COMMENTARY: At 60, Dr Emi Membre-Otaji shocks the world

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– Story of ‘ship without engine or propeller but remotely-controlled by God

The Azteck Event centre on Stadium Road (Ken Saro-Wiwa road) was filled to the brim with the topmost persons in the society, all for Dr Emi Membre-Otaji who celebrated 60 years on earth. He has been telling a story that shocks the world; a life without a plan that has gone ahead to hit maximum success. It is a life that reads like a textbook, a life many young persons must study to learn important lessons.

DETAILS:

At the expansive I am Dr. Emi Membere-Otaji, born 1958 in Port Harcourt. The owner of the private maternity home I was delivered is still alive in her 90s. I had a chat with her recently. And she is still sound. My mother has passed.

Childhood

Growing up, my life has been like a ship in a sea, without engine, no propeller, but remotely controlled, of course by God. My mother, Deborah Lawson, was very very loving. Her mother, Princess, loved me even so more. During holidays she would bring me to her place. Unlike now when children talk about summer vacation or holiday. Those days, during holidays, children go home to spend time with their parents, especially with my maternal grandmother who loved me so much.

Between her and my mother, their lives revolved around me. My mother was the only child, and for nearly twenty years, I was the only child of my mother. On the flip side, for nearly twenty years, I was the only son of my father. Again he loved me, but he was a very strict person. Very stern, so no jokes. As a child, he was always flogging us, because we had a lot of relations living with us. But looking back now, that stern posture of my father is the best thing that happened to me because most of the children who were pampered as I was pampered by my mother and my granny became so spoilt, some never became anything meaningful in life.

So my life as Dr. Emi Membre -Otaji today has two sides. My staff would tell you I have a jovial, playful personality. And on the flip side, I get too serious and focused, and they would say is that the same man? And that was the background which for me is very perfect because if it has been too much of the strict side, I could have tended to be timid and it was mainly on the ever so loving, do no wrong care, I could have gotten so spoilt and may not have been able to school well. But me, my academics were incidents free. I had a normal ride and that was it. I did well. 

Growing up.

I was still a kid by 1967 when the Civil War started. All of us when to our villages at the time. I went to Buguma. When Port Harcourt was capture in 1968, I returned to Township School Port Harcourt, one of the top schools at the time. I had a lot of friends. Gen Kenneth Minima, former Chief of Army Staff, was my classmate from 1968 primary up to secondary school. Former Petroleum Minister, Dezianni Madueke, was in Township School. I am mentioning many who have achieved greatness in different spheres of life who went through Township School. One of my best friend, Beremo Ojuka, just retired from the state civil service. Port Harcourt was sweet then, I enjoyed it.

How parental guidance and the world around me shaped my journey into independence on a career path.

As I said, like a ship without engine, I had no career plan. I finished primary and went to Baptist High School. Then Rev C T T George, late now, was a family friend of my maternal grandmother. In my mother side we were staunch Baptists. In Buguma, the Church was in our extended family compound. Baptist was all around me, so going to Baptist High School was natural.  CTT George was there, later became a Principal.

There I met a lot of friends. Desriel Bob-Manuel, his brother, Meena Bob-Manuel, who became King of Abonema. The King of Abonema was my classmate in in Township School, but he went to Baptist a High School from Form 5, so he became my senior, and he started punishing me. We became mates again in the university and his younger brother, Dr. Maina Bob-Manuel was my junior by one year. Again he went from Form 5, I did 6, so he became my friend.

As I finished secondary school, those days, the only higher institution was College of Science and Technology, CST, presently Rivers State University. There was no university, and then College of Education. So I didn’t apply anywhere. There were only five universities in the country. 1976, our results came out, I made Grade 1. My mother called her friend, a Deputy Registrar at the CST. Academics have already started and hadn’t apply because the results were delayed. At the time I wasn’t planning before I get to the bridge. It wasn’t later in life I saw value planning.

