Michael Ikechukwu Okonkwo (1945-2017) role model indeed
Michael Ikechukwu Okonkwo (alias Dakota) was born in Ogwashi-Uku in the then Western Region of Nigeria now known as Delta State on September 5, 1945 to late Pa Okonkwo Ugege Nwokolo and late Madam Angelina Etunaiwebi Okonkwo.
Young Mike started his primary education at Government Primary School, Ogwashi-Uku and later moved to Kano city to join his elder brother -late Felix Okoyibo Okonkwo, where he completed his primary education. He moved back to Ogwashi-Uku in 1962 to attend the All Saints Modern School before gaining admission into St. Michael Secondary School, Ogwashi-Uku in 1964 as one of the pioneer students and the First Senior Games Prefect. He sat for the West African Examination Certificate (WAEC) in 1968 and thereafter moved to Lagos the same year in search of greener pastures.
With the help of his maternal cousin-late Lazarus Azike popularly known as Chief Lazike, he secured employment with the Nigerian Security Printing & Minting Company (Mint) in late 1968. In his quest for further education and not being satisfied with his present level which many would have thought to be a big achievement at that time, he decided not to rest on his oars as he enrolled for the ‘A’ Level certificate programme, while still on employment with the Mint.
He successfully passed three papers in ‘A’ level, which automatically enabled Mike to gain admission into the prestigious University of Lagos (UNILAG) in 1978 to read Political Science. Having gained admission with an ‘A’ Level certificate, he graduated in 1980 after spending only three years to obtain his B.Sc. He did the mandatory National Youth service in Akure, Ondo State (the present Ondo & Ekiti States) in 1980/1981.
Upon the completion of the National Youth Service, he secured employment immediately with the Nigerian Immigration Services in 1981 and was posted to Alagbon, Ikoyi, Lagos. He rose through the ranks and was later posted to Gongola State (present day Adamawa & Taraba States). He was later transferred back to Lagos Command to head the Passport Office at Festac Town, Lagos. He was also in charge of the Passport Office at the Akure and Ikeja Offices and rose to the rank of Deputy Controller. He mandatorily retired in year 2010.
As a young man, Mike was vibrant, restless and dynamic with the unique ability to multi- task. While still working with the Nigerian Security Printing & Minting Company and even before gaining admission into the University, he married his beautiful wife-the then Miss Lauretta Eyiuche Emegokwe, daughter of Chief Obi Emegokwe and Mrs. Vicky Onyibo Emekgokwe of Odoja and Iyiawu village respectively both in Onitsha North Local Government Area of Anambra State.
The marriage is blessed with four children comprising of a girl and three boys who have grown to become responsible adults; Ifeoma Florence Okonkwo (now Mrs. Odalonu), Chiedu Anthony Okonkwo, Ndubuisi Michael Okonkwo Jr., and Onyeka Emmanuel Okonkwo.
Mike grew up as what you can term the alpha/dominant male amongst his siblings. He was domineering and expected all his younger ones and children to fall-in-line and obey him without questioning at all times. Little wonder he was nicknamed the Awolo (Lion) by the Ogwashi-Uku people in FESTAC Town, Lagos. His younger ones looked up to him and saw in him a pacesetter and role model, who was determined to succeed in life against all odds.
Anyone who secured admission into secondary school in 1964 at a period when it was deemed a big accomplishment and who further gained admission into the University at a time when it was viewed as the exclusive reserve of the elite and upper class in the society must be termed an icon. He left his comfort zone by resigning from the Mint to obtain a University education at a time most people in his position would have been contented with working with a secondary school certificate.
It was these sterling qualities seen in him that motivated his siblings and cousins to strive for greater heights. It is also pertinent to say that as Mike advanced in age, he received the wisdom of years and gladly metamorphosed from the toughie that he was known for when growing up to a very accommodating, calm and loving husband, father, brother and friend.
A devoted Christian and staunch Catholic, Mike belonged to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Catholic Men Organisation, Holy Family Parish, FESTAC Town. He also had an unparallel love for his dear hometown Ogwashi-Uku, the Azungwu community, his maternal village- Umulogai and Idumu Ubulu Aliko village.
He was the pioneer General Secretary of Idumu Ubulu Aliko Family Union, Lagos Branch and served in that capacity for over a decade and remained one of the pillars until he passed on. Mike belonged to the Odoziani Social Club, Ogwashi-Uku, Club 85 Social Club.
Mike travelled from Lagos on April 26, 2017 to Ogwashi-Uku to attend a burial ceremony. He left Ogwashi-Uku for Lagos on May 4, 2017 and had a ghastly motor accident between Ofusu in Edo State and Ore in Ondo State. He sustained multiple injuries and nobody who saw the damage on his wrecked Jeep or his condition gave him chance of survival; considering that the driver of the vehicle died the same day.
His children and siblings were however determined to save his life by doing everything within their financial capabilities and beyond to ensure he had the best medical attention.
Mike fought like a real Awolo and defied all medical logics to come out of coma after spending five weeks at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). “We all thought he had pulled it off and believed the worst was over. Plans were already on top gear and arrangements made for his discharge and to give him a joyous welcome back home from the hospital. We however received the rude shock that he had given up the ghost on Sunday, the July 16, 2017 after two months and twelve days.”