Between Advocacy and Intervention: The Sacrifices of Chief Demas Akpore.



I wouldn’t know what my friend Dr. Otive Igbuzor saw in me to warrant my conscription into this privileged venture. Agreed, I attended Orogun Grammar School Orogun which Chief Demas Akpore founded in 1966 but I never enjoyed the privilege of close quarters encounter with him. He had left to become the principal of Government College Ughelli when I entered in 1975. I confess however that his shadows were still everywhere in the school and it didn’t look like he was completely absent. We felt him on campus and everywhere in the larger Orogun community.

And here I am today before this beautiful and elevated audience to speak about a man that I never met one on one but who has remained an unceasing source of inspiration to me and many others. The temptation in instances like this is to wax academic and plunge into the knowledge jungle to excavate well made descriptions and historical parallels to establish the subject-matter who, to me, is not a distant phenomenon. He is still large in the memory of this generation and will be even in the generation next.

I have therefore decided to stick to my simple content and what I personally witnessed about Chief Demas Akpore. In other words, the topic: BETWEEN ADVOCACY AND INTERVENTION: THE SACRIFICES OF DEMAS AKPORE is most practical. It is to say in a nutshell that instead of talking, Chief Akpore chose working. Or to dress it in semantic elegance, he walked his talk.  Let me also add that I was not constrained in any way to move in this direction. Although not a point, I was granted the poetic licence by the Great Otive to voice in any direction and I have gladly settled for this.

The summary of this venture is the deconstruction of the Akpore phenomenon to make it look as simple as ABC. This is the 16th edition of this lecture series which means this initiative has been running for 15 unbroken years. The originators, Dr. Otive Igbuzor and his amiable wife, Ejiro, deserve our applause. The commitment and tenacity they have shown in driving this initiative year in, year out, is uncommon. I thank you both for your steadfastness.

I may have to do working definitions of the two keywords – advocacy and intervention. Advocacy is the persuasive communication to prepare the ground. It is the framing of the issues into achievable tasks. Intervention is specific performance to deal with the framed issues. For instance, if the issue is the high rate of illiteracy in society, the advocacy will centre on the need to build and equip schools to impart quality education. Beyond advocacy is intervention.

Each has its place. Intervention starts from where advocacy stops. But when advocacy is endless and perpetually holds back intervention from setting in, the situation yields to a completely different description and challenge. It becomes lamentation which is an open expression of helplessness as a result of either inability or unwillingness to combine available factors to turn around ugly conditions. 


This is the crux of the matter. Simple as it may seem, the application of advocacy and intervention in proportionate measures makes all the difference in the game of life. It is actually what defines the progressiveness of the Western Hemisphere. This is how the average Caucasian approaches the game. After articulating the issues in a sustained advocacy, he rises up to the challenge of walking the talk. Take the COVID 19 pandemic for instance. The intensive advocacy that attended the outbreak only established the lethality of the pandemic and nothing more. Until vaccines were developed to contain the surge, merely talking about how infectious the disease was and its high mortality rate did not change the fatal statistics. People were dying in their thousands.

Impact is made when things are done. When things are discussed, hope is created. Hope is however finite within the context of what is in contemplation and when things remain perpetually at the level of discussion or hope without impact, there is a precipitation of anxiety that turns hope into despair and even fear. Consequently, confidence is destroyed as every description becomes empty marketing without products for sale. What is more painful is that talking is the standard in our part of the world. Everybody seems to understand what should be done to create realities from dream but nobody follows up with the initiative to do what should be done. This is even more so in the political leadership where sagacity is measured by the degree of failures against promises.

Indeed the interpretation of public service in Nigeria is most weird. It is seen as the shortest route to a socio-economic breakthrough which is why people mortgage everything to prosecute election and roll out in massive celebration upon victory. They go for thanksgiving; not necessarily to thank God for providing them the opportunity to serve but to say their investments were not in vain after all. I note however that it has not always been so. It is the reason we talk of the good old days that created the Akpore phenomenon.