Mother took me, Jack and another friend, Olajide Gbenga, with results to CST. They looked at my result and said I should do A’Levels. Peter Jack hadn’t Biology and he was asked to do Pre-Engineering. Mine was Pre–Medicine in Chemistry Physics Biology. The third person hadn’t any position for him. 1978, we were last set of London GCE A’Levels in this part of the country at that time before it became HCE. Ours was London GCE, Queen Paper, very tough to pass then. I passed all my 3 papers and had to go to university to study medicine.

Studying medicine

Medicine was not planned but I found myself given pre-medicine. Those days the vogue was everybody with a qualifying result goes to America. Get any result, scholarship was there for you. But in America, you can’t do direct medicine. You do a first degree before you go for medicine. My friends were there somI said I would go do Chemistry because I like the impeccable white laboratory coats, long gown, worn by Chemists. So I went to the scholarship board, Rev CTT George, my Principal at Baptist High School, had become the scholarship board’s chairman.

I told him I want to go study in America. He responded, no way. Go finish your A’level, you are brilliant and study medicine in Nigeria. That was how I didn’t go to America. At the point of picking my A’Levels, University of Ibadan was the most famous for medicine. I had an in-law who was going to Lagos through Ibadan. He went to UI. My mum agreed he goes with me to see which school I wanted. We had a couple of day in Ibadan. I wasn’t too impressed with the campus.

We got to UNILAG, I discovered that from the first year in medical study, you are in the Medical School where the hospital is, unlike Ibadan. Medilag was good. That’s how I picked UNILAG and got admitted. Having gone with A’Levels, I spent just five year. My time there was eventful. I won’t say I was brilliant, but we were less than 10 % of us that never had a resit in my time. Maybe my friends could say I was brilliant, but I didn’t see myself as exceptional. I made good friend in Medilag.

It was my first time, leaving my parents, and Rivers state. I loved Lagos at the time and loved my friends. My mum also had left me in the hands of some trusted friends. Sen. Florence Ita-Gina was my mother’s childhood friend. She took me to her place in Surulere. Subsequently, Uncle Lloyd who was my father’s classmate, was living in Ikoyi, working in Shell. They all opened their homes for me, then in medical school I had very good friends.

My father died when I was in secondary school. By this time my nature had been formed along his disciplined disposition. So my mother dotting over me didn’t have negative influence over me. Grandmother died when I was in year one. University was memorable. I was called EMI, because my name was Emi. Till date, they still call me EMI, after EMI Records.

Job prospects

1983 when I finished medical school, I wanted to join the military, through the Direct Short Service, the Navy in particular because of their white uniforms. I asked superiors to guide me. I met two people. I met Doris, now Dr. Mrs. Doris Kowan. She was my Senior in LUTH. She looked at me as asked, EMI are you mad? Then I met Major Aduwor, later rose to a Colonel. Her husband was a retired Chief of Naval Staff. She was a Matron in the military hospital.

She said I should not join the military. If you had wanted to join, she stressed, it should have been from the beginning through the Nigerian Defense Academy. She said Emi, with Short Service entry you would not rise far and you are a restless soul and it will worry you. It won’t fit you. So I made my mind not to join, but to do my Youth Corps with the military. Having been dissuaded from joining the military, the question was now where to do my youth service.

Because my mother was single parent who had struggled to raise me I decided to do the youth service in Port Harcourt even though Imam from Rivers. And those days, a doctor was big deal, a thing of pride to parent even up till the 80s. Values have changed today. So that one year afforded my mother to show me to friends and family as her doctor son.

But before then I was lucky to be retained in LUTH without Godfather, I mean for houseman-ship. Every big man’s child or ward who is a doctor want to be in LUTH at the time. So to get a place there for a job, houseman-ship, you have to be very well connected. We were lucky to be in the first batch who passed our exams onetime. Before the second barge came for interview, we were already wearing long coats, already doctors. When the second batch came for interview, we knew the direction of the results.

