By Sufuyan Ojeifo
“Don’t be indifferent about any random idea that occurs to you, because each and every idea is for a particular purpose. It may not be beneficial to you, but can be what others are craving for” Michael Bassey Johnson
On January 7, 2018, business mogul, shrewd investor, philanthropist and, obviously, one of Nigeria’s quiet and self-effacing billionaires, Captain (Dr.) Idahosa Wells Okunbo (JP), fondly referred to in the circle of friends and business associates as Captain ‘Hosa, turned 60.
He had every reason to celebrate his birthday with pomp and ceremony here in Nigeria; but, he denied his extended family members, friends and associates that occasion as he traveled out of the country to unwind with his immediate family.
The idea of a gathering with his immediate family was the brainchild of his gorgeous, demure but highly fecund wife, Nosa, who has, over the years, stood by him like the rock of Gibralta both in building the home front and consolidating the human capital component of his vast business empire.
And far away from home, Captain ‘Hosa could not escape the essential pampering by his wife and fine-looking children. Amid relaxation, his prolific mind was engrossed in restless muses about life and the handiwork of God’s creations.
Remarkably, by the time the indulgence was over, the Chairman of Ocean Marine Solutions (OMS)and many other companies as well as director in NatCom Development and Investment Limited (trading as ntel) and Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC), among several others, was re-energised for more profitable ventures and cravings.
But that was not until he had, in his moments of obligatory introspection while in Dubai, chanced on a news report about the episodic tragedy of Nigerian returnees from Libya. He could not restrain his lachrymal gland from opening up. He shed tears as confirmed by him in his ex-tempore speech to a quality academic audience recently.
The occasion was a public lecture on “Youth Migration, Consequences and Current Realities” organised by the authorities of the University of Benin on February 16, 2018 to celebrate one of its own -a Doctorate Degree in Business Administration honoree of the University- on his diamond anniversary. The venue was Akin Deko Main Auditorium.
While the Dean of Student Affairs, Professor Osariemen Benson Osadolor spoke on the specifics of “Stemming the Tide of Youth Migration: A Viable Alternative”, the Director General, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Dame Julie Okah-Donli, Esq., spoke to “Youth Migration, Deportation and Rehabilitation: The Way Forward.”
At the end of the intellectual exertions, Captain ‘Hosa was beside himself. His agitation was not only visible but also expressive. He verbalized his commitment to the advocacy against human trafficking in Nigeria. He was upbeat about the new craving such that he declared to the audience: “Today, I am an Ambassador against human trafficking.”
The opportunity offered by the quietude of his hotel room in Dubai had exposed him to this Godly and patriotic preoccupation. “Human trafficking,” he pontificated, “is evil; it is not what our children should go through. I was quite ambitious when I was young. What made me shed tears in my hotel room was that if it were today, I would probably have been in Libya.”
The subject matter of Nigerian returnees from Libya was what compelled him to relate positively with the birthday lecture organised in his honour as he did not want any celebration, perhaps due to the socio-economic conditions that have exacerbated the existential fears of survival by the mass of the people.
He asserted that the lecture topic was, therefore, titillated his interest; hence his acceptance of the proposed lecture by the organisers and, in his vote of thanks, he made a number of positions to reinforce how critical the issue has become in our body-politic. He traced the roots of the crisis to corruption, which has over the years eroded our value system.
Captain ‘Hosa spoke the truth with candor without holding back. According to him, “Well, I tell you, I am no longer afraid to say the truth. At 60, where I am going is nearer than where I am coming from. I cannot turn another 60 years. If we become elders that cannot say the truth, we have not only failed ourselves but we have failed our family and our children. We should begin to tell ourselves the truth.”
And he spoke a number of truths on the occasion: first is that his generation has failed this generation of youths. He said that his generation and those, having benefitted so much from the state, failed to give back to the country in terms of investments that could bolster youth employment and empowerment.
The second truth is their failure to provide good leadership or to be role models to the youths; whereas, while growing up, he and others had the benefit of looking up to some people as their role models, whose disciplined lives and proper conducts in public and private spheres inspired them.
Read him: “It is quite unfortunate that so many of youths these days do not have role models. We grew up with role models. We had people we looked up to; we had people we wanted to be like. But how many of us are role models to these children today? We want to make money; we don’t care about how we make money. What values are you delivering to the system to make money? Are you stealing to make money? Are you a thief of the people’s commonwealth?” Those were significant rhetoric questions for essential contemplation.
Captain ‘Hosa decried the dearth and, obviously, near death of conscience in the community of those in authority. According to him, “There is no conscience. These (youths) are our future. You (referring to those in government) are in a position of authority. Think back to your own beginning and give something back to the society. These children are our future; and, quite unfortunately, our corrupt leaders also used them to get to power.”
It was at this intersection that he delivered the third and, perhaps, the bitterest truth to duplicitous electoral manipulators. “That which you sell for N10, 000 is your future,” he declared magisterially. It was a writ-large reference to vote selling and vote buying to compromise the popular wishes. And that is vintage Captain ‘Hosa who has crossed the point of fearing death in the real and metaphoric sense.
In rounding off, Captain ‘Hosa offered some clarifications about his attitude to his growing business empire: “I want to correct something. Yes, I once said that I conquered the air. True, I did at my young age (as a commercial pilot). I conquered the sea, yes, with close to 60 vessels in the water; but I am yet to conquer the land because by the time I conquer the land, I am gone. So please, you people should not say that I have conquered the land. By the time I conquer the land, the land would have taken me into it. Let me say that before the land takes me, I want to try to conquer the land.”
He wants to achieve this feat through a massive investment in mechanized and technology-driven agriculture. Captain ‘Hosa, however, sarcastically remarked: “If the cattle will allow us.” But this, I believe, is no threat at all. Indeed, for this restless business titan with a touch of Midas and a heart of compassion, success beckons. Humanity will surely benefit from his new cravings.
- Ojeifo contributed this piece from Abuja firstname.lastname@example.org