Where is Austen Oni­won?

Daily Trust - - DIGEST - By Tony Akhigbe

When ‘oil ex­pert’, Dr. Gaius Obaseki, was at the head of the Nige­rian Na­tional Pe­tro­leum Com­pany [NNPC], he de­manded that all his top brass must play golf. Be­fore this time, an­other past Group Man­ag­ing Direc­tor of the NNPC, Eng. Austen Oni­won never played golf and he was not plan­ning to do so. But since this had to do with obey­ing the last or­der, he grudg­ingly joined.

Even at the point he joined, Oni­won was al­ways look­ing at past events where Obaseki in midst of dif­fi­cult board­room meet­ings would ex­cuse him­self and head for the golf course. And when he came back from some nine holes game, he would have an­swers to gritty is­sues that made him aban­don the meet­ing in the first place. It was here he be­lieved that golf could re­ally level con­fused heads.

The truth is Oni­won started the game just to obey ‘the last or­der’. But as months went by, some­thing clicked. It was cer­tain that Oni­won and golf would travel some long paths, and that was what hap­pened. Oni­won got hooked to the game to the point that he never knew when he started build­ing a course on the waste­lands of the Eleme Petro­chem­i­cals where he was boss at the time. When asked rea­sons he would want a course on the Petro­chem­i­cal base he had this to say: “I never knew golf could be so ful­fill­ing. I love the game and it is now part of me. I want to play it every day. It is not an ad­dic­tion, it’s just what I want to do. But it’s not easy to play in Port Har­court every day. The traf­fic is hec­tic to that point a trip from Eleme to the Port Har­court course could take hours. So I pre­fer to build one at Eleme so those of us here could play all the time, even if it’s six holes we can man­age”.

From here, Oni­won moved to an­other level when he turned the NNPC Rose­bowl tour­ney to a truly na­tional event where golf big­wigs across the coun­try gath­ered in Port Har­court where they played golf and par­tied and en­gaged in such ca­ma­raderie that could be so elec­tri­fy­ing. This is no longer hap­pen­ing, though.

At a point he be­came the NNPC GMD, the friend­ship Oni­won built on golf cour­ses across the na­tion came to the fore when his friends from across the coun­try de­cided to honor him as the new GMD of the NNPC with an un­com­mon kitty at the lush course of the IBB Golf Club in Abuja. The event was a ‘shotgun’ which saw some 350 golfers bom­bard­ing the course at the same time. The game was fun. The clos­ing pe­riod at the Sher­a­ton Ho­tel was fun­nier. When it was all over, Oni­won, ac­com­pa­nied by his wife and son was so amazed he searched for things to say. He did say some­thing af­ter all.

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