Talking about Chief Akpore is like opening an endless book or trying to crack a mystery. It is extremely difficult to understand his motivations. They went beyond altruism, philanthropy or even patriotism. For want of a better description, I will say he was the man who gave everything to humanity and asked for nothing in return. The man is not strange to people of my generation and a few generations below me. And except now that the teaching of history has become forbidden in school, every secondary school child should know a thing or two about Chief Demas Akpore who was the Deputy Governor of old Bendel State from 1979 to 1983.  

Notwithstanding and for the benefit of those who might not have followed up adequately on Chief Akpore, I beg to recap. He was born on August 4, 1928 by Mrs Etavwota Itedjere Akpore-Idise (Nee Agbonmiyeri) of Kokori Inland to Chief Itedjere Akpore-Idise of Orogun town in present day Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State. He had his primary education at CMS Primary School Warri between 1937 and 1944. He was at Government College Ughelli between 1945 and 1950. In 1951, he was admitted to the University College Ibadan now University of Ibadan and left in 1956 with a bachelor’s degree in Classics.

At graduation in 1956, Chief Akpore was only eight years behind the first ever graduate from Urhobo land, Chief Gabriel Macneil Ejaife who returned from Durham in UK in 1948 with a post-graduate diploma in education after a first degree at Fourah Bay College Sierra Leone. It would be absolutely safe therefore to say that Chief Demas Akpore ranked among the first 10 university graduates in Urhobo land. He followed up with a master’s degree from the University of British Columbia in 1958. Let me now ask: How many were they then; near and far, that could equate the description of M.A Classics?

This brings me straight to the main point. Here was a man who with his master’s degree in 1958 could literally own the world and be anywhere he wanted to be. He could join UAC, John Holt, SCOA, CFAO, etc and become a Chief Executive Officer in almost instantly but he didn’t. He could join the civil service and in the very next promotion become permanent secretary with all the attendant privileges – expansive living quarters, big car, retinue of domestic servants, all-expenses paid regular over sea trips, power/influence peddling and endless patronage – but he did not. In fact, with a background in Latin, the United Nations or the Commonwealth would have made him an automatic under secretary-general in readiness to becoming the ultimate – Secretary-general. But that was not on his mind.

Rather, what was on his mind was to return to develop his Orogun community. And because he did that, generations after him, including mine, had the privilege of an enablement in this hostile planet. I want us to take a breath, cast our minds back and get the perspective right. In 1966 when Chief Demas Akpore founded Orogun Grammar, the number of secondary schools in the entire Delta Province was perhaps far less than the number we have today in Ughelli North local government area alone. I can add that many who couldn’t make it beyond primary school way back then never planned to fail. Failure was imposed, a kind of force majeure that made victims completely helpless.  Yearly secondary school enrolments far outstripped the carrying capacities of the available schools and it became a Darwinian game where the not-too strong never enjoyed any form of protection or official affirmation.

This was also the period when knowing a secondary school principal was like knowing the president of a country. The secondary school principal was in fact more important than the president whose schedule of duty did not include putting a child in secondary school. The principals enjoyed a small window of discretion which made them extraordinary in the scheme. More or less, they exercised power of life and death in the matter of access to secondary education. 

One man saw all of these social constraints and decided to act. Let me also say that, it would have been more convenient for Chief Akpore to lay back and join the usual clarion calls on government to build more schools to address the situation. Armed with a Master’s Degree in Classics, he could invent all the compelling communication, written and spoken to place the responsibility entirely on government. He did not. Instead, he relocated to Orogun of 1966 to found a secondary school to address the big issue of the day.

Even now, I still find it difficult to understand the spirit of altruism that fired Chief Akpore to forgo all the juicy alternatives and stay back in Orogun to build and nurture a secondary school from scratch to fruition. Orogun town as it is today, that is 57 years after the advent of Akpore and with all the gains in time and space (development), not too many of us seated here right now would be ready to live in it and work conscientiously for posterity the way Chief Akpore did 57 years ago. Rather, we crave to settle in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Benin, Warri, Sapele, Asaba and such other places that guarantee much more than a rural and peasant economy that Orogun was and still largely is.

