Dagogo and the return of First Bank

Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, PhD

On 29th December 2015, I was in Abiriba to attend the burial of my late friend and businessman, Chief Otusi Kalu popularly known in social circles as Abbot. At the event, I was seated on the same table with Mazi Dagogo Okoronkwo of Atani. He also led his family to pay last respect to our fallen friend. While the event progressed, I observed that Mazi Dagogo was quite uncomfortable, largely unsettled as he looked at his wrist watch at every minute.

His restlessness attracted my inquiry on what might be wrong. He told me that he needed to rush to First Bank Abiriba to withdraw some money before the bank closes. He began a story of lamentation and anger “since armed robbers attacked First Bank Arochukwu on December 31st 2014, Aros especially those living at home have been exposed to untold hardship. The hardship compounded by the very poor condition of Aro – Ohafia road is better experienced than imagined. Can you imagine that except you travel on that bad road to Ohafia, you cannot have access to your money in First Bank?”. Mazi Dagogo took me into the long story of the importance of First Bank in Arochukwu, the pain and anguish the suspension of the service of the bank has imposed on our people especially those who live at home.

When his lamentations were distracting my attention from the on-going burial ceremony, I requested to know why First Bank had refused to reopen for business and what can be done. The response of Mazi Dagogo was shocking and humbling. “Orji” he shouted, “please, listen, First Bank gave a condition that adequate security must be provided by Aro as a community. We have waited for wealthy men among us to come with assistance but none took up the responsibility. Because of my love for Aro and the strategic importance of the bank to the community, I decided to take up the project as demanded by First Bank with funding from my pension. Mazi Okorafor Okereke (In A Way) and Mazi Kanu Ivi also supported. We built a multi-purpose security house close to the bank with basic facilities. Armed soldiers have been deployed to the security house to provide adequate security for the bank and the entire Aro community, as I speak to you, the only thing left, Orji, is for First Bank to reopen its services. I am sad that after my efforts, spending my pension on the project, nothing has changed’’ he concluded helplessly.

I was moved by the story and the individual spirit behind the exceptional determination to solve a community problem. At that point, I recommended to Mazi Dagogo to meet Dr. O J. Nnanna who I was aware was in Aro for Xmas. I assured him that as Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. O J Nnanna was in a vantage position to influence First Bank to reopen its services given the work people like Mazi Dagogo had done. The meeting with Dr. Nnanna and Mazi Dagogo took place, First Bank has reopened, and the rest is history.

The story of Dagogo and service to Aro is not new. Those who are familiar with the history of self-help developments in our history have more information on his contributions. At 74, Mazi Dagogo is on pension for survival but has remained a philanthropist. Born in 1942, Mazi Kingsley Dagogo Okoronkwo was a businessman and a man who belongs to the generation that made Arochukwu the envy of Igbo land. People in his class at that time elevated Aro through generosity, culture, creativity, positive use of intellect and wisdom. With a basic education at St. Michael’s Primary School, Omoku and St. Patrick’s College Ahaoda both in Rivers State, Mazi Dagogo Okoronkwo returned to his ancestral to make valuable contributions. He was not the richest but has large heart to offer help in community interest. He was also among the few at the time who believed in Aro prominence dominance and leadership.

In 1982, he single handedly built and donated Arochukwu Local Government Secretariat to the community to ensure that Aro retained the headquarters of the Local government. He equally bought a brand new Peugeot 504 and donated to Eze Aro Cabinet in those glorious years when only but a few traditional institutions had access to such privileges. In Atani his village, the story of his contributions then and now resonates in every discussions of community development. It may be understandable if he did all these as a young man. What is unique with his recent intervention in the First Bank project is the fact that he funded the project with his pension at the ripe age of 74.

By all standards, Mazi Dagogo Okoronkwo has become an enigma, a positive case study in community development for all generations.

About author

Orji Ogbonnaya Orji

Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, a well-known Nigerian broadcaster, journalist, political economist and development communication specialist sits on the Editorial Board of Aro News, a leading community news channel of the Aros, south east Nigeria. Orji writes its popular column “Amaikpe”.  
He is currently the Director of Communications and Advocacy at the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), the Presidency, Abuja. NEITI is the Nigerian chapter of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international organization with 53 member countries which leads the global campaign for transparency and accountability in the management of extractive resources in resource-rich countries around the world. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji was named NEITI's acting Executive Secretary/ceo in 2015, a position he held briefly until 2016.  
Dr. Orji represents NEITI on Nigeria’s National Steering Committee of the global Open Government Partnership (OGP) and chairs the extractive sector thematic group in the country’s OGP.  
Prior to his current job at NEITI, Dr. Orji was a special adviser to Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Communication on Strategic Development Communication. Between 2004 and 2006, he worked with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as a national consultant on public procurement reforms. At the UNDP, he worked with other development partners such as the World Bank and USAID on institutionalizing public procurement processes in Nigeria, by articulating a bill on public procurement for consideration and passage into law by the National Assembly. Following the passage of the Bill into law and establishment of the Bureau of Public Procurement on the June 4, 2007, Orji headed the media and public affairs department of the Bureau.
He served as Special Adviser to the President of the Senate at the National Assembly from 2000 to 2003. During this period, he provided technical support to develop the institutional framework on strategic media/civil society relations and engagements with the country’s legislature emerging from years of military rule.
His career in the media industry began at Radio Nigeria where he was groomed and worked in various capacities, rising through the ranks to the position of Deputy Director at the headquarters. The highest point of his career at Radio Nigeria was his posting to the Presidential Villa, Aso Rock (Nigeria’s seat of power) as the Chief State-House Correspondent, attached to Nigeria’s presidents. Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji served with courage and distinction during five different regimes, part of which were under the military from 1993 to 2000, when Nigeria returned to civil rule. The job at the Presidential villa took Orji on regular entourages of Nigerian Presidents to many countries of the world for the media-coverage of key global events, including several sessions of the United Nations' General Assembly in New York.
Orji Ogbonnaya Orji began his early life and education in 1970 at the Presbyterian School, Amanator Isu, Ohaozara in the then Afikpo Division. He attended Ishiagu High School Okigwe for his secondary education from 1975 and obtained his West African School Certificate from the school in 1980. He later proceeded to the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Enugu where he graduated with a certificate in Mass communication in 1987. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Abuja, Nigeria in 1999, a master’s degree in political economy and development studies in 2004 and a PhD in the same discipline and from the same University in 2012.
He attended the Senior Executive Fellows program on public policy and communication at J.F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He is also an alumnus of Blatvanik School of Government, University of Oxford, England, Thompson Foundation Institute of Advanced Media Studies Cardiff, United Kingdom, the International Law Institute, George Town University Washington DC, the Institute for Public and Private Partnership, Arlington Virginia, the World Bank Institute, the African Development Bank Institute, and the Lagos Business School. Furthermore, he is a recipient of professional fellowships from the US State Department and from the governments of Germany and the United Kingdom.
Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji is married to Dr. (Mrs.) Esther Ogbonnaya with three children: Nnenna, Orji (Jr), and Chinatu.

1 comment

  1. Ochiedike kelechi 4 May, 2016 at 18:22 Reply

    I am truly humbled as an aro son by the selfless and endless service to the aros, he truly is an enigma. May god continue blessing him. And tbis has given rise to the question,, why can’t we have more esteemed selfless patrotic aros these days?

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