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SYLVESTER OKONKWO: Toughened for greatness by ruins of war

By  CHARLES KUMOLU

This story is about the decisions and phases that guaranteed the transformation of Chief Sylvester Okonkwo, Chairman Chinto Technologies, from one of the many young people, who had little or no hope after Nigerian Civil War to a renowned player in the ICT sector, politician and philanthropist. Okonkwo who is the senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Anambra Central Senatorial District has rich corporate experience and achievement spanning so many years.

Early sights and sounds:

For all who experienced the Nigerian civil war, especially in the breakaway Republic of Biafra, the memories are not better imagined. They are as painful as ever.  A flashback to that era comes with recollections of horror, broken and aborted dreams.

Sylvester Okonkwo

It is the same for the young and the old, who witnessed  the bastardization of humanity by blazing guns and shellings.  So hard were the times that both the offensive and defensive sides (federal troops and Biafran forces) were united by just the pains of war.

While adults passed through the difficulties with courage, it was not so for children whose early sights and sounds were characterised by ruins and songs of sorrow.

That was the plight of everyone in the Biafran enclave irrespective of class. Chief Sylvester Okonkwo is one of the millions, who felt the pains of the 30-month war which claimed about two million lives.

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At the outbreak of the war in 1967 following the crisis of 1966, he was nine and understood what those times meant for Nigeria.

War-ravaged schools.

Explaining that rudimentary phase of his life, he said: “Growing up was as challenging as that of every other average Nigerian. I was a young Biafran boy. After the war, I went to secondary school in Onitsha. When we went to school after the war, we met war-ravaged schools. We had to go to fetch water 6-7 kilometres away from school. We will fetch for the school’s dining,  senior students and for our personal use. We did all these going back and forth the river. I faced the problem of finishing school, seeking university admission, paying my fees and training myself.

“ All this however made me who I am, because with all that struggle we became toughened. We were never afraid of any situation. We faced challenges with strength. We were forthright because we were brought up by disciplined parents who wanted us to be the best and never wanted us to do things that are untoward. It was challenging and as well, very inspiring.’’

Going to the Angels

It was amid the ruins and fresh memories of war that he found himself in Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha when the war ended.

At Dennis, a renowned school established by Holy Ghost fathers in 1925, the characters that eventually set Okonkwo on the road to greatness were nurtured.

In fact, Okonkwo, who beyond his profession as a lawyer, is a known player in integrated information technology, virtual data, and communications services, considers his attendance of the school the turning point in his life.

With a sense of fulfillment, he said: “Going to the Angels was a turning point in my life.”

Continuing, he explained that: “ Dennis Memorial Grammar School is where we were taught that the reward for work well done is more work. We were taught that civility cost nothing but buys everything. At Dennis, we were also taught that the lives of great men remind us that we must live our lives sublime and while departing, we must leaves behind us footprints on the sands of time.

“It was a place where we saw idols, mentors, and people who are accomplished professionals came to deliver lectures at the end of every year. They told us how humble, straightforward we must be, and how we must not be crooked. This was a turning point in my life.  When I graduated from the Angels, where despite being very tiny I was a House Prefect, the training I got changed everything about me and modeled who I became later in life.

Built  institutions

“My wife has always given me incredible support, both spiritually and morally. My children, brothers, and sisters, cousins look up to me for leadership and have always supported my desire to be a political leader. I am a fulfilled person. I am a lawyer, a teacher, a businessman and I do technology.  I have been in the technology landscape for the past 20 years. I have trained boys and girls, I have built institutions in my community, I have contributed to the church, I have generally been disposed to being a good Nigerian. I am married to Barrister Chidiebele Okonkwo and we are blessed with five children. I enjoy reading, travelling, playing squash and scrabble. These hobbies, no doubt, have contributed to who I am.”

Corporate, professional  experience

Okonkwo, who aspires to represent Anambra Central Senatorial District, has a rich corporate and professional  experience and achievements spanning many years.

He was the Principal Partner of Mouka Mezue Okonkwo & Partners.  The corporate and International Law firm is known to have participated in several mega national and international commercial transactions, including GSM licensing and auctioning.

Okwulora  Ojoto as he is also known, was the pioneer Executive Director, Marketing & Sales, of Emis, which is the first licensed private telecoms company in Nigeria. The firm offered Fixed Wireless Access services us¬ing the CDMA technology, from 1997 to 2001.

In addition, he served as the pioneer Executive Director, Marketing/Corporate Affairs of RELTEL, one of the earliest CDMA li¬censed telecoms operators in Nigeria between 2001 and 2003.  In 2003, he became the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Chinto Technologies Limited.

Love  for my people

Shedding light on that, he said: “I am the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Chinto Technologies Limited. I have held this position since 2003. My company provides an ISP offering Virtual Broadband Data and Internet services to schools, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, SMEs, public and private enter¬prises. We provide services for their local and international operations. My love for my people is demonstrated through various philanthropic works I have been doing for the people of Anambra Central Senatorial zone. That perhaps informed the agitation for me to represent them at the Senate. They believe I will not be a bench warmer in the Senate. My dream is to attain a state of development in Nigeria where harmony and smooth functioning of all sectors are achieved driven by integrated Information and Communications Technology (ICT) systems. I am driven to take extraordinary challenges and achieve a rare feat in my desire to improve society.

Billions of dollars

“I am very confident that I will win the election because I have better plans. In terms of laws, there are some I will like to embark on as I get to the National Assembly. I am an ICT practitioner, I have been an ICT practitioner for the last 20years, and in the course of my practice and services in the Information and communication industry, I have noticed a lot of lacuna in the laws, There could have been better legislation that would have built infrastructure. We have noticed that in the country, everybody desire to have


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