Hon. Chinwe Ugwu
There is a common maxim that some men are born greatest, some attain greatness while some had greatness bestowed on them. In another vein, the Holy Scriptures made us to understand that a prophet is without honour except in his own place. One of the most successful Nigerian businessman, industrialist and philanthropist, Sir Emeka Offor is a man who achieved success, fame and greatness through hard work but is unfortunately not given commensurate accolades by the society, particularly in Igboland where he hails from. Due to the fact that he is not given to blowing his trumpet, Offor who sits atop a business conglomerate that spans power, oil and gas and other areas of the economy keeps a low profile lifestyle. He is indeed an unsung hero. Offor’s philosophy of life is to attain excellence through hardwork, dedication and honesty. And as he clearly stated “I want to make my mark. Actually, I want to make two marks. One as an excellent businessman who has built a group of companies that will stand the test of time. Two, to be as good at giving as I am at turning a profit. I hope to set an example for the next generation of successful Nigerian businessmen who will know they can make money while also making a difference”
Born of a humble parentage in the railway commercial nerve centre of Kafanchan in Kaduna state, the son of a policeman braved the odds to become the successful businessman, community leader, philanthropist and family man that he is today. A very humble and humane achiever, Offor is detribalized Nigerian who accords respect to the sanctity of life and the existence of God. Offor in one of his media interviews described himself thus: “I am simply Sir Emeka Offor, the son of a policeman, born in Kafanchan. I stand for excellence. I am a goal-getter. I set big personal goals and enjoy the challenge of achieving the extraordinary and being the best I can be. I am a firm believer in the old Christian values of hard work and dedication to duty, and am an ardent admirer of these qualities in others”.
Offor is the chairman of the Chrome Group, which has extensive domestic and international business experience in numerous sectors of the economy. A dynamic and hard-flying entrepreneur, he has the wherewithal to excel where others fail due to his strength of character, vision and dedication to any cause he chooses to pursue. The Chrome Group was founded in 1994 and based in Abuja is a major player in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa.
Due to his penchant for threading on paths dreaded by other men, Sir Offor could not allow his humble background to deter him from attaining Olympic heights in life. Consequently, he has doggedly consigned poverty to the background and having tasted that side of life has vowed to erase tears from the faces of average Nigerian child. He has made his mark both locally and internationally in touching lives. As such the history of the fight against polio in Nigeria cannot be written without the audacious contributions of the Orafite-born billionaire and philanthropist. His contributions toward the eradication of the disease have been acknowledged locally and internationally. It is on record that he remains the only Nigerian to have donated $1.250 million dollars in addition to the Rotary Foundation polio plus programme, for the eradication of polio in Nigeria. We are aware that Nigeria is the only country in Africa where the incidence of Polio is still being recorded.
Similarly, the philanthropist through his foundation, The Sir Emeka Offor Foundation has not relented in ensuring that the menace of river blindness, one of the foremost eye diseases in the tropics is eliminated in Nigeria. Offor has in keeping with his avowed commitment to fight this disease to a standstill being collaborating with the Carter Centre financially and morally. He had contributed variously and at different times to the Carter Centre for the purpose. For example, Offor had some time ago donated $250,000 to the Carter Center, in support of its River Blindness Control Programme in the South East states of Nigeria. Similarly, the Foundation had donated the sum of €250,000 to endow a professorship of glaucoma in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Mainz, Germany. This is to assist research on the early detection and treatment of glaucoma. So far, Offor has committed the sum of $10 million over a seven-year span towards a complete elimination of river blindness.
In the area of education, he has instituted scholarships and other programmes to assist indigent students and uplift the standard of education in the country. A few years ago, he signed a 7million-dollar contract with Books for Africa (BFA) for the delivery of 32, 40 ft HQ containers of primary, secondary and University texts from November 1 2011- November 1 2014. This singular contract brought in over 640,00 books and assorted computers, which were brought in and distributed to schools. Since then, Offor has ensured that these books are distributed annually to all these institutions of learning. Besides, presently thousands of students across the country are enjoying Sir Emeka Offor’s scholarship at various educational levels.
