Our personality of the week is Chief Nkechor Chukwuemeke Okwuokenye, the Inneh of Owa kingdom. He is the proprietor of Calvary Group of Schools and Calvary Polytechnic. He was once a staff of NNPC and Shell and fully ventured into business after his retirement some years ago.
Chief Nkechor Okwuokenye has in this interview encouraged the young ones to clinch to hard work, maintaining that it remains the key to success.
May we know you Sir?
My name is Chief Nkechor Chukwuemeke Okwuokenye, the Inneh of Owa kingdom
When were you born sir?
I was born on November 28, 1959.
Where are you from?
I am from Owa-Alero in Ika North East, Delta state
Are both your parents from Owa-Alero?
Yes. My father was from Alegwe quarters and my mother from Alugba quarters.
Are they still alive?
No. they are late
Who were they?
My father was elder Festus Chukwuma Okwuokenye and my mother was Mrs. Beatrice Okwuokenye
My father was among those that went to school early in Owa-Alero and became one of the earliest teachers. He later did some further studies and branched off to draftsmanship, the lower part of architecture and building technology. Thereafter he became a contractor.
My mother was also one of the first lady teachers in Owa and taught in various schools. She retired after over forty years of service.
How many were you in the family?
My father had ten children. We were seven from my mother’s side. Not all the children are alive today.
How was it like growing up in a home where both parents were teachers?
It was not really easy; getting chastisement here and there. And being the first child, it was really difficult. However, I thank God for that, because those corrections and rebukes made me who I am today. Our parents had quality time for us and it really paid off. Our mother never left us to the care of house help, unlike what is prevalent in today’s society.
As a parent and as a school proprietor, which of these institutions do you think is saddled with the responsibility of the moral upbringing of the children; the family or the school?
I think parents should for no reason relegate their responsibility of their children’s upbringing to the school. Mind you, most of the teachers have their own children to take care of which is most times an issue for them. Again, the essence of you sending your kids to school, is most importantly to meet their educational need and not for the teachers to take sole charge of your responsibility as parents.
It becomes terrible most times in situations where you see teachers who are more concerned with what comes into their pockets at the end of the month, and so have no time to go the extra mile in ensuring the upbringing of your children when no monetary reward is attached to it.
And you must know that any child who becomes a failure tomorrow becomes a burden to his or her parents and not the teachers.
How was your growing up days in Owa like?
I was born in Warri, and after sometime, my parents relocated to Benin. We later moved down to Owa during the outbreak of the Civil War of 1967 to 1970.
Tell us your experience of the Civil War
I was very young when the war broke out, actually of primary school age. I was always hearing the noise of gun shots and shells. But, I didn’t really understand what was going on. I also remember that military men entered our compound one day and confiscated my father’s Land Rover jeep, even when my father was not at home. But then, I don’t remember losing any close relation to the war.
Tell us about your educational background?
I attended St. Paul’s Anglican Primary School, Benin City between 1965 and 1966 and later St. Peter’s Anglican Primary School, Agbor between 1967 and 1971 because the Civil War made us to relocate from Benin to Agbor. After the war, I proceeded to Edo College between 1972 and 1976 where I had my secondary education, and then I got a scholarship to study in the University at the University of Novisad, College of Engineering, Subotica in Yugoslavia between 1977 and 1983. I graduated as a Civil Engineer and was given award for best graduating student and excellent performance. After my studies abroad, I returned for my NYSC in Abuja in 1984.
Tell us about your work experience?
Upon the completion of the National Youth Service I gained employment to work with Dillinger Stahlbau (DSD)/C.E. Lumus Consortium in Warri, between 1985 and 1986 as Construction Engineer, where I supervised the construction and erection of NNPC Petrochemical’s Carbon Black Plant at Ekpan, Warri.
After the completion of the project, I was transferred to Kaduna where I supervised the construction of NNPC Petrol Chemical Linear alkyl benzene plant between December 1986 and March 1988.
