Special to USAfrica magazine (Houston) and USAfricaonline.com, first Africa-owned, US-based newspaper published on the Internet.
88 years strong, J.O.S Okeke, pillar of our diaspora in America.
By Chido Nwangwu
A few hours ago, earlier today, Friday June 3, 2022, I called an extraordinary man, a distinguished but retired Houston-area medical doctor, J.O.S Okeke, to wish him another happy birthday! He’s a truly selfless and exemplary leader. He’s a role model and guardian to many.
Essentially, I have distilled those lessons and more — which capture, in part, the resilent life of this diligent man who was born on June 3, 1934.
First and foremost, he is a good man who has made our community better through outstanding service and leadership.
Second, he always kept to time! In this age of the unfashionably late African syndrome popularly known as “African time”, you bet Dr. Okeke will be at any scheduled event or meeting10 minutes before the formal start. Unlike 95% of his kinsmen and compatriots, he is an embodiment of punctuality!
Third, for me, writing or speaking about Dr. J.O.S Okeke is a joyful excursion into a life of value; a life of commitment to humanity; a worthy reflection on a distinguished person who embodies the best traditions of selfless, dedicated and honest leadership and service to our community.
Fourth, it is joyful because, in many ways, he represents the reality and warm promise that we do not lack good men and women in the quest and struggle to optimize the existential options and competing agenda we face abroad and at home. Dr. Okeke is a good man. He’s and should be seen as a leadership role model for our folks
Fifth, it is joyful because, in an era where most of our leaders are users, liars and double-faced con artists, I have never seen Dr. Okeke dissemble, lie or obfuscate on the interests of the community. I saw and followed first-hand his advocacy for our community in the greater Houston area. He was respected by Houston’s first African-American Mayor Dr. Lee P. Brown. I served as an adviser on Africa business/community to the Mayor.
Sixth, it is joyful because, in a period where feeble, occasional, distant whistling are made by some masquerades who play community “leader” and in some cases say nothing at all, Dr. J.O.S Okeke spoke with timely lucidity and believable engagement as the leader of the Igbo diaspora. He is energetic.
Seventh, it is joyful to honor a man who sacrificed the peak hours and the restful times of his successful career as a medical doctor in the early 1990s to champion the structural establishment of the World Igbo Congress (the umbrella organization of the diaspora Igbo of south eastern Nigeria). He was the founding chairman; and I was at the Ichie Hall in Houston when he was elected. He helped give the Congress a reasonable toga of respect and clout. He did not gallivant around politicians from or inside Nigeria.
Eight, it is joyful to celebrate with this principled and strong-willed physician who refused to be sucked into the short-sighted indulgences of some of his peers who stayed away from building a better community.
Remarkably, no matter how many times our folks disappointed him he remained focused on the Igbo and Nigerian projects. J.O.S embraced, inspired and elevated the Igbo, Nigerian and African communities in Houston and beyond.
In this tribute, I have also drawn from my previous profile of him.This tribute will be incomplete without noting that he has recently faced some deaths in his immediate family.
To draw from the wisdom of the sages of our Aro heritage, permit me to say to our elder statesman J.O.S Okeke: May Your Lineage Endure!
•Dr. Chido Nwangwu, moderator of the Achebe Colloquium (Governance, Security, and Peace in Africa) December 7-8, 2012 at Brown University in Rhode Island, is author of the forthcoming 2022 book, MLK, Mandela & Achebe: Power, Leadership and Identity., is Founder & Publisher of the first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper on the internet, USAfricaonline.com, and established USAfrica in 1992 in Houston. He has appeared as analyst on CNN, SKYnews, Aljazeera, VOA, BET news, SABC. He served as an adviser on Africa business to Houston’s former Mayor Lee Brown. Follow him @Chido247