13 November 2001

Nigeria: My Health is As Stable As My Stature Frank Kokori, Labour Leader And Activist


FRANK Kokori. The name never fails to ring a bell. Formerly leader of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Kokori is famous for spearheading the war against the military government over the validation of the June 12, 1993 election. Currently, he is an adviser on labour issues although he also has a lot to do with industrial relations.

He speaks on his health and related issues. Excerpts:

"I have spent many years of my life as an activist. In those years, I toured a lot, locally and internationally. That I believe is enough exercise, because moving around entails doing so many things. I was younger then, but you can appreciate that as a young man below 38 years, one would find it easy to do these things, however, by the time you get to be 40 and above, you need to take things easy as at that time, so many things will have happened in your system. It is at this period that one begins to talk of things like blood pressure, diabetes and all such things. It is more or less like the halfway mark in a man's life.

Some of us are lucky in the sense that before attaining the mid 40's, we never had any real health problem. We just keep going on and on and on.

Right now, I 'm getting into my late 50's, so I must be reasonable. I mean it would be stupid of me to think I can go on the way I used to.

Normally, my schedule used to be crowded, but this has been reduced a bit though there are still one or two political issues to be dealt with now an d then. I'm regularly attending courses, lectures and granting interviews here and there, but I do not fail to have my exercises every morning. I walk and do some other physical stuff on the floor. I had this accident many years back that require regular exercise. While I was in prison, it became aggravated as a result of my restriction. After I was released, I went to George town University for a thorough check up at the instance of the American Labour Federation. There were other medical checks at the national Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos and another hospital in Switzerland.

I was given this routine exercise that has been very useful to me over the years. I go through it every morning and I'm okay.

I don't eat too heavily. To be exact, my advice is that when a person has crossed the age of 45, he should avoid eating heavily. You should avoid heavy meals completely. Alight meal two or three times daily is adequate.

Any meal that is balanced and has all the necessary components is ideal.

Too much starch will not allow tissues to be rebuilt properly. Also, too much protein is not desirable for strength. What will give strength are carbohydrates, so you need as much of it as possible.

Dieting is still an art and I have been interested in it for a long time.

It is a beautiful thing that keeps me going. My health is stable as well as my stature. Apart from when I returned from prison and looked like an 80-year old man, I've been 100 per cent healthy. I believe moderation is essential for healthy life. My mother was diabetic, but she lived to a ripe old age. I have a feeling I'm likely to be diabetic too when I'm older. Its actually 50/50. Obviously I have to watch my health closely. I'm concerned about my cholesterol level as well. If you ask for my best food, I'll tell you that as a former trade unionist and currently a consultant, one thing I do not fail to do every morning is have a good and balanced breafast. I am in habit of asking everyone to follow suit whether or not they have the appetite. You could afford to skip lunch if you so desire, but it is essential to have breakfast in order to keep going. Starving yourself till 1:00 or 2:00 pm everyday is a very bad thing. Missing breakfast could mean taking only tea and biscuit at meetings since there would be no time for breakfast. My advise is also that you should not miss dinner, no matter what.

If I happen to be at my Ethiope East country home, I do a lot of walking on the expansive grounds. I walk around several times in the morning, basking in the freshness of the flowers and greenery in general.

The fresh oxygen rejuvenates the body after it must have sucked in so much polluted air, this is why I love having flowers around the house. I won't say I'm a music buff, rather, I;m a current affairs buff. I'm always in tune with my radio and TV sets to keep abreast of latest happenings in the world. I miss nothing. I enjoy comedy from serious drama and not comedy shows per se. Evergreen country music also appeals to me. I love Jim Reeves and those songs that just never die. Sunny Okosuns' music takes me back over the years in the same vein as some of Fela's yabis. Onyeka Onwenu's voice thrills me so much, but I was disappointed to hear she went for the two million-man march at Abuja. I admire people who stick out their neck to fight totalitarianism. I enjoy their boldness."

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