As a gentle tecnocrat retires (1)
How can i write an objective piece on a person for whom i have extreme admiration, someone i adore intensely, without eulogising him far too much, and may be accused of hero worship? Well, i will try not to be found guilty of that, but failure seems certain anyway.
This writer can lay no claims to a career in public relations, speech writing, noris he a propagandist. Even with a background in mass communication, the writer is more at home in the business of hair barbering and trade in male fashion items: a clothier of sorts.
Sometime in the year 2001, a quiet looking near middle age man, sauntered into my salon. I paid him my courtesy noticing he is a new patron. He went on to sit among other patrons eagerly awaiting their turn. I was struck by his striking resemblance to another patron of my salon. Later, i found they are blood brothers. Precisely an hour later, he sat on my barber chair for a hair cut. I soon noticed he is soft spoken and meticulous with his choice of words. He soon purchased a wahl supper taper clipper, got a hair cut, and thus began a business relationship between us that runs till now. Born on 26th of July, 1955, sir okey ofili mni, the out going head of delta state civil service, is a suave clean shaven and ever well dressed technocrats. Twelve years after he walked into my barber's, I've lost count of how many times he has been around to patronize me. Some persons may be careless about their all round grooming and look, but not sir ofili, a stickler for neatness. He gets a haircut religiously every week, at times twice. During our early years of business relationship, armed with his dossier as; a native of asaba, son to a former permanent secretary in the old bendel state, i approached him with a business proposal with an aim to make some more money. My request? That i give him special home service. He turned me down. " i can always come in and have a haircut, it saves you the trouble in coming, and so, you have enough time for other patrons", he said. That answer was instructive. It meant to say he is simple and unassuming. In his relationship with me, he is never bossy or overbearing. After he turned down my request, sir ofili, paid me the special home service fee on his next visit. He has continued to do so. He has a habit of waiting patiently for his turn and makes it his duty to pay for any patron who recognises him and volunteers his turn. But, he will never ask for express service- a bit uncharacteristic of an average nigerian "big man".
The barbers is like a clearing house of sorts and various news stories break there.. Same for rumours and gossips. Even Though my outfit may pass as; mature, reserved and professional, the mere fact that people converge and often wait long periods to take turns, makes conversation between and among patrons inevitable. So i got a wind of his soon to come appointment as the head of service in delta state. At only 45 years of age and after only 20 years in the the service of delta state, he was appointed a permanent secretary in 1999. He went on to serve in various ministries before his elevation to HOS in 2010. After his appointment as hos, i again urged him to let me come to his home and cut his hair. Again, he turned me down for same reason. The reason for my request this time wasn't selfish but security. But i had no choice. On the 22nd of July, 2011, just four days to his 57th birthday, a most unfortunate incident occurred. He miraculously escaped an attempt to kidnap him with bullet wound on his leg. He was hospitalized. Later, he was flown overseas for further treatment and recuperation. On his recovery and eventual return, a few things changed. For a man who saw no need to have security aides, the scary kidnap attempt episode may have changed his opinions and perceptions on personal security. The need to have security watch over him become apparent. This implied that his appearance at certain public places such as the barbers etc needed restriction. With a feeling of great pleasure and privilege, i was a business guest in the home of this policy making mogul on his return from hospital. It has since become the standard for me to come in, every week, at times twice. His residence can be described as modest. In fact too simple by the standards expected from such an important figure in government. Situated in the heart of asaba, the capital city, ofili, lives in the village with his people, shunning the upscale, expensive, and highly sort after (g.r.a). His wife is a study in humility and dignity. Always making me feel welcome to her home. About to retire but certainly not tired at 58, i recently told him how i wish he would be retained to continue in office by his excellency governor emmanuel uduaghan.