THERE IS NOTHING AS GOOD AS ODINALI (TRADITION)-TONNA OKEI

Our personality of the week is Mr. Tonna Okei, from Ekuku-Agbor, based abroad. He has continually hoisted the flag of Africa, Nigeria Ika land and Ekuku- Agbor high at his base in South Carolina, United States of America.
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Mr. Tonna Okei is a lover of tradition and culture. He recently hosted the biggest Nigeria Independence program in South Carolina, USA which had the big wigs of South Carolina in attendance. His daughter was also recently elected as the student union leader at a prestigious University in the Manchester, England.
Mr. Tonna Celestine Jude Okei MSW, APM, OCP, NP born into the family of Barrister Sir George and Felicia Okei, a former Honorable Commissioner in the Defunct Bendel and present Delta states, who hails from Ekuku Agbor, Ika south, Delta State.

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Mr. Okei with His Execellency, Counsel General of the United States

Mr. Tonna Okei was spotted rising to stardom at the age of 19 when he was appointed as the Special Adviser to the then Students Union Government led by Mike Igini and was the first ever Special Guest/Chief launcher at the inaugural Uniben Students Harvest at St Albert Ugbowo, Benin city in 1993.
Mr. Tonna Okei attended the University of Benin, the prestigious Wilshire IT Academy Hyderabad in India, Georgia State University, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies and the Prestigious University of South Carolina all in U.S.A.
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Mr. Tonna Okei is an Oracle certified professional and a Notary public commissioner, South Carolina. He is a Board member, South Carolina Government Cultural and Linguistic Committee for Palmetto State workers. He is a community leader, politician, motivational speaker, social worker and a lay reader in the Catholic Church.
Mr. Tonna Okei was one of the first non-Irish to vie for office back in 2005, contested for the office of councilor in Droiched Nua(Newbridge) in Eire(Ireland) and was later appointed Special Adviser to Lord Mayor of Newbridge in same 2005.
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He is an adviser to Senator Mary Henry of Ireland on Ethnic Minorities issues.
In July 2006, Mr. Tonna Okei was appointed Special Adviser to Her Excellency, Eki Igbinedion of Edo State and Consultant to her pet project, Idia Renaissance. In December 2007, he became CEO/Founder of Cill Dara International Group, a Public Policy Group providing clients technical expertise and high-level advocacy and a premier political consulting firm.
IMG-20171207-WA0004 THERE IS NOTHING AS GOOD AS ODINALI (TRADITION)-TONNA OKEI
IMG-20171207-WA0004 THERE IS NOTHING AS GOOD AS ODINALI (TRADITION)-TONNA OKEI
Mr. Tonna Okei is today a Behavioral Health expert with the South Carolina Department of Health, Project Coordinator, Behavioral Health Division. He is a Community leader and interim Head of African Community in South Carolina State, an advocate of culture and tradition, promoting the African culture and heritage in the international community. Mr. Tonna Okei is married to Dr. Toyin Okei and they are blessed with 5 children, out of which, the eldest Daughter just got elected as the Student Union President in a top University College in England. In this tell all interview, Mr. Tonna Okei bares it all on how he started, where he is and where he hopes to be in the nearest future.
Excepts
May we meet you please?
My name is Tonna Okei; I am from Ekuku Agbor in Ika South Local Government area, Delta State.
Tell us about yourself
I am happily married to Dr. (Mrs.) Toyin Okei, am blessed with five children, one of whom was recently elected as the president, of one of the top colleges in England as the Student Union Leader. I am a Catholic, a lay reader in the Catholic Church. I work with the South Carolina department of health, am a member of South Carolina Board of Cultural and Linguistic Committee, I serve as a community leader, and the interim head of the African Community in South Carolina.
What is your position in the family?
We used to be six in number. Unfortunately, we lost two. I used to be the third child and the second son. However, I am now the eldest son and I address myself as the Crown Prince of the House of Okei. So, as of now, I am the eldest son out of four children (two gentlemen and two ladies).
Tell us about your growing up years
I was born and raised in Surulere/ Aguda, Lagos state; I have now lived in the Western world for over 23years. I was born into the family of Barrister George Okei, a former commissioner who served during the military era in the defunct Bendel/Delta State. He is perhaps the only man who served four military governors, as state commissioner. He is the first lawyer in Ekuku-Agbor, the first man to get married in the Catholic Church in Ekuku Agbor. I come from a well recognized home; my mother is from Agbor-Alidinma, from the Ehikwe family. My uncle is Chief Ehikwe, the Oriri of Agbor. I love my people and our culture.
I attended command secondary School Ojo Military Cantonment, Ojo Lagos, then moved to the Bendel State and I transferred to Government School Ughelli when my dad was made a commissioner in the then Bendel State in the 1980’s. I was a sanitary prefect during my time. After my Secondary education, I gained admission into the University of Benin, Edo state where I studied sociology. I was one of the special advisers in the Student’s Union Government, to the then president, Micheal Igini. I was the first chief launcher in the very first Students Harvest of St, Alberts Catholic Church Ugbowo in 1993.
