Frank Kokori, the former General Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), passed away at the age of 80 on Thursday, December 7, 2023, coincidentally on his 80th birthday. His life, marked by tireless advocacy for workers’ rights and democracy, left an indelible mark on Nigeria.
Kokori’s health had been deteriorating, and on that fateful Thursday, at precisely 1:30 am, he drew his last breath, as disclosed by his personal assistant, Atawada Barry Oke, around 2:30 am. Oke revealed that Kokori’s health had declined significantly earlier in the week, rendering him unable to interact with those around him, ultimately placing him on life support.
This tragic loss comes barely a month after Kokori’s distressing plea from his hospital bed on November 9, 2023. He expressed feeling neglected despite his substantial contributions to the nation’s democratic growth. His struggle against a kidney-related ailment led him to Mount Horeb Clinic in Warri, Delta State, where he found himself lamenting the poor state of medical care in the country.
An iconic figure in Nigeria’s labor movement, Kokori was an outspoken advocate for democracy. His pivotal role in the historic June 12 struggle, alongside comrades like Honorable Joseph Akinlaja, stood as a testament to his unwavering commitment to justice. When the 1993 presidential election was nullified, Kokori fiercely fought against this injustice, rallying young men and women to protest against the annulment and the ruling junta.
Beyond his labor leadership, Kokori dedicated his life to the cause of democracy and human rights. His book, “Kokori: The Struggle for June 12,” chronicles his journey and the fight to validate the annulled election.
Born on December 7, 1944, in Kokori, Warri, Delta State, Kokori’s educational journey included attending Urhobo College, Warri, and Eko Boys High School, Lagos, before further studies at the University of Ibadan and the Institute of Social Studies in the Hague, Netherlands.
Throughout his life, Kokori remained an advocate for the oppressed and marginalized, tirelessly championing the rights of workers. His integrity, demonstrated by his refusal to succumb to corruption despite facing adversity, reflects his unwavering dedication to Nigeria’s progress.
In his final moments, Kokori’s words reflected both his patriotism and concern for his country’s future. He voiced his disappointment over the lack of adequate medical facilities in Warri and highlighted the need for better healthcare infrastructure in Nigeria.