The Future of Youth in Leadership

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By Samuel O. Onungwe

HRH Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi, the Oneh Eh Nchia, Oneh Eh Eta Ogale and Oneh Eh Alu Ejii has said that Christianity is much more than preaching the gospel as it emphasized the need for a right choice all the time. He went on to say that a good choice of clothes with a proper blend of colours attracts a commensurate reciprocation in terms of honour. “If you love yourself, you will appear well to the person that sees you.” He frowned at undue accelerated growth as he pointed out that the problem of Nigeria was acceleration of criminal ventures which because it lacks the tenets of good business, would before long crumble. Hence, he called youth to shun sharp practices in order to have sustainable growth and prosperity.  He reiterates the issue of choice when he said a community would not progress beyond the level of the leader they choose as he explained that development in a society begins and ends with the leader they choose for themselves. He charged the youth to always make the right and indeed the best choice no matter the price it would cost them in order to have a prosperous society where justice prevails and people have equal rights.

The prominent custodian of Eleme culture and traditions advised youth not to focud on paper qualification but ensure that before they got to the age of forty, they have acquired necessary skills or technology to fetch them sustainable resources. He said that, for those pursuing university certification, they should pursue it to the apex by acquiring a doctorate degree to enable them to teach in the university or higher institutions. It was on this premise that he used himself a case study and passively divided his presentation into five main points, and all of them were practically oriented:

1.      Knowing oneself

2.      Setting ambitious goals

3.      Believing in himself

4.      Working smart to achieve the set goals

5.      His secret was dependence on God  

Knowing oneself – HRH Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi was the grandson of HRH Emere Awukwa Okpabi Ejii, the Oneh Eh Eta Ogale and HRH Emere Awala Elewa Oneh Eh Eta Alode and Oneh Eh Nchia. A product of prominent polygamous family as his father had ten wives yet he considered himself at some point disadvantaged as he felt he may not have the finance to pursue a university education due to lack of finance. Despite this perceived setback, he set an ambitious goal for himself as he said to himself that he would not be poor. The desire to be rich was born out of the difficulties experienced at that time by men who largely went to farm to cut grasses, clear bushes and other manual labour to fend for their family. This slightly less than an ‘A’ student had his secondary education at Ascension High School, Nchia but later on moved to St. Pious Secondary School where he had kith and kin one Ollorma and Osaro-ejose. “I did not have who would train me. Hence, I wanted to learn a skill or vocation,” Emere Okpabi said. At this time Mr. Ollorma was sure of going to Canada while Mr. Osaro-ejose would go to London. Thus, he enlisted into the army even though he was rejected because he did not measure up to the stipulated height. “I did not join the army to shoot,” Bebe Okpabi said. His belief in himself coupled with his burning desire never to be poor motivated him never to give up. Seeing the young Godwin eager and crying to join the Nigeria Army at a time when people were shying from volunteering to join the soldiers, he was eventually considered and enlisted into the medical corps to learn a skill, Zaria in 1979. This coincided with when Deacon Victor Okpabi’s brother was enlisted and drafted into the medical laboratory unit of the Nigeria army. With his earnings, he would save for a university education in the USA – Working Smart. However, this would not be enough so he leveraged on his relationship with Emere Nwogu, the father of Senator Olaka Nwogu who married from his village and was a staff of a freight company to secure a loading and unloading job at Ojo Lagos and this he did for two years. Having gotten a reasonable amount of money in 1982, he applied for an admission at Bishop College Texas with just a year’s school fees and embarked on a promising adventure; he still did not have enough money. HRH Emere Okpabi K.S.C. got some money from his friend Olabisi whose mother sold wrapper and even when nobody believed in his vision but his mother, who went on to borrow money to support to support his trip to the USA, he never failed to believe in himself. He had no reason to depend on father or family’s trust but God and urged the youth to do the same by working out their own salvation. Emere Bebe Okpabi travelled to the USA and studied criminology at Texas and upon graduation; he applied and was employed as a DPO – Divisional Police Officer, Dallas.  Thereafter, he set up a postal centre in Dallas which was a mailing and parcel Delivery Company. At that time the DHL was already established but the UPS was set out to explore the African continent and needed his assistance or partnership to succeed. The once believed to be poor had become comfortable, his rent was $500 per month and he lived in a condominium. He was already a fulfilled man and would once in a while visit a night club for relaxation until he began to review his life and felt he needed to have a renewed life. He shed tears and soon, he returned to his house. There he reinforced his secret –Prayer. He prayed even when he was convinced that he had not done the right thing to ensure God was always with him. He prayed fervently and had a covenant with God. He would then plan to return to Nigeria leaving behind his two expensive cars and other assets.

This once stubborn son of Mr. Josiah and Mrs. Irene Awukwa Okpabi contacted a friend and had a shipment of a-three container load of tarpaulin were sent to Nigeria for him with which to start life with, at a time when the successful dealers would buy five containers. He went somewhere at Aba and CFC, Port Harcourt for business deals. He again made it clear to himself that he would not live in a rented apartment for more than four years in Nigeria. Having engaged his wife, he took time to explore and assess opportunities at the Port Harcourt Refining Company, PHRC and the National Fertilizer Company of Nigeria, NAFCON and settled for the latter. He would visit the procurement manager, Mr. Aliyu who was not willing to receive people who were not his people or associates as is common in Nigeria. Again the indigenous contractors discouraged him. Mr. Okpabi proposed in his heart that he must see the man and he must attend to him. Having waited until 17:00hours after his arrival in the morning and waited beyond lunch break, he became bold. He approached the procurement officer and demanded that he must attend to all the local contractors who had been seeking his audience. At a time he was beginning to question his position, the news had gone far that Mr. Okpabi was the in-law of the Paramount Ruler of Eleme, HRM, Emere Ngei A. O. Ngei. Having facilitated the attention granted to local contractors, automatically, the procurement manager began to look for him. Subsequently, he became the chairman of the local contractors at the firm and eventually got a contract of N21million.

During the construction of the EPCL he was a contractor with Spill berth and Shaoda companies. He would later be asked to supply 5 units of bolts and then 30 and that was increased to 5 000 and then to 10 million.

He joined politics because of his interest to improve the society and of course, continue his business as a contractor at Abacha’s time and then Dr. Peter Odili’s restoration team of the PDP. Having found favour in the sight of God, he continues to prosper and has been very helpful to his people of Eleme over the years.

HRH Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi had represented the Ogaleans eminently during his days in government when he utilized every opportunity at his disposal to empower humanity and improve people’s standard of living. To foster unity, spirit of sportsmanship and nurture talents, HRH Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi KSC sponsored interclan football competition among his people of Ogale in 1995, 1996 and 1997 before his selection and installation. He had served as:

§      The Chairman, Board of Rivers State Broadcasting Corporation (2000 – 2003)

§      Honourable Commissioner for Special Duties and member Rivers State Executive Council (2003 – 2005)

§      Special Adviser to the Governor of Rivers State on State Emergency Relief Agency and Fire Service (2005 – 2007)

All of these offices he occupied on merit, he ensured that the people of Eleme in particular and indeed Nigeria were well trained and engaged gainfully without discrimination. During his leadership as the Special Adviser to the Governor of Rivers State he facilitated and employed over two hundred (200) Rivers men into the Rivers State Fire Service and many of them are occupying influential positions in different sectors of the economy especially, in the oil and gas industry at present. Hence, Ogaleans chose him when the time to replace their departed ruler came. It was indeed, the influence he wields that spurred the Rivers State Government to recognise his stool almost immediately and thereafter, elevated it from a third class status to second class status as his predecessor was never recognised during his reign due to a crisis.

Upon his ascension to the throne as Emere Eh Eta Ogale, Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi KSC with his team of community leaders and youth as part of his installation process went from church to church, including Saturday, in thanksgiving to God. During the sessions, the new ruler thanked God and his people for finding him worthy to rule. Prayers were made, seeking God’s wisdom and blessings upon the leader and the land. The coronation of HRH Emere Godwin Bebe as the ruler of Ogale came with more recognition as the government at various levels called for his wealth of experience in the management of human and material resources in the country.  For instance, the Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi government of Rivers State appointed him:

§      Chairman, Rivers State Road Traffic Service, TIMARIV (2009 – 2010)

§      Commissioner: Rivers State Civil Service Commission (CSC) (2010 – 2015)

President Muhammadu Buhari has twice appointed him as a Member of Board of Trustees – Ogoni Trust Fund in the management of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP in the Federal Ministry of Environment, first in (2016 – 2020) and recently, renewed in 2021 to serve for a second time. Even till date, HRH Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi has continued to impact lives in his endeavours and like a light in the darkness, his leadership style and indeed humility has brought him some accolades as well as laurels.

It could be recalled that HRH Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi had dashed his interest in Emere Eh Eleme stool as a mark of honour to his senior in Ogbo Mkpͻrͻ Eleme and the then acting Ruler of Eleme, HRM Emere (Dr.) Philip O. Obele in 2019 during the contest as he led in the process of selecting the substantive Emere Eh Eleme XI. Like the saying goes, one good turn deserves another. Little surprise that this kind gesture of HRH Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi was rewarded when the Emere Eh Eta Alesa, Emere Emperor J. D. Nkpe withdrew and collapsed his camp into that of HRH Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi during the selection of Emere Eh Nchia X, enabling him to win with a landslide.

Like he did upon his addition of the feather of Emere Ogale to his status as Emere Ejii, HRH Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi KSC has again been going from church to church with his team of community leaders and youths within the six communities of Nchia in gratitude and seeking God’s wisdom in his rulership and to seek to direct and His blessings upon his people of Ogale.

Youth are said to be future leaders, a saying that has remained a dream, as the youth that ruled in their days such as President Obasanjo and President Buhari have remained in authority till date thereby depriving them the privilege to lead, despite this, HRH Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi KSC continues to encourage the youth never to give up on their quest to greatness or distracted into social vices such as militancy, kidnapping, armed robbery, banditry, election violence, ritual, killing etcetera but should focus on developing themselves to see, create and embrace opportunities when they arise.

“Our youth must be up and doing, they must be educated beyond reading and writing. They must have and develop skills. The youth must not be vain and void of any iota of skill. Youth must always at all times develop themselves in such a way that they should provide solutions through creativity and critical thinking.”

This was presented at Youth Business School, an Initiative of Sir Joseph Obele Ph.D. to enable youth create wealth for themselves rather depend on paid employment upon graduation on 23rd October 2021.

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