The memories of late Benin-born business mogul, Idahosa Wells Okunbo, came alive on the first anniversary of his death as his children, family members, business associates, friends, and well-wishers came together to celebrate his life and times at a memorial thanksgiving service in his honour. Idahosa, fondly called Captain Hosa, Capitiano, or Capi, died in a London hospital Sunday August 8 last year, of pancreatic cancer. The event witnessed torrents of eulogies and sweet memories of how he impacted lives in his 63 years of earthly sojourn. Truly, life, if well lived, is long enough, according to Lucius Annaeus Seneca, stoic philosopher.
The memorial event, which attracted the presence of eminent Nigerians, including two-time governor of Delta State, James Onanefe Ibori, Edo State deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, who represented his principal, Governor Godwin Obaseki, President, Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Olumide Akpata, his predecessor, Augustin Alegeh, senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Segun Awolowo Jr, former executive director, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, NEPC, representatives of the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse 111, and Bishop Feb Idahosa, scion of the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa family, among others, held at his Wells-Idahosa Greenhouse Farms in the outskirts of Benin, site of his final resting place.
For the billionaire businessman and philanthropist, the song is ended but the melody lingers on, borrowing the words of Irving Berlin, American composer, songwriter and lyricist, as speaker after speaker spoke glowingly about how he touched their lives such that he cannot be forgotten in a hurry. Even his erstwhile political opponent publicly confessed how Captain Hosa left his signature generosity in his Benin mansion living room, and at his country home.
In his tribute, Shaibu, whose Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the then governorship candidate (Obaseki) engaged in a bitter feud with Captain Hosa during the 2020 governorship election in the state, publicly testified to drinking from the latter’s milk of human kindness. “For us, it’s difficult to say ‘our late brother’ because he lives on and will continue to live on. We can go on and on how he has touched lives. I have my own share of Captain’s generosity”. He disclosed how Captain Hosa decorated his living room with a six feet television at his Benin residence, and furniture at his country home.
“I decided that I’ll preserve it (the TV); I bought an inverter to make sure power failure does not destroy that television. Some persons tell me this is a good television, and I tell them I don’t have money to buy it; it’s Capi that bought it for me. It’s there in my house in the sitting room.
“I just told him Capi, since I don dey build this my house, you never even come check am. He said ah, you’ve been telling me; let’s go. He went round, he corrected one or two things and said, this place, I have a television that will fit here. And one trailer came with it. They said Capi brought it. It’s about six feet. They had to use crane to bring it down; it’s there. Just last week, I bought an inverter; I have warned them that TV must not get spoilt. All of us can go on and on how Captain has touched our lives. Captain was a man of peace and he needs the unity of the family more than ever now”.
Ibori said he wholeheartedly adopted by earlier speakers “because I personally experienced every single thing that had been said here”. The former governor noted that Captain Hosa was one man that can never say no if you asked him to do something for you. He will go to any extent. He may not really tell you how difficult the task is. He does it and he comes back to you and says I have done it, but it was tough. We all would have wished he was still alive and here with us.
“When he passed on and I got a text message about 2 am, I couldn’t tell my wife. I stayed awake till about 7 or 8’clock before I woke her up and told her, and she was immediately a wreck; why, because we all benefitted one way or the other from Capitano’s generosity. As for my children (Okunbo’s), and brothers, as long as I continue to breathe, you have me by your side. It is only when great men like Capitano leaves that you now know that there is nothing to this life; there is nothing there. There is nothing you should be proud about; absolutely nothing.
“Be strong. For most of us, we are still grieving. So, I understand how you all feel but it is well. Please take it for granted that all of us, there is a father, your brother. Those that call him Capi, those that call him Capitano, that have found time to be here today, have one thing or the other to say about him. But it is only at times like this that you actually know who your friends are. He was indeed a great man; Capitano was a great man and we will continue to miss him. Please take it for granted that I am here day and night .… Captain has not left; he’s still with u s”.
Segun Awolowo, Jr., former Executive Director, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, NEPC, and President, National Trade Promotion Organisations, underscoring his relationship with Captain Hosa, disclosed how he was instrumental to the establishment of the Wells-Hosa Greenhouse Farms and assured the family that the future of the Farm “is bigger than what you have now, and you stand to enjoy it”. Awolowo also described Okunbo as a man “who God had given riches, and blessed him with the mind to use it for empathy…
“His desire to demonstrate empathy meant he was constantly armed with a torchlight looking for people in need. He had a large heart for which his generosity and empathy radiated to all and sundry who were fortunate enough to cross path with him”.
