By Emma Amaize, South-South Editor & Festus Ahon
ASABA— ENVIRONMENTAL activist, Chief Newton Jibunoh; Prof. Pat Utomi and other Delta North (Anioma) leaders in Delta State, said yesterday, it would take a long time for the ethnic group to find a replacement for business tycoon and Ide of Asaba, the late Chief Sunny Odogwu, who they described as a “risk taker” and “important voice” in Anioma.
Jibunoh, the famous desert explorer from Akwukwu Igbo, told Vanguard: “I received the news of the death of Chief Odogwu with sadness because he was one of the pillars of Anioma nation.
“In building Anioma industrially, he is one of the pioneers and risk takers. It was through taking risk that he was able to build an empire, yes, I call it an empire. And we have few of such persons in our area.
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“And I can tell you that Anioma nation will go a long way to before we can find another Odogwu. He was in a class of his own in Anioma. In fact, it is not only Anioma, but Delta that will be searching for somebody of his calibre for a long time.
“Apart from the fact that we were friends, my children and his are very close, I will surely be in Asaba to bid him final farewell,” Jibunoh added.
Prof Utomi, who also spoke to Vanguard, said: “When the inclination of many was to go towards government to survival, Chief Odogwu moved into private business and remained steadfast and he never gave up on encouraging the new generation.
“I remember that I actually met him very strangely in Jos, Plateau State, nearly 40 years ago, when as a young man, who just returned from graduate studies in United States and trying to change Nigeria, I had gone to Jos for a debate with former Senate President, Iyorchia Ayu, and others on the way forward for Nigeria.
“I was in the restaurant of a hotel where I lodged when somebody came to me and asked, ‘are you not Utomi?’ I said yes, he said ‘you did very well…you did very well.’ That was how he met me.”
Prof Utomi said the late Odogwu inspired many young Anioma men, adding: “Sunny Iwedike Odogwu, SIO Industries is his brand. The company manufactured bags and other things, incidentally, when he thought of setting it up, he called me and sought my views, which I gave him.
“We want to say to people, see what Odogwu had done, let us go back home, set up industrial layout where we will bring investments and create jobs for our people, but we did not manage to do a good job of it as we hoped.”