By Ignatius Chukwu
Rivers State-born medical doctor turned entrepreneur and investor, Chief/Dr Emi Membere-Otaji, has succumbed to demands and pressures to document his life journey in a book.
In doing so, he seems to have created a master act which has been released into the book world. The masterpiece is called, ‘Push Through The Wall’…Way of Success; the Story of a Resolute Maverick’.
The book bears the character of the subject, Dr Membere-Otaji, simply called Emi, weaving through genres of a biography, a novel, and an academic book on leadership. It looks to be the first biography where the subject is also a co-author. It is therefore a hybrid: between a biography and an autobiography.
The co-author explained this, saying as an avid reader and someone who knew exactly what he wanted, he could not resist the temptation to join in crafting portions of the over 332-pages book. This helped to bring the accurate perspective to the piece, which actually was an attempt to bring his life experience in relation to entrepreneurship, academic endeavours, story-telling, history, and leadership nuggets. The book seems to have achieved that critical objective.
The crux of ‘Push Through The Wall’ is said to be an attempt to capture the personality of the subject, the young Emi, the medical student, the Port Harcourt Boy, the brief politician, and the serial entrepreneur and investor. It depicts the challenges he faced from home, school, work places, in government where the wall was very high, in life overall, and in business leadership. It flows into his successes which came from what he identifies as gut-feeling, that attribute of reaching a decision in critical moments outside an array of suggestions and proposals on the table. And this, he says, has always paid off better than any other methods.
The book also has multiple titles: with two riders, something known more in news writing. It startles a reader into getting ready for battle, to push through the wall.
In Nigeria at the moment, most things can only be achieved by the few ready to push through the wall. This title is followed by ‘Way of Success’. This shows the reader that for success, sometimes, one must have to push through a wall, mostly man-made. The same titling approach tells the reader the nature of story to find; the story of a resolute maverick. If a maverick is someone who thinks and acts independently, a resolute maverick must be a maverick of very high scale. By this time, by defining the multiple titles alone, the reader must be fully excited to begin the reading expedition.
As stated earlier, the subject of the book is a medical doctor, Emi Membere-Otaji, a Kalabari chief and investor; while the author is Godwin Orovwiroro, an academic doctor, a seasoned writer, lecturer, executive coach, mentor, and leadership specialist.
About the book:
Without reading the book, the author’s bird eye view may help the intending reader get much grasp of ‘Push Through The Wall’.
Orovwiroro introduced the book thus: “We live in an era where many individuals are boxed in by the circumstances of their birth and their environment. These have created barriers that made it impossible for them to venture into the unknown world.
“One man dared to go the extra mile by banging on walls that had defined the boundaries of others. In the process, he not only pushed through the wall but also moved it to new frontiers.
“The story of Emi is both compelling and instructive with an assortment of understandable reasons. This project has spanned 20 tortuous months of interviews, burrowing through documents, researching, writing, editing, and rewriting the narratives. The experience was worth it, and the insight into the personality of the ‘Resolute Maverick’ was a remarkable discovery.
“The story of Emi will make the feeble-minded rise and do the extraordinary. With training as a medical doctor, he traverses the business world like a colossus and creates enduring values that even giants envy.
“I am extremely grateful to Dr Emi Membere-Otaji who is an officer of the Order of the Niger (OON), winner of the Distinguished Service Star of Rivers State (DSSRS) award, and winner of the National Productivity Merit Award (NPoM) for the opportunity to chronicle his life story.”
The author warned that he wrote on the life of a ‘resolute maverick’. Other important personalities who had the privilege of reading ‘Push Through The Wall’ said the rest.
Certainly, there are some other ways to understand a book, apart from reading cover to cover. One of the ways is to read the review by someone or many others who read it.
A new book has been presented to the Nigerian reading public. It is titled: ‘Push Through The Wall …. Way of Success; the Story of a Resolute Maverick’. Right away, the 332-page book presents uniqueness in the world of books.
One personality in the Niger Delta that is difficult to sit down with or to extract an opinion from is the Amanyanabo of Grand Bonny, the king, Edward Asimini William Dappa Pepple III, Perekule XI. He read this book, and has this to say:
“The Book is indeed a fascinating chronicle of the voyage of exploration on the high seas of life of a limpid, illustrious son of Rivers State, Nigeria. Written with great skill, detailed with factual and fascinating presentation, the book traces with aplomb the trajectory of the life of Chief Emi (Membere-Otaji), which is filled with the story of courage, vision, drive, hard work, unquenchable desire for success, outstanding contribution to humanity and towering intellect, all achieved through absolute intrepidity. This book has the potential of encouraging, lifting and changing the perception of both the high and low in society about the essence of our humanity, of the need for uprightness in all endeavours and diligence, as a guiding principle for success.”
