It was a gathering of who is who across Nigeria as the remains of Edo-born business mogul, Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo, were on Friday laid to rest at a private event, after a funeral service at the Nigerian Airforce Base in Benin City, Edo State.
Among dignitaries present were serving governors including the governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Comrade Philip Shaibu, his counterparts from Lagos, Ogun and Kebbi States, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Prince Dapo Abiodun and Atiku Abubakar Bagudu respectively.
Others included two daughters of President Muhammadau Buhari, Halima and Zara and their husbands. Former governors of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole; Delta State, Chief James Ibori; Gombe State Hassan Dakwambo, and Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff.
The Oba of Benin and the Olu of Warri sent prominent palace chiefs to the event.
Delivering his homily, Pastor Godheart Ekweme said there is a time for everything and that the late Okunbo had spent the better part of the last one year in “deeper relationship with his creator.”
Speaking on behalf of all the dignitaries present, Obaseki described Okunbo as an uncommon Nigerian who “could be described as a genius, a breaker of class ceilings, a bridge builder, a business tycoon, a philanthropist extraordinaire.
“Captain Hosa as we fondly called him was a man with a big heart, although he had humble beginnings, he was armed with unyielding resolve as his children have said and he was determined to surmount life’s challenges and he did.
“He pushed himself to the limits to attain greatness, building an impressive business empire and transforming the lives of numerous people, many of them of Edo origin.
“A trained pilot, he mastered the air quite early in life and searched for the land in the maritime sector prevailing in all spheres.
“He embodied hard work, perseverance, dexterity and acumen which espoused his Edo heritage. Captain was a philanthropist who gave lavishly off himself and his resources.
“He will be remembered for his undying love for Edo people. His desire for the progress and development of our dear state, the Niger Delta region and Nigeria as well as his invaluable contributions to building bridges across the country will never be forgotten.
“In building a vast business empire that spanned maritime, logistics, security, transpiration, agriculture and hospitality, he displayed a rare business acumen providing employment for thousands of Nigerians and contributing immensely to our nation’s development and progress. He was a devout family man. Undoubtedly, his exit will leave a gaping hole in the hearts of the people he imparted so dearly.”
The late Okunbo’s first child and the wife of Olu of Warri, Olori Atuwatse III, in her eulogy, thanked all those who came from all walks of life to honour Capt Hosa and the family, adding that the father personified the greatest virtues.
“The extent of my dad’s impact is embodied in the tremendous show of love and support my family has received from you all and many around the world in the past two months.
“It is humbling to see this room filled with many people who knew and cared for him. Thank you. I would like to specially thank my great king and loving husband, Ogiame Atuwatse III for the love and support in this most trying time in my life, he is ably represented by the Chiefs and royal family.
“To all that have attended today, I say thank you. As you have honored my father, you will be honoured among the nations and peoples of the world,” said the Warri Queen.
On his part, late Okunbo’s first son, Osahon said his father’s life was guided by two principles which he said were love and mercy.
He said: “His life is a lesson and every chance you have to spend with him, he tells you a story from his experience and from the Bible. I once asked him, why do you forgive so easily, there are so many people around him that hurt him very deeply but still he had them around him and he said ‘my son, do you know the reason God will always deliver my enemies at my feet? It is because God knows I will have mercy upon them?’ He said his two guiding principles were love and mercy; those were the two principles he lived his life by.
“He told me something in the heat of this cancer problem, he said ‘my son everybody is not supposed to live long, it is not the length of your life, it is about the impact you leave behind’. He said ‘I have always told you people when you were growing up’ and all of us from the first to last will testify to this, he will say ‘once I have paid your school fees, everything else is jara. I will sell everything I have to enjoy myself.’ That was what he told us growing up. He said ‘God sent me here to do something’ and for the past four days, people have spoken about it.”