Archbishop of the Church of God Mission InterInternational, Margaret Benson-Idahosa, in her tribute, thanked God for the life Captain Hosa lived. Describing him as a man with a good heart, Idahosa told the children: “I want you to possess the heart of your father”. She stated that Captain is not behind us; he’s in the future. He’s with his maker”.
Okunbo’s first born and wife of the Olu of Warri, Olori Atuwatse III, welcoming guests, said the departure of “my dad felt like a thousand pillars crushing my heart. It heralded a phase of grief that I didn’t know I could eventually conquer, were it not for the mercies of God through Jesus Christ, and the fantastic people I have been gifted with. “This is why we have converged here today at the magnificent Wells Hosa Farms, one of my dear father’s entrepreneurial legacies while he was with us, and where he continues to rest, to give God thanks”.
Speaking on behalf of the Okunbo family, Kingsley Okunbo, immediate younger brother of the deceased, appreciated God for what He had done this past one year “because I’ve always said there is only one thing that has bound this family together, and that is love; and we will not trade it for anything”. According to him, “Capi never played with the love that bound the family together and this, by the grace of God, we will continue”.
The younger Okunbo said the family was however consoled that their father and brother is in a better place, happy, “and I know, just as Mama (Archbishop Margaret Idahosa) said, he’s there interceding for us”. He said it had not been all sorrows in the past one year as the family was blessed with a grandson on his birthday (January 7). He prayed that the family would be “one family united in love”, adding that “though temptations would come to try to pull us apart, our prayer is that God, who is love, His power and His strength will supersede everything, and this family will be stronger together, and will continue to march as one”. He vowed that “We will be united because I know for sure that one of the things that Captain very much cherished while he was alive was the love and unity in the family. That we took from our father because that is what our father always preached”.
Another younger brother of the late billionaire business mogul, Dandison Okunbo, said “Captain my brother taught me a whole lot about life. But he has taught me more things even in his death. There are two things I have learnt from his death, and one of them is the fact that the breath that you have is the most important thing that you have.
“My brother is indeed in a good place. I am so grateful that he made it because my brother indeed lived a good life. He has made a good impact in the sands of time. The greatest joy for me is that my brother did not depart this life without knowing where he was going. He was a man of God. He knew Jesus by revelation. He said something to me, Dandison, now I understand all that you have been talking to me about. We are now equally yoked. What a revelation!”
Tony Odigie, a family member, described Captain Hosa as a brother and a friend, adding that losing him was a big loss. Odigie prayed that God would make things right for the family he left behind, and lamented that “In our generation, we will never, never see a Captain Hosa again”.
Razak Bello-Osagie, a former member of the House of Representatives, and Captain Hosa’s bosom friend, described him as a very loyal and dependable friend, a loving father to his children, an accomplished professional, and a distinguished businessman. According to Bello-Osagie, in his relationships, the deceased removed imaginary boundaries and forged a formidable Okunbo family.
In his sermon, Pastor Charles Osazuwa, President, Rock of Ages Christian Assembly, RACA, Benin, Edo State, stated that there are inevitable five Ds in every man’s life – Discover, Decision, Diligence, Delightsome, and Death, whether you are a Christian, commander in chief, chairman, governor. “The first thing that happens to us in our lives is discovery. Unfortunately, many people pass through this world and die without discovering themselves. Why are we here? Why are we gathered? We are gathered today because Captain Hosa did not only come into this world and found himself, he discovered his life…
“Everywhere you go, once you say you are from Benin, the next thing you hear is Captain Hosa. He discovered himself and now he has gone to heaven. Captain discovered himself; what next? After discovery, the second one is decision…. Captain studied as a pilot and there came a time in his life that he had to make a decision. I am not just a pilot to earn salary; I need to set up a company. What if Captain Hosa retired as a pilot and did not discover the entrepreneurial gift that God gave him? Today, he’s not here but OMS is still getting contract, OMS is still acquiring blocs…. To God alone be the glory. The difference between a failure and a star is decision.
“After taking your decision, the next thing is diligence I want to let you know that Captain was not a lazy man. You can’t stand before kings if you are a lazy man. You need to be diligent, and then you will be delightsome. Then the last one is inevitable; whether you are a president, governor, anybody, all of us will die. The time it will come is the difference. Death is not necessarily a bad thing. But the important thing is this – while you are still physically available, discover, make the right decision, be diligent, and fulfill what God has raised you to fulfill, like Captain has done. Jesus was here for 33 years only; till today, the world has not recovered from the impact of his 33 years on earth”.
Indeed, Captain Hosa’s epilogue succinctly captures Seneca’s thoughts when he said “As is a tale, so is life: Not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters”.