Dad didn’t want me to join Army
– Lawrence Onoja Jr.
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