Just in April this year, Sir Emeka Offor and His Excellency, Aminu Bello Masari, the Executive Governor of Katsina signed into effect a Memorandum of Understanding between The Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF) and the Katsina State Government where the Foundation has committed to providing books and computers to higher institutions in the state. The initiative is part of Sir Emeka Offor Foundation’s continuing effort to promote literacy in the country and the continent of Africa. The Foundation’s active partnership with an Atlanta based non-governmental organization, “Books For Africa”, have successfully facilitated the supply of books, reading materials and computers worth more than $22 million to schools in over 18 countries in the continent including Nigeria since its inception.
Not oblivious of the challenges faced by widows in most of our communities, Sir Emeka Offor has developed a special attention for the welfare of widows. In fact, the empowerment programmes for widows go beyond the shores of this country. For example, the widows in Orafite would always recall with nostalgia, when in December 2012, the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation sponsored a delegation of about 20 of them from Oraifite to India on a three week study visit to the Talent research foundation. This group of women learnt a lot about practices and activities that enhanced the economic, social and political lives of the rural Indian populace. Areas of interest included skill acquisition centers, small holder farms, orphanages, rehabilitation centres and designated rural health centers. The Sir Emeka Offor Foundation Widows Cooperative has since inception catered for thousands of widows annually by given out bags of rice and other food items to these women.
As a true son of Orafite, Sir Emeka Offor has continued to identify with his people not only through charity but also businesswise and job creation. As part of his resolve to impact on his immediate community, Offor has set up a radio station, Blaze 91.5 FM in Oraifite. Blaze 91.5 FM every 30th and 31st of December hosts the Blaze blast concert where most “A “ list artistes in the Nigerian Entertainment industry are brought in to thrill the audience who do not have to pay a dime to have a swell time. The show which is open to all and sundry is a platform which brings together south-east youths and other youths across the country.
A man who recognizes that everything he has comes from God, Emeka Offor built the Anglican Church that serves the community and this edifice is a magnificent structure to behold. In the area of infrastructure, he built the first access road from Oraifite to Nnewi. It is also a well-known fact that he is the brain behind the constant power source in Oraifite. He single handedly sponsors the New yam festivities “Afiolu” in Oraifite.
Due to his humanitarian activities, Sir Offor has been honoured both at home and abroad. He is a recipient of several chieftaincy and other awards. In March this year, Sir Emeka Offor, was honored by the Rotary International with an award as the 2015/16 International Service Award for a Polio-Free World in recognition of his non-financial contribution to Polio eradication throughout the region. The current Rotary International President, K.R. Ravindran was present in Abuja with his wife Vanathy, to personally hand over the award to Sir Emeka Offor at a lunch held in the latter’s honor. The International Service Award for a Polio-Free World, according to a top Rotarian is the first of its kind for a recipient from the African country.
The former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Howard F. Jeter (Ret.) was present at the lunch. In his brief comment, he gave a broader insight in Sir Offor’s other humanitarian projects. Speaking as a board member of SEOF, he highlighted the foundation’s partnership with Books For Africa (BFA), a U.S. based organization. Ambassador Jeter disclosed that SEOF’s partnership with BFA had facilitated the delivery of over “2 million books and reading materials” to over 18 African countries including Nigeria. He also spoke of an ongoing collaboration with The Carter Center, another U.S. based organization founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Rosalyn Carter. The partnership according to Amb. Jeter is targeted at ridding the five states of the southeast (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo) and two states of the south-south (Delta and Edo) of River Blindness.
This is just a tip of the iceberg of who and what Sir Offor is and does; and what he stands for. But to properly elucidate on his achievements and indelible contributions to the society and nation building, one would need to write volumes of books about him. This honourable son of Nigeria deserves not just a pat on the back but an institution of his name and achievements in the sands of times. The history of Nigeria can never be complete without the due recognition of a man who has given his time, talents and resources to the welfare of the less privilege and is still doing it. Sir Emeka Offor God bless you the more!
Hon. Chinwe Ugwu is the Executive Director, Centre for Reform Education Initiative (CREI)