Elder Ozaka Bob Francis (1941-2023)

He was from Igbogene community in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. He was best known as the second Head of Service Bayelsa State and former Bayelsa representative at the Federal Character Commission, Abuja

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Sociologist, Anthropologist, Public Health Technocrat

Late Elder Ozaka Bob Francis was an American trained health professional and administrator par excellence that made his mark in the public service of Nigeria.

Who was Elder Ozaka Bob Francis?

Born in 1941 at igbogene town in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa state. He was a student at the famous Enitonna high school, Borikiri, Port Harcourt. Thereafter, he secured a scholarship and studied in the United States of America in the 70s. He was a graduate of Sociology and Anthropology at the Warren Wilson College, Swannanoe, North Carolina and also a M.Sc holder in Health Service Administration from the University of North Carolina. In 1975, he was employed by the old Rivers State Government and grew through the ranks to becoming a substantive Director in old Rivers State Civil Service. On the creation of Bayelsa state on 1 October, 1996, he was appointed Director-General and later Permanent Secretary. In 1998 thereabout, he was appointed Head of Service Bayelsa State and retired untarnished in 2002. He was appointed Federal Commissioner at the Federal Character Commission representing Bayelsa State from 2003 to 2012. Thereafter, he was appointed chairman Bayelsa state Civil Service Commission from 2012 to 2017. Elder Ozaka Bob Francis loved the things of God as he was a staunch member of the Church of God Mission, Bayelsa state. He was married for 46 years and had 4 children. In 2023, he passed on peacefully at the age of 81.

Parents

He was born on 5 July, 1941 to the Christian family of the late Mr Francis Asigbibia Ozaka of Igbogene Epie and Mrs Idoghu Marian Ogon of Agudama-Epie, Yenagoa District, Eastern Nigeria now Yenagoa Local Government Area, Bayelsa state.

Education

Young Bob Ozaka had his primary education at several primary schools from in the late 40’s. Firstly,He was a student at St. Barnabas school, Igbogene-Epie (1948-1952), then he attended the St. Luke’s School, Agudama-Epie from 1953 to 1954 and finally between (1955-1956), he was at Central School, Okordia Zarama where he got his First School Leaving Certificate. He was quite an intelligent student at Central School, Okordia Zarama as he distinguished himself among his peers and he was noticed by his tutors who even funded his education. They paid for his common entrance examination to enable him access post primary education; a notable teacher that sponsored him was late Mr. S. S Ojoko.

Then, in 1957, he was admitted into the famous Enitonna High School, Port Harcourt which was one of the oldest secondary schools in Eastern Nigeria though privately owned. He concluded his secondary education in 1961 and bagged his Cambridge West African certificate.

Thereafter, between 1962 and 1964 he was at the school of Hygiene, Lagos, where he obtained the Royal Society of Health Diploma for public health inspectors now known as superintendents.

Mr. Bob Ozaka had a brief stint with the Federal Ministry of Health as a Port Health Officer in Lagos for five years. However, he resigned his job to further his education.

Gracefully, in 1967 thereabout he got admission with scholarship into Warren Wilson College, Swannanoe, North Carolina, USA, an institution owned by the Presbyterian Mission.

He majored in Sociology and Anthropology and graduated in 1971 as the second best graduating student and also won the Mrs Kline Award for best graduating student of the department of Sociology and Anthropology.

Mr. Bob Ozaka in high-spirit with his feat, he was fired with academic avidity to push borders. After a year stint as an employee sanitarian of the Buncombe County Health Department, Asherville, he gained admission as the first African to enter the University of North Carolina Public Health Administrative Programme and at the same time, he got worthy encouragement from his home state in Nigeria (Rivers state) awarded him scholarship and he graduated in 1974 with an MSPH degree in Health Service Administration. Then, for a while, he was Programme Administrator, Primary Healthcare Teaching Programme Mehary Medical College, Nashville Tennessee. He was at the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, ASCON, 1991.

Back Home/Career life

The desire to serve his fatherland compelled him to relinquish his prestigious and white-collar job as a Trainee Manager with Beacon Blankets Company Limited in Swannanoa, North Carolina, the largest blanket firm in the world at the time and returned to Nigeria in 1975.

From 1975, the story of Mr. Bob Ozaka’s career life was majorly in the civil service sector. He began his work with the old rivers state government as an administrative officer posted to the Ministry of Agriculture. There he was for three years before he got posted to the Ministry of Finance. Subsequently, in 1978, he resigned from the civil service and took up appointment with the defunct Delta Rubber Company Limited Umuayagu/Okomoko, Etche a Rivers state owned company. He was the firm’s secretary. Afterwards, he was promoted to become the first Secretary of Rivers State Health Management Board, Port Harcourt.

Ozaka vs Banigo

Later, he was then redeployed into the mainstream of the civil service to serve as Vice-principal the School of Health Technology, Port Harcourt and while Dr Mrs Ipalibo Banigo was the Principal (she was a former Permanent Secretary, Deputy Governor and Senator), at the school in 1981.

