Damian Sunday Okoli
Nna Damian Ohanyido Okoli the Akubueze of Ufumaland and the Head of the Ohanyido-Okoli House.
The Making of a Nigerian Statesman
Damian Sunday Ohanyido Okoli popularly aka ‘Guineaboy’ (born November 16, 1932) was a Nigerian Politician, Businessman, and Statesman who also carved a niche for himself as Post-colonial African Philosopher.
He was born in Ufuma, Orumba North Local Government of the present day Anambra State of Nigeria and attended only the standard primary school at Ajalli, a neighboring town. He was of an early Catholic pedigree of the pre-independence era of Nigeria. One of his Parish priests / teachers (1945-49) had such a profound impact on his spiritual and moral development that many years later, he was among those that championed the cause for his recognition , beatification and subsequent canonization to Roman Catholic sainthood by Pope John Paul II. This man was the blessed Rev. Father Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi St. Cyprian Tansi. Despite the fact that he came from the popular and ancient Ndigbo family line of Chukwu-aka , his parents were not well to do and as such, he could not further his studies. He worked at various times as a sawyer, carpenter and finally as a driver and political activist. He was a strong Zikist, and was one of the young men at the forefront of pro- independence youth groups of the National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroons (N.C.N.C.) founded by Nigeria's elder Statesmen. Herbert Macauly and Owelle the Rt. Hon. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik).
He was arrested by the colonial British Government agents in 1956 for subversion and was imprisoned for 3 months in Aba. Infact the history of the youthful wind of Nigerian Independence struggle cannot be complete without mentioning him and men like M.C.K. Ajuluchukwu from the Eastern province of the country.
During the Biafran - Nigerian civil war, he worked for the Biafran government as a Transport agent while his close compatriot Chinua Achebe worked as an ambassador. During the last days of the war, he was known to have used his transport vehicles to ferry many Ndigbo families in the warfront from massacre at the hands of the invading Federal (Nigerian) forces. He lost two of his drivers in the process and narrowly escaped from being assassinated by saboteurs working for the opposing side. He lost his transport empire and finally fled and hid in his home town of Ufuma. For his selfless assistance to many families in the thick of the war , he was nominated among the list of Africans of the Millennium by many Nigerian BBC listeners in 1999 - 2000.
Immediately after the war in 1970 he bravely availed himself of the opportunity of starting a new life with his young wife in the Northern Nigerian city of Jos. He started from scratch by doing odd jobs and later being employed as a driver . His industrious nature again came to his aid , and in a span of ten years he was able to start his own transport business. He became a prominent Igbo community leader and an inspiration to a lot of his townsmen who followed his footsteps after the war.
Chief Ohanyido Okoli is considered to have been a strong influence on the Neo-African Renaissance called Afrisecal movement or Afrisecaism. His numerous classic political speeches in Igbo and English are troves for historians, students of African Politics and Philosophy . Alongside the likes of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Dr Dennis Otti and Prof. Iwuala ,he was a motivator of "Izu Umunna" Society the Pan-Igbo cultural group that helped to mid-wife the birth of the apex "Ohaneze Ndigbo".
He was a staunch Roman catholic and hardly ever missed any masses. He was one of the Pillars of the church in Nigeria especially in Jos and Ufuma. He was one of those that helped to build the Church of Immaculate Conception (C.I.C.), Zaramaganda, and was a close friend of the late Arch-Bishop G.G. Ganaka. of his Arch-Diocese. In 1987 , he had for personal reason humbly declined an opportunity for Knighthood in the church.
Chief Ohanyido Okoli was the recipient of over 5 honorary African Chieftaincy titles from Igboland , Yorubaland, and Beromland. He was primarily the Akubueze I of Ufumaland. He was until his death the Patriarch of the Ohanyido Okoli Clan and one the Elders of the Ancient Chukwu-aka Dynasty among the Ndigbos of Africa. He was a known opponent of the late Nigerian maximum ruler Sani Abacha and yet , the despot was known to have described him as a true statesman.
He was married to Chief (Mrs.). Caroline Ohanyido Okoli, with whom he had 6 children among whom are Dr Francis Okechukwu Ohanyido and Chief Ekene Ohanyido. His only surviving male sibling is Prince Clement N. Okoli a famous Nigerian children's book publisher based in Aba.
Some pamphlet works
- Philosophical Works
- The Nigerian Story 1958
- Crying is a weapon, 1971
- The Goat for New Yam Festival , 1972
--- Death In 1997 he suffered a stroke and was partially paralysed and finally died on December 9th 1998 from the complications as a result of a re-stroke. Unfortunately, he was too ill to physically witness the canonization of his former teacher and mentor to sainthood on the 22nd March 1998 by Pope John Paul II.