Chido Nwangwu eulogises the late pioneer Secretary General of World Igbo Congress, Attorney Ken Okorie, whose interment is billed for Friday, July 28, 2023 in Houston, the United States.
It was Carl Sandburg (January 6, 1878 – July 22, 1967), winner of three Pulitzer Prizes, poet, journalist and author of the highly-acclaimed biography of Abraham Lincoln who famously wrote about lawyers, strategy and life that: “If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.”
With Attorney Ken Okorie, whatever the issues of public policy and community interests were, whenever you disagreed on those issues with him, you ended up respecting the fact that the man always, almost always, had his facts ready. He also knew the law. Consequently, he rarely had need to “pound the table and yell like hell.”
He lived most of his life in the United States as a brilliant scholar of jurisprudence and activist on many critical issues of the time. Ken was physically modest but an intellectual giant who lived as a fountain of inspiration to many, across several continents.
Deservedly, he was chosen to serve as the first Secretary-General of the World Igbo Congress (WIC), in 1994. Dr. J.O.S Okeke was Chairman. Okeke and Okorie gave dedicated and informed advocacy for the diasporan communities and the homeland.
His sudden, painful death in the early morning of Good Friday on April 7, 2023 in Houston, has left his blanket of anguish across some of the diaspora communities here in United States. Hence, the Friday, July 28, 2023 service of songs and tributes in Houston.
Ken Okorie was born on December 26, 1950.
He counts among the valorous, unapologetic men, a few men who spoke and wrote without fear of the squads of oppressive incompetence imposed on Nigerians and their pretentious enablers, locally, regionally and internationally. He confronted so many of the issues regarding the bloody, existential realities of genocide and bloody mayhem faced by the Igbo and non-Igbo of the then Eastern region of Nigeria. That is, the 1967 to 1970 Nigeria versus Biafra war. He was a strong admirer of the late, great President and General of the Peoples’ Republic of Biafra, The Land of the Rising Sun, Ikemba Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
Okorie wrote some of the very vital and contextual insights about that War as he, occasionally, opined on the platforms of our Houston-headquartered USAfrica, especially USAfricaonline.com. He was a member of the USAfrica Editorial Board, since1993 until his death. He was very thorough and vigorous in his analyses.
I remember Ken Kemnagum Okorie, as a good man, a very good man, a devoted husband to his ‘Star’ Mrs. Linda Okorie and a great father of five outstanding sons — of whom I am exceedingly proud!
Those young adults are, evidently, the most important and enduring legacies of Ken and Linda Okorie. I make that point, clearly and precisely, as a close, brotherly friend who has known the five, young Okorie boys since they were born in different years beginning with the first son, Ikemefule, in 1993. He is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University. He’s followed by Ugonna Okorie, a graduate of Texas Technology University. Obinna Okorie, a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin. I’m the Godfather to Obinna — an honor I humbly share with the late Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu.
The next is Uchenna Okorie, a graduate of Howard University, in Washington DC.
Then, Uzonna Okorie, who is attending Houston Baptist University.
Attorney James Okorafor, former President of the Nigerian Foundation (Houston) who is one of Ken’s colleagues at the USAfrica think-tank, responded to my notes of sadness about Ken’s death: “Yes Bro, it is hard to stop the tears. Even, Kofi Awoonor’s ‘Songs of Sorrow’, which l have read again today has been insufficient. Ken was reliable… a great strategic thinker.”
Ken had hard-hitting adjectives for the controversial, former President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. That is, putting it mildly. I had something of a running debate with Ken on the fact that I usually “updated/edited/changed” (your pick) the titles of his articles. While he had a predictable leaning toward philosophical captions, I preferred, as Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of USAfrica, practical captions for news insights….
In terms of his education and credentials, Ken had a Law degree with honors in legal research & Writing, from the University of Denver, in Colorado. He earned a Masters in Business Administration (International Business Relations) and a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting & Economics, from the University of South Florida, in Tampa, Florida.
He was Licensed by State Bar of Texas and by Federal Courts as a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA). He was a litigation legal counsel accomplished in Business, Civil and Criminal Litigation, Corporate, Oil & Gas practice environments, antitrust, regulatory compliance, subpoenas and investigations by DOJ, EU, FDA, FTC, SEC, OSHA and EPA.
His deep and diverse knowledge covered areas of the law including pharmaceuticals, securities, environmental, telecommunications, hi-tech, employment, safety, consumer and e-commerce issues. He was lead civil and criminal trial and arbitration before U.S. courts for the London Center for International Arbitration (LCIA), and other forums.
He was the General Counsel for Emerald Energy Resources, Ltd, on Oil Block OML-141, involved working from global locations such as Lagos, Beijing, Amsterdam, Houston and London.
Attorney Okorie coordinated customer and investor relations and activities on behalf of multinational investors including Chinese, American, Canadian, Dutch and Nigerian.
He served as CFO/VP – VRMT International, Inc., in Houston, Texas, and was a Senior Financial Analyst for American Television & Communications, Inc., Englewood, Colorado.
Ken was one of the earliest operational pillars and guides at the (predominantly Igbo) All Saints Anglican Church, in Houston — where he served as Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees and Senior Warden.
Before that, he was a mentor at the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church of Houston’s Rites of Passage events — for two years.
He served as an Advisory Board member of the Institute for Energy Law, Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation, Past Chair and former President of the African Bar Association in America (Houston), member of the National Association of Black Accountants, member of the International Law Society, member of the World Affairs Council, and member of the City of Houston Building Standards Commission.
He was very proud of his heritage and had great respect for Prof. Chinua Achebe’s works. Ken loved poetry, tennis, travel, soccer and music.
To Ken Kemnagum Okorie, I’ll always remember you as you carried on with your head held up high, even, as the Brutus-type characters schemed to distract and squirmed without useful goals or any higher purpose.
Yes, you were an imperfect yet worthy model of the African professional. You remained authentic.
Without a doubt, you were a man at ease in Mbaise as you were in Beijing (China) and downtown Houston.
May I remind us of these timeless words of Marcus Tullius Cicero, the ancient Roman philosopher, lawyer, and political theorist who is regarded as one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose masters: “The life of the dead is placed on the memories of the living.”
To Ken Kemnagum Okorie, our dutiful brother, a man of courage and character, faith/religious/church advocate, and faithful friend, you remain in our memory!
Kemnagum, Rest in Peace! To God be the glory!!
-Dr Nwangwu, is Founder of the first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper on the internet, USAfricaonline.com
Follow him on Twitter @Chido247