Chief (Deacon) Victor Ejor Okpabi, JP
Birth and Years of Childhood
It was the short dry season of 7 August 1953. The sun fed the sky majestically in its graceful ambiance and the tiny village of Alode basked in its much needed rays after the heavy falls that ended a few days earlier. There were singings and jubilations springing forth from Okpabi’s compound of Akara community, Alode, completely eclipsed by diminutive mud houses. The houses were isolated from each other in such a pitiable state. In one of those single rooms built with mud and roofed with thatch, a child was born into the family of Okpabi Ejire, an Eleme Chief and the Chief of Staff/Spokesman of Alode Council of Chiefs and Elders. He and his wife, Ajiwa Okpabi (nee Awah) of Ewika community, Alode welcomed the child wholeheartedly. To them, he was a miracle child, and so, they christened him Victor Ejor Okpabi.
Though Western Education had existed in Eleme forty-three years before Victor Okpabi was born, but a vast majority of the people still placed little emphasis on Western Education. Only a privileged few did. Victor was privileged to find his place amongst this few. First, he attended Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) School, Nchia Eleme between 1957-1964 where he obtained the First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC). He proceeded to Birabi Memorial Grammar School (BMGS), Bori, but his studies were truncated due to the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War. On his return from the war, he was admitted into Teachers Training College (TTC), Okordia Zarama in the present day Bayelsa State where he obtained TC II between 1973-1977.
In his quest for knowledge, he gained admission into the University of Port Harcourt in 1978. In this varsity located on the lowland plains of the New Calabar River, Victor bagged the prestigious degree of Bachelor of Arts in Education and History (BA.Ed) in 1982. He did his compulsory National Youth Service in Ogun State of Nigeria, and then proceeded to the University of Calabar where he obtained his Master of Education (M.Ed) in Administration and Planning in 1992.
Victor Okpabi was such a diligent scholar.
(A River’s Journey)
Victor’s burning desire to impact knowledge began earlier in life. In 1972, he taught as a Classroom Teacher in the State Primary School, Alode and then moved to State Primary School, Ebubu where he taught from 1977-1978.
Shortly after his University Education, he got employed into Government Secondary School, Onne where he served as a Classroom Teacher from 1983-1985 before he was promoted to the rank of the Vice Principal of his school where he served until 1991.
Between 1991-1993, he served as the Vice Principal of Community Comprehensive Secondary School, Norwa Gbam. Upon his promotion, he was transferred to Community Grammar School, Sime-Tai where he served as a Principal from 1993-1995.
Sir Okpabi as he was popularly known within the Academic circle was transferred to Government Secondary School, Kpite, where he served as a Principal between 1995-1997 before he was re-transferred to Community Grammar School, Sime-Tai where he served as a Principal between 1997-2002. The wheel kept turning and turning to different directions within Tai Local Government Area of Rivers State. In 2002, he got his transfer to Community Commercial Secondary School, Botem where he served until 2007. Victor Okpabi was later transferred to Tua-Tua Community Secondary School, Aabue Korokoro-Tai where he served as a Principal from 2007-2008. In 2008, he was transferred to Comprehensive High School, Alesa Eleme where he served as a Principal until 2012 when he was transferred to Post primary Schools Board, Oyigbo zone where he served as the Zonal Supervisor and later promoted to the rank of the Zonal Director before he finally retired in the later part of the year.
During his service years, the compassionate and kindhearted Teacher extended his hand of generosity to a lot of persons. Every year, he registered more than ten candidates who wished to sit for the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination but have no means. He also took responsibilities for their feeding and transportation during the period of the examination. For several years, he bought Jamb forms for those who wished to proceed to the University and also made financial commitment to those who were able to secure admissions.
He was a Founding Member of Community Secondary School, Alode.
Victor Okpabi was indeed an Administrator per excellence.
During his days in Government Secondary School, Onne, Victor fell in love with Mimi (nee Osaro George) of Ogale Eleme, and on 1 May 1986, they got married. The marriage is blessed with Six Children: Jonah, Ajiwa, Olare, Ejire, Obarikachuremi and Oworeobari.
A Call To Christianity
With the advent of Christianity into Eleme in 1910, various families began to embrace the Christian faith, though many others still held on to their ancestral belief. Despite having a solid African traditional background, the young Victor found himself in the midst of the Christian sect, worshipping in St Stephens Anglican Church, Alode, which is the first church in Eleme kingdom. Later he joined the Seventh Day Adventist Church where he sang in the Children’s Department Choir. During the years of discovering of inner self, he became an occasional church member until 1995 during the dedication of his Second Son and fourth child that his wife succeeded in converting him to Assemblies of God Church, Alode, domiciled in Alungwa Town Hall under the leadership of Rev Israel Obe Nke of blessed memory. In his first day of worship, he was made the Interpreter for the local Assembly. Soon he got baptized and took Holy Communion, and thereafter, was ordained a Deacon in the church. From then henceforth, his life took a dramatic turn-around. He contributed earnestly to the growth of the church and he held several positions in various departments of the church, starting from the local branch to the sectional level. Under the leadership of Rev John Nwachukwu, the church moved from its base in Alungwa town hall down to its permanent site known as Centre of Transformation, located behind the State Primary School, Alode. They worshipped in a temporary structure and with the help of God and a few Labourers, a permanent structure was set up and it is still standing until this day.
Deacon Victor Okpabi as he was called among the Christian fold, took it as a responsibility never to absent or go late to Sunday school. He was a devoted Sunday School Teacher.
Apart from his Academic service, Victor Okpabi has served his fatherland in various capacities, both socially and politically and as well received various awards in recognition of his service to humanity. He served as a Returning Officer of National Republican Convention (NRC) in the 1993 Elections. In 1999, he became a member of the newly founded Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and was once the Coordinator of his Unit in Ward 2, Alode. He once served as a member of Alode Community Development Committee, and during the 2019 General Elections in Rivers State, Nigeria, he served as the Chairman of Alode Peace Committee.
After the demise of his Elder brother, the mantle of Leadership fell on him. Following the community’s age-long tradition, he became the Chief of Staff (Oneh Nkporon)/Spokesman of Alode community.
Victor Okpabi has received various awards in recognition of his service to his people.
On Friday 30 December, 2016, he was invested as a Justice of Peace by Rivers State Government under the leadership of Chief (Barr) Nyesom Wike.
On Sunday 12 May, 2019, he received a Honourary Award from Rivers State University Students Union Government ‘In recognition of his contributions towards Promoting Education and Encouraging Youths towards acquiring sound Education through his Scholarship Scheme as Principal in various Secondary Schools across Rivers State.’
Victor Okpabi Lives On
In the early hours of Monday, 18 May 2020, Victor Ejor Okpabi obeyed nature’s call as he passed on to glory after a brief illness. Chief (Deacon) Victor Ejor Okpabi has left an imprint in the sand. His name will continue to echo in the hearts of many. Though he has ended his sojourn on earth, but his legacy will continue to inspire other Dreams. He will forever be remembered, until that glorious morning when the roll is called up yonder.