Osinbajo says Ocholi, wife, son have washed their robes clean
• His Death An Invitation That Cannot Be Rejected, Says Bishop Ibenu
Emotions flowed freely yesterday in Abocho, Kogi State, when the pallbearers marched into the premises of the LGEA Primary School with the bodies of the late Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr. James Ocholi, with that of his wife, Blessing, and son, Joshua, placed side by side for their requiem.
The pallbearers marched in with the usual funeral music, their eyes soaked with tears from sobbing, even though they had to carry out their onerous task.
Joshua’s casket was adorned with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) kits to signify a fallen member on national service, while the late learned lawyer was adorned with the wig as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
The town was overtaken by security operatives, who mounted sentry at the entrance and at the rear, giving the funeral ceremony the required security.
But the wailings and emotion from the natives were so contagious that it caught up with many visitors and sympathisers, who could not help but share in their grief.
As Bishop John Ibenu captured it in his homily at the funeral: “Ocholi answered the invitation every man must answer, which cannot be rejected.”
All present were reminded of the date with destiny, which no one knows beforehand.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari, paid glowing tributes to Ocholi, his wife and son, saying he was a patriot the country would greatly miss.
He said Ocholi’s legacies were those of growing up in adverse circumstances, but with hardwork and integrity, he surmounted and even climbed to the peak of his career and made a mark.
He said through dint of hardwork, the late minister attained the prestigious rank of SAN in the legal profession, becoming a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and also minister of the gospel.
“His contributions to bringing about what today is the federal government of Nigeria was truly significant and so was his zeal for service as minister these few months.”
“Blessing, his wife, attained her academic and professional heights, but served the church and the family with all her might and talents.”
“Joshua, who was a young graduate of International Relations, served the Lord using talents on the keyboard.”
The Vice President said the basic testimony of the trio was like those of the Apostles of Jesus Christ, who had tragic and painful deaths, but the Bible promise that precious is the death of the saint in the sight of God, because their death is a victory for heaven, becomes a solace for them.
“Three saints went home on March 6, not saints by work or personal righteousness, but because before they died, they met and accepted Jesus, who paid for their sins and exchanged their sins for his holiness, so that on the day of death, they would be able to stand holy before the true Holy God.”
In his message at the funeral service, Chairman of Christian Association Nigeria (CAN), Kogi State chapter, Bishop John Ibenu, charged the sympathisers to turn over their lives to God and be ready for the judgment day, noting that death is an inevitable end for all mortals.
He said Ocholi was his contemporary, an exemplary person and a man of God who lived a very selfless service.
The bishop said his friend went on a journey to celebrate with somebody who was giving thanks and this is the way it has ended, adding: “He was an encouragement to everybody.”
On the impact of the tragedy on the Igala nation, he said speaking as a Christian and CAN chairman: “We don’t need to emphasise the tragedy. We will look at it spiritually and take care of it spiritually. We are going to pray about it.”
“The Igalas should not emphasise the tragedy. Abubakar died in an accident. Audu had his own. Achema had his.”
For Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello, the state had lost a leader, whose greatest concern was the greatness and unity of Kogi.
He said: “The deaths on March 6, this year of James, the fearless advocate, Blessing, his inseparable soulmate, and Joshua, the second fruit of their loving union, is one of those sudden tragedies that try the hearts and faiths of men. I am yet to come to terms with it. I doubt if I ever will.
“Without doubt, this is one harvest of deaths too many for Kogi State. We have again lost an illustrious son, a loving wife/mother and one of our youthful prospects in the most horrible circumstances possible.”
“Today, after barely any respite from a similar sorrow in the recent past, Kogi State mourns again, greatly.”
Bello pointed out that Ocholi was a brother, in more ways than one, and a true Christian too.
The governor recalled that though he slugged it out with him for the party’s ticket, when passions often ran wild, it was without bitterness.
“When James was made a minister while some of us were still in the trenches, he remained gracious. When I emerged governor, he immediately gave me the highest cooperation,” he recalled.