We had known who should be taken, the President’s neice, the Senate President’s cousin, minister’s’ children, we knew. As they finished that night the results were as we predicted. The VC’s daughter and so forth. But here was I, no godfather, we had already been taken before they came. I was lucky to be in LUTH which everybody wanted to be.

1984 after my one year houseman-ship, I came to the military hospital in Port Harcourt for my youth service, good experience and I was also doing a bit of private practice. Mum was very happy to have me around. I too was happy. 1985, before I left back to Lagos, I casually dropped an application at the Teaching Hospital in Port Harcourt, then in Town. I was working in private clinic in Lagos. 

Core medical practice

Even when I returned to Lagos, there was no special plan. The economy had nosedived, there were not many placements for residency in LUTH anymore, so I had no chance of being employed there. There were opportunities in being in the medical units of UAC, Shell or other big organizations in Lagos or got into the federal ministry of health.

But my immediate desire was to go abroad, go to one of the Caribbean countries or go to Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia. A lot of my friends took those foreign routes. I eventually made up my mind to go to America and there you have to first do odd medical jobs before comfortable engagement. My first cousin, Dr. Lawson was already there doing similar job, trained in the Caribbean. He said I should come, he had everything arrangement with accommodation in Chicago for me.

I had sold my car, got a five year US visa. I have travelled a few place, UK, strictly for visits, never liked U.K. settlement. But one day, where I was staying at Uncle Lloyd’s place, we had a visitor, Dr. Limi Briggs, who later became Prof and VC of UNIPORT. He came with a letter of offer from UPTH offering me job in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Remember I dropped an application on my way returning to Lagos, not expecting anything.

Here was I with a five year US Visa. I was working, I had sold my car, just to get flight ticket which I had enough to get and be in America if I wanted to go the next day. He cousin who had all arrangements for my soft landing in Chicago had told me we would earn $23,000 doing odd medical jobs with the prospect of a befitting medical engagement for a residency.

I was depressed, not knowing what to do. At that time I has known I want to be a gynecologist, but I had also told myself I wasn’t going to stay in Port Harcourt which I considered too small a town in ’85. I went to my HOD in LUTH to tell him of my dilemma, stressing how small Port Harcourt was with an unknown teaching hospital giving full time job plus training in gynecology and there was option of going to America.

He looked at me and said there is one man called Prof. Kelsey Harrison in that unknown hospital. At that time Prof. Harrison had become one of the biggest authority in maternal health having done a research work quoted worldwide. So my HOD at O & G told me, my son, if Prof Harrison is in a hole; follow him. I spend about two, three months, pondering whether to take the offer. Eventually I went there and my position was still intact for me.

Foray into Politics

So I came to start work in 1987 for my work as residency and a student. I wrote the first initial exams, passed them. By 1988, opened a five bed clinic at Trans Amadi while also doing my work at LUTH. I usually like to take a lot of task, as a restless soul as I was tagged. A friend of mine, Fafar Dan Princewill, wanted to be governor of Rivers. As a I joined him, I found Ada George who was also trying to be governor, more serious. So, I aligned with Ada George. I was doing my work, running my five bed hospital and occasionally popping in and out with the politicians.

1990, Babangida said, nobody should do politics part time. Either you you remain in government or resign. So, June 1st of that year, I went to my HOD, Briggs who brought my letter earlier in 87. I told him I want to leave. He said I can’t go, he won’t accept, saying I was working, doing exams brilliantly and he won’t let me go. I went to the Chief Medical Director of the school, Dr. O R Longjohn, present day NLNG Board Chairman. He said I can’t go. Incidentally four of the five gynecologists in the Department were Kalabaris, so they were like grooming me to take over. They say I can’t go.

I went on leave, threw in a letter that I have resigned and never came back. A restless soul I was. With a five bed hospitals, I couldn’t see beyond my nose, so if I were asked why I had to leave the job, I had no reason to give. I wasn’t even thinking of expanding to a bigger hospital, but I just felt I could do something better than the job. But it’s wasn’t politics because I wasn’t running for position and the military were so unpredictable, no serious minded person wanted to take politics serious. If my father was alive he would have given me a dirty slap, but my mother was like, Emi if leaving the job would bring you happiness, follow your heart.

