The Pain Frank Kokori Carried to His Grave

Frank Kokori

Babafemi Ojudu

Chief Frank Kokori has gone to answer the call of his maker. He was a man who lived a life of service. For many months, he was a prisoner of conscience under General Sani Abacha. Had he cooperated with the junta, as the Secretary General , oil workers union then, he would have been enriched with billions of naira as many of his contemporaries did, and possibly by 1999 he would have had enough to prosecute a gubernatorial contest, become governor of Delta State, and still stockpile many more billions to the detriment of the people. This he never did.

He stayed the course, and he was true to his conscience and his beliefs. Now, everyone who has followed his life knows him for the stuff he was made of, but what many may not have known was the indignity he was made to go through in the twilight of his life. Nigeria really happened to him.

In 2019, Kokori, without lobbying for it, was appointed chairman of the board of the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) by President Mohammadu Buhari. He received a letter of appointment to this effect. He was ready and willing to serve, but the minister in charge of this agency would not swear him into the office. Why this was the case, no one could tell. He visited Abuja several times expending his pension and life savings on transportation and expensive hotel accommodations.

He wrote several letters to President Buhari, complaining about the anomaly. Some of the letters I helped deliver were sent through both private and official channels in The Villa, but nothing came out of them.

Kokori, a man who never gave up, continued to push, but he was ignored and the pain  could palpably be seen on his face on each of those visits to Abuja.

On the day MKO Abiola and Chief Gani Fawehinmi were honored at The Villa, he was there. He took the microphone and complained bitterly about this mistreatment at the hearing of Mr. President. I told him after the event that it did seem we wereA going to find a solution to his problem, following the trenchant way he spoke about his humiliation.

“”Who say? ,” as they say in Warri lingo, the town where he lived the last days of his life.

He was frustrated, and he was bitter. He must have wondered why the democracy he fought and suffered for treated him the way it did and by people who didn’t raise a whimper when the military hunted him all over the country for staying the course and demanding a democratic Nigeria.

Kokori is dead now, and he will forever be remembered for who he was and what he represented—a labor leader of integrity, a man of honor, a nationalist of repute, a torn in the flesh of military dictators.