Kindly permit the emphasis. Orogun of 1966 did not have public electricity, portable water, telephone and good access road. While persons in his class and even much lower bestrode private and public sectors’ bureaucracies as permanent secretaries, directors and managers, Chief Akpore was in Orogun enduring mosquito bites and other environmental hazards to give opportunity to young persons of different orientations and inclinations. Let me remind us once more that we are talking of a man who had a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Classics in 1956 and 1958 respectively. Who else could be better educated within the national space of that time outside perhaps the Great Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe? But even as the ultimate Big Boss, Chief Akpore did not enjoy any special privileges. In Orogun Grammar School, he was founder, principal and a classroom teacher.

Outside money, he had invested massively his intellectual resources into his mission to give the new school an adoring uniqueness. Latin was part of the subject bouquet. We may not know what that meant because the language is today considered dead. But know this moment that at some point in the history of western education, this English language that is so entrenched today, was vernacular, exactly the same way that the British colonialists described our local languages when they came. The actual language of scholarship was Latin and that was the language Chief Akpore gave the early boys and girls of Orogun Grammar free of charge!

Just how many of the secondary schools at that time offered Latin to certificate level? There is something else I want to reveal about Latin. The English language derived largely from Latin which also formed the basis of English Grammar. Over all, a degree holder in Latin is a better grammarian and speaker of English than a degree holder in English. I can see why, with Chief Akpore, it had to be Orogun GRAMMAR School and not Orogun Secondary School or Orogun College. Going forward, those that didn’t attend a grammar school should please note the huge difference. In addition to all the known and unknown qualities of Chief Akpore, he was English grammar personified.


The point must be further underscored that nothing will be achieved if nothing is done. Even with the most grace, prosperity cannot be gratuitous. It is a consequence of positively coordinated efforts. Therefore, those who wish to get something from nothing, are themselves, enemies of society. As lawyers would say: Nemo dat quod no habet.  You cannot put something on nothing. The only economy that is given is the natural economy. Even so, it has to be preserved and protected by deliberate efforts. Every other economy is a derivative of the natural economy through a combination of the given factors such as natural resources and the human imagination. This means that what we call economic activities that create wealth, are triggered by decisions of men and women.

Take for instance the English Premiership and any other major football league in the world. The soccer leagues are multi-billion (and perhaps in the trillion dollar threshold) because somebody somewhere related passion with money making and decided to develop and market the sport into what it is today. Outside football, sports generally, is a big and ever growing economy. Sporting activities have no other utility outside excitement. They have only been repackaged by creative minds to make the arising excitement exclusive and accessible to only those that can pay for it. It is called value addition in production science. Same can be said of entertainment which, in traditional African societies, is served free in village squares during festivals and special occasions. For instance, how much of an economy has been created around the Uwheru traditional wrestling competitions?  Yet I can say with near precision that the fast selling wrestling associations in the United States and elsewhere including the Japanese sumo wrestlers might have begun like the Uwheru wrestling festival. Somebody intervened to deliberately harness the energies, exuberance and if you like, tendencies towards violence of youngsters, into regulated combats that can be sold as economic products.

The point I am making is that development is like an object. Physics tells us that all objects are in a perpetual state of rest or inertia and shall forever remain so unless acted upon by an external force. That external force is the human factor. The initiative to offset the inertia and set things in motion for good purpose. Orogun Grammar School wouldn’t have germinated on its own if the factor of Akpore was lacking. Much as the community desired a secondary school back then, it would have remained a perpetual desire if Chief Demas Akpore did not act. Desires on their own strength do not translate to substance or measurable goals.