In any case, by 1991, Ada George won as Governor of Rivers. I remember I was driving in his car with him, and he said, Emi you have supported me all through. If you remember then, Chief Zebulon Abule, not George, was the favoured candidate of NRC to win. He had everything. Ada George was a weaker candidate so to say, but then I just liked him, soft spoken, approachable. I wasn’t serious about where my bread would be buttered, I could have taken anything Zebulon threw at me, but I just liked Ada George.

So, primaries came, Abule won predictably, but later Abule got disqualified. Then Ada George got NRC ticket and eventually won the general elections. Ada George was always smiling with me, not because he had chances of winning, that’s why a I said it is God that has been directing my life all through. Incidentally, my Asari Toru, my local government gave Ada George the second highest votes after his home Okrika and present day Ogubolo as one council.

And the governor just told me in the car, Emi you will be commissioner. Incidentally, Babangida with a fiat of a law limited the maximum number of state commissioners to seven. Ada George had picked me, but there was petty rivalry between Buguma and Abonema. By my interesting background, my father was paternally Abonema, maternally Buguma. As Kalabari do a lot, he was raised by his mother in Buguma. He schooled there, built his house, died and was buried in Buguma, even though he was bearing an Abonema surname. My mother was full blooded Buguma.

The Buguma Improvement Association was lobbied to say am Abonema and can’t be commissioner of Buguma extraction. Then the Nigerian Medical Association at the time, thinking I would be health commissioner also petitioned that I was too young to be health commissioner. Eventually, I became Chairman of the Board of West Africa Glass Industry, a company where the Rivers state government owned shares ad produce the chairman, but inside have Cutton and Carrol of Germany as technical partner among other institutional structures.

A young doctor, fresh from the hospital sitting on the board of a big company with such institutional structure wasn’t a tea party. I sat on that board as chairman with boardroom gurus, not knowledge of corporate governance. It wasn’t easy at all. So, I went to Lagos Business School, we were the first set and I read a lot. I went to the Stock Exchange where Dr. Ndi Okereke was then Assistant Director General, later GD, took interest in me, networked me with the high profile person so I could learn the language of the corporate world.

The Lagos Business School at that time didn’t have the organized, universe structure is has now, and the tutors were volunteers involving the big names in the corporate world, the Tayo Kolades, Gamaliel Onosodes and the likes who actually impacted us with much knowledge and that helped me a lot, with the stock exchange experience. I can tell you, the corporate person I am today was nurtured there.

With all its structured system. the West African Glass Company I shared had financial constrains. So they could just give my sitting allowance and that was it. It was not like a wholly government board where you could go make money. I didn’t even have an office, no overbearing power. By 1993, the Abacha government came in again, I was removed because the Ada George civilian government that posted me has been removed.

Back to my five bed hospital

I went back to my five bed hospital, married as a young fatal. I then started a company called Elshcon, doing contracts to augment the hospital. No ambition to own a bigger hospital at the time. By 1993, because of the Abiola June 12 struggle, oil workers were on strike and the glass industry depends on a lot of gas to power the machines. The strike shot gas supply and the production line caked. The factory shutdown. I wasn’t there then.

By 1995, the institutional structure, with all the partners were still there. Cotton and Carrol, the lead technical partners were in Lagos, tending to other investments. They wrote to the Rivers State Government, then under a military administrator, to reconstitute the board of the glass industry in terms of appointing the chairman. And they specify that the young chairman they were working with should be reappointed. I was in my house in 1996, when Adokiye Amiesiemaka, then Attorney General of Rivers state came to my house, we were not friends. He knocked and said the governor wants to see me.

I was shocked, say what have a I done. Next day I went to Government House, they say your former board colleagues say you should return as chairman, so this your letter, start work as chairman of the West African Glass Industry, but then we won’t commit any money. And then Nigeria under Abacha was a pariah state, no investor was coming. Whatever you want to do, go and do. So I became chairman of the board again. Luckily, Sona Breweries, because of backward integration needed a company where they can source their bottles. So they came and indicated interest.