Suffice it to say herein, it wasn’t harmonious between Mr Bob Ozaka and Dr (Mrs) I. Banigo. Mr Bob Ozaka was relegated to the background administratively as she never seems to appreciate his services to the institution.

He could not function as it were, as the vice principal. She went further to strip him off his duties. He was so frustrated as a subordinate in the institution assumed his duties.

In 1994 thereabout, he met his kinsman who was already a permanent secretary in the ministry of health Mr Iti, Thomas Ibitimi (now late) for help. Of course, Mr Iti assisted Bob Ozaka on his redeployment quest. Mr Bob Ozaka relinquish the Vice Principal position and went to Ministry of Health as Deputy Director and his schedule was Budget management of the Ministry of Health.

Before long, He was posted to the ministry of commerce, industry and tourism after the demise of the director late Mr Sunny Joe. There he was, until Bayelsa state was created in 1996. Also, he served numerous committees in old Rivers State.

Then, following the years of ad-hoc services serving as administrative secretary to one of political parties during the 1990 transition to civil returning officer in the Local Government and Governorship election in December, 1990.

Then, he was made a member and Supervisor for Education, Social Development, Youths and Sports in the Yenagoa Local Government Caretaker Committee, 1994 to 1996. On October 1, 1996, Bayelsa state was created, he was appointed one of the pioneer Director-Generals. He was also one of the pioneer Permanent Secretaries when in 1998 Director-Generals were re-designated Permanent Secretaries.

Head of Service

On October 18, 1998, he was appointed Head of Service by the late D.S.P Alamieyesiegha led government. He was in the saddle as Head of Service from 1998 to 2002 and precisely in July 2002, he meritoriously retired from the civil service. Retired but not tired, in 2003 thereabout, he was called to service to exhibit his administrative prowess in the national. He was a member, Representing Bayelsa State, at the Federal Character Commission, Abuja, by the recommendation of late D.S.P Alamieyesiegha then governor of Bayelsa state and in 2008 again Chief Timipre Sylva recommended him for appointment in the same Board. He held the position till 2012.

Commission Chairman

Then, he was beckoned to serve again at home. The former Governor of Bayelsa state Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson appointed him as Chairman Bayelsa state civil services commission and he held the position until 2017. As Chairman of the commission, he didn’t achieve much as his health failed him severally; he was in and out of office attending to matters of his health.

Overall, Mr Bob Ozaka was a thoroughbred, core administrator of government business and prolific public administrator par excellence. In his prime in the service, he was a strong character. He jettisoned unprofessionalism in all totality among his staff. More so, he was quite swift to upbraid irresponsible behaviors among civil servants and ensured that government bureaucracy must be adhered to the letter; so by this his characteristics, he was deemed a stickler and authoritative; so he was not that appreciated by a handful of his subordinates.

Family/Faith

He was married to his wife Elder (Mrs) Salome Ozaka (an Ogbia woman) in 1977. They have been together through thick and thin for 46 years. The marriage was blessed with four lovely boys. He was a loving father that gave the best to his children. His kids are all lettered and doing well. Convention of Elder Bob Ozaka, he won’t spear the rode and spoil the child, he was a noted disciplinarian among the family cycle.

Sometime in Feb, 1991 he got born again and followed Jesus Christ till his translation to eternal glory. He was a member of the Church of God Mission International in Port Harcourt. A committed and staunch member in the fold he was; he planted and contributed towards the construction of the Church of God Mission in his home town Igbogene, Igurubia City. With such feat, he was ordained Deacon in the Church of God Mission. Archbishop Margret Idahosa Ordained him Elder on the 19th December, 2001. His services in the lord’s vineyard were enormous, especially among the Pentecostal faith of Bayelsa state and beyond.

Awards

  • In 2000, Merit Award of the Institute of Personnel Management, Rivers/Bayelsa branch for outstanding performance in leadership role in people management
  • in 2001, distinguished Sanitarian Award of the Professional Association of Environmental Health Officers of Nigeria
  • Excellent Performance in Public Administration, RATTAWU, Eastern Zone, 2002;
  • Award in Recognition of Role as Pillar In Church, PFN, Bayelsa State Chapter, 2006

His Death

It was reported, Elder Ozaka Bob Francis passed on the 26 of Feb, 2023 due to natural causes at his Igbogene residence. He was 81 years. On the 28 April, 2023 he was interred at his hometown Igbogene.

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
- 2 Timothy 4:7 KJV
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Abalijay
"Timeless Persons" is a personal blog project created by me with the aim of sharing the biographies of remarkable individuals from the Niger Delta region and beyond. The blog serves as a platform to captivate and stimulate your thoughts, encouraging reflection on the past, fostering a positive mindset in the present, and inspiring hope for a better future.