Vanguard awards

May 10, 2024

Allen Onyema, consistent trailblazer

We’re ready for Abuja-London route; Houston, New York in works — Onyema

Allen Onyeama

By Clifford Ndujihe, Politics Editor

Call him a peacemaker and you won’t be wrong. You will also be right to call him a trail-blazer and philanthropist. In the last 20 years, Chief Allen Onyema has had his hands full, fighting to ensure that Nigeria’s no fewer than 250 ethnic nationalities live in peace and harmony. 

Since he successfully organised the first Nigeria Forever Project in 2005, with the support of the Federal Government to promote broad nationalism as against ethnic nationalism, the 59-year-old lawyer has never looked back. 

Through his Foundation For Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria, FEHN, he was in the creeks of the Niger-Delta, especially between 2008 and 2009, to get militants, he chose to address as self-determination crusaders, to embrace the amnesty offered by the President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua-led Administration. By then, the bombing activities of the militants in the oil-rich region had shot down oil production from two million barrels per day to less than 900,000 bpd with dire consequences for the country’s petrol-dollar based economy. 

Determined to make more impact in the polity, the Mbosi, Ihiala Local Government Area, Anambra State-born conflict resolution expert, in 2013, added aviation to his belt of endeavours. Like law and peace-making, he also excelled in the aviation sector. 

In 2013, Chief Onyema founded Air Peace as a private Nigerian airline. He said It was borne out of the interest to create jobs for Nigerians irrespective of tribe or tongue. Although the process began far back in 2007, Air Peace was founded in 2013 and started flying in 2017, and six years after, Air Peace provides services to major cities of Nigeria and international destinations such as Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, United Arab Emirates, India, China, USA and Gambia. Clearly, it is one of the biggest airlines in Nigeria with a series of aircraft including three Boeing 777s, Air Peace will be flying from Nigeria to the United Kingdom in March. 

Invaluable philanthropy 

With an eye on peace, his first love, Allen Onyema has used Air Peace to promote harmony and stability in Nigeria. In September 2019, he was instrumental to the evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa as a result of Xenophobic attacks. 

In April 2023, he repeated the feat when he evacuated no fewer than 277 Nigerians, especially students, who were stranded in Sudan following the outbreak of war in the Central African country. 

In July 2023, Dr. Allen Onyema rewarded some sports heroes with free air tickets, saying members of the Montreal Olympics team and the 1980 Green Eagles would get 12 return tickets each every year to travel within the country for their lifetime. They are also entitled to one international return ticket every year to fly to any country on the airline’s coverage for the rest of their lives. 

Some of the beneficiaries of this gesture are former Green Eagles Captains, Christian Chukwu and Segun Odegbami.

Onyema said: “The athletes to be honoured are Nigerians who made the country proud in the past. These are athletes who sacrificed an opportunity to be great in Canada and heeded Nigeria’s call to boycott the (1976) Olympics on the eve of the Games. The same country that ordered them to give up their ambitions has not honoured these athletes. 

“We are also honouring those that won the African Cup of Nations in 1980 because that feat united the country in a way that had never happened before. The Wall of Fame has been built at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, with the heroes’ names written in gold. Those members of the teams, now late, would get posthumous rewards, while their families will get some financial rewards.” 

Speaking on behalf of the awardees, Segun Odegbami thanked Onyema for his enduring generosity, saying history would be kind to him for his efforts in nation-building. 

For his consistency in philanthropy and nation-building, Dr Allen Onyema is Vanguard Personality of the year 2023. 

Born on March 28 1964, in Benin, Onyema attended several primary and secondary schools including St. Anthony’s Secondary School, Azia, Urhobo College Effurun, Government College Ughelli, and University of Ibadan, in 1984, where he read Law. 

After Law school and his National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, service, Onyema was employed by the chambers of Chief Vincent Amobi Nwizugbo in 1990, in Lagos. Within two years, Onyema had become skillful in his profession that Chief Vincent made him Head of Chambers. And before long, the young Onyema had made real headway in the real estate business to the extent that he had to quit paid employment. Onyema established a real-estate business which he called Allen Onyema & Company. 

Signs of Onyema’s passion to sustain peace manifested early when at the University of Ibadan, together with nine of his schoolmates known as Eminent Friends Group, he went to resolve a religious and ethnic riot in Zaria. The move was aimed at ensuring unity among Nigeria’s diverse ethnic nationalities and eliminating violence from the country. 

It is thus not surprising that Dr Onyema has received numerous local and international awards. He won the hosting rights for International Conference on Nonviolence and Peace in 2007; Martin Luther King Global Award for Pioneering Nonviolence Education in West Africa, 2007; Hope for Humanity Award – Rotary Club, 2006; and L&M leader of the month award in 2019 for demonstration of compassion and meeting a need among others.