TRIBUTE TO CHIEF FRANK KOKORI (08/12/2023)
We at the Nigeria Labour Congress are deeply saddened by the passing away of Chief Frank Kokori at 80. Our hearts are with his biological family and the NUPENG family where he was General Secretary. To them and other associates, we offer our condolences.
Chief Frank Kokori was Executive Secretary of OMPADEC which later metamorphosed into NDDC among other national appointments held by him. He was announced as Chairman of the board of NSITF but denied that role by some of the powers that be. He instead chaired the board of Michael Imoudou National Institute of Labour Studies (MINILS) where he made his impact. This was his last national assignment.
Chief Frank Kokori will be remembered for many things but top on that list was being among the Labour leaders that gave their all in order for our country to have democracy.
For his stoic and heroic struggle for the enthronement of democracy, he was arrested and detained by the military alongside other Labour leaders for spells of time under inhumane conditions.
Before his arrest and detention by the Abacha -government, Kokori was in the vanguard of Labour leaders who fashioned an alliance with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) on the understanding that then Congress President, Comrade Pascal Bafyau (now of blessed memory) would be vice president to Chief Abiola. Although Chief Abiola (due to circumstances) beyond his control) did not keep that part of the bargain, organised labour gave him their generous and unflinching support. This, coupled with Chief Abiola’ s own credentials gave him coast to coast victory at the polls in the freest election in the history of the country.
Nigeria Labour Congress was similarly in the vanguard of national resistance when the military scuttled Chief Abiola’ s election or victory. It was in execution of that resistance that Chief Kokori among other Labour leaders was arrested and incarcerated while others were hounded out of the country. The “lucky” ones were only put on the security watch list and were routinely harassed at their homes, airports and at public functions considered by the State to be subversive. At the risk of sounding immodest, among those arrested and incarcerated at such functions at Ilorin were Comrades Joe Ajaero and Chris Uyot, Deputy General of Congress. There were several others who suffered differing indignities for fighting for democracy.
Even while some of its leaders were in detention with Chief Abiola, Labour leaders did not give up on their struggle for enthronement of popular democracy.
For their “obduracy”, the organised labour paid a heavy price. The Nigeria Labour Congress and NUPENG for instance, were illegally dissolved by the military and their assets seized. Sole Administrators were appointed to oversee their affairs until 1999!
It is in light of this that we find it a big irony that those who collaborated with the military yesterday while Labour was in the trenches would have the audacity to say today that Labour has no business in politics. It is a shame they are allowed to eat their cake and have it because quite a number of them through the roof or the back door are in government or positions of influence. And clearly, the dilemmna in which we have found ourselves as a people and as a nation cannot be divorced from this syndrome of opportunism and messiah complex…same faces, same cases, same places ( Akinola Aguda).
Chief Kokori, a dogged and fearless fighter has played his role and gone, history has the next chapter.
Meanwhile, while the wheel of history turns, we urge the federal government and the Government of Delta State to immortalise him, for what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
Comrade Joe Ajaero