Okocha, Daniel Nmakele
Chief Daniel Nmakele Okocha was born in 1853 into the family of Okocha Amawhule and his wife Ijemati in Rumuhechiorlu, Rumurukani, a group of families in Rumuigbo, Obio/Akpor L.G.A Rivers State, Nigeria. He was his father’s third and last son and lived the bitter life of an orphan as a result of his parents’ early death. His older brothers died early, leaving him alone to save the family from total extinction.
At age sixteen, he had already learned farming and dealt mainly in the cultivation of yams. At age twenty-two, Nmakele started selling the proceeds from his farm to neighbouring towns like Degema and Okologba (Bonny). On one of his trading missions in Okologba, an important event occurred in the market place involving one of the townsmen named Egeonu Iyo. On that occasion, while they were trading in the open market and did not know what Sunday services were all about, a church teacher found them there and forced them to come into the church to join the people in the Sunday worship. From then on, Nmakele was interested in the worship of the true God. He was twenty-six years old.
Having become interested in this worship, he and his friend Egeonu Iyo asked that a similar church be started in their hometown. From Okologba (Bonny) arrangements were made for the teacher at Okologba to open a worship centre in their hometown of Rumuigbo. Nmakele was baptized in Okologba and christened Daniel the same year he was converted. The new church was established in Rumuigbo in 1879.
The church was later named St. Stephen’s Church Rumuigbo. During this church’s existence, another church called St. James Church Rumuokwuta also sprang up in the Rumuokwuta area of the kingdom which had been founded by Nathan Worgu and others from the region. These two churches merged to form what is now called Holy Trinity (Anglican) Church Rumuapara in 1885. This merger was made possible thanks to Okocha’s personal communication with the members of St. James Rumuokwuta.
It is also important to mention here that Chief Okocha, with the help of Chief James Ikegwuru from Rumuokwuta, was instrumental in bringing in the mission’s primary school, called Holy Trinity School Rumuapara, from St. Cyprian’s (Anglican) Church and School, Port Harcourt. He also worked for the school.
Okocha was the first man from Holy Trinity Church to be elected a member of Diocesan Board of the Diocese on the Niger. He was a great crusader who took active part in physical destruction of some of the deities worshipped in this community, the Jerubbaal of his time. He was also the first to take care of and protect twin babies regarded as taboo in his time. These twins, Clara and Selina, are still alive today and in their eighties.
Though Okocha had no formal education, he read the Igbo Bible fluently and preached the gospel of Christ. He was a member of Obio customary court under colonial rule. As a result of his service to the nation he earned a chieftaincy title.
Daniel Okocha was first married to Hannah Okocha in the church and they had several children, six of whom survived. After her death, he married Mrs. Fanny and seven of their children survived.
Chief Daniel Nmakele Okocha died a Christian on November 20, 1975 at the incredible age of 122.
Benjamin M. Okocha
This article, written by Benjamin N. Okocha, son of Chief Daniel Nmakele Okocha, was submitted in 2003 by Sam Wodi to Dr. Jonathan Bonk during his 2003 DACB trip to Nigeria.