THE CHIEF P.N. OKEKE-OJIUDU MEMORIAL
Chief Patrick Nwokoye Okeke-Ojiudu "Nnanyelugo of Alor" (1914-1995), also known as P.N. or P.N. Okeke, was a Nigerian politician, businessman, teacher, philanthropist and the patriarch of the Okeke-Ojiudu family of Alor, Anambra state. He was the Minister of Agriculture (Eastern) during the First Republic of Nigeria, Knight of St. Sylvester and St. Mulumba, and Protector of Idemili Local Government.
As the third son from a far from wealthy family from Alor, Anambra state, Patrick had to struggle all the way to survive. Born Patrick Nwokoye Ojiudu, his mother Agnes Mgbogoye Ojiudu from Ideani was one of two wives of his father Chief Okeke Ojiudu, clan head of the Umuokpaladim clan, who nevertheless saw in Patrick something of himself, a tough single minded realist. It was hardly surprising that he should have picked him out of all his children to be educated.
Unable to finance his sons education, Chief Ojiudu took the lad to Onitsha where they arrived on Armistice Day 11th November, 1926 in the hope of finding a sponsor. it was there that he was bound to one Michael Ogugua from Nando, a market porter in the hope that he would sponsore his education.
He moved with his sponsor to Enugu and in April 1927, he was able to start school at St. Patricks Ogbete Enugu. His sponsor, a kind and hard working man soon ran into trouble with his influencial employer who had tried to force him into moving to Benue area, with the result that he was incarcerated in prison. Patrick now all by himself, had to earn his school fees doing whatever odd jobs came his way. Besides working as a freelance house servant, he trapped and sold canaries and also worked as a Carpenters Apprentice.
His primary school career ran for seven years from 1927 to 1934. Although he had to withdraw for one year as to earn his school fees as a Substantive Carpenters Apprentice, he however managed to make up for lost time by accelerated promotions through three classes a remarkable feat for a disadvantaged pupil.
In 1934, he was one of six candidates out of over 100 to pass the standard six examinations in the Udi division. Following his rather unique performance, he was immediately appointed a school teacher. He taught first at St. Michaels Construction Asata, Enugu, then at St. Patricks Ogbete. He later resigned his appointment and pursued a career in the police Force. He was then persuaded by one father O'Connor, in spite of him been offered a place in Port Harcourt Where he had moved.
He returned to teaching at Ubima, near Port Harcourt on an improved salary of 17 shillings. P.N. then applied for and passed the Entrance Examination into St. Charles Teachers Training Collage, Onitsha. He studied there from 1938-41, taught by Franciscan brothers and also by late Raymond Amenze Njoku, who was to become a political Colleague in the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC). After St. Charles, he had the unique distinction of being the only one of the six successful candidates to be posted direct as Headmaster.
He was sent to head St. Anthonys school Umudioka, Dunukofia. There he had the privilege to serve under the late Father Michael Iwene Tansi, Manager of the schools, 1942-1945 who has been beatified by Pope John Paul II and who struck him even then as a living Saint. Also at St. Anthonys, he was privileged to teach Francis Arinze (now Francis Cardinal Arinze) who entered school at the age ten. He also taught other prominent students who would later become Great Bishops and Political leaders of their time.
EARLY BUSINESS & POLITICAL LIFE
In 1947, P.N. passed the Senior Teachers Certificate Examination and was posted to St. Charles T.T.C. as a tutor. However he surprised people when he left being a Tutor at St. Charles Collage to take up Trading. He was one of the few educated Nigerians to take up trading in the Onitsha market. while in Onitsha he found himself playing a peace making role in the on-going dispute between Onitsha and Non-Onitsha Igbos in the Town Council. This was the beginning of his involvement in politics.
