*Tinubu, Oborevwori, Keyamo, Dafinone, others mourn
Deji Elumoye, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Sylvester Idowu in Warri
A foremost Trade Unionist and former General Secretary of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, (NUPENG), Chief Frank Kokori, has died.
According to reports, the trade unionist, who passed on at about 1:30am yesterday, died on his 80th birthday.
The passage of the octogenarian was made public at about 2:30 am by his personal assistant, Atawada Barry Oke.
Oke said the former labour leader’s health relapsed on Monday as he was unable to interact with people around him while he was placed on life support.
Kokori was an advocate for workers’ right and the struggle for democracy in the country. He was to be appointed to head the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) by the former President Muhammadu Buhari but later dropped.
The irrepressible trade unionist later retired into a quiet life until recently when he reportedly took ill.
Kokori’s death came barely one month after he cried out from his hospital bed on Thursday, November 9, 2023, that he had been neglected and abandoned to die in spite of his huge contribution to the democratic growth of the country.
Meanwhile, President Tinubu, governor of Delta State, Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr Festus Keyamo and the Senator representing Delta Central Senatorial District, Senator Ede Dafinone, have led other Nigerians to mourn the deceased.
Tinubu, in a release by his Media Adviser, Ajuri Ngelale, condoled with Kokori’s family, the civil society, the government, and the people of Delta state over the deeply painful loss.
Tinubu, who described the former labour leader as a man of conscience, highly principled, courageous, and true, said, “Frank Kokori was a thoroughbred democrat and activist. He fought for democracy at a great personal cost.
“He surrendered his liberty to fight for truth and justice. He was the finest among reformers and champions of civil rights in Nigeria.
“He was a brother in the June 12 struggle. He was uncompromising, unbending, and irrepressible. He was an exemplary comrade.”
Governor Oborevwori, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sir Festus Ahon, commiserated with the family, the people of Ovu community in Ethiope East Local Government Area in particular and the Urhobo nation over the passing of the fiery labour leader and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress(APC).
He described Kokori’s passing as a “monumental loss” not just to NUPENG, Deltans and Nigerians, but to the entire world, adding that he fought gallantly for the people.
According to him, the deceased was a well respected elder statesman and an illustrious Deltan and recalled his visit to him on his sick bed in Warri.
“I have just received with shock, news of the passing of one of Nigeria’s greatest statesmen, Chief Frank Ovie Kokori, a Deltan of unparalleled patriotism.
“I am saddened that at a time like this when his patriotic zeal is needed in our dear nation, Nigeria, death came calling. I will forever cherish our last moments together when l visited him in the hospital. He was ebullient and was in very high spirits despite his ailment. He fought a good fight.”
Senator Dafinone described Kokori as an iconic labour leader, a staunch progressive politician and a fearless defender of democracy, highlighting the labour leader’s valiant efforts alongside other pro-democracy leaders in establishing the current democratic government in Nigeria.
In a condolence statement, the Delta Central lawmaker emphasised that Kokori’s demise was a significant loss not only to the progressive and labour movements, where his contributions remained indelible, but also to the Urhobo nation.
“The news of his death deeply saddens me. Although we grieve, we must accept that we are mere mortals, who cannot question God’s will. I firmly believe that Chief Kokori led a fulfilling life and has left behind a remarkable legacy,” Dafinone expressed.
Also, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), has described the deceased as a giant in trade Union struggles and a courageous fighter
In a condolence message by its General Secretary, Nuhu Toro, TUC said Kokori exhibited selflessness during his life time.
According to him, Kokori had the choice to become one of the richest Nigerians just by agreeing to support military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha but “rather, he put his life on line for the de-annulment of the 1993 June 12 Presidential Elections and enthronement of democracy in the country.
“The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC joins the Nigerian Working People and other socially conscious persons in mourning the exit of veteran Labour leader and courageous fighter for justice, Comrade Frank Ovie Kokori who departed this Thursday, December 7, 2023, the same day he clocked 80.”
On his part, the Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyamo, described Kokori as his mentor in the struggle for democratic freedom and quest for justice.
Extending his condolence to the family, Keyamo said the demise of Kokori was like an end to an era.
Keyamo, who was Minister of State for Labour and Employment, said the veteran trade unionist was his, “Father-in-the-Struggle.
“When Kokori was in solitary confinement in Bama prison for his struggle for the restoration of the June 12 mandate, nearly 30 years ago, I personally represented him in various courts fighting for his freedom.
“As a result, I became an adopted ‘son’ of his family. His wife and children were constantly in court with me and I will spent time in their home in Surulere.”
Keyamo said he later teamed up with Kokori as members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), working to win elections in their home base, Delta State.