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Ogaga means power

By Olumide Akpata
06 September 2022   |   4:02 am
In her book “The Power of Names: Understanding the Mystery of What We Are called”, a Canadian author and Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Mavis Himes noted thus: “Our...name is as much a part of us as our own skin.

The late Ogaga (left) and Akpata

In her book “The Power of Names: Understanding the Mystery of What We Are called”, a Canadian author and Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Mavis Himes noted thus: “Our…name is as much a part of us as our own skin. It travels with us like a passport testifying to our unique presence on this earth.”

The name Ogaga in the Urhobo language, means “power” and it is usually the shortened version of the name Ogagaoghene or Oghenevwogaga both of which essentially speak to the all-powerful nature of God our creator. As I reflect now on the matter, I realise that I never asked my brother, Ogaga, what his full name was. For those who know me, this is unusual because I am very big on names and their etymology and I constantly interrogate friends (and even acquaintances) on the meaning and origins of their names.

Having spent most of my formative years in Warri, Delta State, I am familiar enough with the Urhobo language to know that Ogaga is indeed the shortened form of a much longer name but, such was the “power” of our Ogaga that he had taken full ownership of that name and it had indeed become like a passport, which testified to his very unique presence on this side of eternity.

Ogaga Emoghwanre indeed had power. For starters, he had the power to insert himself into, dominate and become a permanent fixture in, any space. As I reminisced over our relationship since the day he passed, it struck me that I really didn’t know Ogaga before 2017. However, on 10th August 2022, when I deposited his remains in the Morgue in Warri, it was obvious to me that I had lost a brother…a very dear brother. Yes, in the space of less than four years, Ogaga had, almost effortlessly, become my friend, associate, brother and confidante.

While I really cannot remember exactly when we first met, our paths crossed in the course of our respective involvement in the activities of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) particularly as members of “Team Usoro” during the campaigns leading up to the NBA 2018 National Elections. We were successful in this undertaking and our candidate emerged victorious. Without a doubt, the power of the “Ogaga effect” was keenly felt during the said campaigns and elections albeit, I will leave those directly affected to speak to this point.

When it became clear that I was going to be running for President of the NBA in the 2020 Elections, Ogaga immediately pledged his total support for what, at the time, seemed like a mere pipe dream. Ogaga, powerful Ogaga, not being one to be deterred by the very obvious impediments we faced, threw himself head-long into the project and he literally stuck with me from the very beginning until the day he died.

In the course of the campaigns, Ogaga, again living up to his name, somehow became synonymous with my candidacy and in the process, he attracted to himself my friends and expectedly, my foes. He traversed the entire country with me and at other times he went on a solo effort, from Branch to Branch, pitching my candidacy to all and sundry. When COVID-19 threw a spanner in the works and made it extremely difficult for us to travel, Ogaga quickly adapted to that reality and resorted to the internet, which he deployed to full effect. In very short order, Ogaga became a very “powerful” voice and a social media sensation at least, as far as the NBA 2020 elections was concerned. Indeed, a question I was often asked before, during and after the election was: “who is this Ogaga?” This is because many of these people had never met him but they had definitely read from and of him.

Without a doubt, the story of my emergence as the 30th President of the NBA, after what has rightly been described as epochal and paradigm-shifting elections, can never be told without mention of the name Ogaga Emoghwanre.

Ogaga also participated, as a candidate, in NBA election. In 2020, he ran successfully for the office of Publicity Secretary of the NBA Benin Branch, a position he held until his demise. More recently, he ran for the position of NBA National Publicity Secretary in the just concluded NBA 2022 elections. He was however unsucessful in this bid much to his dismay…and mine. But Ogaga, powerful Ogaga, very quickly got over this momentary setback, called and congratulated the successful candidate and also hosted members of his Benin Branch to a well attended “Thank You Party” at which he appreciated one and all for their invaluable home support.

Ogaga was dedicated to the NBA. Indeed many people tended to see him only through the prism of a “Bar Man”. This was often a source of constant irritation for me (and I told him that much) because I remain of the firm view that we all ought to be known and recognised first, for our exploits and proficiencies as lawyers, before our participation in Bar activities can be mentioned. Having said that, Ogaga’s service and commitment to the Bar was widely acknowledged, applauded and indeed celebrated. The fact that he died in the course of compèring a Seminar organised by the NBA in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation probably bears the most eloquent testimony to this fact.

As I mentioned above, after we met, Ogaga very quickly became my friend, associate, brother and confidante. I know that Nigerian men tend to use the term “brother” somewhat loosely when referring to one another. I do that sometimes. However, I do not have any biological brothers and over the years, I have come to regard a very small group of my friends (and cousins) as my brothers and somehow, Ogaga found his way into this group…by the sheer “power” of his love, loyalty and devotion. There was no doubt in my mind that the guy would have taken a bullet for me without thinking about it. Indeed he got into trouble many times because of his unflinching and unwavering support for me and he bore the consequences with aplomb.

Ogaga was definitely not perfect and like all humans, his foibles and frailties were often in stark relief, to the chagrin of many of us who were close to him. But again, because of the *power* of his love, whenever I was upset with Ogaga, I always reminded myself of the famous words credited to the American Novelist, Nelle Harper Lee: “You can choose your friends, but not your family.” Yes…Ogaga was no longer my friend, he was my family. Such was the “power” of Ogaga.

We had plans. We had many plans…of how I was going to work with him in rebranding his Law Practice (in my head I had coined the new name for his firm: OGAGA LP), how I was going to help intergrate him into the politics and allied matters of his home State, Delta, which he was quite unfamiliar with having grown up in Benin, how we were going to work closely with the new NBA President, Y.C. Maikyau, SAN, who had promised to continue with the many initiatives he (Ogaga) and I had worked on while I was in office.

Ogaga was excited again by the possibilities that existed. We discussed these and many other plans on Saturday August 6, 2022, which turned out to be the last time we would hang out together. On that day, he accompanied me to two events – one in Warri and the other in Benin. He then saw me off to the Airport in Benin and I returned to Lagos. We planned to meet again in Warri on the Tuesday. So many plans…

But God, our Father had other plans. We did meet in Warri the next Tuesday albeit under circumstances that were definitely not in our plans. Ogaga was in hospital…struggling. I tried to reassure him that all would be well. We all did. The Doctors seemed pretty certain that he would pull through. But Ogaga, powerful Ogaga, did not seem so sure. There was this look in his eyes that told me that he was afraid. I did not allow myself to dwell on this for too long as I continued to reassure him that he would be out of the hospital in no time.

We left him there that night with a promise to see him soon…a promise that we have, so far, been unable to keep. Ogaga, powerful Ogaga, my younger brother, took his final bow the next day.

I am still trying to come to terms with all of this…but life being the treadmill that it is, really does not afford one the luxury of standing in one place as we try to make sense of all that is going on around us. Life goes on and we have to move on. But…we will never forget Ogaga.

As Laurence Binyon, the English Poet and Dramatist, wrote in his poem titled, For the Fallen: “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
Rest in Power…Ogaga till we meet to part no more.

Akpata, Senior Partner, Templars and immediate past President of the Nigeria Bar Association wrote this tribute in honour of the late Publicity Secretary of the NBA, Benin Branch, Ogaga Emoghwanre (1980 – 2022).