With the transition to eternity of John C. Okafor, a retired Commissioner of Police from Nawfia, Njikoka Local Government Area, at 4 pm on Tuesday, February 7, following a heart attack, Anambra State, has, once again, lost one of its most dedicated public servants. Okafor, 82, was among the finest breed of police officers in Nigeria who was frequently assigned the most difficult of cases which he always discharged with aplomb and public admiration.
He served on different panels which investigated civil and religious crises in the Northern part of the country. Reputed for crime bursting, he was deployed to the old Bendel State in the mid-1980s by the Inspector General of Police, Inyang Etim, to fight violent crime which was then on an industrial scale in the area.
In the early 1990s when Shina Rambo, West Africa’s most notorious high transnational armed robber was terrorizing Lagos and Ogun states with a large den of blood thirsty and dare-devil hounds from Benin Republic, Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Coomassie deployed Okafor from the Force Headquarters in Lagos to Ogun to check Rambo’s excesses.
On the day he assumed office as the Ogun State Police Commissioner, Okafor announced that he was prepared to die in order to get Shina Rambo out of the state. Most Nigerians thought that the policeman was merely bragging, but those familiar with his exploits knew he meant business. He frequently led operations against transnational robbers. In one of the several operations, Okafor and his men killed Rambo and members of his tough criminal gang. It took several months for the Nigerian security agencies to know that Rambo was among the transnational robbers killed by the Ogun State Police Command because no one seemed to have his picture.
Ogun State in no time became about the safest state in the country, a long leap from the days it was almost overrun by unconscionable criminals. An impressed Governor Segun Osoba made a special broadcast describing Okafor as the most effective, committed, efficient and caring police commissioner he had ever known. Thirty years after he left Ogun State following his retirement based on years of service, the people and policemen still speak of Okafor in nostalgic terms. Sir Mike Okiro, Okafor’s Deputy in Ogun State who was to become the Inspector General, doesn’t tire of saying that Okafor demonstrated inspiring leadership by personal example, as he led from the front in all circumstances. No wonder Okafor was rewarded with a national honour in 1999.
Okafor’s performance in the police force is reminiscent of the record of another great son of Anambra State, Ezidinma Ifejika, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police from Awka. When Ifejika led the Nigerian contingent to Namibia to prepare the nation for self-rule in 1990, the Nigerian contingent was voted the best of the 50 police forces from all over the world which participated in Namibia’s transition. In appreciation of the spectacular performance of the Nigerian police under his leadership, Ifejika was promoted from Commissioner of Police to Assistant Inspector General of Police, becoming the first Anambra indigene to wear the latter rank after the Nigerian Civil War. Okafor and Ifejika interestingly joined the police force the same day. Despite losing some years and seniority on account of the civil war, both Ifejika and Okafor reached the top of their profession. The retired distinguished policemen show the difference Anambra men and women make any time they are given national or international assignments.
Immediately Governor Willie Obiano was briefed on Okafor’s death, he sent a state government delegation led by the Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr C. Don Adinuba, to visit the family of the deceased in Nawfia to console them on behalf of the state government. The delegation met members of the Okafor family, including the widow of the fallen police officer, Mrs Ekwutosi Okafor; Mr Okafor’s younger brother, Chief Sam Okafor, an accountant and businessman based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State; and the in-law, Chief Nwabu Uboma, an Enugu-based accountant and businessman.