Odogwu: The Iroko Falls at 91

THISDAY - - CICERO / TRIBUTE - De­mola Ojo

Mon­day last week wit­nessed the pass­ing of the Ide Ahaba of As­aba, Chief Sunny Odogwu, one of the most il­lus­tri­ous sons of Delta State and one of Nige­ria’s great­est en­trepreneurs. Chief Odogwu was into dif­fer­ent kinds of lu­cra­tive busi­nesses with in­vest­ments in in­sur­ance, prop­erty de­vel­op­ment, ship­ping, pub­lish­ing, hos­pi­tal­ity and many more. De­spite wield­ing so much power and in­flu­ence, he never ven­tured into pol­i­tics.

Born in Cal­abar, Cross River State, Odogwu who hails from Delta State, had his early ed­u­ca­tion in the South-western part of Nige­ria. He at­tended St. Peters School, Broad Street, La­gos, CMS Gram­mar School, Bariga, also in La­gos and Ile­sha Gram­mar School, in what is now Osun State.

He later took an in­sur­ance course at the London In­sur­ance In­sti­tute in 1954 be­fore switch­ing to the City Col­lege, London, for fur­ther stud­ies in man­age­ment.

In a ca­reer that saw him start off as a trainee pi­lot, he changed di­rec­tion when he joined Nor­wich Union in La­gos as a trainee in­sur­ance in­spec­tor and man­ager. That switch in ca­reer would later lead him to serve in var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties in sev­eral in­sur­ance com­pa­nies.

In 1953, Odogwu put his spe­cial­ist man­age­rial skills to work in es­tab­lish­ing an in­sur­ance broking firm, Robert Dyson & Diet Lim­ited, while also es­tab­lish­ing a trad­ing store as a side busi­ness in La­gos Is­land. His ex­per­tise came in handy in London, where he was an In­sur­ance In­spec­tor with Pearl As­sur­ance Com­pany Ltd in 1954.

From 1954 to 1958, he was man­ager at Swiss Gen­eral In­sur­ance Co., in Zurich, Switzer­land be­fore re­turn­ing to Nige­ria as the first in­dige­nous African Di­rec­tor of C.T. Bowring and Com­pany Lim­ited.

He later re­signed to form African Un­der­writ­ers Lim­ited, which later be­came African In­sur­ance Bro­kers, the first in­dige­nous In­sur­ance Bro­ker­age Com­pany in Nige­ria.

In 1966, he was man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of The African Pru­den­tial In­sur­ance Co. Ltd. A decade af­ter, he be­came chair­man of the firm.

Odogwu grew his in­sur­ance busi­ness and started di­ver­si­fy­ing into other sec­tors in 1972. By 1984, he had branched out into other in­dus­tries un­der Sunny Iwedike Odogwu (SIO) group.

He was the pub­lisher of the de­funct Post Ex­press News­pa­pers that was pub­lished both in Port Har­court and La­gos. The news­pa­per was one of the ear­li­est to em­brace web pub­lish­ing.

Odogwu was di­rec­tor of the Robert Brad­ford group of com­pa­nies and chair­man of Odogwu Group of Com­pa­nies and of SID Prop­er­ties from 1976.

From 1984 to 1985, he was Di­rec­tor of Sanyo (Nige­ria) and Na­tional Fer­tiliser Com­pany of Nige­ria Ltd. He founded the Agro-Al­lied Sack Fac­tory, As­aba, in 1988.

He was the Chair­man/Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of Odogwu Group of Com­pa­nies Lim­ited, con­sist­ing of African In­sur­ance Bro­kers, The United African In­sur­ance Bro­kers (Bro­kers at Lloyd’s), SIO Prop­erty Ltd, Afric-Oil and Mar­ket­ing Com­pany, SIO Mo­tors Nige­ria Ltd, and Post Pub­lish­ing Com­pany Ltd. Odogwu also found a new love for ho­tel in­vest­ment and on the list of his as­sets is his Grand Ho­tel in As­aba, Delta State, and St. Regis Ho­tel in Ikoyi, La­gos.

The As­aba chief was a mem­ber of var­i­ous pro­fes­sional bod­ies, in­clud­ing the As­so­ci­a­tion of the Char­tered In­sur­ance In­sti­tute, London; As­so­ci­a­tion of the Cor­po­ra­tion of In­sur­ance Bro­kers, London; Fel­low of the Cor­po­rate In­sur­ance Bro­kers (F.C.I.B); Un­der­writ­ing mem­ber at Lloyd’s London and Fel­low of the Cor­po­ra­tion of In­sur­ance Prac­ti­tion­ers (F.C.I.P).

