It can be tiring to write one obituary after another. It may remind you that yours may be around the corner. Fortunately, I once read my obituary when presumed dead in a July 1991 road mishap so I have had preparation for this inevitable. But it is a duty for many reasons to write tributes to those we know who have lived impactful lives. Where my parents were born, it is said that the day a person mourns another he mourns himself. Today I mourn Raymond Dokpesi.
The recollection of unique things in the passages of nobility is more important because record keeping is poor in our climes and academic historians are unfortunately not doing enough.
The news of the passing of Raymond Dokpesi hit me hard in the gut not just because we have been acquainted for nearly 60 years but because of the irony of the date of his transition.
Before it was moved to June 12 this day used to be called Democracy day. He gave much of his later adult years to engineering a certain vision of Democracy he passionately craved.
Dr Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi was my schoolmate. In Loyola College Ibadan during those Civil War years there was a special bond binding the boys from the Midwest. Then he left.
We met after he returned from Poland as an Engineer at NPA being mentored by Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and I from the US. I had also become friendly with Alhaji Bamanga.
Raymond’s appetite for venturing stood out and was infectious. It soon shifted from Shipping to media and he was quick to drag me in. I would become a member of the Board of his first media venture The Nigerian Maritime Digest.
His Media ventures with Ray Power 100 as the first private radio station in Nigeria and AIT may be well known but few realize how much he tried to shape the political course of the country. For months he, the now late Emeka Enejere, and I worked with several troopers to shape the current Republic with encouragement from another High school senior of mine from CKC, then Rivers State Governor Peter Odili.
When the Third Term bid tried to distort the trajectory of our democracy in 2006 Dokpesi played a role so central that he was anchor to the defeat of the bid in the National Assembly. I worry that I have not met historians researching this major constitutional watershed even as the dramatis personae begin to get claimed by death. Even more troubling, I have not seen enough Memoir and Autobiography writing that would provide feedstock for tomorrow’s historians.
Raymond Dokpesi dreamt big, worked hard and held firmly to his beliefs. He worked hard and played hard but never stopped being compassionate.
He used the media reach he built to raise the voice of his Afemai people and conversation television.
High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, colorful man of culture left this World affected for the better from his being around. I will surely miss him. I also wish God’s fortitude on those family, friends and business colleagues close to him who mourn his loss.
Pat Utomi is a Professor of Political Economy and founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership
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