Chido Nwakanma on his positive and pleasant memory of Dr Mike Okolo, the Pan-Atlantic University don who passed on last week.
One week later, the shock of the sudden departure of Dr Mike Okolo is wearing out. But not so the pain and bewilderment. And not the pathos.
Dr Okolo, hitherto Dean of the School of Media & Communication, Pan Atlantic University, passed to the beyond on 5 June 2022, suddenly and without any visible or known ailment. It stunned his immediate and extended family including the university he had served for so long.
Okolo was a corporate communication consultant with vast experience in all aspects of corporate/public affairs. He had a track record in Internal Communication, Issues and Crisis Management, Event Management and Communication Audits. He also taught Public Speaking and Presentation Skills.
Okolo had a Phd Sciences from the University of Benin (1982), MSc Strategic Communication of the University of Central Lancashire (2014), and a 2020 PhD in Communication from the University of Navarra, Spain.
He was the pioneer Corporate Affairs Manager of the Lagos Business School and also served as Alumni Relations Director. He was a classroom maestro: fair, firm, and considerate.
Visiting is painful because of seeing how this loss affected his partner, friend and wife, Mrs Rosemary Okolo, erstwhile Registrar of the Pan Atlantic University and faculty in the School of Management. They were the ideal couple, even sharing lunch time together.
Visit you must, though, bearing in mind the message of Solomon in Eccl. 7:2-4:
“It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”
Dr Mike Okolo was the Dean of the School of Media & Communication. It was a richly deserved appointment in 2020 after the NUC forced on him a circuitous journey to a second PhD that paid no heed to his contributions in setting up the school. He stepped down the first time following NUC refusal on the grounds of lacking a PhD in communication, and then set out to get it.
That journey epitomized Dr Okolo. He was focused, dedicated and committed. When and if he sets out on a course, he stays on it until accomplishment.
He was dapper in the best traditions of the corporate world.
The Fundamental Fs of Life mattered to the late academic. The Fundamental Fs are faith, family and friends. There are two other Fs of fame and fortune, but the Fundamental Fs speak to the essence of life.
The Three Fs that mattered to Dr Okolo play out boldly in his passing. Even in their sorrow, the Okolo family not only affirm their faith but also evangelise. As you sign the condolence register, they offer you an Opus Dei prayer card. Okolo belonged to Opus Dei, a prelature of the Catholic Church that urges Christians to find God in their daily lives and sanctify their work. “Wherever your yearnings, your work, your affections are, that is the place for your daily encounter with Christ. It is there in the midst of the most material things of the earth, that we must sanctify ourselves, serving God and all people”, in the words of Saint Josemaria Escriva, founder.
I had the privilege of teaching two Okolo children as undergraduates. They reflected good breeding or what I now term WBU children. Well Brought Ups (WBU) are a walking statement of the values of their families. These children were ideal students: they were studious, dedicated and focused. They comported themselves so decorously no one could tell that their parents were part of senior management, unlike many children in such positions. No surprise that they graduated with the highest honours.
Dr Okolo had a stern appearance, until he offers his beatific smile. His smile is warm, friendly and reassuring. Oh, I should say was. It is still difficult to speak of him in the past tense.
Okolo led a team of post graduate students to Birmingham City University as part of course requirements. Years of teaching professionals guided his conduct. He provided guidelines, then allowed everyone to express themselves.
Okolo was scrupulous and meticulous in every endeavour. He cared about nutrition and fitness. On that trip, he enjoyed the long walks on the campus of the University of Oxford. Walking was a regular pastime. It was thus strange to hear of a sudden cough and heart attack as the immediate cause of his death. This life is sochukwuma.
Take heart, dear Okolo family that Dr Mike left behind. You have a solid foundation of nurture and extensive goodwill that business managers now recognise as a tangible asset with strong valuation. Take heart, SMC family, academic and professional colleagues. The memory of Dr Mike Okolo will remain positive and pleasant.
The remains of Dr Mike Okolo will be interred on 24 June 2022 after masses in Lagos and Asaba.
Mike Okolo: A memory positive and pleasant