A Tribute to my Oga, Brother, Friend and Mentor

I am still struggling to come to terms with the situation in which I find myself.

I walked into the Centre for Law Enforcement Education (now CLEEN Foundation) in June 2002 for an interview for Program Officer, Gender. Mr Innocent Chukwuma, Mrs Josephine Effah Chukwuma and a UNILAG Sociology Department lecturer conducted the interview.

I had no experience in the sector. I remember Mr Chukwuma asking me, ‘Where do you see yourself in the next five years?’
I told him I want to be one of the best in my field.
He smiled.

My journey in the sector spanned August 2002 when I resumed at CLEEN Foundation until I left in August 2015. I remember getting restless at a point, and Mr Chukwuma counselled me to remain focused, to ‘put my head down, get my hands dirty and learn the job’. He told me several times, ‘Kemi pay attention and learn this job – travel opportunities would always be there.’ I am who I am today because he invested his time and resources in me. He led, guided, coached and mentored me — till his last days. Even in his passing, I continue to learn from him.

When Emma Ezeazu passed, I remember having a conversation with him about how I dread anything happening to him. He laughed it off and said to me, ‘Don’t worry, there’s still so much we need to do.’ So I ask myself, ‘Is it that he’s completed his tasks at this end of the spectrum?.’ If that is the case – then he finished too early – like many great people.

There are some key takeaways I learnt working and relating with Oga:

Being deliberate and strategic: CLEEN Foundation’s growth was not an accident; it took investing in the organization – processes, staff, structures, networks, etc. When the discussion around the setting up of Oluaka started – he told me that youth unemployment, lack of skills always featured as part of causative factors for criminality, youth restiveness when CLEEN organized workshops, conferences. Setting up Oluaka was one way of addressing these issues. In 2019 Oga, myself, Mark White and Bob Arnot had series of meetings reviewing the landscape of support to public safety and security environment in the country and the region – and we decided to set up a new entity which we registered.

Collaboration and Partnerships were at the heart of his engagements. In my early years at CLEEN, he advised me early about being open to collaborations and partnerships because it reinforces you. CLEEN being part of Altus and APCOF are examples of the impact of alliances and partnerships that supported the organization and extended its network across the continent and globe. He would constantly remind me about the birds in the sky and how easily they navigate the sky without collisions.

Humility and a large heart: He would always put others forward to take the shine. In recent times because of somethings I was passing through, he kept reminding me about the need to have a large heart and that things would always come around. He would always remind me not to be in a hurry to decide because I would need to own it once I do take any decision.

We had our ups and downs, but we always managed to navigate it. I relied on him to be my sounding board and voice of reason on crucial issues – even till the end. So I choose not to say goodbye, but good night as you join the hosts of angels to cheer those left behind (especially Madam and the Girls) on as they continue to run the race of life.
Hopefully, when the trumpet sounds for us – we would be able to inform you that the Nigeria Police Force has been reformed!
Patriarchy has been dislodged.
Journey well, Sir.