The Labour Party (LP) in Nigeria has said that the demise of foremost labour leader and pro-democracy activist, Comrade Frank Ovie Kokori, has come to it as a rude shock especially as those in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) who benefitted from his struggle for the enthronement of democracy abandoned him.
In a personally endorsed statement, the National Chairman of LP, Barrister Julius Abure, recounted the exploits of Comrade Kokori, especially as the Secretary General of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, and a frontline member of the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, during the struggle for the actualisation of the June 12, 1993 electoral mandate.
Abure concluded that notwithstanding his abandonment by those who benefitted from his struggles when he needed help most, “his legacies will forever remain in our minds.”
Full text of the statement reads:
Labour Party mourns Comrade Frank Ovie Kokori.
… Those who benefitted from his struggle abandoned him.
The death of Comrade Frank Ovie Kokori came to us in the Labour Party as a rude shock. We wish to put on record his outstanding contribution to our democracy today.
Comrade Frank Kokori and many other comrades laid down their lives for democracy. He along other comrades fought gallantly for the actualisation of the June 12, 1993 mandate which was acclaimed as the freest, fairest and most competitive election in the history of elections in Nigeria. It was an election that brought together every tribe to speak with one voice for the first time in Nigeria.
Frank Kokori, an ex-General Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, who was hounded, incarcerated and imprisoned by the military junta for many years for his role in organising nationwide strikes that crippled the oil industry, was no doubt one of the symbols of that struggle. It was a struggle that reverberated across the shores of this nation and in the international communities.
We must put on record that Kokori was equally a founding member of NADECO which struggle culminated into our present day democracy. He was actively involved in pro-democracy activities, organising and participating in rallies and demonstrations.
There is no gain saying the fact that APC government under the leadership of immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari tried to bring him to disrepute and to destroy his personality by giving him an appointment and was never sworn in.
This was a government which benefited from Comrade Kokori’s struggle to enthrone democracy but they found it pleasurable not to come to his aid even when he called for help. It is unbelievable that in spite of his key role in the growth of the nation’s democracy, he was abandoned.
I recall one of his interviews when he said, “If I wanted to compromise, the military (junta of late General Sani Abacha) was ready to give me anything but I stood for democracy, believing that democracy will usher in a better Nigeria.”
The least the beneficiaries of the democracy including the present Nigerian leadership could do was to answer him when he called knowing that he never stashed ill-gotten wealth like most of them did. At 80, Kokori should still be alive and providing leadership. Rather, he lived on humanity all his life.
Labour Party will miss this outstanding Labour Leader who fought gallantly for the emancipation of Nigerian workers and the Nigerian people. His union NUPENG was one of the strongest at his time and a major backbone of the Labour Congress upon which all struggle rested.
Kokori will be remembered for the enthronement of democracy, the struggle to eradicate poverty, hunger and unemployment in Nigeria. He will be remembered for his astuteness, doggedness and his vision to have a Nigeria that works for the masses; a Nigeria that works for the working people of Nigeria. A country that detests hunger, poverty and unemployment. He wanted a sympathetic and compassionate country where the institutions work in the interest of the people and not for the interest of the ruling class.
We shall continue to remember Comrade Frank Ovie Kokori. Though he is no more, but his legacies will forever remain in our minds.
Barrister Julius Abure