To the surprise of many, he declined a joint offer by three famous Alor businessmen- to sponsor his training as a Lawyer in the U.K (United Kingdom). Having lost his father in 1930 and later still, his Eminent brother, he felt duty bound to stay back at home to look after his mother, and also to ensure the education of his numerous dependents even though he was yet to marry. Having found success trading in textiles and building materials, okeke-ojiudu preferred to go into the transportation business at Onitsha.
Once in Onitsha, he was sucked into Onitsha Town Council Affairs as Secretary-General of the non-Onitsha Igbos Association. He increasingly spent more time in this assignment than in his Transportation business with the result that it failed. His involvement in partisan Politics was then complete.
Having failed in the business of transportation but always in avid pursuit of new conquests, P.N. now occupied himself fully in active public affairs from 1950 onwards. He won the Local Government Election in his home town, and in 1951 became a member of the Onitsha Northern District Council, where he was elected Chairman of Staff and Education Committee. he would later serve as Vice-Chairman of onitsha Urban District Council.
P.N. was primarily instrumental between 1950 and 1955, in bringing to a permanent settlement the almost chronic internal squabble in Onitsha between the so called Onitsha and non-Onitsha Igbos. As was usually with him, he brought peace into the town not from a personal or group position of weakness but from one of towering strength. It was to his eternal credit that no one on either side was harmed.
In 1953, the Eastern Region was rocked by a constitutional crisis, and the young erstwhile transporter was in the vanguard of the struggle at Onitsha. His Herculean task was to arouse the local population to support Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC)
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
His contributions in this Phase of nationalist freedom and democracy were so great that the same year, the NCNC adopted him as one of its official candidates for the regional Parliamentary elections into the Eastern House of Assembly. P.N. Okeke-Ojiudu was elected. In 1956 his notable role in the Foster-Sutton Tribunal of Inquiry into the African Continental Bank was spectacular, resulting in the dissolution of the Eastern House of Assembly.
Okeke-Ojiudu politically fought alongside Nigeria's living Legend and Founder of Africas Freedom Movement, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as a Parliamentarian. In 1957, P.N. was again elected member of the House with a massive vote of 67,000 second only to NCNC leader Dr. Azikiwe who polled 77,000.
His tenure in the legislature highlighted him as a champion of businessmen, landlords, and the struggling small traders who he once described as the goose that lays the golden eggs of the regions revenue. He formed a formidable triumvirate for the defence of General Trade and Commerce during debates. His legislative speeches were more sober than boisterous, more logical than semantic. One of his most important contributions to the debate in the House was made on the 29th of March 1957, Second Reading. As a back bencher, he used his privileges to advantage to make constructive criticisms of certain Government proposals especially of the Ministry of Agriculture.
In particular, he argued on the failure of the government Experimental Farms to make an impact even on the farmer next door and more particularly its failure to boost agricultural production since their inception in the late twenties. Other contributions were his several speeches, in which he attacked the pre capital system of revenue allocation to local Government bodies. In the same debate he played a significant role in the convincing the government to amend its policy concerning the choice of schools in which children were to attend under the Universal Primary Education Scheme.
THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE
In 1959 he became the First Minister of Agriculture (Eastern), in the First Republic of Nigeria. A post which he held till 1966. Okeke-Ojiudu was the first Minister to join the then Premier Michael Okpara in his Cabinet.
It is one of Chief P.N. Okeke-Ojiudus attributes that he had always seen clearly what his objectives were. Combined with his uncommon gift of the ability to work with people, it is little wonder he made a success of various projects. These attributes came in his good stead as Minister of Agriculture.
First he turned his attention to establishing farm settlements throughout the region. Next, he turned to the problems of the African Continental Bank; the Establishment of the Universal insurance company, re-organisation of the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation (E.N.D.C.), and Nigerian Construction and Furniture Company (NCFC). Even the NIGERCEM Nkalagu now a major revenue earner for Eastern States was to some extent under his supervision in the Ministry of Agriculture. He assisted the regional government in securing a 5 million loan for starting and running of the University of Nigeria Nsukka. Chief P.N. Okeke-Ojiudu was also responsible for the establishment of the Universal Insurance Company, and with its valued support and winning team of experts, he was successful.
