Mark Okoye: The Uncommon Nigerian by Mitterand Okorie

Mark Okoye. A man whose story would light in you a fire that ‘ill burn for days, weeks and months on end.

Quit an 800k a month job in an investment company to plunge himself, headlong into joining politics in his state. “I figured, why did we wait till we were so tired or retired to start thinking of becoming part of the political process? Isn’t that why, many times we have leaders who are out of ideas, because they are no longer capable or learning through experience?”

What would follow was a long tortured process of endless government house visitations which looked like they’d never bear fruit. At some point, friends and family thought he was insane for leaving a lucrative job for an uncertain future into politics.

Governor Obi eventually made him his Senior Special Assistant on Trade and Investment.

And then he drafted Governor Obiano’s manifesto, outlining the framework on which the state can attract investment and generate wealth.

When he was made a Commissioner following Obiano’s victory, trouble struck. He was only 28, and the minimum age for being a commissioner was 30. He would fail the screening. But then a few men in the State Assembly advised him to stop being silly and go and forge a certificate. A make or break moment.

“It was tempting,” he said, “Having something that was your dream so close to you, yet so far. I spoke to my then fiancé, who is now my wife, and she told me: ‘what’s yours would find its way to you.’ So I went back and told those men, I won’t do it.”

Obiano kept him close nonetheless, appointing him as one of his Personal Assistants, and after 2 years when he became 30, his name was sent back to the State Assembly. This time, he was confirmed, and has remained ever since the Anambra State Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning.

I consider him one of the brightest young people in the country, and a star of the Obiano administration.

Mark Okoye is a testament that life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

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