The finest ideal taught to children from generation to generation, across cultures and possibly since mankind developed the ability to preserve and transfer knowledge, is to work very hard to be successful and to use that success in the service of others. Our Lord Jesus validated this with his golden rule mandate: love your neighbor as yourself.
Africa built a philosophy around it; the philosophy of ‘Ubuntu’ which holds that the individual is only possible because of the collective, and the quality of any man’s life is defined by his relationship with others. “I am because we are”.
Today, on Sunday the 8th of August, we come together as a people and a nation to grieve the loss of a man who best embodied this ideal and whose contribution to society and humanity is perhaps unmatched in its transformational force and aspirational quality.
Our dear Captain Hosa Okunbo, the globally acclaimed business icon and great philanthropist, has breathed his last. The curtain has fallen on his time here, and his self-authored chapters have received the last ink. We are united in mourning by the profound tragedy of his exit, as all and sundry, from Edo State to the nation’s capital in Abuja and beyond, have combined their voices to form a conductor-less orchestra of salutation of this extraordinary man.
The tributes have poured in torrentially. And in them, we find many testaments to Cappy’s unique greatness. Everyone, young or old, rich or poor, reveling in urban renown or hidden in rural obscurity, all have touching stories of personal interactions with the Captain.
His heart was fenceless, as was his physical abode; he welcomed everybody. A self-made billionaire who held life by the scruff of the neck and imposed the force of his will on the order of things to beat a path out of childhood adversity, Captain Hosa Okunbo rejected exclusionary elitism.
He would live among the people not as a mere symbol of all that wealth could acquire, but as an example of the transformational impact of a well-motivated individual on the larger society. And so we have the rarity of a very wealthy man so intimately woven into the lives and stories of countless and diverse individuals, so much so that they affectionately regard him as a beloved, true and present father.
For some, it was his time and wisdom he freely gave. For countless others, it was the wealth he gathered from his many endeavors. The denominating factor being that he gave all that he had, until there was nothing left to give. It was almost as if Captain Okunbo worked his fingers to the bone in pursuit of opportunities to make certain that everyone else, regardless of whether he knew them personally or not, had a decent shot at life. He was a man of many children, the initiator of many successful careers in business, leadership, and other walks of life.
He lived a simple life, measured not in personal acquisitions – an area he obviously did not lack – but in the investments made in the life of others. He took a bet on society, convinced that more will follow if one person illuminated the honorable and noble way. He believed in the spirit of mankind, of humanity.
Much has already been said about how Captain Hosa Okunbo conquered the air as a young pilot, the sea as a marine engineer with vast investments and accomplishments in the oil and gas sector, and of land as a successful farmer. He was a master of the elements, his success, from a modest beginning, serving as the inspiration to other accomplished men across the country and beyond.
The familiar caption “billionaire businessman” that follows his name makes his wealth the most obvious trait to some people who only met him via the media. But the most obvious is not necessarily the most significant.
In attaining the zenith of business across multiple fields, Captain Hosa Okunbo increased our fortunes and expanded the resources available to our nation. And in the application of his fortune, he increased us in spirit and values. And there lies perhaps his greatest legacy. The rejection of the comforting, exclusive island of personal satisfaction – even if achieved by individual talent and labor. That success must be measured not in things done for the self alone, but also for others. Ubuntu. I am because we are.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said in his eulogy of the literary iconoclast Thoreau: “The country knows not yet, or in the least part, how great a son it has lost.”
Good night Captain Hosa Okunbo. You were a father and mentor. In our hearts, you are immortalized; and until that time when it is our own turn to go, we shall keep the torch you have passed burning. Farewell, great man. Farewell.