Practical problems don’t get resolved when we merely speak to them or even pray about them. Not even the Pentecostal radical prayers of binding and casting can resolve things in a vacuum.  It is not to say there are no miracles but the objective realities are different. So that it doesn’t get too diffused, I will situate the analogies. We talk today of youth unemployment and the resultant vices of restiveness, drug abusive and violent crime among youngsters. We can start this moment to organise symposia, conferences, seminars, prayer sessions and other talk shows till another one hundred years. All of these huge efforts shall only define the issues for intervention and if governments or good spirited individuals do not take practical steps as in building industries or creating an investment environment through good policies, the issues will not dissolve. Instead, they will fester and grow from bad to worse. Job opportunities do not exist in a vacuum. Neither are they like a game of chance that runs perpetually on probabilities. If you do well to create an economy through industrialisation and investments in social and physical infrastructure, the jobs will flow as direct consequences of these efforts. Just how many of you have visited the Orhomuru – Ugono axis lately?

I should not fail to mention that development is composite. It means all the elements must be present in proportionate measures for the outcome to remain sustainable.  It also means that physical development cannot be driven in isolation or outside of human development. It reminds me of the motto of the Man O War Movement. It reads: Build The Man, Build The Community. And note the sequence too. It is not build the community before building the man because a built man has near infinite capacity to build the community. On the other hand, situating an undeveloped man in a developed community is like co-habiting the beast with beauty. The arising incongruity will lead to a cancellation of values and take society backwards.  Chief Demas Akpore chose to build the man. He refused even to build personal fortune with all the opportunities at his disposal to do so. He concentrated every time, talent and treasure he had in building the man. And the men and women he had built decades ago, have solidly come of age and they have been building  great communities.


From personal observation, I have come to understand that at the core of human problems is our refusal to understand the purpose of God in our lives.  In absolute ignorance, we tend to think that life is all about ourselves and nothing about others. As a consequence, we seek to own the world instead of seeking to contribute to the world. In this context, I feel bold to proclaim that Chief Demas Akpore was one man that perfectly understood the purpose of God. He lived almost entirely for others.  

In giving the subject of economics an existential flavour, Lord John Maynard Keynes had warned that in the very long run, we shall all be dead. Death, as Shakespeare notes, is a necessary end that will come when it will come irrespective of what we think, what we are and where we are. And when death does come, what really outlives us is not our wealth. It is our name. Chief Akpore died on December 28, 1993. He was only 65 years. If we are here today to search for the wealth, in terms of cash and buildings that Chief Akpore left behind, I am afraid, we may not find much.

Yet in death, this human icon has remained green and kept rising in value like the stocks of a well managed blue chip company. This immortality is not attributable to the wealth that this modest chief left behind. He bequeathed to humanity something much more and which has in turn given him an indestructible name.  And so, I can go ahead to authoritatively proclaim to you that every man and woman on earth has two prized possessions; the soul and the name. At death, one is taken along and the other is left behind. Both are immortal. Just as the soul does not die, a name lives on and it can be remembered for either good or bad.

Both are composite and also pair at the same moral degree. That is, a good soul nourishes a good name and a bad soul nourishes a bad name. In situating Chief Akpore in this context, I enjoin us to do exactly what applies in all empirical inquisitions. We shall move from the known to the unknown. The known here is Chief Akpore’s name and there is a complete consensus on this. The name is good. It is rich in morality and service to mankind. If this is so, it follows that Chief Akpore departed, as the cliché goes, this sinful world, with a good soul and he is this moment enjoying eternal peace in heaven.

 Even so, the responsibility of fair judgment in this matter does not lie entirely on humans. We must accept that the ranking is beyond human manipulation. You may steal, maim and kill innocent people to access resources to build schools, hospitals and churches to create an impression of goodness but in the end your soul would not be made to rise an inch higher from the doldrums of immorality by such seemingly acts of goodness. Chief Akpore lived a most worthy life. He was impeccably transparent. He was an embodiment of good morality. He did not give so much back to his community out of the abundance of ill-gotten wealth; he did out of love. With him, giving was a duty and it was like a dereliction of duty if he didn’t give so much back.


