By Vera Enenche
Three things come to mind whenever his name is mentioned: hard work, generosity and sincerity. These are the three inseparable ‘triplets’ that adorn this gentle elder statesman. He’s a man of few words and a man of his word.
Chief Mike Okibe Onoja is like the golden tilapia that has no hiding place. In this entity called Nigeria, Onoja needs no introduction.
In fact, he had etched his name on a framed diamond scroll called posterity.
Like the proverbial Greek colossus, Onoja bestrides the narrow gate of technocracy, business and love for the family.
Since leaving civil service many years ago, Chief Onoja retired to his home, where he enjoys his image as a man of the people. During this period he continued to boost his acceptability among his people through philanthropic gestures.
He remains a force to reckon with in the nation political stratum even many years after his exit from the civil service sphere.
It is not surprising that years later, his name is being touted in high places and on the streets of Benue South as the likely next chief priest of the Idoma political shrine.
In the intervening years, Chief Onoja had acquitted himself creditably at home, and at the national stage so much so that in the face of the current faltering, confused and visionless administration in the state, nay, senatorial zone, the quest for purposeful leadership is looking in the direction of the kind of responsive and responsible leadership epitomised by him in his heydays as a civil servant.
With his many sterling antecedents, it is not surprising that there have been calls from different enclaves of the Benue South, persuading him to run for the upper chamber of the National Assembly (Senate) in 2019.
This accounts for his propensity to hit the ground and leave a mark in any position he occupies. Whether as a Planning Officer or a Permanent Secretary, he delivered concrete developmental objectives to the grassroots and he is a stickler for due process.
Determined to break the jinx of Idoma’s endless quest to mount the number one stool in Benue State, Onoja threw in the hat during the 2007 governorship election but he was ‘robbed’ by some party chieftains.
This was further confirmed during the public presentation of his biography, The Living Seed where a former deputy Governor of Benue State, Steven Lawani admitted that Chief Onoja, actually won the 2007 governorship election in Benue State.
No doubt, this is indeed a clarion call for a man of his caliber who is exposed to the workings of international and national politics of growth and development to heed to the call of the masses and serve humanity at that capacity.
Marks Of Mike
The quantum of Chief Onoja’s philanthropic gestures cannot be overemphasized.
He is a man with many developmental projects to his credit.
The elder statesman was said to be one of the very instruments in the establishment of Benue State University
Record has it that the Agama Agila’s commitment to human development would have spurred this contribution to the establishment of the NKST University, Mkar.
From his personal savings, Chief Onoja renovated his Alma mater, St. James Junior Seminary Gboko, and also single-handedly built a gigantic multipurpose hall for Agila Community School.
Chief Onoja’s contributions to his immediate constituency have gained national respect. His efforts to re-brand the phase of Idomaland prompted the construction of Chief Mike Okibe Onoja Road, GRA , Otukpo as well as the two kilometers road linking Agila to Okpoga in Okpokwu LGA.
In view of his proven developmental credentials, some analysts feel that Idoma will advance in no small measure with the statesman at the Red Chamber.
A man with national acceptability and respect, Okibe is well regarded as a man with intimidating resume.
A peep into his world shows a man of destiny, a philanthropist, a seasoned administrator, a lover of his people and a symbol of inter-ethnic unity.
His widespread commendation was when he voluntarily stepped down for the incumbent Senator representing the Benue South Senatorial District, David Mark during the 2014 PDP primaries given the indispensability of the latter’s assignment at the present Senate.
He is also a man of quotable sound bites. In one of his public outings in Benue State, he famously declared his reason for bowing out to the erstwhile Senate President in 2014 thus: “For now, power rotation is necessary in our nascent democracy so that every section will feel the impact of governance.
However, there will come a time this won’t be an issue again and one can hold on to power for the rest of his life if voted for; that will be when our democracy has mature to a certain level, but at the moment, we are not there yet.”
Having occupied strategic positions at the federal level, the retired permanent secretary at the Federal Ministry of Defence has commendable records cutting across every echelon.
This earned him the priceless National Award of Commander of the Order of the Niger, CON, by the then Obasanjo-led administration.
Mike Absolute, as he was popularly called by his peers is a very successful man whose success flows not from his material possession but from his love and kindness and his invaluable contributions to the development of Nigeria in general and Benue
State in particular.
A quick look at his profile would convince you that this ‘gentle giant’ from Agila is indeed a rounded peg in a rounded as the next political leader of Benue South.
Mike Onoja, a portrait
On the 29 of September, 1948 at Agila, Ado Local Government Area of Benue State, a bouncing baby boy was born to the family of Chief and Mrs Onoja Okibe. This baby boy was Okibe who was Christened Michael. He grew up to become Chief Michael Okibe Onoja, the Agama of Agila and Akanaba K’Idoma.