Borrowing a leaf from the Israeli farm settlement Scheme which he visited in 1960, (and re-adapted this to suit the Nigerian situation), he established six twelve thousand acre settlements and one of 14 thousand acres at Ohaji, Uzo-Uwani, Igbariam, Erei, Boki and Ulona North and South Respectively. The reward was the substantial increase in food production in throughout the Eastern Region. Food had rarely been so readily available or cheaper.
As minister Chief P.N. Okeke-Ojiudus popularity Known as "Man with a Plan" was mostly concerned with how to ensure that the people of eastern region of Nigeria enjoyed three square meals daily at that time and for ever more.
He organized and played a leading role in the establishment of a Community Secondary School and a Health Centre in his Home Town Alor, Anambra. His Contributions to the education and employment of young Alor indigenes during and after his time in office was Legendary. No qualified Alor indigene went without employment if he could help it, and on the conviction that such an indigene could pull his own weight wherever he was assigned.
He nurtured St. Marys Parish Alor, from its early years both financially and ideologically until his death. His contributions at St. Pauls Parish Alor, culminated in a 1989 Citation by the Anglican Communion after the important conference by Anglican Bishops in Alor. He also organised anti-erosion campaigns in his area as well as the construction and maintenance of Alor roads.
Towards the dusk in his life P.N. was the founder of the Alor Improvement Union and was instrumental in the provision of water and light to his home town. Due to the role in which he played in his home town and state, the people of Alor and the Anambra state government Honoured him by building a Statue of him and Placing it in the town Center.
BUSINESS AND LEGACY
In the wake of the military take-over of January 1966, he retired into private life and gave full rein to his talents for private enterprise. He was one of the breed of politicians who saw in their positions the opportunity to serve the people. However, while in office, he made good and trusted friends who turned out to be great assets in building his buisness.
He founded Major companies such as Peenok Investments, a Real-Estate and Investment Company based in Nigeria. Since then the Okeke-Ojiudu family has spawned a series of companies such as the Zodiac Hotels Group headed by son Chief E.A. Okeke-Ojiudu and P.M.C (Peenok Medical Centre) by son Ambassador Dr. F.C. Okeke-Ojiudu (The Nigerian Ambassador to the Vatican) to name a few. The Okeke-Ojiudu Family also owns Major Property Interests across West Africa and Overseas.
P.N. was a content Family man; his marriage to Grace Nwuduezue Adimorah had been for him a happy and successful one, blessed with five sons and one daughter (Francis, Anthony, Chijioke, Pamela, Ikenna and Chike) all of whom are successful in their areas of interest. P.N. also has grandchildren all of whom have been a source of great pleasure and joy to the Chief. His dictum on his life had always been "it has been a continuous struggle for survival but God has been good to me".
HONOURS & TITLES
For his outstanding services and achievements, his Holiness, the Pope in 1975 bestowed the Knighthood of the 'Order of St. Sylvester' (KSS) on him. He was also a 'Knight of St. Mulumba' (KSM) of which he was one of the founding members. In futher recognition of his services, he was honoured with the title of 'Protector of Idemili' by his local government, he also earend the accolade of 'Nnanyelugo of Alor' from his people. Chief P.N. was also invested with the 'Order of Merit' by the Anambra state government for his contributions to the state. Futhermore, he was awarded the title of "Igwe of Alor" (King of Alor) by the people of Alor which he declined, saying he prefered to be the servant of all, both old and young.
P.N. Okeke-Ojiudu died at his home in Enugu, 1995. He is buried in the Obi at 'Ojiudu Manor', his country home in Alor.
"It has been a continuous struggle for survival, but God has been good to me"
Chief P.N. Okeke-Ojiudu (Nnanyelugo of Alor)