Goodbye UCD Okoye, the Administrator Par Excellence

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Tribute

 By Sam Ekpe

Soon after the Nigerian civil war of 1967 – 1970, a new lexicon was used to refer to the select group of Federal Permanent Secretaries who held the reins of the Federal Administration and advised the Military Government of Yakubu Gowon during the war. They were called Super Perm Secs.  The likes of Philip Asiodu and Allison Ayida belonged to this group.

In the Old Eastern Region of Nigeria, there was also this select group of Permanent Secretaries – well educated and experienced in administration and contributed immensely to the huge political, social and economic success that the Government of Eastern Region ably led by the visionary Dr Michael Okpara had become. This select group led by Chief Jereme Udoji included UCD Okoye, G.I Nwokike and JBC Anyaegbuna.

Uchenwoke Chukwuabonam Dickson Okoye, Ide Nnobi was born on 16th May 1922 to the Umuezisike kindred of Umuagu Village, Ngo Quarters Nnobi in Ideneili South Local Government Area of Anambra State.  He had four sisters as well as two younger brothers. His father Alfred Okoye was an Anglican Catechist who did missionary work in many places, far away from their locality including Egbu in Owerri. At age of 10, his father sent him on tutelage to live with fellow catechists and other Church workers. They included Catechist and Mrs Modebela of Abagana and later with Godwin Ezeama, a school teacher at CMS Central School Abagana. In 1939 he became a pupil teacher at Ibagwa Ihaka CMS Central School in Nsukka where his parents had relocated and from there sat for the entrance exam to secondary school.

In 1940, he was admitted into the very famous Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onisha. After four years in the school, he passed the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination in flying colours. Even before the result came out, he was offered appointment as a 3rd class clerk at the Eastern Region Secretariat in Enugu. After 3 months in employment, he was transferred to the District office in Udi, where for the first time, he worked under a white man. Mr E.K Chadwick. His work experience under Chadwick during which he learnt typing and shorthand within two weeks, prepared him for his various future challenges in the public service.  At the initial stage of his career, he attended many courses oversees including 12months Senior Officers Course in London School of Economics and Political Science in 1956/57 and six months course at the World Bank Washington DC under the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, where under the auspices of the Economic Development Institute, he was trained in Budgeting, Project Evaluation and Appraisal, Trade & Legal Obligations, Economic Policy and Development, Fiscal Policy and Public Finance, Monetary Policy, International Trade & Finance, Agricultural Funding, Industrialization and Social Trends in Development. It was at one of these in service trainings in the United States of America that he got to meet the then America President Lyndon Johnson during a visit to the White House.

On his return from additional graduate level education and training Oversees in Britain and the United States, he took up the position of Assistant Secretary of Finance. From here his career rocketed to the next level. In 1962, hardly a year later, under the Administration of Michael Okpara, he was appointed Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Town Planning for the whole of Old Eastern Region of Nigeria now comprising 12 different States. The next year, 1963,  he was assigned to the Ministry of Establishments. He also served as co-head of the Government Review Committee that came to known as Carter Okoye Salaries Review Committee. This was also the year in which the Federal Government brought in United Nations Demographic experts who supervised the use of IBM machines for collating figures for the Ministry. In recognition of UCD’s leadership role in this project, effectively one of the earliest deployments of computerized administrative deployments, he was in the same year made a member (one of two or three from the Eastern Region) to serve on the Federal Census Board, with similar representatives from the other Regions of Nigeria.

His efforts along with those of his colleagues and overall boss Jereme Udoji in continuing to provide unparalleled leadership in the Civil Service of Eastern Region of Nigeria was interrupted by the Nigerian Civil War which caused massive dislocation and disruption of government policies, programmes and projects.

When refugees fled to the East from their places of abode in Northern Region of Nigeria, he was appointed Rehabilitation Commissioner in 1967. During the three years of the war, UCD took up many positions of leadership in the Biafran Civil Service, including Head of the Biafra Militia (he had declined being commissioned as a Military officer but took up the Directorship appointment as a non-commissioned officer).

UCD retired from Public Service in 1978, but since a gold fish has no hiding place, he was still involved in public activities until his demise recently. Soon after the Civil War, he worked briefly as Chairman of the Nigerian Water Planning and Construction Company (Ministry of Industries) in the Ukpabi Asika administration and Co-Director of the post war East Central State Government owned-Oriental lines from where he retired to establish his private businesses, including Pan Afric Hotel Enugu.

UCD also had non professional commitments and interests.

Throughout his life, he remained a devoted Christian and was very active in his home church, St. Simon’s Anglican Church Nnobi, serving as Chairman of the 1975 Building Committee of the Church. A life member of Bible Society of Nigeria, UCD Okoye was a first generation Knight of St Christopher (Diocese on the Niger).

A prolific writer like his father, Sir UCD Okoye wrote an 86 page autobiography which has not been published. His father had also maintained a 63 page history note book. Ide Nnobi was widely travelled and had visited many cities all over the world including Nice, Barcelona, Rome, Venice, Millan, Hamburg, Zurich, London, New York and Miami.

Late Ide Nnobi was married to late Agnes Ifeoma Okoye Nee Anyadiegwu of Oba, Mmilidoluedowho died in 2000. They are survived by many children and grandchildren.  His remains will be laid to rest on Thursday December 13 2018 after funeral service at St Simon’s Anglican Church Nnobi.

A man who did many good and great things, who touched many lives positively and left indelible footprints on the sands of time cannot die. He lives in the minds and hearts of those he left behind. So it is with Chief Sir UCD Okoye, the Super Permanent Secretary of Old Eastern Region of Nigeria, Ide Nnobi, the very amiable, tall, elegant and handsome gentleman. May your very gentle, dynamic, forthright and kind soul find eternal rest in the Lord, Amen.

  • Sam Ekpe is a media consultant based in Abuja