has become a permanent feature of life. Despite the frequency of its attacks, it has never ceased to cause awe and trepidation and nobody, no living thing, no science, no technology has been able to come to terms with this reality. Nobody has ever died twice. Death strikes only once with a deadly finality. Nobody can, therefore, claim any familiarity with death and so it has proudly chosen to remain a strange and an unwelcome phenomenon. It does not discriminate; it takes the rich and the poor, the sick and the healthy, the king and the pauper and, as the sages have said, there is no amour against fate.
As usual, we the mortals are left wondering and conjecturing about fate and destiny. Because in Ocholi’s case, it has struck too close for comfort, we give scant attention to what goes on elsewhere thinking what has befallen us is unique. Because in Ocholi’s case it has taken father, mother and son in one fell swoop, we may conclude wrongly that death has, this time, bitten more than it can chew. No, it has remained the same, remorselessly unfeeling and unsympathetic. It has remained so from the time of the death of Abel in the hands of his brother Kane. It has, in fact, grown more awesome utilising the awesomeness of modern technology and the chemical warfare causing major havoc using the Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria, the ISIS in Syria and other evil-minded accomplices who are spread all over the world. Death even patronises the ritualists the armed robbers and the kidnappers.
It has done worse elsewhere. That same Sunday that Ocholi family and the nation at large were thrown to grief and morning, death was waiting for more victims in a rural Buzaye village by Bauchi – Jos road. It caught up with some luckless passengers and killed 18 of them, some burnt beyond recognition. Same day, it visited the home of a ward chairman of APC in Rivers State and killed the man of the house, his wife and a teenage child.
Until the end of time, the holy books have told us – and we have no choice but to accept – death cannot be caged. Whoever lives must taste death. You can mitigate the pangs of death only by living well, clean decent God-fearing life.
That mortal cannot escape death when the time comes is illustrated by many stories from books of the scriptures and even from real life experiences. In 1977, for instance, the picture of an accident passenger vehicle popularly called molue in Lagos was brought to the newsroom of the New Nigerian newspaper at Ijora. Half of the vehicle had plunged into the shop by the road in Shagamu. The vehicle had skidded off the road, rammed into the shop and killed the sole occupant of the shop. The victim was a grandmother who was tending the shop while the owner, her daughter had gone to school to pick her children. This grandmotherly victim, so the story went, was so scared of motor accident, she had vowed never to travel by vehicle any more. Every day she walked to the safety and comfort of the shop to while away the time. Unfortunately that was where death, via a motor accident, caught up with her.
Was it wise for the Ocholi family to pack themselves in one vehicle for such a long trip? Many questions beg for answers. What was the condition of the vehicle that had the accident? Were the tyres new? At what speed were they cruising on the highway? And more questions. But the answers, whatever they are, are now totally unhelpful because the deed has been done. The answers will not bring back the dead.
I am sure this was not the first time they were embarking on such a journey with the family taking a ride together. With fate and destiny, one can never be too clever. What about families that died after eating a delicious supper? Could they have avoided the meal? Would they have known that with that meal they were extending an invitation to death?
But no matter how academic or unhelpful the questions might be, it is important to get to the bottom of some troubling posers. In what condition was the car? Somebody said the other day that Ocholi’s car once broke down in Katsina when he went there on official assignment and he had to come back to Abuja with a car given to him by the State Governor, Aminu Masari. It was the governor who repaired the car and sent it to him in Abuja. If this was an official car, then obviously something is not right.
How old is the car and how good are the tyres?
The family is right to ask questions and to suspect foul play. It is good and encouraging that the government, according to Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour, will do everything possible to unravel the cause of this terrible accident. Without any doubt, this inexplicable tragedy has robbed this country of one of the most brilliant and committed patriots. It is a national loss no doubt. But at the end of the day, when all the wailing and crying dies down, it is his people back home in Kogi State and Dekina Local Government in particular that will be left to pick the pieces of their dashed hopes. Death has robbed them of a truly brilliant and a level-headed leader. His place, as they say, will be difficult to fill. Those of us who associated with him are proud to report that Ocholi has left behind an enviable legacy, one which is untainted by the unwholesomeness of the society in which we live.