His educational background:
In 1954, Mike Onoja began his formal education at St Peter’s Catholic Primary School Agila, and then proceeded to Methodist Central School, Igumale in 1960 after which he moved on to St Mary’s School, Otukpo in 1961 to complete his primary education in 1962.
He then gained admission into St. James Junior Seminary, then in Keffi, where he obtained his London GCE O’Level papers with distinction.
Young Onoja proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University Zaria to study Economics, graduating in 1972 with flying colors.
In 1975, Chief Onoja enrolled at Boulder University, Colorado, USA where he obtained a PGD in Econometrics. Not satisfied, he went from there to Williams College, Massachusset, USA for his master’s degree in Development Economics in 1976.
A man of wealth experiences
Chief Mike Onoja started as a Planning Officer in the then Ministry of National Planning in 1972.
He served as a Secretary of the special military tribunal, Kaduna Zone, 1984 – 1985 where he was commended by the Federal Government for extraordinary performance.
Also he served as deputy secretary and as principal secretary in the ministry of defense in 1986 and1987 respectively.
Progressively, he was promoted twice as deputy director and as director between 1999 and 1992. His hard work and dedication to duty did not escape the watchful eyes of his superior officers as he was promoted to the position of Permanent Secretary in 1994.
As Permanent Secretary, he served in two key Ministry of Defense as well as Power and Steel. He also served in the presidency as Permanent Secretary, Economic Affairs.
Chief Mike Okibe took the golden exit door out of the federal civil service voluntarily after putting 31 years of first class service to the nation and to humanity.
NKST University Mkar: It is on record that Chief Onoja contributed towards the establishment of the above University.
St. James Junior Seminary Gboko: Chief Mike Onoja is also instrumental to the upliftment and rehabilitation of his alma mater by making generous contribution.
Benue State University, Makurdi: The Chief has been very magnanimous in his contribution to the educational development of the State. In fact, he was very active and played a key role in the formative stages in the establishment of BSU. He used his Strategically placed position and connection to securing the required approval for the take off of the University, hence he has assisted in the training of indigenes and non-indigenes home and in the Diaspora.
Agila Community School: It is pertinent to note that Chief Onoja single handedly built a gigantic multipurpose hall for the school.
St. Peter’s Catholic Church Agila: When the need arose for a befitting place of worship for the spiritual upliftment of his people, Chief Mike Okibe once again single handedly built the magnificent St. Peter’s Catholic Church and the Parish Priest’s residence at Agila. He also extended his benevolence to numerous other Parishes of the Catholic Church and other Churches throughout the State and beyond.
Infrastructural Development: The Chief single handedly constructed and tarred a road in GRA Otukpo which in appreciation was named after him by Otukpo Local Government.
He also single handedly constructed a two kilometers road in Agila that links Okpoga, in Okpokwu L.G.A. the same road is called Director General by the local people that use it daily.
His Chieftaincy Titles
Chief Mike Onoja is a recipient of the following titles:
Agama of Agila: The Ado traditional council in 1994 celebrated their son with the honorific title of Agama y’Agila, meaning War General of Agila.
Akanaba K’idoma : The Idoma Area traditional Council through the late His Royal Highness the Och’Idoma Agabaidu Abraham Ajene Okpabi, conferred on him the title Akanaba K’Idoma meaning the Supporting Pillar of Idoma land.
His Religion And Family Life
Chief Mike Okibe Onoja is a devoted Christian of the Catholic faith. No wonder, his birth concided with the Catholic feast day of Saint Michael, the archangel.
He is happily married to Chief (Mrs) Justina Onoja and they are blessed with five well-bred andhigh flying children.
Idoma Youths Back Him
As the preparation for the 2019 general election gathers momentum, youths of Idoma-Igede extraction have called on the elder statesman and renowned philanthropist to contest for the Benue South Senatorial seat.
The group, under the auspices of Idoma Conscience said the one-time Federal Permanent Secretary and All Progressive Congress (APC) chieftain is the only person that is capable of brining back the zone’s lost glory.
IC in a Statement signed by its coordinator, Wilson Onazi says, said the Idoma-Igede nation can not afford to toy with the future of the younger generation by allowing incompetent people who have failed in their previous assignments to continue in determining the future of the people of Benue South.
He said, “We have been in search for a credible leader, who will succeed Senator David Mark in 2019. In fact, we have set a precedence that the Idoma-Igede nation must send the most qualified persons to the National Assembly, both in the house of representatives and in the Senate. From our findings, we have discovered that the most qualified of all Idoma-Igede sons living is Chief Mike Okibe Onoja.”
Onazi says the group shall lead a large delegation of over one thousand Idoma- Igede Youths across the Nine Local Government Areas of the Senatorial District to persuade Chief Mike Onoja to contest the Senate seat, 2019.
The statement further called on all well meaning Idoma-Igede sons and daughters to join in convincing Chief Onoja to accept the offer.