From what I know, Chief Akpore was not under any compulsion to be so nice to the Orogun community. His education was not a communal collaboration and therefore by that bond obligated to beneficiate the community in a pay-back arrangement. From scratch to summit, his education was paid for by his father, Chief Itedjere Akpore Idise, who, by the standards of that period was rich and successful. Jomo, Chief Akpore’s son told the story of how his father literally moved against powers and principalities to establish Orogun Grammar School for the benefit of all of us. Even the authorities of the then Midwest State were unwilling to subscribe to the idea of a secondary school in Orogun. Once, the Chief was told that Orogun town was not on the political or development map of the state when he requested government assistance to lay culvert on the access road between the town and the school to stem the perennial flood plaguing the road so that students could pass through it to school.

Undeterred, Chief Akpore had secured a bank loan to lay the culvert to stabilize the road and attract students to Orogun Grammar School to meet the enrolment threshold for school’s survival. He shot beyond the shores of Nigeria in search of needed oxygen for Orogun Grammar School. He wrote personal letters to President Lyndon Johnson of the United States and Prime Minister Harold Wilson of Britain for human capital support. In response, two American teachers, Mr. Paul Ingelman and Miss Anne Dillingham and a Briton, Miss Josephine Carmen Durham came to Orogun Grammar School to beef up the teaching staff.

Chief Akpore interpreted his life as a call to selfless service and an opportunity to do good. In all the things he did, he never sought personal glory or benefits. Even in the school he built, he had remained farfetched in the overall spectacle. People only heard that he founded the school but outside that, there was nothing in the characteristic branding and labelling of the administrative structures that connected him to the school.

In good conscience, he was perfectly entitled to name the school after himself but he chose to name it after the community – OROGUN. After the forceful take-over of schools in 1973, government had also granted the right for proprietors to have their schools named after them but Chief Akpore would not have any of that. In fact, it was recorded that he declined being compensated arguing that the school was not a business venture but a gift to his community and would not want to profit by it.


Chief Akpore was defined by two vocations; education and politics. And in either, he set parameters that have remained reference points in good conduct. Schooled in the best traditions, it goes without saying that while alive, Chief Akpore would have read so many books. But it was also obvious he didn’t read from that which describes politics as a dirty game in which only dirty player can survive well. From his undergraduate days at the university of Ibadan as students leader through his stint in the NCNC (National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons later changed to National Convention of Nigerian Citizens) under the Great Zik of Africa to his election as deputy governor to Professor Ambrose Alli in the old Bendel State under the platform of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in 1979, the Chief maintained a character that made politics look most noble.

Akpore’s brand of politics was far from what it is now. It wasn’t a call to chop and quench but to work and sometimes on empty stomach and if need be, die for the people. And Chief Akpore did work and die for his people. Not one to compromise for any reason, he somehow became anachronistic in a political scheme that sought things other than service to the people. He resigned as deputy governor of the old Delta State on November 3, 1982. He was to learn in a most brutal way that irrespective of the views he held dear, politics in this part of the world was and is still indeed, a dirty game. For refusing to continue against his conscience, he was marked for liquidation. The attack came few months later and it was meant to be fatal. After they had finished, his attackers left him to die.

Death however delayed or came slowly. The injuries and complications from that attack endured and the once bubbling Chief started going down fast. About 10 years later, on December 28, 1993, Demas Onoliobakpovba Akpore died, aged 65 years.


I am just among the team of the blind men that went to unravel the elephant. I can only describe the huge Demas Akpore from my narrow perspective and that is what I have done in this presentation. I am the first to admit that even with this long essay, I have but only scratched Chief Akpore as a subject matter. For instance, I am still not able to say precisely the philosophical, social and spiritual motivations that combined to give Chief Demas Akpore those angelic attributes here on planet earth. But I must end now!

Thank you very much for listening.

Thank you for listening.               

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