I moved to London in 1994 then Ireland Dublin in 1998, where I ran for office as a councilor in Republic of Ireland, which I lost and then I was made an adviser to the Lord Mayor of New Bridge and an adviser to senator May Henry on ethnic and minority issues. I also went to George State University where I got my BSW in social works; I also went to the University of South Carolina, where I got my Masters Degree in Social Works. I used my connection to bring state leaders from Ireland and the European Union to Nigeria, especially to Edo State, where I also served as a special adviser to the then First Lady, Mrs Ekih Igbenedion and a chief consultant to her pet project. I was saddled with the responsibility of linking the project to international agencies, which I did efficiently, according to my capability. We were able to bring in the then Deputy Senate President of Ireland and the then Prime Minister of Ireland. After that, I went back to the U.S.A, where I worked with the State Department of Health.
Growing up outside Agbor, what languages do you speak?
I write and speak Ika and Ukwani,I also speak Yoruba and Igbo. I love my tribe; I love to display my cultural heritage.
What is your profession?
I am a social worker by profession, an I.T Administrator by administration and a politician by choice.
Who influenced your decision to join politics?
When you are the son of perhaps one of the very few men in Nigeria who served four different governors, when you are the nephew of Uncle John Ehikwe, who was the N.P.N Secretary in the Bendel State and my late Aunty in-law-Mrs. Ehikwe who was a member of the House of Assembly, when you are a ‘son’ to the late George Orewa, when you are the nephew of Chief Margaret Amaechi, the Oriwe of Agbor Kingdom, you begin to understand that I was born into a political home, so I had no choice than to follow suit. We grew up with nobles like the late Engineer Clement Orewa, and late Pa. Osi. These persons made my childhood, an exciting period. My dad is a strict man, an administrator par excellence (I took that from him). I am a disciplinarian. My dad, Uncle John Ehikwe, Chief Margaret Amaechi, the Oriwe of Agbor land and other persons groomed me.
According to Nelson Mandela, “there is no surer way to success other than to journey along the line of those who have succeeded”. I learnt a lot from my father; I travelled frequently with him. While my mates were playing, I sat to listen to my dad. That is why most persons call me a wise man today. It is all as a result of listening to him. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and you can only see me at political and cultural events. Even when I address people, here in South Carolina, I start with praying in Ika Language “Osolobue ya gozi unule”. I make sure people know that I am from Agbor, through my language and my cultural attire. I am not ashamed of my culture.
Did you further your studies after graduating from Uniben?
In India I attended Wilshere I.T Academy; I also attended Georgia State University, where I got my B.S.W. (Bachelors in Social Works). I also went to the University of South Carolina, where I bagged my Master Degree in Social Works. I am an Associate of Public Management (APM).
What positions do you hold currently?
I am a Notary Public Commissioner in South Carolina. I am registered to officiate and conduct weddings and other ceremonies. I serve the people of this state.
I am the interim president of the African Community, the immediate past Chief of Staff to the African Community, and a few weeks ago, I organized the biggest Nigerian Independence Day Celebration in South Carolina. The Nigerian Counsel General, over five South Carolina Senators, Mayors and other high and mighty were in attendance. I was born into a political family.
What were some of the thrilling experiences you had while growing up?
I had lots of experiences and adventures while growing up. One of them was in politics. Back then, in Lagos, my uncle, John Ehikwe, who was the NPN Secretary, and his wife Jane, who was a member of the House of Assembly (Late Mrs. Dele Ehikwe), always sat with me, whenever they came to Lagos, to talk politics. I took after my maternal family in that regard, because I talk, whereas my father is a very quiet person. I once attended a meeting with uncle Ehikwe who had a brand new 505 at that time. During the meeting, we met with some core politicians. That was what sparked my interest in politics. Those political talks caught my admiration, though my peers were not interested in such things. Chief Magaret Amaechi and Uncle George Orewa also talked about politics back then. Thus, politics is my hobby today. Living round the world has been a great experience.
What were some of your worst moments?
I have also experienced some bad times. I lost two brothers. This is the worst thing that can happen to anybody. It is very sad. Those were the worst moments of my life so far. I have had good and bad adventures. However, one experience I will never forget happened when I was 17 years old. I got drunk during the Late Chief Francis Edo Osagie burial ceremony on that day, and I had to drive from G.R.A to Ugbowo. My mum was so annoyed with me when I got home, to the extent that she seized the car key for a month. That experience basically made me not to drink or smoke, to this day.
When I arrived in London, which is usually cold, my friends tried persuading me to try cigarettes in order to warm me up. I tried it; however, I hated the smell. I threw it away and never tried it again.
What do you do now?
Officially I am a program co-coordinator with the department of health, behavioral health coordinator, case management behavioral health in South Carolina. My job is to ensure that we help clients to bring clients, people, and communities together, and train them to be social workers. We try to bring peace to the world. I am also a member of the South Carolina culture and linguistic committee, and my job is to go round the state to empower state workers on cultural and linguistic diversity; to ensure the compliance to federal laws; to ensure that the staff understands that people differ, even though we all speak the same English Language. I am also the president of the African Community in South Carolina, and I am also a member of the St. John Neuman Catholic Church. I have been one of the 3 wise men in the last five years. I am involved in my community: I do a lot of charity work. I love peace, especially as a behavioral health expert. I love to see systems work. I love to intervene when necessary to ensure that there is unity, hope and progress all over the world.
