by Emeka Onwuocha
He had the gift of effortless resolution. He made the rigorous tight schedules and numerous sleepless nights that came with working closely with the President, much easier to accomplish.
And with much the same ideology, it was perhaps only natural that by no special introduction, we soon started sharing thoughts and marshalling views via correspondence, email and phone conversations, for many years, without actually meeting.
And so, six years ago, one such phone conversation fell on the eve of his birthday. And since we both happened to be in Abuja, he invited me to join him for breakfast the next morning, the 6th of August, his birthday, and our first actual meeting.
As became the norm thereafter, we spent more time that day in intense discussion than on the well-presented delicacies. The very last ones left in the well-appointed hotel restaurant, we were politely reminded hours later that our ‘breakfast’ was infringing on lunchtime preparations.
From there our connection gained acceleration. He introduced me to the then Acting-President, weeks later, at an event in Lagos, and I received privileged access to contribute views and ideas, at any time.
Our engagements and meetings intensified, sometimes I would be on the road, across the country, to various infrastructural projects I was then privately handling, and a phone call from him would change my course, to the nearest airport, on the next flight to Abuja for an urgent meeting.
When I reluctantly left my business, at his urging, a few months later, for my first stint in government, having been appointed Special Assistant on Research to President Goodluck Jonathan, and part of the Speech Writing team, it was on the conviction it was the right and timely thing to do, to further the development of our Fatherland, more so as I was to work alongside him.
And so our relationship progressed, from comrade, to brother and senior colleague.
There was not a day of regrets.
Through the years, though he was progressively physically impaired by strong ailment, our pace and involvement never slackened.
In research, speech writing and open-ended strategic engagement, it was a pleasure to give my all; to my work with him and in our work for the administration. There was little time to fret, when your best contribution did not make implementation; there was always the next challenge, right ahead.
Working with him, was sharing with him: from the office to the house, from meetings in The Villa to working trips around the world, whether by Keke-Napep or by Cessna, and away for weeks from our anxious families – he deepened my passion for delivery above benefit.
When I left his house for the airport to embark on a previously scheduled trip, late on Tuesday, April 7, 2015, he maintained his trademark calmness after our routine brief, as he doubly enquired of my return date.
It was to be our last meeting in this earthly realm.
A day later, just after 4am that fateful Thursday morning, a call from his bedside broke the respite of my freezing London hotel room.
Oronto Douglas, the great sage, erudite orator, amiable revolutionary, my senior colleague and partner-in-thought, was gone.
As if he knew his time was short, he had packed a punch into his 49 years; impacting much, and touching more lives than many ever could, even in two life times.
He was an epitome of dedication, a master of resolution, a dogged fighter, and a worthy and trusted friend, leader and partner.
He will be dearly missed.
For now it maybe we have lost a great voice; but forever by his message shall we be fired.
For Oronto, till our last day… we shall never stop.
God bless his good soul.
Emeka Onwuocha is Special Assistant, Research, to President Goodluck Jonathan and Member of the Presidential Speech Writing Team, and has worked very closely, in the same office, with Oronto Douglas in the last five years. Originally an Estate Surveyor and Property Developer, he was involved in Agriculture and Rural Infrastructure Turnkey Projects before joining the Presidency. He is also a trained speech writer.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.