UNTIL his death on Wednesday 18th July 2012, very little was heard of Justice Victor Erereko Ovie-Whiskey (rtd.), chairman of the defunct Federal Electoral ommission, (FEDECO) since the ouster of the Second Republic administration of President Shehu Shagari by the military junta of General Muhammadu Buhari, on December 31, 1983.
The erstwhile Chief Judge of the defunct Bendel State, who piloted the affairs of the then electoral body, which conducted the election that saw Shagari being returned as President for a second tenure 29 years ago, drifted into oblivion after the coup that also terminated his appointment as FEDECO boss.
A very private person despite his exposure to public glare by his appointment in 1980 as FEDECO Chairman, the late Ovie-Whiskey retired to a quiet life at the Ikweghu-Agharho community in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State where he took to farming.
Ovie-Whiskey lived in a house he built for his mother until about five years ago, when the building was demolished by his children and replaced with a modest bungalow.
Since his demise at the age of 88, after two weeks of being in a state of semi consciousness at the Ekoto Clinic, Agbarho, the serene Ikweghu-Agharho community residence of the man who according to his only son and eight child in a family of nine children Mr. Anthony Ovie-Whiskey “never went out a lot” has been overflowing with dignitaries and people from all walks of life who are thronging in to sympathize with the family.
Speaking about the life and times of his late father, Anthony Ovie-Whiskey, a legal practitioner described the former FEDECO boss as a devout Christian who was very committed to the work of God.
“He was a soldier of God. He was a knight of St. Mulumba, St. Christopher and St. George. He was very serious about his Christian faith and he brought us up to know God and serve Him as proper Catholics,” he added.
Saying that the late judge was a very strict father who was very close to his family, Anthony maintained that the qualities he cherished most in his father was doggedness in the pursuit of truth, uprightness and simplicity in whatever he did. At the time he served, Nigeria was a different country, it is not like today. He said as FEDECO Chairman, his father did his best to conduct a free and fair election to the best of his ability.
Reacting to insinuations that the suddenness with which his father left his FEDECO job took so much from him and that he was never the same again, Anthony Ovie-Whiskey said: “It was not that he wasn’t the same. He was the same person. After FEDECO, he was thrown into sudden retirement. Being a hard working man, all of a sudden, there was no work.
“He could not go back to the judiciary because as a judge, you are not allowed to combine judiciary with private practice, so he could not go back to private practice. All of a sudden, at 60 years he did not have anything to do other than to go to his farm and he was not much of a sports man in his older days. So maybe he was too idle, he had too much free time. Maybe that is what you should have said that in his later days it affected him. He was treading through unemployment.”
He submitted that his father was a hard working erudite Judge whose discipline as a judge would not allow him to indulge in corrupt practices.
Anthony said: “As at 1979 when he was leaving the judiciary, he was still a very private person. Then there was not as much bribery and corruption as there is today, it was not that open. There were still upright and forthright people who believed in training their children with their salaries.
“This house you see is built by the children. The old house used to be in the front here, a small one. So, we knocked it down and we built this about four or five years ago, a simple modest house. He lived in the house he built for his mother after he left FEDECO.”
On whether he was proud of his father who became what he was, knowing the corrupt nature of the Nigerian state and that people leave public service to very expensive mansions, Anthony said: “Until I grew up, you would want to say ‘oh your father did not do this, everyone is doing that, everyone did that and everyone has this and everyone has that, but then strength in family is greater than wealth, greater than mansions.
“We the children are very united as a family. We have one unifying factor, apart from God our parents their love and their strength and that keep us going. Strength in number is our greatest advantage, we don’t care about too much money or who doesn’t have money, so long you have enough to look after your children, your immediate family, it’s enough.”
Anthony Ovie-Whiskey expressed appreciation to the Judiciary and the Delta State Government for their support to his father in his old age. “His pension was being paid by the Nigeria Judicial Commission, (NJC) and the state government also paid him pension and also gave him money for his medical upkeep in the last couple of years,” he said.
According to him, Juliana, his 78-years-old wife was comforted by the fact that he lived a very good life and lived to a ripe old age. “She saw him ill for the last two weeks and obviously she knew it was time. The last of us is 42 so we are all adults,” he added
Born on April 6th 1924, Justice Victor Erereko Ovie-Whiskey (rtd) who hailed from Ohore community Uvwie Local Government Area of the state attended Government School, Warri from 1933 to 1938 and proceeded to Kings Collage, Lagos from 1939 to 1944.
He later attended Higher College, Yaba, Lagos from 1946 to 1947 and became a foundation student at the University College Ibadan from 1947 to 1948. Ovie-Whiskey did an External programme at the University College, London from 1952 to 1954. He was called to the English Bar in 1954.
In 1960, he was appointed Magistrate in the old Western region and later Chief Magistrate in the defunct Mid-Western region in 1963. Between 1964 and 1966 he was the Acting Commissioner (Customary Court), Chief Registrar of the High Court (Mid-Western Region) and Director of Public Prosecution. In 1967, he was appointed as Judge of the High Court (Mid-Western Region) and later, the first Chief Justice of the defunct Bendel State. He retired from public service in 1980, the same year he was appointed as Chairman of FEDECO.