By Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon, Charles Kumolu, Festus Ahon, Gbenga Oke & Ochuko Akuopha
After battling with bone cancer for almost 24 months, erudite technocrat, administrator and former presidential candidate, Mr. Gamaliel Oforitsenere Onosode, died yesterday in Lagos. He was 82 years.
Confirming the demise of the boardroom guru, fondly called Mr. Corporate Nigeria by admirers, his son, Ese Onosode, told Vanguard on phone: “He passed on this morning (yesterday).”
Asked if the octogenarian had been ill, he said: “Yes, he has been battling with bone cancer for almost two years.”
According to Ese, who said that the Onosode family was yet to reconcile itself with the reality of losing its patriarch, “we are still digesting the information. I am just trying to get used to the news that my father is no more.”
Ughelli, the headquarters of Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State, was thrown into mourning when the news of Onosode’s death filtered in at about 9a.m. Onosode, who hailed from Ekuigbo-Ughelli, succumbed to the protracted illness at about 8.15a.m. in a Lagos hospital.
Vanguard gathered that the one-time Presidential Adviser to former President Shehu Shagari on Budget Affairs and Director of Budget was, on Monday, flown into the country from London, where he was receiving treatment.
Born on May 22, 1933, Onosode was educated at Government College, Ughelli, and the University of Ibadan.
Mr. Corporate Nigeria
He was Chairman, Dunlop Nigeria Plc from 1984 to 2007; Chairman, Cadbury Nigeria Plc from 1977 to 1993; Chairman, Presidential Commission on Parastatals in 1981; Chairman, Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas, LNG, Working Committee and Nigeria LNG Limited from 1985 to 1990 and the Niger Delta Environmental Survey in 1983.
He was also Chairman of the GSM telco, Zain Nigeria.
Onosode’s death elicited a torrent of tributes yesterday from various quarters, especially from his Ughelli community in Delta State.
Among those who poured eulogies on him is Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State; former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; former Minister of Petroleum, Chief Don Etiebet; former Minister of State for Education, Kenneth Gbagi; Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly, Hon. Ovwigho Igbuya; and Chairman of Sadiq Oil, Chief Peter Okocha.
Corporate world Iroko
has fallen— Anyaoku
Reacting to the sad news, Anyaoku said in a statement: “An Iroko in the corporate world has fallen. Mr. Onosode was a true symbol of integrity in the boardroom. He was an outstanding patriot and an icon of the best of Nigeria’s national values. Gam, as he was called by his contemporaries, was also a man of God who deployed a significant part of his righteously acquired resources to supporting the church in his home town of Ughelli and in Lagos, where he lived an exemplary modest life.
“He will be missed by the very many people whose lives he touched in beneficial ways. Gamaliel was my best man at our wedding almost 53 years ago; my entire family, which enjoys close relationship with his family, joins his wife, Susan, and their children in mourning this virtuous man.
“We thank God for his remarkable and fulfilled life, and pray that his soul will rest in perfect peace.’’
Adebanjo, Aguariavwodo, Etiebet
In like manner, Adebanjo said: “It is a great loss. He was one of the great minds in Nigeria; a perfect gentleman. He is one of those that Nigeria needs at this point in time, particularly with the reconstruction of our economy and others.”
Reacting to the sudden passage of the Urhobo-born politician cum-technocrat, Senator Emmanuel Aguariavwodo said the death of Onosode was a colossal loss to the Urhobo nation, Delta State and Nigeria as a whole.
Aguariavwodo remarked: “Nigeria has lost a colossus,” adding that Onosode’s exemplary life style is worthy of emulation.
In his reaction, Chief Etiebet said: “It is very sad to hear that Sir Gamaliel Onosode is dead. Nigeria has lost a rare gem. He epitomized, in all respects, what Nigeria wanted to be as a nation.
“We will surely miss him and may his gentle soul rest in peace as we ask for God’s grace to abide with the family to bear the irreparable loss with fortitude.”
Also speaking, Chairman of Sadiq Oil, Chief Peter Okocha, said Nigeria has lost a first class intellectual.
His words: “A great Nigerian and Deltan, a wonderful Nigerian and first class intellectual has passed to the great beyond. May his gentle soul rest in peace.”
Gbagi said: ‘’He has paid his dues in this country and we all saw that. God rewarded him with age to cap the unblemished life he led. The last time I was with him at the palace of the king of Ughelli, I never knew it would be our last time together.
“I have regard for him because he was a man of impeccable pedigree. All the times our paths crossed, whether in politics or other areas, his conduct was exemplary. Nigerians should borrow a leaf from the life of integrity he led. I have no doubt that his soul will rest in peace.’’
Gov Okowa’s reaction
Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, expressed deep shock and sadness over Onosode’s demise.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, the governor described Onosode’s death as a great loss to Deltans and Nigerians in general.
He said the late Onosode was a great Nigerian technocrat, administrator, astute and disciplined politician who had engraved his indelible footprints on the sands of time, having served his fatherland meritoriously in different capacities.
Condoling the people of Urhobo extraction, Okowa pointed out that Onosode’s death came at a time when his service, contribution and ideas are most needed in the present socio-economic and political uncertainties in the country.
He prayed God to grant Deltans and his immediate family the fortitude to bear the loss.
Delta Speaker mourns
Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly, Mr. Ovwigho Igbuya, said the death of Deacon Onosode had deprived Nigerians, particularly the people of Delta State, of the services of one of the most consistent administrators of this age.
A statement by Igbuya’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Henry Ebireri, urged the younger generation of Nigerians to take a cue from the ideals that Onosode lived for, adding “Onosode was a family man that radiated the best of family values.
“In Nigeria, Onosode stood out. He was a rare gem and a visionary leader with the knack for identifying talents. As head of the then NAL Merchant Bank of Nigeria, he brought together bright young men and women, some of whom are today in top banking positions in the country and abroad.
“As a presidential adviser to President Shagari and a former President of the Nigerian Institute of Management, he demonstrated exceptional administrative prowess.’’
Igbuya urged Onosode’s immediate family and the Urhobo people at home and abroad to take solace in the belief that God’s will is unquestionable and must always prevail.”
On his part, Delta State All Progressives Congress, APC, candidate in the 2015 governorship election, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, described Onosode’s death as a national loss.
Emerhor, speaking to Vanguard in Warri, Delta State, said anyone mourning Onosode as a loss to Urhobo was limiting history, because Onosode’s positive impact transcended Nigeria’s boundaries.
Emerhor said: “Onosode became an institution in corporate Nigeria by the marks he set in various boardroom capacities and I can proudly say he mentored most of us who came up in the corporate world.
“He tried to come into politics in some sort of way without really hitting the bull’s eye, obviously not for incompetence but because his persona contrasted with the oddities of the murky Nigerian political terrain. We will miss him as a national loss.”
Edward Ekpoko, Chairman, Warri Study Group and Secretary, Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, said of Onosode: “He was somebody Nigeria always resorted to when you need technocrats. I think he was one of the cleanest at his height. His personality exudes transparency. He is irreplaceable.”
He was naive in
For former labour leader, Chief Frank Kokori, Onosode “was one of those Nigerians who made their marks in business, but were naive in politics. I remember that in the Fourth Republic they used him and he did not really know what was happening.
“He is one of the best Nigeria has produced because it is rare to see people like that. These are people who have integrity. They have honesty and you take them for their words; Nigeria needs such people now.”
He said that the number of Nigerian casualties was yet to be determined, but stated that as at Monday, the casualty figure was 58 while more pilgrims were yet to be accounted for.