The King is surrounded by waters that lead to the ocean and seems to know much about the rhythm of the seas which he communicated in the sounds in his words ‘voyage of exploration on the high seas of life of a limpid, illustrious son’.
An Army General, Kenneth Minimah (retired) and former Chief of Army Staff, who also read the book took it from the King, thus: “A real-life story of how a young mind navigated the tuff, through to adulthood, inspired by the values of his era and propelled to leadership heights. Very interesting story. Recommended for aspiring minds who desire and want to aspire to great heights.”
‘Push Through The Wall’ seems to have been read much before it was unveiled. A retired Federal Permanent Secretary, now chairman, Access Bank Plc, Ajoritsedere Awosika, testified: “From the book, one can easily see how a person can become gainfully and legitimately engaged in multiple ways that positively benefit society in no small measure, aptly captured thus: consistency in pursuing career goals and passion, engaging in fruitful endeavours, seeking guidance in recognised potential, self-discovery, and alignment, embracing challenges and exploring such opportunities, crowned with the intentional building of relationships and sustainably growing network.”
A banker, Abba Bello, MD/CEO, Nigerian Export-Import (NEXIM) Bank, read the book and was inspired to say it tells the story of a young boy, who despite the strong differences between his parents, was raised in the most responsible and adorable way. “This contributed to shape his future and enabled him to fully manifest his innate capabilities.
I recommend this book for use, not only for students of entrepreneurship, but also for those who want to develop their minds and rank among global business leaders.”
When a banker tells you what to read, many would hardly ignore it.
Still trying to under ‘Push Through The Wall’ without opening the book, one could make do with the opinion of an oil and gas giant, Callista Azogu, Ex Deputy Managing Director, Nigerian Agip Oil Company, a subsidiary of ENI Group, Milan, Italy.
She said: “This is really a fantastic book! It is very interesting, not cumbersome at all, and it made reading so easy and uncomplicated. The inspiration is super! I encourage all to get a copy of this wonderful story, which has been told in a readerfriendly way.”
Pedro Diaz, Ex-Operations Director, Global Gas and Refining Ltd, now a USA based Oil & Gas Consultant, read it and called it an epic example of building to transcend limits, leaving a legacy, and enjoying life. “That is what counts for the people that you impact while you are in this life. Some people have the blessing of helping and supporting others, expecting just to be part of their story in the future.”
Demola Shogunle, CEO of Stanbic IBTC Holding Plc (member, Standard Bank Group Worldwide), offered big congratulations to the medical doctor and said; “Really insightful, rich and inspirational.”
Still trying to read the book through very important minds, Babatope James Adeyemi, General Overseer, Eternal Praise Centre Int’l (Incorporated) retired executive secretary, Ekiti State Primary Health Care Development Agency, said: “As one reads through the book, one begins to see God’s hand in the success and survival of Chief Dr Emi Membere-Otaji. You also see the beauty of consultation when making major lifelong decisions.”
Akin Iroko, a double fellow and award-winning former Director-General, Institute of Directors, Nigeria, and former Administrator, Nigerian Institute of Management (Chartered), had elaborate words for the book.
Iroko said: “The book ‘Push Through the Wall’……. Way of Success! – The Story of a Resolute Maverick in the life of an astute investor, uncorrupted and detribalized Emi is a unique piece that chronicles eventful adventures that sum up leadership as both science and art. This piece offers a balanced diet of favorable meals with an aroma of courage that facing the future brightens hope and unimaginable strength to do the impossible. By any global standard, ‘Push Through the Wall’ is a full compendium of leadership traits and attributes required for the excellent attainment of set goals and objectives.”
Two judges read and judged the book. A justice of the Court of Appeal, Obie Daniel-Kalio, has read it and judged the book, thus: “This book brings out critical teachings in leadership in an easy-to-read prose that I find most refreshing. It is a book that is difficult to put down once one gets started. It is indeed a treasure trove no matter one’s station in life. I highly recommend this book.”
