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I started off as an orphan – Newton

Dr.r Newton Chukwukadibia Jibunoh was born in January1,1938. He became an orphan at the age of two. His father, Mr. Samuel Jibunoh and his mother Ziporah died in his hometown in Akwukwu-Igbo in Delta State. In his quest to face the challenges of life, he decided to drive from London to Lagos in a car in 1966. He made a solo expenditure of driving across the Sahara desert.

In 2000, he embarked on his second Sahara desert expedition; this time traveling in the reverse direction from Nigeria to Europe. This he did to reveal the plight of the millions of people in Africa affected by the fast-encroaching Sahara desert. After his second experience, he founded Fight Against Desert Encroachment, FADE. As he turned 70 on January 1, 2008, he made his third trip across the world’s largest desert. He became the only child of his parents after his sister died. Welcome to the world of the “Desert Man” brought to you in this edition of Past Perfect.

I started off as an orphan. I was

going through such a life until I got married and started having my own children. My wife and my children are my first and only family. There was no mother or father to run to whenever there were problems or difficulties. When I finished secondary school, I came to Lagos and started working with Federal Ministry of Works.

Newton Jibunoh

I took that interest because the institute had a career pattern that allows people to further their education. In 1960, I did a scholarship examination but I failed. In 1961 I had another one and this time, I passed. So, I went to study Building and Civil Engineering abroad which took me five years to accomplish. I was opportuned to be in the midst of astrologists who were sent into space. Although, I wasn’t among those who were sponsored , I decided to make an impact on my own.

So, when it was time to return to Nigeria, I promised to do something that would remind me of being in that school. I decided to drive from London to Lagos in 1966. Each time, I got to various embassies, some of them, told me it was impossible. Some reminded me of a number of people that had died in the process, so it became a challenge.

I didn’t believe that I was going to die while doing things that would bring innovation into the lives of Nigerians. So, I was able to conquer that fear. I had the fear of trying new things, going into the unknown places and breaking barriers and crossing over to new territories.

When I returned to Nigeria in 1966, the first journalist that interviewed me was Mr. Sam Amuka. He was in Daily Times then, writing a column called Sad-Sam. Then he introduced me to Chief Segun Olusola who was also writing in the same paper. That was how, the three of us became close friends.

When I came to Nigeria, I worked in Constain West Africa for 36 years. I worked as supervisor, project manager, general manager, assistant director, director, deputy managing director, managing director and chairman of the company. I encountered lots of challenges because I had to compete with so many foreign experts. So, it was a few Nigerians including me that had to compete with them. I became the Managing Director after twenty years of serious practice working on projects all over Nigeria.

So, when I left the company, I went into environmental studies which has been my passion for 40 years. Challenges of life also came when I made my way into the desert the second time. My car was converted to a desert car. Before the trip, my son Uche collected some information from the internet titled “desert corner”. The information was that over 200 Europeans and Americans had died trying to cross the Sahara Desert between 1978 and 1998. I believed he was trying to send a warning signal to me but I couldn’t resist my conscience.

On my second attempt to cross the Sahara Desert which was to save the lives of people in the desert, I begged God to save me, that if I could survive the agony, I promised not to attempt another one. Thinking at that time, I would have made a landmark.

At the same time, I was mindful of how my success story would celebrated over the nation.

Yet, I was faced with the challenge of people finding it difficult to understand why I’m still going into the desert even at 62.

Life as a desert man was not intentional. But I knew that I needed to make some adventurous moves. The fact that my parents died when I was two years and I didn’t know until I was seven years of age also aided my desire. At that time, I decided that I was going to take my life in my hands and that I would do everything to make a meaning out of it. I embraced all difficulties to be able to become someone in life. I took up the challenge that I was going to rise above the fact

that I am an orphan. I was able to exploit the village life to its fullest. I did a lot of fishing, hunting and as a little boy, I had a farm where I was growing and selling crops. I still own that farm till date.

I remember that I used to beg hunters in the village for an adventure. I used to follow fishermen to the rivers while they gave me my share which I sold afterward. That was how I discovered the adventure in me. Fishing in those days especially in the big rivers was fearful. The tale of water goddess at night in the river also became a reality. There were times when we encountered dangerous animals with our searchlight on but the head hunter used to caution us not to shoot, that we might be attacked. If I have to say today that I have conquered fear in my life, it was due to those experiences that I had.

I was in the village throughout my elementary period. At some point in my life, circumstances took me away from my village setting to another village where I had to finish my secondary school. There was a school teacher whom I served for seven months and in

return, he paid my fees and I was able to finish my secondary school education. There was no secondary school in my hometown, so I had to move out to another town which was why I went into agreement with that man. But, he is dead now. After my secondary school, I relocated to Lagos.

I don’t take failure very easily. I believe that even if I try and fail, I must keep trying until I succeed. The taste of failure sometimes can be very disturbing but the success that comes out of it is much more rewarding which is another aspect of my life that I have taken very serious. I believe in conquering fear in whatever form I found it, so I’ve also worked towards conquering whatever fear I have, be it of people, places or events. I believe in fighting to conquer.

So, each time, I fail, I try to find out why and I made sure that those aspects of life that were responsible for those failures don’t repeat themselves.

At the time I was to get married, my wife who found out that the man she wanted to marry was an orphan took me as her brother. She was able to bridge that aspect of life that was missing in me and her late mother became my mother. Then, she started acting like a mother and a sister to me. She never reminded me of being an orphan.

Although as a young man, mistakes were inevitable but I thank God that I was able to marry her and couldn’t have wished for any thing better than my wife. She has been my partner for forty years.

Conquering fear and making up for my mistakes became my strongest point.

My advise to million of Nigerians that find themselves in the same condition is to remain focused.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.