Celebrating Felix Osifo at 80

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A book titled ‘From Machine Boy to Managing Director’ written by Prof. Hope Eghagha, to celebrate the sterling life of Mr. Felix Matthew Osifo, who is often referred to as a thoroughbred corporate titan with a knack for excellence, was presented to the public at a reception held at Golden Tulip Hotel, Lagos . Funke Olaode who covered the event, reports

He is an enigma whose life has become an open book for a determined heart who wants to succeed having risen from zero to become a hero. He has equally grown in profile as a corporate and public success. But to Mr. Felix Matthew Ogbeyewebor Osifo, more than anything, perseverance, dedication to duty, being focused, determination and above all the grace of God has helped him to weather the storm of life to rise above life adversities.

He inspired by a man who introduced himself as ‘Doctor of Machine’ from Lagos during a church convention in Warri. From that day, he aspired to be a doctor of machine, which he later became. The life trajectory of Osifo is no doubt a lesson in perseverance, dedication, commitment and above all, God’s providence.

Born on April 19, 1936 in Warri in the present day Delta State. His name Ogbeyewebor meaning a poor man has no voice or say suggests his humble beginning. But rather than wallow in self-pity, the young Osifo took a leap of faith. After Standard Six, his hope of furthering his education was truncated by lack of fund. He summoned up courage and came down to Lagos at age 17 where he was trained as apprentice, graduating in 1956. Determined to succeed, he joined UAC at age 20 and by the time he retired in 1986, he had seen it all by becoming the executive director and capped it as Managing Director of Vono Products, a subsidiary of UAC. Today, he is an inspiration, a mentor and a source of hope for the younger and disadvantage generations.

Osifo as a beloved of many – his, boss, contemporaries and boardroom colleagues alike- was brought to bear on Saturday, May 7, 2016 when people from all walks of life converged on Golden Tulip Hotel in Festac area to celebrate this man of many parts the presentation of his biography ‘From Machine Boy to Managing Director’ written by a Professor of Literature, Prof. Hope Eghagha and was reviewed by the Chairman, Editorial Board of the Nation Newspaper, Mr. Sam Omatseye.

The roll call of eminent personalities that graced the occasion included former Managing Director of Nigerian Breweries Plc, Mr. Felix Ohiwerei, his counterpart from Unilever Brothers, Chief Michael Omolayole, Chief Phillip Asiodu who chaired the occasion, Chief Oprah Benson, Chief Arthur Mbanefo, Dr. Emmanuel Edozien, Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa was represented by Hon. Anthony Elekeokwuri, Engr. Olusola Erinle, Bashorun J.K. Randle, Chief Ezekiel Anayide, Chief Chris Okunowo, Otunba Subomi Balogun, Chief Ernest Shonekan were ably represented, Umunede Community led by HRM, Dr Ezeawu Ezenwali,Obi of Umunede, Rotary Club of Apapa, Nigerian Institute of Directors and church members were all on hand to felicitate with him. Osifo’s former boss at UAC, Chief Christopher Abebe who sent a personal text message to him that morning was represented by his son, Dr. John Abebe,

Surrounded by his amiable wife, Beatrice, their children and grandchildren, the elated Osifo was full of gratitude to God for sparing his life to witness his day of joy.

The 280-page book, which forward was written by Mr. Felix Ohiwerei, narrates the challenges Osifo faced at work and how he dealt with them. What is particularly interesting is that he did not depend on godfather; rather, he focused on God to see him through. Of significant note in his endeavour while climbing the ladder was his belief that hard work was not enough to see him to the top, he knew the quality of his work must be outstanding. Osifo was loved and liked by his bosses but it was as a result of his amiable character and the quality of his work.

No doubt, Osifo’s philosophy is a guide to his brilliant performance. In it lies some of the keys to “good success.” It is also instructive that he sees success in the light of what you do to develop others- a clear recognition that a lone star does not translate into the success of an organisation.

Osifo the corporate guru is also an excellent family man whose name and reputation went before him in most circles, often in positive terms. This is evident in the show of affection as guests generously launched the book the unveiling.

Showering encomium on Osifo, Dr. Omolayole said he was delighted to perform the unveiling of an inspiring book, which he promised to finish reading within 48 hours. He said he admired Felix, as he is fondly called by his peers, for one thing: “He is widely read and very versed which often shows his depth and knowledge in our discussions.” He wished him well in his endeavours.

In his words, Otunba Subomi Balogun who was represented by Mr. Diran Olojo eulogised Osifo whose story is that of amazing perseverance, hard work and being focused to become somebody in life. According to Olojo, “There is always a saying that if you want to hide something from a black man put it in a book.” But Osifo’s biograhpy, he says, is worthy of reading because it is an inspiration of a man who rose from zero to become a hero.

For the 65-year-old Dr. John Abebe who has known Osifo throughout his life and whose father used to refer to Osifo as a ‘good boy, since he joined UAC in 1979 and met him, he knew Osifo to be a very precise man. He prays to God for him to continue in good health and to be around in good health for many more years.

Chief Ezekiel Anayibe said he is happy to be physically present to honour the man he calls a father. “He is a wonderful man who has lived a wonderful life. Our paths crossed when he joined Rotary Club of Apapa. His commitment and dedication endeared me to him. He will live long in good health,” he said.

In his congratulatory message, read by Hon. Anthony Elekeokwuri, Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa said: “Today is a milestone for you which calls for a sober reflection and the celebration to God the giver of life. You have made a mark in your endeavours. In spite of your achievements, you remain humble. I pray for God’s blessing upon your life and members of your family.” Dr. Okowa launched the book with a sum of one million naira while Hon. Elekeokwuri donated the sum of N500, 000.

For Chief Andrew Omeri his kinsman, Osifo is a role model to Umunede children. “He has been a pillar piloting the affairs of Umunede community and today, we all standing on that platform.”

Chief Chris Okunowo representing Nigerian Institute of Directors said he is a distinguished member, a reservoir of knowledge, an epitome of good governance and a man of many parts.

Rounding off the colourful but modest ceremony was Mr. Ohiwerei who remarked: “A lot has been said but most outstanding one was him knowing God at the of 14. The success we are celebrating is what God can do for a man who is under His guidance. He has lived an exemplary life. He equally married a good woman who stabilizes him and gives him a happy home. I wish you many more years in sound health,” he concluded