I have also worked for Otis Consult and Houston Engineering at Mobil’s Eket Crude Oil Export Terminal, offshore, where I supervised various engineering projects. It was after that that I got a job at Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in 1989 first as a contract engineer and later as a permanent staff in October 1992.
I worked for Shell for more than twenty years. It was a long part of my life that I spent in Shell: from facilities and design engineer, to construction engineer, project engineer, and to construction manager. From Warri, I was transferred to Port Harcourt, Lagos, Houston (USA), New Orleans (USA), Rijswijk (Netherlands), The Hague (Netherlands) and various other locations.
I was also sent to Holland and the USA. I was in Holland for 3 years from 1998 to 2001. That was the longest stay I have had outside the shores of Nigeria.
I attended more than 40 professional and management courses and workshops to enhance my performance at work, such as General Inspection, Hazard and Operability Studies, Pipelines and Terminals, Major Project Development, Surface Facilities Review (SFR) amongst others. I also organized the first exhibition on behalf of Nigeria, called Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Huston, Texas in 1998. Prominent personalities graced the event. Persons like late Vice Admiral Michael Akhigbe, Lucky Igbenedion, the Ambassador of Nigeria to USA, and many others. The intention was to attract industrially minded and good business people to Nigeria.
Warri must have had a great role to play in your life
Warri has been a very prominent place for me. I was born in Warri, my father started his engineering business there, and it was also where I started my working life.
For how long did you work for Mobil?
It was less than a year. It was a contract thing.
All the while you worked offshore in Eket, to what extent did it affect your family life and responsibility?
I was not married then.
When did you tie the nuptial knot and who is she?
I got married in1991to Mrs. Ego Mbaonu from Nnewi, in Anambra State.
How many kids so far?
We are blessed with three kids.
Did you venture into business when you retired from Shell?
I ventured into business before and after my retirement. I produced optical lens in Port Harcourt known as Hephzibah-OK Optical Lens Manufacturing Company. I established a plastic industry known as FECHOS Plastic Manufacturing Factory at Boji-Boji Owa. I got involved in the distribution of drinks (Hero drink) and Grand Malt. Thereafter, I ventured into education; I own a primary and a secondary school (Calvary Group of Schools) in Owa, and a private Polytechnic (Calvary Polytechnic) at Owa-Oyibu.
Are all these businesses still in existence?
When I ventured into Calvary Group of Schools and Calvary Polytechnic, I had to close up the other businesses in order to give the school the required attention.
What informed the idea of venturing into school business?
Calvary Group of Schools and Calvary Polytechnic were established in a bid to meet the educational needs of the children in Ika land and its environs. The polytechnic, especially was instituted because I saw that there was no technical education on ground for our Ika children. So, Calvary Polytechnic is the first polytechnic in Ika land.
Aside filling the educational gap of Ika nation, I also use the schools as a means to extend my philanthropy to my people and support the less privileged. A lot of students are on scholarship in both the primary and secondary school and the polytechnic.
Do you have a mentor?
I look up to God. However, I do admire General Olesegun Obasanjo and HRM Obi Emmanuel Efeizomor. These are people who, even at their old age, have refused to rest on their oars. For General Obasanjo, he has been at the forefront in championing the course of our country Nigeria. He is dogged, fearless and courageous. As for the Obi of Owa kingdom, I love his humility and progressive nature, and he carries everybody along.
What other activities do you engage in at your leisures?
I play golf and I am a member of golf club Warri. I also play polo and I am a member of Port Harcourt Polo Club. I am also part of police community relation, to support the police in effectively dispensing their duties. I am also given to philanthropy, because I do not see the need why I cannot help the less privileged when God has placed me in a position to do so.
What do you have to say to the young ones?
God has created our hands to work, so, they should find something to do, no matter how small the money is. I remember when we were building the polytechnic, at a point we became short of labourers, whereas a good number of able-bodied youth were roaming the streets doing nothing, not willing to work. Hard work remains the key to success.