It was a gathering of who is who across Nigeria as the remains of Edo State-born business mogul, Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo were laid to rest after a funeral service at the Nigerian Airforce Base in Benin City, yesterday.
Among dignitaries present were serving governors, including the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki and his Deputy, Comrade Philip Shaibu; Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun; and Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu.
Others included two daughters of President Muhammadu Buhari – Halima and Zara – and their husbands; former governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole; former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori; former governor of Gombe State, Hassan Dakwambo; and former governor of Borno State, Alli Modu Sheriff.
Also, the Oba of Benin and the Olu of Warri sent prominent palace chiefs to the event.
Delivering his homily, Pastor Godheart Ekweme said there was time for everything and that Okunbo had spent the better part of the last one year in “deeper relationship with his creator.”
Speaking on behalf of all the dignitaries present, Obaseki described Okunbo as an uncommon Nigerian who “could be described as a genius, a breaker of glass ceilings, a bridge builder, a business tycoon, a philanthropist extraordinaire.
Obaseki adds: “Captain Hosa, as we fondly called him, was a man with a big heart. Although, he had humble beginnings, he was armed with unyielding resolve as his children had said and he was determined to surmount life’s challenges and he did.
“He pushed himself to the limits to attain greatness, building an impressive business empire and transforming the lives of numerous people, many of them of Edo origin.
“A trained pilot, he mastered the air quite early in life and searched for the land in the maritime sectors prevailing in all spheres.
“He embodied hard work, perseverance, dexterity and acumen which espoused his Edo heritage. Captain was a philanthropist who gave lavishly of himself and his resources.
“He will be remembered for his undying love for Edo people. His desire for the progress and development of our dear state, the Niger Delta region and Nigeria, as well as his invaluable contributions to building bridges across the country will never be forgotten.
“In building a vast business empire that spanned maritime, logistics, security, transportation, agriculture and hospitality, he displayed rare business acumen, providing employment for thousands of Nigerians and contributing immensely to our nation’s development and progress. He was a devout family man. Undoubtedly, his exit will leave a gaping hole in the hearts of the people he imparted so dearly.”
On his part, late Okunbo’s first son, Osahon said his father’s life was guided by two principles which he said were love and mercy.
According to Osahon, “His life is a lesson and every chance you have to spend with him; he tells you a story from his experience and from the Bible. I once asked him, ‘why do you forgive so easily’? There are so many people around him that hurt him very deeply but still he had them around him and he said ‘my son, do you know the reason God will always deliver my enemies at my feet? It is because God knows I will have mercy upon them.’ He said his two guiding principles were love and mercy; those were the two principles he lived his life by.
“He told me something in the heat of this cancer problem. He said, ‘my son, everybody is not supposed to live long. It is not the length of your life, it is about the impact you leave behind. I have always told you people when you were growing up.’ And all of us, from the first to last will testify to this. He will say, ‘once I have paid your school fees, everything else is jara. I will sell everything I have to enjoy myself.’ That was what he told us growing up. He said ‘God sent me here to do something’ and for the past four days, people have spoken about it.”
Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City