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Projecting uncommon values in Buhari’s change era

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By Sufuyan Ojeifo

Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, was obviously happy to hear business mogul and Chairman of the Wells Carlton Hotel and Apartments, Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo, proclaim he is enjoying the era of change in Nigeria.

To be clear, the change era was brought about by the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government of President Muhammadu Buhari. As a reminder, change was the catchphrase on which the APC and its presidential candidate drove their campaigns for a new Nigeria.

They garnished their promises with the possibilities that change comes with. It was a strategic mantra that enjoyed the buy-in and support of a vast majority of Nigerians. 

The countrywide support at that intersection was not in any way misplaced. Validation: change is the only permanent thing in life as it unfurls in perpetuity. In the penumbra of the 2019 presidential election, the APC administration has tweaked the change agenda to announce its next level agenda to Nigerians.

The vice president’s smile when he mounted the dais to respond to the opening remarks by Okunbo at the inauguration of his Wells Carlton Hotel and Apartments on Saturday, December 15, 2018, in Abuja, was understandably big.

The administration’s change agenda had just received a significant third-party endorsement amid the litany of woes about how things have retrogressed in Nigeria, especially in the economic sphere.  

Okunbo’s endorsement was from the heart. He was not out to massage the ego of the vice president or the Federal Government nor was he playing to the gallery to appeal to the sensibilities of guests who had converged on the premises of the five-star hotel and hospitality icon for its inauguration.   

Indeed, Okunbo contextualized the contending issues that he had to grapple with at the outset of the Buhari administration and explicated how, in pragmatic terms, he had deployed his business savoir faire to survive in a climate that had suddenly become seemingly inclement for businesses to thrive.

He had gradually, in his speech, prepared the hearts of the people to receive the magnitude of his uncommon stories of how he overcame the pains and strains of his investment uncertainties, beginning with the cancellation of his Ocean Marine Solutions (OMS) Limited’s pipeline security contract for crude oil movement by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

Being a major contract for the delivery of uncommon values in which his company enjoys a comparative advantage over others in terms of possession of the critical equipment such as over fifty marine vessels, he was concerned but not despondent.  The contract was farmed out to a department of the NNPC and, interestingly, according to him, the Corporation became a charterer of his company’s vessels in that circumstance.

When he experienced the initial setback, he had decided to explore other businesses where he could provide uncommon values.  The idea of the multi-billion naira Wells Hosa Greenhouse Farms Limited, according to him, popped up and he had to sell his aircraft to raise the money for the investment. 

He told the vice president and the quality gathering that he had a fully-covered eight-hectare greenhouse farm that has been producing assorted vegetables of international standards and eight more hectares that have just been fully covered.  In a change era  in which many businesses have collapsed and many more cannot operate at optimum capacities, Well Hosa Greenhouse Farms Limited produces 4,200 metric tonnes of various vegetables annually that meet international standards.

Read this: he does not owe any bank a dime on the construction of the hotel and apartments as well as on the farm project.  Both projects, according to him, are testimonies to his tenacity and commitment to provision of uncommon values.

As the vice president and other guests, including Speaker Yakubu Dogara and Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo Sate, focused their attention on the man and listened to his story, it was evident that no one doubted Okunbo’s professed audacity to seek and provide solutions to difficult problems in particularly difficult terrains as well as his binder to excellence.

Perhaps, what blew the minds of the distinguished gathering was the story of how, after the cancellation of his security surveillance for crude oil movement by vessel contract by the NNPC, the corporation had expressed the intention of building the Bonny-Port-Harcourt and Warri-Escravos crude evacuation pipelines. He had moved in to deliver the pipelines on the basis of a mere letter of intention by the Corporation. Significantly, this was without a dime from the national oil company. 

The contract was negotiated after the pipelines were delivered.  That was as audacious as it was ambitious. What model of business deal was that? It was out of this world and speaks to the tenacity of character of the titanic businessman with the Midas touch. How many Nigerian companies could do that? That remains a clear attestation to Okunbo’s patriotism, which is worthy of accolades and national honours.

He also spoke confidently on the occasion about integrity that has been his mainstay in business. How many businessmen and women can boast that they are above reproach like Caesar’s wife in matters of business transactions and/or deals in Nigeria?  He said he had nothing to fear, boasting that he had never been indicted for any shady deals since he immersed himself in the business terrain. He said that at over 60 years of age, the only thing he was committed to was to speak the truth and bequeath a legacy of legitimacy to his children.

Certainly, it was a cool night for the shrewd, risk-taking investor as he announced that the NNPC, convinced beyond measures of his company’s capacity to deliver uncommon values in the security of pipelines and delivery of crude to the nation’s refineries in the Niger Delta, has just negotiated and awarded his company oil infrastructure surveillance contract for the protection of the 87-kilometre Trans Forcados Pipeline (TFP), to curb losses on the pipeline.

Media reports credited to the NNPC’s Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Ndu Nghamadu, had said that “the decision to assign the TFP surveillance package to Ocean Marine Solutions was reached after consideration of huge losses on TFP and rigorous appraisal of the company’s impressive record of performance on the Bonny-Port-Harcourt and Warri-Escravos crude evacuation lines.”

In rounding off – and this is very instructive – Okunbo provided some insight into the intricate world of business when he said any business that was not geared towards offering goods or services was not business.  He had gone further to reiterate that, in his own case, he always strives to deliver uncommon values, saying that was the reason government had continued to seek him in an era of change.

Okunbo’s summation, nay verdict, as it were, is that the current change is not merely a transfer of power from the PDP to the APC or a change in leadership guard from Jonathan to Buhari; but a way of life, a new culture of socio-political and economic interactions with a clear message to thieves that they can no longer steal. He declared that this change has created the enabling environment for his uncommon values to be appreciated and sought for. 

He paused, looked at the audience and declared: “Your Excellency, I am enjoying this change era.” He then stepped down from the dais to appreciative applause.  The takeaway: to be relevant in Buhari’s change era, one must deliver uncommon values in goods and services. That is the truth and the gospel, according to Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo.

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