They came to bring more money to revamp the glass factory, and as you know he who pays the piper dictates the tune. We had to make sure we have a watertight partnership agreement that would not sell out Rivers state interest. Incidentally, few years later, the Government of Rivers wrote to my office to say, on the day the factory opened, that the agreement I signed with the new core investors that protected the interest Rivers is exemplary and worthy of emulation. I have that letter close to my hearth, framed on my wall. Matter of fact,

I could have compromised with the Indians and signed anything they offer, but I rejected the initial agreement made by their lawyers. I said no, I went to a lawyer friend, Seghena David Dokubo who became Secretary to the State Government and now a monarch in Bayelsa. And he drafted an agreement free of charge. The other agreement was so porous because the investors were the one paying. Seghena came up with watertight draft and they reluctantly signed and he said I should not pay. In 1999, the factory began production of bottles, that same year I became health commissioner in Rivers under Peter Odili and left the board. West African Glass Industry owned shares in PABOD breweries and I was also on the board.

Becoming commissioner

During the period of my 1993, I was still mama Gang my small hospital and still running politics part time. In 1997, ’98, I was chairman of Sgt Awuse for Governor Team. We had a strong team. Most of the older ones around today were in that group and I was chairman. 1998, when Abacha died, I went to Awuse, to say we seem a bit different. I am a bit mellow, but you are more on the aggressive side. I don’t think I want to continue. I said I don’t even want to do politics again. Everybody around him thought I would be the Deputy Governor under him. The aggressiveness was too much for me.

But my friend Precious Ngilali, chairman of campaign team for Peter Odili for Governor at that time when PDP was form, came to me. He was my School a Father, back in Baptist High School. He came and said I cannot make the quit politics decision, that I have paid much price and come a long way. So Ngelali asked me to come back to politics. And Odili was known to me. Under Ada George we were close. Two, he was Secretary of Private Doctors in a Rivers before becoming Deputy Governor, and he at his exit, he handpicked me to succeed him in that capacity, but I felt if I was leaving Awuse, I should quit politics.

Ngelali took me to Odili and Odili in his way convinced me. He said, the UNCP system under which I served Awuse had ended, Abacha had died, and Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar had come with a new system. He said it won’t amount to decamping. So they convinced me and a I joined them. 1999 some of the Kalabari elders and power brokers, including Marshall Harry wanted me to go to the Senate, but the life style of the Senators under Babangida didn’t interest me to jump at that offer.

I told them I want to be Secretary to the State Government, because at that time the Kalabari leadership had a pact with Odili for Kalabari to produce SSG and I wanted that position. Again, infighting in Kalabari came in. Dr. Odili had already told in confidence that I would be secretary. The current Deputy Governor, who was Secretary to the preceding Military Administration then was also being pictured to continue as Kalabari SSG under Odili, but I didn’t know that bit because we were politicians outside.

I was getting ready to be SSG. Few days after, Odili called me and said, Emi sorry, you won’t be SSG, pick any ministry of your choice and be commissioner. He Alabo Graham Douglass has become minister. Dele Cole has been made Special Adviser to the President and so Kalabari, having taking too many opportunities at the center cannot become SSG. Pick any ministry of your choice he said. In my naive way I mentioned Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, having been chairman of the Glass industry and having garnered some corporate world experience.

Few days later, Dr. Odili called and said, Doc, you can t be commerce commissioner. Only three of us had been screened for commissioner, all of us doctors. Dr. Abiye Sekibo had been sworn in as SSG. He said I have to go to health. That’s how I became health commissioner. In Odili’s first tenure, there was no 13% Derivation. The South South governors didn’t have much money to spend. And Odili’s development priority was power. Most of the monies were devoted to power. A couple of the ministries didn’t have money; like the health centers being built later, not that we didn’t propose it, but there were not enabling votes to implement.

