Ngozi Okoye is a banker. She is sister to veteran lawyer, Barrister Festus Okoye. In this interview she talks about what he is like when upset, their childhood, his profession and more. Excerpts:
Daily Trust: How would you describe your brother?
Ngozi Okoye: He is the most caring man I have known. He has a very soft heart like cotton wool. He has been our pillar and we all rally round him. He’s more of a father figure to me. He’s very intelligent and an exceptional human being. He can bark and use the same hand to pat you on the back and say “well done.” When I was in secondary school, I remember he was into activism and has done that to this point in his life. In his eyes, good is good and bad is bad. He represents people pro-bono and is never in one place.
DT: What kind of brother was he to you when you were children?
Ngozi: I think I am closest to him. I grew up with six boys and we were only two girls. My sister was never around because she was in boarding school. People say I look like Festus. Maybe that is why I got very close to him. Growing up there was too much competition in the house, everyone wanted to become first in school. So, I looked up to my brothers. When I come back from primary school he would ask me what I did that day and go through my home work with me, telling me I didn’t have a reason not to excel. I think part of what I am today is due to his mentorship. I was extremely stubborn while growing up. You can’t grow up with boys and not be stubborn.
DT: Can you share one fond childhood memory?
Ngozi: When I was in St Louise College in Jos, then he had passed Law School with a 2:1, and he came to visit me. I had told all my friends about him -how intelligent he is, how proud I am of him now that he has become a lawyer and so on, so almost everybody came out to see him. I will never forget that day. I was so proud of him. He was a bit embarrassed but I know it made him feel very good.
DT: At what point in your life did you realise that your brother is a famous lawyer?
Ngozi: That was when I was in secondary school. After Law School he and Chris Abashi served in Kaduna. Shortly after that, they set up their own law firm. I started hearing people talking about him. By the time I finished secondary school he had got into full practice and his pro bono work. People call me to tell me they saw him on television.
DT: Has being Barrister Festus Okoye’s sister opened doors for you?
Ngozi: Of course, but not in the area of jobs. I meet certain people and when they get to know I am his sister it deepens our relationship. That was how the former Attorney General Mohammed Adoke became my guardian. If I have any issue, I go to him. So yes, I have met important people because of him.
DT: What other profession do you think he would have excelled at if he wasn’t a lawyer?
Ngozi: None. He wouldn’t have been a good business man or a doctor. He is called to the legal profession.
DT: What are those attributes of his you would say has rubbed off on you?
Ngozi: His kindness and uprightness. He is not interested in anybody’s money, but in leaving his footprints in the sand of time. Going by the people he knows, you would think he would have been rich by now, but no, he is just here to make a difference.
DT: What do you usually talk about these days when you are together?
Ngozi: Our family is a very close-knit one. We can quarrel and fight but we always come together. When one person is ill, everybody is ill. Most of the time when he comes to Abuja and is free, maybe after going to court, he comes to my office and we talk about family. Our dad is still in Jos, so we talk about the crises, and how Jos has changed from when we were kids. I told him that when I leave banking I will like to work in an NGO, so I am always interested in the work he does. Sometimes we talk about his cases, the ones that are not very sensitive.
DT: When have you seen him really upset and why?
Ngozi: He does not get angry easily, but when he does, it’s like thunder. You see him smiling all the time. When you listen to his interviews he is always barking and shouting, but he smiles all the time. I once remember him getting angry, but it was family related. He’s always very passionate about family. I don’t think he has gotten angry on the job.
DT: How does he relax?
Ngozi: He usually buys all the available newspapers and reads them all. He also loves to watch football. He’s an Arsenal fan.