Another prominent judge, former Chief Judge of Rivers State, Iche N. Ndu, judged both the book and the subject; “It is good to build a good reputation while you live. That is the case of Emi who has built a good reputation.”
At the presentation of ‘Push Through The Wall’, Dr Membere-Otaji seemed to extend the chapters of the book when an award as ‘Celebrity Doctor’ was presented to him by the Rivers State chapter of the Association of Nigerian Private Medical Practitioners (ANPMP).
The book presentation focused on the Nigerian business mogul, and the Chairman of Elshcon group of companies, in a compelling story of life’s intricacies. It chronicled his life journey especially from different phases of successes and failures both in private and public sectors.
Membere-Otaji, a University of Lagos-trained medical doctor-turned entrepreneur, was cast in a tripod style: novel, biography and leadership nuggets. It portrayed a man fortified by God to push through to new frontiers. It also showed he is a man that acts of ‘gut-feeling’ which sometimes override paper proposition.
The book presentation attracted creme de la creme of Rivers State who stormed the La Sien Pavilion at Old GRA to honour the Kalabari Chief and ex-President of Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce. The 19-chapter book chronicled his beliefs, hopes, successes, and failures.
The event attracted Deputy Governor of Rivers State, a professor, Ngozi Ordu, as the Special Guest of Honour, who in her speech, described the publisher as an astute professional who she said makes no excuses for failure.
According to her, Membere-Otaji, as then Commissioner of Health, was her boss when she served the state as the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, hinting that the book title was chiefly coined from the mantra in the Ministry which was; ‘Push through the wall to get results.’
She added that the mantra was the motivation that placed the state as one of the best states in healthcare provision.
“From 1999 I had the opportunity to work with him; he was my commissioner and I was his Permanent Secretary.
“Emi is not a very easy person to work with, I must say that. But the good thing is, I am six years older than Emi. But I respected his office and I respected him.
“One golden thing about Emi is that he has a listening ear. And you can tell somebody that has great leadership quality. When someone cannot listen, it can be a problem.
“If Emi has a good idea and you have a better idea, Emi will drop his and pick up yours.
“The phrase, ‘push through the wall’, is as old as 24 years ago. When we had tasking challenges, Emi would say, pass through the wall. In attempt of passing through the wall we could do it and excel. So, ‘Pass through the wall became a slogan in the Ministry,” she said while giving her speech.
Speaking, Membere-Otaji, who made it clear it was no book launching yet, said the motivation for allowing a book to be written about him was spurred by series of requests from associates, mentees, and journalists seeking his opinions on different aspects of the economy.
He said: “The book of 19 chapters is a journey from childhood to age nearly 65. Others know me more than I should know myself because it is said that a dancer does not see his back.”
In an interview, Dr Membere-Otaji (founder of the Princess Hospital series) gave his thought on wealth creation and generational wealth transfer issues, lamenting that many wealthy persons have found it difficult to transfer same to their next generations (their children). He advised youths to keep an open mind.
Many important personalities unveiled the book. They include, Ide John Udeagbala (immediate past president of the NACCIMA); Adokiye Tombomieye; John Mbata; Tony Eze; Nabil Saleh; Soji On; David Adewuyi; the monarch Joe Alagoa.
‘Push Through The Wall’ has continued to make waves anywhere it is presented. At the Correspondents Press Week of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Port Harcourt few days back, Dr Membere-Otaji was the focus of attention and won the respect and warmth of the Mayor of Housing (My-ACE China) when he introduced the book especially and harped on the circumstances of the choice of title.
He related it with his time as commissioner of health in the Dr Peter Odili administration (1999-2003) when he faced the dire situation including availability of only one ‘rickety’ vehicle to serve over five critical units. He said he thus ordered his team members (his first 11) to push through the wall to ensure that objective was delivered.
At the end, by the virtue of this spirit, he narrated, the Ministry performed overwhelmingly and won national and international acclaims and became a model for all states in healthcare delivery. He has continued to win both accolades and awards on account of this feat. His principle showed that it is the person, not just the budget size, that wins battles in positions of responsibility.
The state recently singled him out, probably after poring through his confidential file, and found where and how he went through the wall to negotiate victory for the state on the board of investors of the West African Glass Industry (WAGI), at a time bags of money usually chased anyone representing government interest in sensitive places. What he did and what he won can be gleaned in Dr Emi Membere-Otaji’s ‘Push Through The Wall’, a piece of legacy in-between covers.