Even though his father was a cocoa farmer and his mother a trader in agricultural produce, Mr. Olusegun Abraham, founder of Seg. Mahsen & Co. Nigeria Limited, has distinguished himself in business and the corporate world before his recent foray in the politics of Ondo State. Gboyega Akinsanmi writes
He never loves announcing himself or what he has done to assist the indigent at the grassroots through various social interventions. But the people he has touched one way or the other now speak for him, even when critics simply dismiss him as the stooge of a godfather. Mr. Olusegun Abraham, founder of Founder of Seg. Mahsen & Co. Nigeria Limited, is not actually what his critics often call him. Abraham’s account bears to what he represents.
His biography readily disappoints critics. Different from what people expect of him, Abraham’s father was a cocoa farmer. His mother was a trader in agricultural produce. Both of them hailed from Akoko in Ondo State. But according to his biography, his grandfather migrated from Irun Akoko to Ikare Akoko due to the high demand for blacksmith in the late 1800s.
Born more than five decades ago in Ikare Akoko, Ondo State, Abraham had lived a rustic life, helping his father in the farmland and assisting his mother in her little business. But his records showed that he was always at the top of his class, a record which encouraged his parents to educate him at all costs, amid the gravest challenges of their lives.
Despite what his parents encountered to educate Abraham, their challenges never took them from the presence of God. Rather, his biography said, they consciously lived their lives to serve God and humanity. Abraham bore testimony of how he was brought up in a very religious home. At 5am daily, he said, family members would compulsorily gather for devotions. According to him, “daily morning devotion indeed moulded my life.”
He said, “My humble background too shaped my perception about the world…I am a living testimony of God’s compassion.”
Indeed, this perception must have spurred different social interventions he has been providing to the indigent in Ondo State before his foray into partisan politics. He founded two non-governmental organisations – the Abraham Foundation and Trinity Foundation – to provide succour for the indigent and bring meaning to the lives of the perceived dregs of the society.
Such is the story of a farmer’s son. Abraham is a trained mechanical engineer, a formidable business leader, an accomplished technocrat, a passionate philanthropist and a compassionate political leader, who by his good deeds has devoted much of his resources and wealth to championing the cause of the less-privileged at the grassroots in Ondo State.
Through these foundations, Abraham has saved hundreds from dropping out of school, supported businesses of many rural women, empowered several youths in different vocations, granted scholarships to students at different tertiary institutions, and is still providing strategic support to the physically challenged at the grassroots.
No wonder, critics have linked his foundations’ aggressive interventions to Abraham’s quest to govern Ondo State. But, for him, the foundations and their social interventions are not just a source of satisfaction, but equally a spring of joy. He said, “I am indeed fulfilled when I take part in social works that redefine people’s fortune. It gives me so much satisfaction.”
In a recent interview, Abraham said politics was not the reason he founded the foundations. He said he would not like “to bring the foundations into politics,” explaining that his compassion for the socially disadvantaged people, where he once belonged, is his motivation for establishing the foundations.
He said, “When I see joy in the faces of people who cannot pay me, it gives me much joy. The foundations have reached out to over 2,000 indigenes of the state since their creation. Some have conflicted with me because they believe the money from the foundation, which I am giving to poor people, should have been given to one important person or be donated to one important group to spend. But, giving it to the poor has given me so much joy.
“Some people see their NGOs as tools for them to be popular and publicise themselves. I do not really attend the programmes of my foundations most times because I do not want to be praised. In Christianity, when your right hand does something, the left hand must not know. A lot of grassroots people are happy that I am coming out in this governorship race.
“It is not about giving alone, but it has made others to see that you can serve your God through the poor around you. That is why many people in Ondo State love me so much. I think I will like to encourage more people to participate in NGOs, and effective ones at that, because the satisfaction comes in three ways, yourself, the people and your God.”
Though unwilling to discuss his political ambition, Abraham noted that none of the aspirants “is a threat to my own ambition. First and foremost, power belongs to God. It is only God who gives and who owns the power. Along the line, the devil would want to hijack the power, but our duty is to pray that we get it.”
After the era of former Governor Adebayo Adefarati, Abraham said Ondo State had suffered. Consequently, he noted that the state “needs someone who is God-fearing and would do the will of God. The other aspirants see me as their colleague, even though some of them see me as a threat to them. But I still extend my hand of fellowship to them.
“Despite the blackmail messages they spread against me, for instance, some are saying I left the progressives in 2012 when I was not picked as a candidate. When they heard about my contribution and support towards the growth of my party, they all kept quiet. So, I see no aspirant as a threat to my ambition. Rather, I see it as a mission of God. I see it as a sacrifice and as a service of extending love to my people.”
Abraham is certainly prepared to take up the mantle of leadership in the state. Already, he has unveiled a plan to set up Government Demand Industry and People Demand Industry. The former is designed to complement the major industry that will support the government policies and programmes, which he said, would generate 500,000 jobs in four years. The latter is structured to build small scale industries under the public-private partnership. He argued that 80 percent of what the people of Ondo State “need are brought in from outside.
We will provide part of funding, training and good and services depot that will supply the populace at a very reduced rate so that they can have economic value on their income.”
He has also unveiled a plan “to restore the state’s lost virtue and value. We will develop technological and managerial capability in order to harness our various resources, with little dependence on foreigners. We will develop organic food that is now the new paradigm shift in economic returns, apart from information technology so that Ondo State can become the hub for organic food globally.”
Abraham’s aspiration has gained acceptance across the state. Former chairman of the All Progressives Congress in the state, Mr. Sola Iji, has endorsed Abraham’s aspiration, saying he has excelled in all the parameters of consideration. “The unanimous decision to adopt the candidacy of Abraham was finalised on March 30, after we confirmed from assessment that he is the only candidate that excelled in all the parameters of consideration,” Iji said.