In a poignant twist of fate, on his 80th birthday, veteran labour leader and former General Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Chief Frank Kokori, breathed his last at a private hospital in Warri at 1:30 am on Thursday, December 7, 2023. The nation mourns the passing of a stalwart who played a crucial role in shaping Nigeria’s democratic landscape.
Kokori had been battling a kidney-related ailment, spending the last month in the hospital. His personal assistant, Atawada Oke, revealed that his health had taken a severe turn on Monday, rendering him unable to interact with those around him. Placed on life support, Kokori made a distress call on November 9, 2023, lamenting neglect despite his significant contributions to the democratic growth of the country.
A key figure in the struggle for the validation of the annulled June 12, 1993, presidential election, Kokori emerged as a formidable force against the military junta led by Ibrahim Babangida. The annulment sparked nationwide outrage, and Kokori, leading NUPENG and PENGASSAN, orchestrated crippling nationwide strikes that paralyzed the oil industry, Nigeria’s economic lifeblood. These strikes exerted immense pressure on the military regime, ultimately contributing to the reversal of Babangida’s decision.
Beyond his role in the labour movement, Kokori actively engaged in pro-democracy activities, participating in rallies and demonstrations advocating for democracy and the recognition of Moshood Abiola’s victory. Despite facing arrest, detention, and torture by the military government, Kokori remained steadfast in his commitment to democratic ideals, earning widespread respect and admiration.
The passing of Chief Frank Kokori marks the end of an era, leaving a void in the labour movement and the pro-democracy struggle. His legacy will endure as a symbol of resilience, courage, and unwavering dedication to the principles he held dear.