Dad didn’t want me to join Army

– Lawrence Onoja Jr.

Weekly Trust - - Front Page - Hope Abah, Makurdi

Daily Trust: Your fa­ther turned 69 re­cently, pre­cisely Au­gust 10. What kind of per­son would you say he is? Lawrence Onoja Jr.: My fa­ther is a Nige­rian to the core. He is a sol­dier in and out. He is such a Nige­rian that speaks mul­ti­ple lan­guages. He does not dis­crim­i­nate. For him, it is al­ways Nige­ria first. If I’m to de­scribe him in one word, I would say the man is a com­plete Nige­rian.

DT: How would you de­scribe grow­ing up with your dad?

Onoja Jr: Grow­ing up with my dad was ex­tremely mo­ti­vat­ing. The man is a goal­get­ter, he is dis­ci­pline and does not joke with ed­u­ca­tion. He was con­stantly push­ing us to be the best that we could be. Although, he wasn’t al­ways around due to his mil­i­tary job, we how­ever al­ways look for­ward to his com­ing home. I re­mem­ber while grow­ing up that any­time we were told that daddy was com­ing home, we won’t sleep, un­til he comes. It was re­ally good ex­pe­ri­ence grow­ing up with him and he taught us a lot. He said so many things to us. One of such state­ments was that, any­thing you do in life, es­pe­cially when you find your­self in lead­er­ship po­si­tion, your poli­cies must al­ways be peo­ple-ori­ented and if it is not, you will fail.

My dad al­ways told us that a good name is bet­ter than money. His fre­quent ad­vice to me is never to envy some­one else, but to pray to God con­sis­tently to be­come the best I can be. He of­ten says thank God for what oth­ers have, ask God for your own.

DT: What fond child­hood me­mories can you re­call while grow­ing up with your fa­ther?

Onoja Jr: I re­called many fond child­hood me­mories. I re­mem­ber when my dad used to prom­ise us that if we do well in school, he would give us a treat and he was truth­ful to his word. Funny enough, if you are among the first three po­si­tions, he would take you abroad. So it was a mas­sive com­pe­ti­tion in the house. I think so far, a look at our sec­ondary school re­sult showed that I’m the one even with the worst re­sult. My elder sis­ter who is a med­i­cal doc­tor in Amer­ica had 9As, Michael, a sol­dier had 8As and I had 5As and 4Cs. I was looked at as un­se­ri­ous. He al­ways seized the op­por­tu­nity when­ever at home to talk with us, he tells us about life, his ex­pe­ri­ences and the his­tory of our place. He tells us about our clan his­tory and our fore fathers.

DT: At what point, did you re­alise that your fa­ther is an im­por­tant Nige­rian?

Onoja Jr: I would not be able to say ex­actly at what point. I have al­ways known or have the sense that he is an im­por­tant Nige­rian. One thing is that the man al­ways made sure that we were hum­ble. I re­mem­ber even when he was gover­nor and as his son in gov­ern­ment house, I had morn­ing du­ties. That was mostly due to my mother’s in­sis­tence too. They never be­lieved in lazi­ness. My par­ents would beat you, cor­rect you, then open the Bi­ble for you and tell you, ‘spare the rod and spoil the child.’ Those were the kind of par­ents I had and it taught me hu­mil­ity. It also taught me that life is not easy no mat­ter where you find your­self.

DT: What mis­con­cep­tion about your dad that peo­ple have of him that you would you like to cor­rect?

Onoja Jr: I re­mem­ber we used to tell our dad that he was more of a sol­dier than a politi­cian. Peo­ple used to take his straight for­ward­ness and his ob­jec­tive­ness as be­ing ar­ro­gant but he is not. The man is just straight for­ward, he is a kind of per­son that if you come to tell him about some­body, he would call the per­son and in your pres­ence re­peat what you had told him and asked if it was true. What he can’t say in front of you, he wouldn’t say be­hind you. Po­lit­i­cally, there were so many lies told about him back home. I think I would love to get that mis­con­cep­tion cleared that the man is one who fights for his peo­ple and loves his peo­ple.

DT: What ex­actly gets him up­set and why? Onoja Jr: When he sees the in­sen­si­tiv­ity of man to man. When he sees things that should be done and peo­ple di­vert what peo­ple should gain. When he sees gov­ern­ment at all lev­els who should do cer­tain things but are not. Those are things that worry him.

DT: If your dad was not a sol­dier, what other pro­fes­sion do you think he would have taken to? Onoja Jr: If he wasn’t in the mil­i­tary, he would have been a teacher. He is a teacher till to­day. He still lec­tures part-time till to­day. He has al­ways been a teacher. He was a teacher first even be­fore he joined the mil­i­tary.

DT: What are some val­ues of his that

you have in­her­ited? Onoja Jr: That would be his straight for­ward­ness, his blunt­ness and al­ways try­ing to be of help to peo­ple. Al­ways try­ing to live the prin­ci­ple of hav­ing peo­ple-ori­ented poli­cies and be­ing the best we can be in any po­si­tion we find our­selves.

DT: How much in­flu­ence did he have on your ca­reer choice?

Onoja Jr: I tried to join the mil­i­tary but he re­fused. DT: Why?

Onoja Jr: He said that he felt my gift was in other as­pects. He said I was a bet­ter man­ager, a good or­gan­iser and that I would do well in busi­ness. Even in the as­pect of pol­i­tics, he is not re­ally thrilled. So that in­formed why I took to man­age­ment.

He is a sports man to the core. When he was much younger, he plays ten­nis a lot. Now, he is more into golf, he likes trav­el­ing and loves to so­cialise. There is vir­tu­ally no­body across this coun­try that is not his friend.

DT: His favourite word of wis­dom that you have held on to con­sis­tently?

Onoja Jr: My fa­ther tells us to al­ways seek God first. Never envy peo­ple. Then, three things you must avoid; don’t fight over land, don’t fight over woman and don’t ever be polyg­a­mous. DT: His favourite food?

Onoja Jr: The man loves Okra and black Amala.

Mr. Lawrence Onoja Jr.

Ju­nior Lawrence and his fa­ther

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