Keeping Prof. Omokaro's Memory Alive

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On February 10, 2010, the world was engulfed in darkness, albeit temporarily for the family and friends of Professor David Omokaro, the Dean of the postgraduate school of the University of Calabar who  passed on without a “ loving goodbye” to them.

“As I collapsed on the rug in his room that morning  after I had called and called and he would not answer me,  and his body began to stiffen, it became obvious that  he was not going to come back. I said to myself, ‘so this is it: all the wisdom, the passion, the dreams the excellent mind and everything had frozen away.’ I was engulfed  in darkness,” Dr.  Emem Omokaro, wife of Professor David  Omokaro, with tearful eyes and a shaky voice recounted  the last moments of  her husband to the audience gathered at the Mirage Calabar on 11 February 2011 to celebrate him.

The gathering, precisely a year after his passing, was to mark his demise and celebrate the essence of his legacies during his 63 years sojourn on earth and institute a foundation in his memory. “To capture, expand and immortalise his legacies to impact more lives which was his immediate preoccupation is why we are gathered here,” Dr. Emem Omokaro told the audience.

The intrinsic objective of the David Omokaro Foundation (DOF) , which is a non profit organisation  founded by her with the aid of a  few of her husband’s friends,  Dr Omokaro explained, is to design,  promote and apply specific training capacity by developing  programmes that will catalyse growth in the areas  of education, research, good governance and community support. This, she said, would be actualised through the  provision of  grants to post graduate students and faculties on a competitive basis in those fields and other areas which Professor Omokaro had a passion for.

The foundation, she said, would also create extensive links between graduate research agencies and government to enhance the funding of research and application of research findings for public good. The foundation would encourage excellence and outstanding intellectual collaboration in research through different awards in the theme of the Foundation, and significantly too, David Omokaro’s efforts in university administration would be kept alive by the foundation through consistent youth and mind development.

The audience comprised mostly friends, colleagues and faithful of  the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship, the faith which the academic adhered and  served with commitment and dedication.

Ample words were dished out by his wife on his passion to impact lives positively and  transform the wellbeing of the majority of people in the society through his large heart.

“Large segments of  the population are barely at survival thresholds with respect to food, housing, and basic amenities. My husband believed that personal economic success is not always directly proportional to talents and efforts. It is in this regard that he sought at every opportunity to affect lives with the resources at his disposal. Three is a young man among us today who, while we were building our own home, came with the bricklayer to help in mixing the cement. Dave thought that he was too young, too neat and too intelligent for such work. He walked up to him and started a  relationship and today,  that same young man  holds an MSC in Accounting. That is Dave  for you,” Emem told the audience who responded with a resounding ovation.

She said her husband was sensitive to the plight and sensibilities of  the poor and down trodden and saw them as the major victims of injustice and adverse societal circumstances which made them destitute and poor. It was because of this passion that he sought to use philanthropy to construct structures that can take them out of their plight. “Most people do not need help but a construction of a social system that can enable people achieve their potential and raise their economies of scale,” she said

An inaugural lecture was part of the events for the night. The lecture was delivered by a distinguished professor of Environmental Engineering and Science at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, NC USA, Professor Hilary Inyang.  Entitled ‘Towards and Escape from Poverty and Deprivation’, the lecture  resonated with the passion and preoccupation of Professor Omokaro, who functioned as an academic in the field of agriculture and had the prime vocation of alleviating  the plight of the poor and destitute in the society.

Prof. Inyang, a 1981 Geology graduate, who was taught by the late Professor Omokaro in the University of Calabar, declared that the socio-economic configuration of most African societies indicate that “an excessive pyramidal wealth distribution in which less than 5% of the population occupies the pinnacle, and the rest are at or near the base of the wealth pyramid”.

He said the reward of economic development are distributed unevenly and “many people are left behind and survive with less than N200 per day” . Those who suffer the consequence of  uneven distribution of wealth are vulnerable to well known problems such as lack of adequate  housing, low purchasing power, deplorable conditions during calamities and disasters, limited access to capital, excessive exposure to disease, and lack of recognition. Professor Inyang also harped on the effort of Professor Omokaro in his pursuit of improved circumstances for the poor and destitute.

He said Prof. Omokaro, during his over two decades of relationship with him, wanted to eradicate the vices associated with the poor like prostitution, crime, drug addiction and sought to set up frameworks to eradicate them.

In attendance were the late academic’s colleagues in the University of Calabar. Among them were  Professor Ebele Eko, Professor Princewill Alozie of the Department of Philosophy,  Professor Chris Nwamuo,  and from the University of Port Harcourt  came Professor  B. W. Abbey, the Vice Chairman of Committee of Deans in Nigeria; Professor Usman Yahaya Dean Graduate School,  Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto; while Professor  Julius Okogie of the NUC was represented by Victor Onuoha.

Others are  Professor Esogene of North Carolina University, U SA., Chief Austin Odogwu, Chief Martins Ikediashi of PPL., Mrs. Eunice Egwu, wife of  Chief Sam Egwu former governor of Ebonyi State, Emem Umondak, wife to Idongesit  Nkangha, former military governor of Akwa Ibom State and Mr. Abraham Umo, a businessman.

Dr Emem in capturing the wisdom, love and humaneness encapsulated in the personality of  her adoring husband, said: “You applied your talents and buried not one; you loved him who was without presence, you taught him who was without prowess, your light went not out.”

With these outpourings of love and emotions for his good works, we  can say Prof. Omokaro marches on in spirit.

—Emmanuel Una/Calabar