By Nduka Uzuakpundu
In our country, Nigeria, where integrity and accountability are highly needed to boost the quality of public life and drive the affairs of the country for public good, a philanthropist, by name Chukwuemeka Okwuosa, an engineer, who just turned 57 shines through as a beacon; a welcome oasis in a vast expanse of dry and dusty desert.
Presently, his moment of birth, August 19, is being marked, within and outside Nigeria, for his long list of meritorious people-oriented achievements.
As a philanthropist, whose sense of mission is incubated on the economic and sociological belief that enriching humanity is by ploughing back his resources on society, he has brilliantly acquitted himself.
At nearly sixty years of age, the truth is that Okwuosa is a rare breed. A self-effacing individual – a visible number of his close associates and those to whom he has extended his princely hands actually figure, and perhaps rightly, too, that he’s too shy, but, sometimes, unrepentantly, blunt and outstandingly clean to be a politician – he has elected to focus exclusively on mainly business; preferring the comfort zone ambiance of his chosen fields of socio-economic investments, engineering, entrepreneurship, administration and care for the less-privileged.
From a very humble beginning, fifty-seven years ago, at his roots in Oraifite, Anambra State, Okwuosa has always been a child of promise, who made his parents very proud with his diligence, brilliance and sense of duty. Over these exciting decades, he has fulfilled that promise by doggedly nurturing a business empire, which straddles the entire continent of Africa and even beyond.
Today, Emeka is an influential personality, because of his wealth; but, more importantly, because he applies a certain peculiar human-oriented philosophy to his businesses. He shares his profits through a very thoughtful methodical redistribution of wealth among; (a) uncountable host communities for his offices projects and allied interests, (b) communities of interests from Anambra, Enugu to Rivers and Abia States, (c) academics; with students in need to schools with familiar stories of desolation to universities coming into their own with stupendous research amenities and (d) oil and gas sector – his primary base – where his company Oilserv Group trains and retrains young Nigerians free to fit them into the general oil and gas industry career-wise.
That Emeka Okwuosa has impacted the lives of peoples and communities makes him a philanthropist: the youth, clergy, women, organisations, orphans, widows, are all in his purview. But this goes beyond throwing money around. Okwuosa, who trained as an electronics engineer and graduated first class from the University of Ife, can now also be called a passionate social engineer.
His company, which is in the main vanguard for appreciable Local Content for Nigeria’s Oil and Gas sector, and which weaves an intimidating network of gas pipelines all over Nigeria, is the same which nurtures the nanotechnology aspirations of professors in the secluded ivory tower of university of Nigeria Nsukka: three fully sponsored biannual international workshops and a very concrete plan for an impressive first-in-Africa Science Park.
The PETAN Roundtable at the annual OTC (Offshore Technology Conference), in far away Houston, Texas, which has also been bank-rolled by Oilserve, over many years, has grown into a formidable intellectual flank of that oil and gas pilgrimage, which every participating Nigerian and other associates now look forward to.
The PETAN Roundtable is one apt occasion for overall stock-taking and agenda-setting for the oil and gas industry in Nigeria. But we can climb down from this height and still find Engr. Okwuosa and his troops buying and installing generators in places like a police station in Abia State, furnishing the palace of some traditional rulers in Rivers State, setting up a garri factory, skills acquisition centre or a billion-Naira Specialist Hospital in Oraifite, his home town. Oilserve and Okwuosa are like the octopus now, with tentacles reaching to people with the appropriate succour as articulated by them.
Agriculture can be lucrative as a business. But who is so level-headed that he would climb down from the intoxicating heights of Sweet Crude to the bland drudgery of Palm Oil? It’s Okwuosa! Ask him why he set up Ekcel Farms, where he hopes to produce tomatoes for tomato paste and cassava pellets, and with the zeal of a missionary, he would tell you that though the end products are for exports, the substance of it all is a very far-reaching employment opportunity for all manner of skilled and even unskilled Nigerians.
Books may be written on the exploits of this unique Nigerian and his calculated and deliberate interface with society. But it is a cheerful ongoing crusade which keeps giving. The inevitable groundswell of positive energy as lives and situations are cured, salvaged and upgraded or just made to hope, cannot but engender the communion of an unstoppable human bulwark, which can ignite some rare positive spirit to the endless reaches of the imagination. No narrative can capture this energy.
In Nigeria today, we have proved to ourselves, beyond all arguments, that human beings and their potentials, not minerals, solid or liquid, are our greatest resource. The likes of Okwuosa, blessed with verifiable sound entrepreneurial, economic and investment sense, are needed at this dire hour of post-recession blues, as we desperately desire to diversify our economy, create jobs, and establish skill acquisition and entrepreneurship programmes for the teeming products of our secondary schools and universities. Okwuosa realized the contribution he can make towards national development, long ago, and has been grappling with as much of the gap as he can.
On account of his impressive list of solid achievements, as a catalyst in the field of education; as an industrialist in the oil and gas sector, as a social mobilizer and philanthropist, Okwuosa, it could rightly be argued, is one of those about whom the British military officer and poet, Thomas Osbert Mordaunt, wrote, during the Seven Years War: “One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name.”
For his achievements, and because there aren’t many like him, Okwuosa deserves to be celebrated. Therefore, those who have profited hugely from his philanthropy are joining their spirits in prayer, so that he lives long to keep inspiring them, so that he does more.
Okwuosa and his type are the salt to our fabric of stability; their life philosophy of considerable altruism is one of the reasons our society stands, in spite of what the star-gazers see. If the many rich in Nigeria were to take a cue from his type, Nigeria would certainly be out of the radar of looming insecurity posed by relentless corruption, bad leadership, astronomical unemployment amongst graduates of mostly higher institutions and mindless killings and other forms of violence.
Okwuosa has, in about thirty years, soldiered on, to make a positive difference in Nigeria’s economy. In recognition of his feats, as a successful industrialist and creator of sorely-needed jobs, he has been recognized severally by every conceivable section of the economy and the larger society with awards/Doctorate degrees galore: chambers of commerce, PETAN, the media, universities, etc.
His readable curriculum vitae, put charitably, strikes one as an epistle. Engr. Emeka Okwuosa, at 57, is a solid pillar of our society, a rare gem, a huge blessing to Nigeria; his footsteps should be closely understudied and his brand of generosity fully emulated.