Odogwu was pre­sented with the Zik Lead­er­ship Award in Busi­ness in 1997 and was recog­nised as Africa’s best busi­ness­man when in 1998, he was awarded The World Bank Group-IMF African Club Prize in Busi­ness Lead­er­ship.

He is the founder of the Nige­rian-South­ern African Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Con­sor­tium, a group whose goal is the im­prove­ment of eco­nomic con­di­tions in Africa. He is also a renowned phi­lan­thropist.

Apart from be­ing the Ide Ahaba of As­aba, other chief­taincy ti­tles in­clude, Eze Udo I of Og­washi-Uku; Onon­aeyi of Aman­dugba; Ig­bolog­boobi of Ubulu; Nkume I of Ezi-Ama, Aba; Ek­wedike I of Aba zone; Sobaloju of Og­bere, Ije­bu­land; and Tobal­ase of Ojoland, La­gos.

In 2004, the Nige­rian gov­ern­ment un­der Pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo hon­oured him with the Com­man­der of the Or­der of the Fed­eral Re­pub­lic (CFR).

Obasanjo is one of many per­son­al­i­ties to eu­lo­gise Odogwu af­ter his pass­ing by de­scrib­ing him as an “in­spir­ing and front­line in­dige­nous in­dus­tri­al­ist, an ac­com­plished ad­min­is­tra­tor, a fore­most busi­ness­man and a tire­less phi­lan­thropist.”

He con­tin­ued: “I was sad be­cause we will miss his con­tri­bu­tion to the build­ing of a new Nige­ria of his dream but I am grate­ful to God for such a life well spent in the ser­vice of our father­land.

“It is grat­i­fy­ing that he built a sprawl­ing busi­ness em­pire, which is a mod­ern day em­ployer of thou­sands of peo­ple.

“He was, in­deed, a pa­triot who had made ster­ling con­tri­bu­tion to­wards the so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of our dear coun­try,” the for­mer pres­i­dent said.

Mean­while in a state­ment is­sued on be­half of Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari, he paid tribute to “the mem­ory of the ver­sa­tile busi­ness­man, who re­mark­ably con­trib­uted to the so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of his im­me­di­ate com­mu­nity, state and the na­tion, draw­ing from his ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence as an ac­com­plished in­dus­tri­al­ist, en­tre­pre­neur, pub­lisher and phi­lan­thropist.” The state­ment con­tin­ued: “The Pres­i­dent af­firms that through his vast busi­ness net­works, range of skills and per­spec­tives, the late Chief Odogwu demon­strated deep un­der­stand­ing and com­mit­ment in em­pow­er­ing in­dige­nous busi­nesses, en­cour­ag­ing en­trepreneur­ship and cre­at­ing thou­sands of em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for Nige­ri­ans.”

Re­act­ing to his pass­ing, Delta State Gover­nor, Sena- tor Ifeanyi Okowa, and for­mer gover­nor Dr. Em­manuel Ud­u­aghan, de­scribed it as a mon­u­men­tal loss to the Anioma peo­ple, the state and Nige­ria.

Okowa in a state­ment con­dol­ing with the fam­ily said; “Chief Odogwu will also be long re­mem­bered and hon­oured as a very gen­er­ous phi­lan­thropist whose US based Non-Gov­ern­men­tal Or­ga­ni­za­tion, Africa NGO, sup­ports more than 260 pro­gram­mers in 27 African coun­tries.

“In ad­di­tion about 35 na­tions on the African con­ti­nent have ben­e­fited from di­rect as­sis­tance solely spon­sored by Chief Odogwu.”

Okowa con­tin­ued: “Chief Odogwu equally demon­strated his large heart in Nige­ria by cre­at­ing and sup­port­ing an ed­u­ca­tional en­dow­ment fund for the ed­u­ca­tion of the un­der priv­i­leged stu­dents in se­condary schools where more than 3500 have ben­e­fit­ted from this scheme.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ud­u­aghan, “Odogwu, like many other great busi­ness­men who hail from Delta State, brought pride to the peo­ple of the state.

”In spite of his global con­nec­tions, he re­turned home and was made a prom­i­nent tra­di­tional chief in As­aba (Ide Ahaba of As­aba).

“Odogwu’s death is a great loss to our dear state, Delta, Nige­ria and per­son­ally to me, who had the op­por­tu­nity of tap­ping from his global ex­pe­ri­ence in busi­ness.”

Odogwu

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