I will just mention a few impacts we made within the constraint of funds. One, we had it to give free medical care to children under six and those 60 years and above in government hospitals. We had it. There was no contract involved. I got all the doctors, pharmacists, nurses to swear to their oaths again in a reorientation. I made them understand we didn’t have to build all the big structures first to show commitment.

What I told the governor was to run it like a clinic. We were paying the government hospitals the money for treatment of under 6 and 60 years and above as retainer, not in the ministry. They became client hospitals to government and from the money they were making, they were then able to upgrade, buy equipment and run the hospital as though they were private. So the busier they were, the more money they make and ploughing back. After a while we added emergency care. We found out that when people have emergency, they dump them especially for want of who to pay.

So we said in the first 48 hours of emergency, government will pay for treatment in government hospital to stabilize them before people can come and pay. It worked. In 1999 when Nigeria hosted the world youth football tournament, we had these big sophisticated ambulance federal government deployed and they never removed them after the tournament. You know Port Harcourt was one of the two centers for that event. The other was a Lagos. I was to distribute them to the hospitals, but I felt these government hospitals may not be able to maintains them.

So I thought of EMS, Emergency Medical a Service, with these ambulances. So we set up the first government owned EMS service in the country using those sophisticated American ambulances. There were many of the leftover ambulances. The military didn’t take them away when they were handing over power. We had not cell phones then, so we introduced walkie talkie. We hired a lot of mailed nurses. We hadn’t the money to hire trained paramedics. So we got male nurses, trained them as paramedics. Dr. Harry Agba, had just trained as an Orthopaedic surgeon  – fresh from Igbobi, just came then. I made him head it, fresh from specialist program.

We had our stations in various spots and men stationed across the state. So when there was emergency, we got communications, and response was swift. It was successful. Even in riverine emergencies, the ambulances would anchor at a waterfront, a boat would bring in the patient and we took it from there. Twenty four hours, the ambulances were packed in key positions. The personnel work in the inside themselves and there was less crime then so they weren’t under attack. In case of emergency, the nearest ambulance moves in and evacuate to the nearest government hospital.

Three, as I can remember, it was more on social infrastructures. I was chairman of commissioners of health nationwide at that time from 1999 – 2003. By that position I was representing the various states on a committee set up by federal government to see if national health insurance scheme could start at that time under Obasanjo. We were able to fine tune the document used in starting the scheme. In the process we prepared ours for Rivers such that the state could just takeoff if federal was ready for state health insurance. They never did before we left. Again, then people were not believing in HIV AIDS, so I also organized the one million man match to create awareness on AIDS. We crippled Port Harcourt for one day, thereafter we set up the State Action Committee Against AIDS, we were the first to start it.

I didn’t achieve physical structures but we were given a lot of commendation by the federal health ministry for some of these things we did. I was not reappointed for one reason on the other, so Odili made me Special Adviswr on Investment and Privatisation. In 2005 I found that I wasn’t that busy, so I left to found my business. 

Financial freedom

Before then’ the company I had opened was into supplies, of chemicals to NAFCON, today’s Notorie. We were also doing oil locations civil works at Kolo Creek, Buguma, Afam, a lot of places, working for Shell where we doing movement, buying chemical from Halliburton, Schlumgerger and supplying under Elshcon. But Inhad no structure on this businesses, today I am ISO certified, have many staff, before it was all about Dr. Membre so if I was not around the business was almost closing.

So when I left politics to face my business 2005, I had this piece of land at Woji. Before the first Slaughter Bridge was built, Woji was one track entry. And I like waterfronts where I can build to rest by the water. So they did the bridge and it passed the front of my property. So Woji, as end of town now became Trans Amadi because of that bridge and oil companies were looking for a place, waterfront, to a melting point to go to their locations.

So that is how I got into marine business by chance. They started using the place and they were telling me, go and hire badge, tugboat and all that. I would go Abuloma and other places to get what they wanted and out N5000 markup as a broker, as former commissioner as a broker. Then I started constructing my first badge. I had already built and living in a house of my own before I come into government, so I didn’t need a second house at that time. I rather was building an office in GRA.

