Reward For A Faithful Servant

BEN OKOYEN, a noble son of Bayelsa, has been serving as Nigeria’s Consul-General in New York. He was recently nominated as Nigeria’s ambassador designate to the United States of America. To say the least, he has travelled from a long way back in time.

Many years ago, Ben used to pull out the padded chair for the President to sit upon at every state function. He could be seen doing that every night on national television before giving way to the aide de camp. He was often dressed in a prim bespoke suit, and his friendly smile could not be missed.

Ben is a faithful servant. That is why he has received the reward that goes to servants who remain faithful to the end. In times past, Ben had a very humble ambition which did not go beyond setting up a functional business centre that would grow to become a computer training outfit worth its name and recognition in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital. He would call it Sirben Computers.

And so indeed it happened. The humble business centre he set up along the road with a few desktop computers attracted a ready clientele which was in a hurry to catch up with the information super highway represented by the internet.

Ben invested every naira that was coming in the name of his salary into that business, and watched it grow from day to day. But then, before long, the demands of his office in Creek Haven began to get the better of his attention.

Ben was in the protocol team attached to the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. He saw that as an all-important assignment, and he vowed to be of service to his master, if that was all he had to do for the rest of his life.

He could take off from Yenagoa to Ibadan by road at midnight, keeping every risk at bay, if his boss was to be in Ibadan by noon the following day. That is because Ben knew the importance of preparing the grounds before the big man arrived. Ben did not mind being a one-man advance party, if it came to that.

It did not take long for Jonathan to recognize the commitment and initiative of the lad. The boss knew where he could place his trust, whom he could depend upon to perform a task, in good or bad times, under any circumstance.

That fellow would be Ben Okoyen. And so indeed it came to pass that Sirben grew from stage to stage along with his boss. In thick and thin, in crisis and in celebration, Ben kept a clear-eyed devotion to his duties and an unflinching solidarity with his master.

Ben Okoyen hails from Ekeremor, Bayelsa State, but he has every right to claim to be a Port Harcourt boy. He attended Government Secondary School, Borokiri, for five eventful years. His friends from college days remember him as a decent, meticulous and hardworking student.

He was especially known for his punctual sense of time. He was hardly known to do anything behind schedule. He had a knack for drawing up a list of things to do, and taking care of every detail with systematic and painstaking endurance.

Sir Ben holds a Bachelors degree in Public Administration from the University of Port Harcourt, and a Masters in the same course from the University of Calabar. He was grateful when he rose to become Chief of Protocol, Government House, Yenagoa, having served for many years as a protocol officer in the Bayelsa State government from the advent of the first civilian government in May 1999.

He was the principal protocol personnel to Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan when the Otueke-born zoologist and politician was Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State. Ben rose along with his boss from day to day because he was like a shadow to the man from the first day in office.

When Jonathan became Governor, Ben automatically became Chief of Protocol. When Jonathan became Vice President, Ben was there to lead the protocol squad. And when Jonathan took office formally as President and Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Ben Okoyen made sure that every protocol requirement was in place, and he worked with a faultless exactitude that had been cultivated over the years.

But, then, Ben met seniors in the Presidency, and he had to understudy them in order to be fully acquainted with the schedule in Aso Villa. That wasn’t good enough, as far as Ben was concerned, so he took off to Washington DC for a short course in the American School of Protocol. When he returned, he was ripe enough to take charge, and Mr President had no choice but to acknowledge that this enterprising young man was well equipped for the assignment.

Even so, Ben remembered his days in a classroom and wanted to be a student all over again. He wanted to learn something new about what he had come to see as a profession. He wanted to know more about world leaders and their panoply of office. He wanted to know more about entourage management and the intricacies of hosting a grand and stately event.

He wanted to know more about the finer points of basic etiquette and refined public behavior, and to inculcate what it means to conduct oneself with decorum. And so Ben Okoyen headed for Oxford University, United Kingdom, to undertake a course of study in History & Diplomacy.

Today, he is a proud alumnus of one of the world’s most famous citadels of learning, and his eventful tutelage under one of the foremost politicians in the country earned him a place as Special Adviser to the President on Protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja.

Ben is well travelled. His work as a protocol officer has taken him all over Nigeria. He first came to a full awareness of just how wide and far-flung the Nigerian landscape is when he followed the presidential campaign train in the last two elections that brought Jonathan to national limelight.

Protocol duty has also taken Sir Ben to many African countries. He was often there to carry the last bag for Dr Goodluck Jonathan in practically every country around the world that the former President has visited.

Ben plays squash. It helps him relax at the end of an eventful day, and it gets him to wake up for the next morning work-out. The in-door game virtually helps to put Ben on his toes. He likes to hear the click-clack of the ball as it rebounds against the wall, and he enjoys the excitement of focusing on the ball and running after it with a handy racket to strike it back and forth, his canvas squeaking and squealing on the polished floor.

Other than that, Sir Benaoyaghe Okoyen loves his wife and children in the privacy of their home, and plays his fatherly role with absolute gratitude to God.

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