Tobi Soniyi and Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, former Delta State Governor, Chief James Onanefe Ibori and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have expressed heartfelt condolences to the government and people of Delta State on the death of Chief Francis Okpozo, a Second Republic senator and member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the party.
Okpozo died in Benin City on Monday after a brief illness. He was aged 81.
The president, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, commiserated with the family and friends of the late distinguished senator.
The president said the senator’s commitment to social justice in the Niger Delta, during his long history of service to the people, endeared him to many.
“As a stalwart of the APC in the South-south, President Buhari believes that the party greatly benefited from the octogenarian’s charismatic leadership and wealth of experience as a politician,” the statement added.
The president expressed the hopes that those mourning Senator Okpozo will carry forward his legacy of unwavering dedication to the unity of Nigeria, even as the nation would fondly remember his contributions to peace, development and justice in the Niger Delta.
Buhari prayed that God Almighty would comfort the family of the late senator and grant the soul of the departed eternal rest.
On his part, Ibori described the death of Okpozo as a devastating blow to Delta State, the South-south, and the entire country.
In a press statement signed by Tony Eluemunor, Ibori said Okpozo was an indefatigable fighter for the betterment of the Niger Delta.
“We can all recall that during the last national conference, Okpozo’s voice was strident in calling for increased derivation per centage for the oil producing states, even as he warned of the consequences of the injuries that would be done to Nigeria if fiscal federalism was not made a reality in the country.”
Ibori said the leadership qualities in Okpozo came to the fore when he emerged a Deputy-Speaker of the defunct Bendel State House of Assembly.
“Since then, he always remained a voice of reason whenever serious national issues was being discussed.”
Ibori added that Okpozo was a tireless peacemaker who toiled night and day to ensure that peace reigned in Delta State, and prayed God to grant Okpozo’s immediate family the strength to bear the irreparable loss, pointing out that his achievements in diverse areas as of national life will never be forgotten.
Also, the APC mourned the death of Okpozo.
In a condolence message by the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the party expressed condolences to the Okpozo’s family, commiserating with the people and government of Delta State.
“Until his death, Okpozo was an elder statesman, nationalist and progressive critic whose commentaries positively influenced and shaped discourse and developments at the national level as well as in the South-south region and in his home state.
“The late Okpozo has left us at a critical time when he was needed to contribute to nation building, the Change Agenda of the APC as well as the growth of the party in the South-south region and the state. We however take solace knowing that the late Senator lived a fulfilled and impactful life during his time on earth. I pray that the Almighty God grants his immediate family the fortitude to bear the loss. May his soul rest in peace,” he added.