“Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die”
Isaiah 57: 1-2
We are gathered today to pay our last respect and bid a final farewell to a legal colossus and an astute legal mind - late James Enojo Ocholi SAN.
“Let no one weep for me, or celebrate my funeral with mourning; for I still live, as I pass to and fro through the mouths of men”
A cursory inquest into the life of Late James Enojo Ocholi SAN will reveal that he came from a very humble background. Late James Ocholi SAN was born on 26th November, 1960 to the family of Mr. Mrs. James Momoh Odoh of Dekina LGA, Kogi State. His father, Late Pa. James Momoh Odoh was one of the few Nigerians who rose to become an Acting Treasurer of the Agriculture Department of the Native Authority. He ensured that the late James Enojo Ocholi SAN and his siblings were provided and cared for despite his meagre income. He further ensured that they had a sound education from good public schools within their community.
The loss of his Father, Pa James in 1978 shortly after graduation from Secondary School dealt a hard blow to his quest for education. Despite this sad event, he remained determined to pursue a University degree and was able to obtain a scholarship from the then Benue State Government to study Law at the University of Jos. He later obtained his Law Degree in 1985 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1986.
His formative years of active private legal practice took place in the small city of Ankpa, Kogi State. His love for knowledge and his distinct advocacy skills led to the astronomical growth of his practice and precipitated his sojourn to Lagos and subsequently Abuja in search of the Golden Fleece. He has served as a Solicitor to several top companies, communities and individuals where he distinguished himself as an advocate per excellence and a Crusader for social justice and rule of law. He was a perfect gentleman and a consummate Bar-man who upheld the ethics of the legal profession. He has contributed immensely to the growth and development of legal jurisprudence in Nigeria through his illuminating advocacy in several decided cases which have become locus classicus for settled principles of law.
He was elevated to the prestigious rank of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 2007 in recognition of his exemplary knowledge of the law and sterling leadership qualities. As a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, he maintained a high level of discipline and ethical conduct in all his dealings with his Brother Silks, junior colleagues and Clients thereby laying credence to the aphorism that “It is not the hood that makes the monk”. He was a consummate Bar Man and contributed immensely to the development of the Bar. His tenure as Chairman of the NBA Disciplinary Committee, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja was very remarkable. He dealt with petitions brought before him fairly and transparently.
His contributions are not limited to legal jurisprudence, as his tentacles of benevolence and love for humanity was recognized by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR who, in recognition of his modest achievements and sterling records, appointed him an Honourable Minister in October, 2015. He contributed immensely to the growth and development of the nation during his short stint as the Honourable Minister of State for Labour and Employment.
He led an exemplary Christian life and was very active in church. Little wonder he was appointed the Pioneer President of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International, Ankpa Chapter and later rose to become the National Secretary of this religious body. He recognized the awesome manifestation of God in his life and was steadfast in his religious beliefs. He was a recipient of several outstanding awards from the Church during his lifetime.
The devastating news of our Brother’s sudden tragic demise as well as that of his wife, Blessing and son, Joshua on March 6, 2016 came to all of us as a rude shock. I am still certain that most of us are yet to come to terms with the reality of this sad situation. The Press Statement by the Federal Road Safety Commission [FRSC] confirms that our late brother James Ocholi SAN, his wife and son lost their lives as a result of an auto crash which occurred along the Kaduna-Abuja expressway due to a rear-tire bust which caused their vehicle to skid off the road and somersault several times into the bush. This tragic accident brought to a sad end the life of an eminent silk described as one firmly rooted in the service of God and humanity.
Our late brother James Enojo Ocholi SAN was a loving husband and father. He loved his wife Blessing and their children without reservation. He had on several occasions publicly expressed his gratitude to his wife for being a constant support and a pillar to his success story. He was once quoted to have said the following about his wife: “In Blessing Fatima Ocholi I have seen the benefits of being married to a woman who loves God. She not only came into my life when I had nothing but all through by her prayers and steadfast support she became one of the pillars of my success as she partook in the challenges of my professional pursuit”.
The pain of losing our brother James Enojo Ocholi SAN is made worse by the death of his wife and son. Death we know is an inevitable end. Our late brother James, his wife and son were obviously too young to die. If we had a say in the matter, we would wish that they lived to ripe old age. But God knows best and it has pleased God to call them home.
We thank God for the life He lived. His life was a gift to the legal profession, Nigeria and indeed to humanity. He inculcated the core values of discipline, love and tolerance in his children. They say the apple does not fall too far from the tree. We hope and pray that his surviving children will grow and become living testimonies of the core values and principles which our brother, late James Ocholi SAN epitomized and was widely acclaimed for.
There is no gainsaying the fact that this erudite legal icon lived a life worthy of emulation and I enjoin everyone here present to weep not at his demise, but rather to celebrate his life and the worthy legacies he left behind. The legal profession has lost a great legal mind and yet another invaluable gem.
As we pay our last respects to this worthy Statesman and celebrate his exemplary life of servitude, we should continue to emulate his character and pray for the gentle repose of his soul.
As we end this prayer, thankful for what has been and grateful for that which is to come, I wish to end with this quote:
“If we have been pleased with life, we should not be displeased with death, since it comes from the hand of the same master”
Adieu late James Enojo Ocholi SAN. Sleep on in the bosom of the Lord till we meet to part no more.
AUGUSTINE ALEGEH SAN, FCIArb.[UK]
PRESIDENT, NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION