To begin with, Thomas Edison was the one who invented the electricity bulb many years ago while Stephen Ashien is the publisher of Ika Weekly Newspaper. In order to fully appreciate the relationship between these men, it is important to take a very brief study tour of the story behind them.
Edison was one of the early millionaires from the United States of America. His formal education stopped at primary three. As a matter of fact, he learnt how to read and write from his mother. When this self-made scientist embarked on the discovery of the electricity bulb, he often went without food as a result of his busy schedules. Edison performed over one thousand experiments before he succeeded. On one occasion, a friend came to him and advised that he should consider abandoning his fruitless ambition for some other more realistic ventures after failing one thousand times to achieve his aim in life.
BOOK REVIEW: “THE ‘MAN CENTRAL’, STEVE ASHIEN…” BY DR.TIBI
Instead of heeding the suggestion, the scientist told his friend that it was too early to quit since he had already discovered one thousand ways of not achieving his purpose. He pointed out that all he needed at that point was just one sure way of getting things right.
On another occasion, a fellow visited Edison at home and met him working in his laboratory. Being careful to avoid distracting him, the man went to Mrs. Edison and asked for food. The woman explained that the only food in the house was already at the dining table for her husband. But then, considering the fact that Edison may as usual not eat at that time, she asked the visitor to eat the food. The man ate and left. Some hours later, Edison screamed “oh I am hungry”. He then went to the dining table.
When he opened the plate on the table he discovered there was no food in it. He screamed again “Oh, I forgot I have eaten”. The inventor then continued his research. The electricity bulb as we have it today is a product of that many sleepless nights and restless days of research on the part of a man who refused to recognize any obstacle posed by his little formal education.
With Edison’s discovery, he became one of the earliest American Millionaires. He also made other notable citizens of his country like Edwin Bane stupendously wealthy.
In Ika nation today, there is a man whose character, doggedness, courage and self-determination can only be compared to that of Thomas Edison who lived and died in the United States of America in the 19th Century. That man is Steve Ekiri Mekiriuwa Ashien.
Despite his father’s love for western education he could only train this Ewuru-born entrepreneur to the First School Leaving Certificate level (Primary Six). Accordingly to Mr. Ashien during a recent press interview, he attended primary school in Ewuru-Agbor his home town from 1955 to 1960.
Without the privilege of studying beyond primary school, he became a newspaper vendor in Warri. Little Steve was sent to an Igboman through whom he learnt the art of selling books. At the end of his book selling apprenticeship, the man popularly known as “Central” faced another hurdle. This time, there was no capital for him to commence the book selling business.
In order to forge ahead in life therefore “Central” got involved in “Kpom-Kpom” business as he got involved in “helping” brick-layers at building sites in those days.
While still proudly holding on to his basic education certificate, Ashien later succeeded in opening his own books sales outlet in Warri in 1966. He however relocated to Agbor in 1967 due to the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970). At Agbor, Ashien commenced another journey to stardom when he founded the CENTRAL BOOKSHOP along the old Lagos/Asaba road.
Ashien brought a Midas touch into the sales and distribution of books in Ika land in particular and the old Bendel State as a whole. As a result of this, “Central” became famous in his early 20s when he became rich with all the paraphernalia that go with wealth and affluence.
With dogged determination, Steve later became a pioneering force in the industrial revolution that was witnessed in the entire Ika Land and Ewuru in particular in the 70s and 80’s.
Again, as if he was taking a cue from Edison, the man offered employment and business appointments to many Ika sons and daughters through his numerous companies involved in book publishing and sales, manufacture of toilet papers, farming, waste disposal services just to mention but a few.
In addition to providing sustainable means of livelihood for many persons, “Central” equally got involved in philanthropy. He offered scholarships to many and donated books and chalk sticks to schools in Bendel State. Majority of those who testified during Ashien’s 70th birthday anniversary celebration described him as a man who is kind and generous to a fault.
However, things began to fall apart for “Central” in the last decade of the 20th century as the centre could no longer ‘hold’. Like the experience of ancient kingdoms such as Ghana and Songhai empires, his business empire began to collapse like packs of cards.
The reasons for this turn of events remain a mystery to many till date as their assumptions can only be justified by the Almighty God Himself whose will for man remains baseless without an adequate understanding of the intuitive perceptions and forces that determines a man’s fall or rise without necessarily bringing him to ruin if he places God at the centre of his activities. And this brings to mind, Paul’s submission to the effect that “all things work together for good…”
For close to ten years, Ashien was down but refused to be out. He kept his faith with God and continued to discover and rediscover himself with the aid of books until the idea of Ikaweekly was birthed.
According to Mr. J.B Onwubuya, Ashien, though with little education is a voracious reader who could take a book of 200 to 300 pages and finish reading it within three days while still doing his business.
It is therefore not surprising that a man who started life as a newspaper vendor has metamorphosed into a newspaper publisher with influence across Ika land and beyond.
Going by the company the Ikaweekly publisher keeps and his level of intellectual comportment, it remains difficult if not impossible to accept the fact that the man is not educated beyond primary six.
Ika Weekly Newspaper has impacted positively on the lives of many Ika sons and daughters at home and in diaspora. It is worthy to note that the newspaper has a sales outlet in the United States of America. And there is no Ika politician of note that can deny the fact that the tabloid has not helped to project him or her to the people of the area it covers.
Meanwhile, as elder Steve turns 70 and still bubbling with life, it is hoped that his reading habits and intellectual exploits will spur all Ika youths to a life style of knowledge expedition. This will serve as our own way of appreciating this “Thomas Edison” of Ika land and debunk the notion of the white man that “if you want to hide an important truth from the black man you should place it in a book because he will never discover it.”