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Okunbo’s heart of gold and royal recognition

I WAS not surprised when on Thursday, October 2, this year, Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Erediauwa, Oba of Benin, adorned an illustrious son of Benin, Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo, JP, with the “Traditional Beads” for being a worthy son of the ancient Kingdom.

This recognition, which I understand is a precursor to a traditional chieftaincy title that is in the offing, is well deserved when gleaned from the prism of his invaluable contributions to the development of the Kingdom and its people.

With a lifestyle of building business empires, massive investments in human capital development, philanthropy, respect for constituted authorities and loyalty to friendship, leadership and followership alike, Captain Hosa (as he is widely referred to by his associates) has defined his eon and occupied his space in the socio-economic and political setup of Benin Kingdom in particular as well as Edo State and Nigeria in general.

Perhaps, it is in the locale of philanthropy that he has, by far, impacted positively and manifestly on the lives of his people. The narratives in many quarters in Benin bear confirmation of how God has used Captain Hosa to liberate people from the shackles of poverty and how he has assisted institutions to thrive. Having prospered in his business enterprises, he must have reasoned that the best way to appreciate God and man is to give to charity, uplift the poor and give back to society.

Captain Hosa is, indeed, a successful man in ventures that span a wide range of sectors, including oil and gas, power, security, properties, etc. His chain of investments supports his multi-billionaire status in all its ramifications. But one virtue that characterizes the life of this 56-year-old businessman and perhaps neo-politician is his simplicity.   He does not play to the gallery.

He does not crave for recognition despite having the wherewithal to get it. He may have something close to the wealth of Croesus, the last King of Lydia who was renowned for his great wealth; he certainly does not splash it with the sybaritic indulgence of Adnan Khashoggi, Saudi Arabian businessman, who spent his wealth on lavish parties and was reported to have, in his heyday, spent $250,000 daily to maintain his lifestyle.

For Captain Hosa, his focus is people-oriented, transformation-driven and human capital development-targeted. He is said to have given out multi-billion naira over time in donations to noble and progressive causes.

Apart from his philanthropic gestures, he has played a frontline role in the integration of the Benin Kingdom in the politics and policies of the Federal Government. This is after he has become sure-footed about his own sphere of influence as a key player in the nation’s politics and economy.

He was instrumental to the Friday, April 25, 2014, visit of the Crown Prince of Benin Kingdom, Ambassador Eheneden Erediauwa, to the Presidential Villa to deliver a message of goodwill from his father (the Oba of Benin) to President Goodluck Jonathan.

The highly respected Oba, who was constrained by age to travel, in the goodwill message commended the President, prayed for him and invoked the ancestral spirits of the Kingdom to give him the strength to continue with his good work, in spite of daunting security challenges.   Significantly, the monarch had urged the President to seek a second term to complete his work of transforming the nation.

Captain Hosa’s other involvements in socio-political and economic activities at the Federal level have in recent times projected him as a force to reckon with in the critical economic sector.

Before now and way back in 1997, under the military regime of the late General Sani Abacha, he led a team that nurtured the idea that culminated in the introduction of transparent ballot boxes for use in the nation’s elections. This remains a landmark contribution to the electoral process in Nigeria. These and other accomplishments must have convinced the Oba of Benin that it was time he recognised him (Captain Hosa) as a worthy son of the Kingdom.

Prior to the latest honour, this illustrious son of Benin kingdom was in 2007 honoured with the Justice of the Peace, JP, in recognition of his astounding contributions to the promotion of peace and good governance as well as development of his constituency. Again in 2012, in faraway United States, the American Congress honoured him with the “African Titans” Award for being a voice of the Niger Delta people through a multi-million dollar movie production that he sponsored, titled: “Black November.”

Consider, for instance, what he did in 2005 in Benin: He assisted over 774 women of Oba Market in Benin who suffered varying degree of losses as a result of the inferno which gutted the market with a multi-million naira intervention to keep their various trading activities afloat. He had also financed a youth empowerment programme with a view to uplifting the quality of life of his people as a service to humanity. It was against the backdrop of these huge accomplishments that the University of Benin on November 24, 2012 conferred on him the honorary Doctorate of Science (D.Sc) degree.

Indeed, with incredible streams of income, he is arguably the Nigerian equivalence of Midas-a Phrygian King in Greek mythology- who turned objects, everything he touched, to gold.

This may explain his meteoric rise to the top of his chosen profession as a pilot from where he retired before venturing into other businesses such as the Hoslyn Ventures Nigeria Limited, which has been into procurement in the oil and gas sector; Ocean Marine Security Limited, a company responsible for offshore asset protection for major oil companies in Nigeria, including the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC; PPP Fluid Mechanics Limited, a crude oil logistics company; Integrated Energy Distribution and Marketing Limited, a company that won the bid for Ibadan and Yola Power Distribution Companies, Discos); and a host of others.

Captain Hosa’s friends and well wishers must be keeping their fingers crossed as the Benin Kingdom plans a bigger recognition for a worthy son, an ambassador of good fortune.

Mr. Sufuyan Ojeifo, a journalist, wrote from ABuja.




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