Sporting simple pyjamas, he seemed at peace with himself. Sitting atop of the dining table with a couple of his friends, the tastefully furnished living room still had some undeniable elements of simplicity. As he motioned to this reporter to sit down, he continued with his discussion. Despite his earthly possessions, Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo, is a simple man.
“My brother, I am a private person and will remain so for a long time to come,” he told me. He was right. Very right.
I started racking my brain trying to remember the last time I saw his interview in any newspaper or his face on television. I could simply not recall one. In fact, I started working on the Google map on my phone as I sat down there. Nothing much came except his business concerns. At 63, he has been blessed by his Creator but he remains humble with it.
And I will come to the issue of humility lately.
Perhaps, the nation likes noisemakers. These are individuals who make all the noise but they hardly impact on their fellow human beings. They make the noise for public applaud but deep inside them, it is all for the positive validation this will give them. Captain Hosa, as friends and admirers call him, is different.
He sleeps, wakes, sleeps again, dreams, wakes up and live humanity. To him, he has his flaws like every other mortal. But you can never his sense of fairness and commitment to the propagation of the common good.
Back to here. When he was done, he motioned to me. “Please come.” I moved to the side of the room he was sitting. after exchanging pleasantries again and a few banters about the state of the nation, he stated rather confidently:
“My life has been of battle for the propagation of the common good. And that is why I have trained myself that wherever I am not able to do good, I must not also do bad. I have been dragged to a terrain I never wanted to be dragged to. But I am also aware that I am like a city established upon the hill. It cannot be hidden. I remain faithful to convictions that have defined my existence and also shaped my relationship with fellow mortals.”
Many may not know this or be aware of it except those who are very close to him, but Captain Okunbo respects royalty, especially that of the ancient Benin Kingdom so much. In fact, he joked that one day, when he finally retires to the land of his siring, he would be going to the palace to make the king laugh and happy.
To him, the humility of his birth and the simplicity of his upbringing have taught him not to be a worshipper of money. To him, what he values if nothing but value itself. To make others happy and also ensure that no one around him goes to bed on empty stomach. He owes this to a father who was very strict and builds him and his siblings values of selflessness and commitment to the common good.
“I am from a very humble background in Benin-City. My father was an educationist and my mother used to be a teacher. But my father is late. My father brought us up properly. I was not brought up to worship money. We were brought up with values. And people who know my father would tell you he was a strict disciplinarian and my father was a man of truth and in that truth, the light in me has come out.
So my desire to go back home and relate with my people is based on the conviction of a child that was brought up to appreciate values; I mean values that positively define humanity. It is about child that knows that wherever he is, he must always look back and remember home. My belief is that whatever God has blessed me with today, that was not merited by me in any way, it was not because of me that I have been blessed. I have been blessed because of my family and humanity.”
Where his humility and humanity become eloquently exemplified is the area of ‘noiseless’ humanitarian services that are carried out leaving the klieg lights inside the box and cameras inside their holders.
“My joy is in sharing with them without making noise. This is because I believe in God’s injunctions that whatever you do in secret, that is good, the reward shall come back to you in the open. So I don’t make noise about my philanthropy. And that I have not set up a foundation because when you do, you would be visiting here and there including orphanages and so on with all the media blitz. That is why many cannot understand why I had not gone down. I have lived on this principle for decades as a young Bini man in Lagos being celebrated by Yoruba people. I always tell God that I do not believe I have money but goodwill.”
He is not all just about his unquestionable sense of fairness and giving. This man can also be a philosopher king. He explained to this writer that man had to understand the purpose of his existence on this planet earth. And this understanding is usually steeped in certain ambitions that are germane to understanding why we are here.
“In every stage of man’s life, you have ambitions. You want to go to school. The best schools and also be in the best in your class. And after that, you want to go to the best places to work. It is these ambitions that guide you in the trajectory of life.
My remaining ambition today, at 63, is being able to go back to that community which I loved unconditionally, bring back home to that community whatever God has blessed me with, because I have never lived in Benin, even when a lot of people thought I did, which I did not merit and share it with the people, create jobs for the youths in an environment that is peaceful. I also want to be respected as an elder statesman. I would like to eat roasted yam with palm oil; which was the delicacy my grandmother brought me up with. Then I can tie my wrapper and go to the palace and make my king laugh.”
And now, wait for the man’s strong convictions:
“In any man’s life, you have to understand the reason for your creation. When you realise why you were created, you begin to walk in that line. Some people live their lives without understanding the reason for their creation. The reason for my creation is to worship and praise Him and also share whatever he has blessed me with my family and the people and uplift my kingdom which has existed for centuries and defend the integrity of that kingdom. That is why I do things and people say that people I helped have been abusing me, I always laugh. Human beings, by nature, can be ungrateful. But I won’t allow the ungratefulness to define my relationship with the Man who created me and directed me. He asked to do it and let Him be the judge between me and people He has used me to bless but have turned against me.”
Excuse me. He stood up. His simple pyjamas flying reluctantly in the not too breezy hair. And I said to myself: he is truly a simple man.
– Ajayi is a communication strategist