Theodore Ekechi: When Recognition Comes for a Life of Integrity

Dr. Theodore Ekechi, a frontline marketing communication entrepreneur and director of planning and monitoring of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation bagged the Integrity Man of the Year Award by the National Association of Christian Journalists, NACJ. Samuel Ajayi writes

It was a day of glory and recognition for the director of planning and monitoring of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation, Dr. Theodore Ekechi, as he bagged the Integrity Man of the Year of the National Association of Christian Journalists, NACJ. The event which was held last Friday at the high-brow Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Ikeja, Lagos, drew the best of the media industry as well as politicians and corporate giants.

According to the Board of Trustees of the association, Ekechi had been chosen for his exemplary leadership style as attested to by members of his staffas well as those who have had the opportunity of working with him. In a letter signed by the chairman of the board of the association, Dr. John Dara, Ekechi’s nomination was based on his “very impressive track record as a selfless individual.” The letter added that the “award was predicated on his demonstration of sense of integrity over the years” adding that his “transparent leadership style, warm and honest relationship with people, especially members of his staff and very strong character and sterling display of patriotism and integrity in his leadership responsibilities.”

And unlike many other awards, the Intergrity Man of the Year Award is quite prestigious and the process of nomination and eventual choice is rigorous as recipients are nominated through the association’s Executive Members Nomination Exercise. Three nominees with the highest votes would therefore be presented to members of the association nationwide to pick the eventual winner via telephone short message service, SMS.

Speaking at the award ceremony, the secretary-general of the association, Pastor Charles Okhai, lamented that corruption had become a norm in the country today owing to the fact that many have come to accept that to excel, you have to be corrupt. He stated that as a government official, if you are not given to corruption, you are considered a sell-out and a non-conformist. He admitted, however, that there are still some Nigerians who are worth celebrating because of their dedication and sense of integrity both in their private and public lives.

“I am glad to announce that tonight, we are here to celebrate some of our illustrious sons and daughters who have over the years of the lives and careers demonstrated high sense of integrity. The Award is, therefore, intended to make Nigerians embrace integrity as a valuable virtue in human character. The gains of integrity cannot be over-emphasised.”

He explained further that integrity did not mean perfection as some people were tempted to judge past recipients of the Award from the angle of excellence and perfection. Okhai stated that integrity does not mean an individual is perfect; adding that the driving force behind the award is to discourage corruption in the country.

“It gives me joy to realise the fact that President Buhari’s government is flying a hurricane of fire against corruption. We should not expect him to do it all alone neither should we expect him to get it all right because no man born of woman is infallible.”
He said the Award recipients depicted and represented the finest possibilities of gifted and God-fearing men and women who allowed the spirit of God to develop their capacities to impact the world around them with a deep sense of integrity. He explained that the National Association of Christian Journalists was championing a cause that would bring about attitudinal change in the nation’s behavioural pattern, adding that the NACJ Integrity Man of the Year Award was not like any other award because theirs is “pricey, noble and prestigious.”

It was a night of fun, music and razzmatazz as awardees after awardees were called out to come and savour their moment of recognition. One of those awarded was ace broadcaster and head of presentation of the NTA Lagos Network Centre, Ademola Adeoye, who was given the Ambassadorial Award for Professional Integrity. Also awarded was Babatunde Wilkey, a food and hygiene specialist who bagged the Professional Integrity Award for pioneering the processing of fresh and frozen meat for a number of high profile fast food chains. Not left out was the Saturday Editor of THE PUNCH Newspaper, Olabisi Deji-Folutile, who bagged the Ambassadorial Award for Professional Integrity.

Folutile is one of the leading female lights in the male dominated media industry in the country. Not left out was the Deputy Chief Whip of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Omotayo Aramide Oduntan, who bagged the Integrity Award for Grassroots Politics. Oduntan, a self-made woman braced all odds necessitated by the early death of her father to rise to the top and set up a private school to make up for education she so longed but which the death of her father robbed her of after secondary school. Also recognised was the chief executive officer of Air Peace Aviation Services, Barrister Allen Onyema, who bagged the Integrity Award in Quality Corporate Service.

The biggest masquerade, however, was Dr. TOE Ekechi who bagged the Integrity Man of the Year. A self-made entrepreneur and consummate businessman, Ekechi has spent the greater part of his working life in the private sector since 1988. He set up one of the biggest outdoor advertising agencies in Nigeria, Marketing and Media Limited, with branches all over the country. He also set up Allianz Media, another outdoor advertising concern, but with focus on high end clientele. He is also the chairman of TOE and Associates as well as First Commodity Brokerage Limited.

His first stint in public service was when he was appointed the Special Adviser and Chief of Staff to the minister of the interior, Captain Emmanuel Ihenacho. He provided advisory as well as general support service in policy, supervision and leadership of the ministry and the para-military agencies under it. These include the Nigerian Immigration Service, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigerian Prisons Service as well as the Federal Fire Service.

It was this same mindset that Ekechi took to his home state, Imo, when he was persuaded to take up an appointment as the commissioner for information and strategy. Though for just a little over a year, he was able to spearhead an attitudinal change in the ministry with special focus on the Imo Broadcasting Service, IBS, which he brought back to the path of profitability. A democrat to the core, he started a programme, Speak Out, which was holding at the Freedom Square where people would come and air their views and complaints about governance generally. Since the programme was being broadcast live, there was no any pre-arranged method of speaking as anyone could raise up his or her hand and he or she would be acknowledged to speak.

Speaking to THISDAY on the award, Ekechi said he felt humbled and honoured that his little contributions were being recognised by organisations like the National Association of Christian Journalists. It was this same panacea that Ekechi applied when he was named the director of planning and monitoring of APC Presidential Campaign Organisation where he was in charge of pre-election and post-election day activities to ensure that the party won the election.

“I feel honoured,” he declared. “Throughout my working life, I have always striven to be above aboard. Am I perfect? Far from that. But I try not to cheat nor deprive whoever has worked for me. It is encouraging that integrity is still being recognised in a nation reeling under the yoke of corruption.”Thisday

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