My wife has a PhD in Counseling Education from the University of South Carolina. While I am a social worker by profession, she is a counselor. So we talk and listen to each other. We are best of friends. My wife’s parents are professors, Prof. and Prof. (Mrs.) Adeyemi. I am a blessed man. I am a happy man and I give God the glory.
Growing up outside Agbor, what languages do you speak?
We were born and raised in Lagos State, so I speak English and Yoruba. I can write in Yoruba very well. I can speak and write in Ika and Igbo Languages. I am a little bit proficient in writing the Urhobo Language. I speak Ukwani. I fell in love with the Ukwani Language right from my childhood. I also speak though not too good but I can interact in Urhoobo and Bini Languages. Nevertheless, I wish to learn the Hausa Language.
Growing up outside Agbor, there was a time when nobody could speak Ika in my house. My father got angry and exiled us to Agbor for one year. I went to Ika Grammar School in the 1985. I stayed with Uncle Meeting Ehikwe for my second term.
For me, going to Agbor was fun, though my dad thought that he was punishing us. While in Lagos, we used to buy mango, oranges, cashew and the rest. Be that as it may, in Agbor, they were free. Plucking lots of fruits was part of the fun. When others were talking of going to Lagos, I was talking of staying in Agbor. I did not even want to go back. That one year in Agbor, shaped my life culturally. People envied me as “a Lagos boy” and I envied them because of the free mangoes, oranges, paw-paw, guavas and other things which were sold in Lagos, but free in Agbor.
My maternal family molded me. I was closer to them than my paternal family. All the things I do politically are as a result of my uncle’s influence, from my maternal side, Uncle John Ehikwe. I think to an extent, I am his successor, if you look for the next generation from his side. You can call myself, my junior cousin, Stanley Ehiedu, the P.D.P youth leader in Ika South and my daughter who has just been elected as the Student Union President as the third generation of political leaders. Ika land should get ready, because the Ehikwes and the Okeis are here to stay.
Growing up outside Agbor, it pains me to see people who grew up in Agbor, avoiding speaking or writing the Ika Language. They do not want to dress in Agbor attire. I hope that my people will begin to understand that there is nothing better than Odi nali (tradition).
What foreign languages do you speak?
I speak Spanish, Italian, and French. And am average in Hindi, Telegu and Irish.
What are the challenges of your profession?
It is not easy being in my line of profession. To succeed in my profession, you have to be a very good listener. 90% of my job description is listening to clients with different issues, be it marriage, family, financial, community, social, emotional, and all sorts of issues for counseling. So you have to listen carefully and attentively meet the clients at their level, for example, I have to dress to fit the status of my client, be it those from the high class, medium class and lower class. We try as much as we can not to force our beliefs on them; those steps are a part of the healing process. Some people just need people to listen to them. In Africa, most people don’t listen to others; they just want to keep talking.
Sometimes I can listen for three hours, with little interjection at intervals, to show am still with them. Most times, I find out that 40 to 45 percent of the problem is solved by just listening. Some people do not value our profession. Despite my personal issues, I still have to go to the office, listen and smile at others to make them feel better. So what I do basically is to help solve people’s problems.
What are your visions?
My vision for the future is to keep doing what am doing, keep helping the poor and the less privileged, to keep ensuring peace, giving back to Nigeria, Africa, Ekuku-Agbor, Agbor, be loyal to my King, to help wherever I can, be a good father to my children and prepare to be a grandfather few years from now. Take care of my aging parents and uncles, to ensure Ika land keeps developing. To ensure there is peace, progress and prosperity in the world, those are my visions for the next few years.
What have you done to give back to Ekuku-Agbor Community over the years?
I have frequently given back to my community and people of Ekuku-Agbor through my dad and uncles f to empower people, widows, less privileged, and I will continue to do that through the Okei and Ehikwe dynasty. We are deliberating on setting up a foundation to take care of people. I am the group administrator of the most powerful social media platform in Ika land, Ika Village Square (IVS). I was recently celebrated as the man of the time in Ika Village square. I also belong to Agbor community union platform, am in constant touch with my people. We will continue to give back and try to do whatever we can do for our people.
What drives or motivates you?
I am driven by my spiritual, cultural and human relations. Being a lover of God, I believe in the commandment that states that we should “love your brother as ourselves”. to help the less privileged, and to do good to all manner of people, without fear or favour. Am also driven by my desire to see a world filled with love, where people are at peace with each other. No disparity between the low, high and the mighty. Everybody is faithful to one another, helping each order to grow. The covenants I made with God on the day of my baptism, to love my neighbor as myself also drives me.
My driving force is the belief that we are all one, and that together we can conquer if only we work as one. I love to see people happy.
TO BE CONTINUED.

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