2005, I found I had no more money to continue to badge and the office I was building. At a crossroad, I went to my mother. I said this is my life, I don’t know what you could do. I told you she would support I course I follow, so long it wasn’t negative or criminal. She had a piece of land somewhere, sold it for N19.5Million, took N500,000 and gave me N19M. So, I put N10M to finish the badge, pit N9M to roof the building, not to finish. Siemens took the building  thereafter, took a floor, finished the building and stayed there for many many years before they left.

I finished the badge, called it ENL (Elshcon Nig Ltd) Miracle, because my mother wasn’t I there for me, demurrage would have taken over and I would have lost my initial investment. That badge didn’t have a job for a year or so, but after that Saipem took it for five year continuously. That was the turning point in my life. From there I progressed to own other badges, tugboats, drew boats and other offshore equipment, to fabrication. My businesses just took a turning point. Sadly, my mother passed a year after seed she sowed in my life.

Something happened of significance. Few weeks before she died, there was a church programme in her church. I was in Redeem. She invited me to the programme, there was a word of knowledge. I was just walking into the programme featuring Bishop Idahosa. There was a word of knowledge that there was a woman whose son was former commissioner. He said bring him, and commanded, ‘mummy, ray for him, bless him’. I have never seen it. In the altar, this woman prayed and prayed blessings upon me. Few weeks after she died from a minor surgery, an anesthetic accident, done by one of the best consultants around. She died.

Ever since, I have been involved in several things, and going back, I no longer wait to get to the bridge before I cross it. My spirituality has increased. I do more of prayers, I plan ahead to guide. I developed a life plan I give my children on what to do and how to plan for it. I am now the President of the second largest and most vibrant Chamber of Commerce in the country; Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, I am also in the national chamber NACCIMA, I am chairman of a couple of companies. Am a member of the board of Clear Lines is one of the oldest health insurance company, Imam chairman board of directors and I own quite a number of companies. And for the health I hadn’t gotten so deeply involved, was are building one of the best hospitals in Port Harcourt today, to be commissioned in the next few weeks. Because of NACCIMA, they also put me in a number of federal boards, may have been a turn around. From a ship without engine but remotely controlled, now am still remotely controlled, but by God. I know the Bible more and still pray. Now I plan and ask God to fight my battles.

Family

I have five boys and one girl. I am married. I call the boys, first five children, The Gentlemen. I never planned for them. Looking back now, six seemed a lot, but I didn’t plan. They just came. If I were taking the decision today,  I could have said not more than two, or three, but I never planned, just had them as they come. My kids are Gentlemen because from childhood, the center table had always been glass, we had figuring and several ceramics; not one was broken by all my children, not one. They know, when so I look at them, they know the red lines not to cross, but then Imam also their friend. We play a lot. My life has been nurtured by my strict father and my pampering mother and grandmother.

What life has thought me at 60

At 60 I have learnt there is God factor in everything. Am a better Christian today. I realize that things don’t happen by chance. Work hard and pray hard and take your situations to God for direction, for guidance, for blessings and protection. I also imbibed this forward ever, backward never attitude. I make mistakes, but I never dwell on them, but rather see everyone mistake as a stepping stone for greater heights. I learn from my yesterday to shape my tomorrow. Two, I don’t keep enemies in my heart. People have hurt me, but I sleep like a baby, not keeping them in mind. If you hurt me I tell you and move on, but I learn from it.

That is to say if you step on my foot, I learn from it and I would tell you and avoid putting my leg near you so you won’t match me again. But I will not plan aiming to match you back. I won’t do that; I would rather avoid getting matched by you again. That is my story at 60. I am always thankful to God. I tell people in my business and social life; don’t fight me, because a I won’t fight you. I will just avoid you. I pray a lot. Read a lot and give written and spoken guidance to my children. I read a lot of biographies and autobiographies to give lead know how people live and lead a better life.