John Odey: Exit of a Jolly Good Fellow

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I am not one of those who suddenly eulogizes bad people because an African popular maxim says “you don’t speak ill of the dead” . However, even the darkest minds in the world cannot help but proclaim that John Odey was a jolly good fellow.

I seek the pardon of those who may perceive my eulogy of this great friend of mine as an overdrive. I have never encountered a human being who was so high up there and yet so down to earth and downright humble. I met John Odey in 2005 when he resumed duties as National Publicity Secretary of the PDP. At that time, there were still good men in that Party. As a senior staff working in the Publicity Department, I had the privilege of learning from the decency and impeccable work ethic of this gem of a man. John Odey was obsessed with punctuality. It doesn’t matter if there was anything to be done at the moment but you had to be by your desk by 9.am on the dot. If you are not, be rest assured that the next call was going to be from him. And if you had the lazy mindset that working hours were restricted to the hours of 9′-5, you were in for a shocker because the next huge task may just stroll your way at the dot of 5pm and John never accepted excuses, only results.

Odey gave me my first major break in life. He let down his guard before me, believing that trusting a subordinate is a way of motivation. John gave me a sense of value beyond what I ever imagined of myself. He believed I had solutions to everything. Even his closest family members and friends were made to think that I was almost indispensable. As a boss, John never listened to the opinions of others while evaluating me. He stuck with his own perception of me. He knew about my strengths. He also knew my weaknesses, one of which is that I love the pleasures of life. So it was not out of place for him to occasionally stock up on vintage wines and get his wife to tune up the nice dishes and then call me to invite my friends over to his house for a splendid time.

John Odey had zero tolerance for incompetence and he wasn’t blessed with the talent to express such nicely. If you fell short of his expectations, he was quick to upbraid you right there and then follow it up with a good line of humor to wipe off any tension earlier created. He will shout on me if I draft a statement that was out of tune and drop his favorite tease line ” you this Benue Man”

He believed in the delegation of duties and had a way of making each person relevant. Odey made me the official Compere of all PDP functions including Presidential ones. In essence, JOHN Odey made me Speak before Kings!!!. He gave me such powers as to make Presidents, Governors and A-list statesmen follow instructions I gave!!!. I remember an incident at the Launch of the PDP Presidential campaign in Lagos in 2007. Odey handed over the microphone to me even after the Party had paid large sums to a popular broadcaster. The then DG of the Campaign Chief Bode George protested vehemently but John stood his ground and urged me to carry on talking. At the end of the rally, Bode George called me aside to say ” congratulations young man, I never had the slightest idea you could do this well”.

Talking about the 2007 campaign, John Odey did something to me that has engraved his name across my heart forever. He stood by me when everyone else was tightening a noose around my neck. As the Director of Publicity of the Yar Adua Campaign, Odey handed over cash of N1.8m to pay a TV station for some coverage. I got to the station and instead of dragging the cash in a Ghana must go bag, I parked the car by the gate and went in to call the cashier to come get it. Within 5 minutes of my return, the doors to my car were wide open with the cash gone. I called John who incidentally was with Bode George to report what happened. I could hear Bode George saying I made up the story and I must refund the money or get fired. I could also hear John saying ” that guy has handled hundreds of millions for me before without blemish and I don’t think he can do this with N1.8m” on my arrival, John Odey pulled out his checkbook from his drawer and wrote a Cheque for the amount and asked me to go pay the TV station. Such trust has only been replicated to me by my elder brother and friend, Mr. Terry Waya who happens to be his close friend.

John Odey was a dependable rock in my life. There were times some disgruntled colleagues of mine who felt threatened with my closeness to him initiated several anonymous text messages and written petitions against me to him. He ignored them but always showed them to me. When they saw that they met a brick wall in him, they started writing such to the National chairman who always referred such write-ups to Odey. Funnily, Odey always passed such petitions to me to help him draft responses. I had a boss who gave me written petitions against me to write what his response will be!!!!.

Today I mourn a boss who became an elder brother and ultimately a father. I sorrow for the demise of a human being whose focus in life wasn’t a primitive accumulation of wealth but the upliftment of others. I feel the pain that John left us when he was barely 60. For someone who was very conscious of his health to succumb to Cancer is really regrettable. When I last spoke to him after a long while, he summoned the strength to scream my name and expressed how happy he was talking to me. He assured me he was getting better and never forgot to tell me that my brother Terry Waya was always with him in hospital in Dubai. Beneath that sound of bravado, I could feel a struggle with the ailment but was consoled that at least I made him smile one more time.

John, you gave me trust I ‘ll ever treasure,
You gave me hope I ll never lose
You gave me courage that will forever shape me
And you believed in me when no one else did.
Finally, your exit has brought forth tears that will forever flow
Rest In Peace my hero, my Legend, my Everything.

Kenneth Gyado writes from Abuja

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