Elder Bob Francis Ozaka: A Personification of Integrity and Service

Elder Bob Francis Ozaka: A Personification of Integrity and Service

Elder Bob Francis Ozaka: A Personification of Integrity and Service

This piece titled Elder Bob Francis Ozaka: A Personification of Integrity and Service is Written By Etete, Enideneze

Humility, integrity and dedication, virtues innate in some persons, though could also be acquired, might not easily be faked by those who lack moral rectitude. Whichever way, contemporary society where moral decay is one of the banes of smooth social relations and effective leadership, needs ethical rebirth.

Elder Bob Francis Ozaka, personified these and other charismatic traits in private and public life. He was a stickler to ethics, accountability and productivity.

A descent, modest and peaceful man, the 81-year-old Ozaka, died peacefully in his house, February 26, 2023, having accomplished his mission on earth.

He was born July 5, 1942 to Late Elder Francis Asimigibia of Igbogene-Epie and Late Mrs. Idoghu Mariam, Nee Ogon of Agudama-Epie, all in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

Elder Bob Ozaka’s early education traversed three missionary schools from 1948 to 1956. He started at Saint Barnabas’ Primary School, Igbogene-Epie, left for Saint Luke’s Primary School, Agudama-Epie, and ended at Central School, Okordia-Zarama. He obtained First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC) at the latter school in Okordia-Zarama, with flying colours.

This feat, made his tutor, Mr. S. S. Ojoko, to pay for his entrance examination. The young Bob, was then taking to Enitonna High School in Port-Harcourt by his business tycoon uncle, late Rufus Ogio. Bob’s career in that secondary school lasted from 1957 to 1961 when he obtained Cambridge West African School Certificate. There again, he broke records.

In fact, many of his early school mates, including Elder Silvanus Moab Etete, attest that Bob Ozaka was one of the youngest, and about the most brilliant pupil in their set at Saint Luke’s School, Agudama-Epie.

Little wonder, soon after obtaining Cambridge WASC, he proceeded to School of Hygiene, Lagos in 1962. He graduated with a Royal Society Diploma in Public Health (Sanitary Inspection option) in 1964, and and worked with the Federal Ministry of Health, Lagos, for five years.

Thereafter, he proceeded to Warren Wilson College, Swannanoa, North Carolina in United States of America, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Sociology and Anthropology in 1971, as one of the best graduating students.

He subsequently secured employment, as a Sanitary Officer and Social Worker in Buncombe County Health Department in North Carolina, USA.

For a better career, he went to University of North Carolina, USA, where he was the first African student. He obtained a Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Public Health Service Administration from the university in 1974.

With the M.Sc., Ozaka was employed as a Trainee-manager in Beacon Blankets Company Limited in Swannanoa, North Carolina, USA.

To realize his interest in contributing to health service delivery in Nigeria, he returned to Fatherland in 1974, amid warm reception by Igbogene, Agudama and Epie-Atissa in general.

Soon after returning to Nigeria, he had a brief stint as Administrative Officer in the defunct Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO).

A high flyer, Ozaka later became an employee of the Rivers State Government, first as an Administrative Officer, from 1975 to 1977 when he resigned. He later became Company Secretary in Delta Rubber Company Limited, owned by Rivers State.

His undying passion for the health sector rekindled, as he served as pioneer Secretary of the Rivers State Health Management Board in 1979.

From that year upwards, the ace administrator served the Rivers State Government as Vice Principal (Administration), Rivers State School of Health Technology, Port-Harcourt, for ten years, and later Deputy Director (Personnel), Ministry of Health. He also held deputy directorship positions in other ministries in the old Rivers State Civil Service.

Elder Bob Francis Ozaka, left indelible footprints of his decorum, competence and effective leadership, in all the aforementioned places he worked.

As one of the top echelons deployed to Bayelsa State on creation in 1996, Ozaka played key roles in supporting the military administrations and later the administration of Late Chief D. S. P Alamieyeseigha, to lay the foundation for development of the state.

Elder Bob Ozaka did so in his capacities, as member of various committees, including that of Inventory and Asset Sharing; pioneer Director-General in 1996, later as pioneer Permanent Secretary in 1998.

He also played pivotal roles in the state, through his position as Head of Service from October 18, 1998 to 2002 when he retired meritoriously, amid panoply.

His periods of service in all the offices he handled were marked with effective and efficient service delivery, arising from provision of funds, facilities, discipline, prudency, personnel development, priotization of welfare, and cordial labour relations.

The sterling feats in public service earned Ozaka many awards and recognitions from various organisations, besides serving as patron to governmental and non-governmental organisations.

After retirement, Bob Ozaka’s traits of integrity and hard work, earned him membership and commissionerhip of the Federal Character Commission, for two terms from 2003 to 2012. He later served as Chairman, Bayelsa Civil Service Commission from 2012 to 2017.

Ozaka rendered political and advocacy services as well. He was a Returning Officer for Local Government Election in 1990 in the old Rivers State. In 1994, he served as Member and Supervisory Councillor, Caretaker Committee in the old Yenagoa Local Government Council, in the military era, a position he held until 1996.

During the military eras, in old Rivers State, he was part of advocacy movements for creation of Bayelsa State; delineation of more House of Assembly Constituencies, which brought about creation of Yelga Constituency One for Epie-Atissa; besides creation of new electoral wards.

Although the Federal Military Government did not create a Local Government for Epie-Atissa, Yenagoa Local Government Area was reduced to six clans, just as the city became state capital on October 6, 1996, courtesy, Late General Sani Abacha.

Ozaka was also involved in the political peace-deal that led to the zoning of Yelga Constituency One’s Seat in the House of Assembly between Epie and Atissa, right from the 1999 transition to civil rule until date.

The amiable personality peacefully co-existed with his Igbogene people, and contributed to communal and ethnic development programmes. He supported the education of a number of relatives and non-relatives, as well as facilitated employment for some qualified persons, into public and private organisations within and outside Bayelsa State. However, his people craved for more.

In Church of God Mission International Incorporated, where he was an ordained Elder, he made modest financial contributions. The devotee, also spearheaded establishment of branches in Rivers and Bayelsa States.

Untill his death, Elder Ozaka was married to Elder (Mrs.) Salome Ozaka, NEE, Marcus of Ibelebiri in Ogbia. Their union begat four men and eight grandchildren, besides many foster children they adopted from relatives. Also left to mourn him are two siblings.

The funeral of Elder Bob Francis Ozaka began April 24, 2023, with a public lecture in his honour. Among other obsequies is Interment today, Friday, April 28, 2023, when relatives and sympathizers from far and near will give last respect to the ethics Czar and servant-leader.

Indeed, Bob Ozaka was a worthy public servant. Therefore, the call is on Bayelsa State Government to name an important civil service edifice or a street in Yenagoa City, after him. That way, the astute administrator and his ideals could be immortalized.

*Etete Enideneze, a Media Professional/Public Affairs Analyst, wrote and posted this personality article, from Yenagoa. Also broadcast today on Radio Bayelsa, Glory FM 97.1

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