Title: Daniel Chimezie Okeke – My Destiny Deal
Type of book: Autobiography
Author: Adolphus Areban Abraham
Publisher: Express Concerns International Limited
Year of publication: 2016
Date of book presentation: January 07, 2017
Book reviewer: Professor Vincent C. Okore
I feel highly honoured, to have been requested to review the book that tells the story about my town’s man. The book has graphically described the pathway through which Providence has led him, moving from grass, as it were, to grace. This book satisfies every description of an autobiography. I have had the privilege of reading a number of biographies and autobiographies. Characteristically, all of them present a descriptive image of the principal moving from a condition of apparent hopelessness to that of glory and societal or spiritual success. The life of Mr. Daniel Chimezie Okeke follows the same Providence-guided transition. In his own case, however, it is that of a hopeless orphan transformed into an affluent business mogul, through whom many other people have also been favoured.
It is an interesting story. It is a lesson for all. It teaches that he whom God has destined to become a blessing, the Lord will equip with necessary determination, spirit, energy, endurance, perseverance, tolerance and guidance. The initial ugly states in the life of such a person will only be preparatory, and then a passing mirage. The fact of nature is that at the spark of creation of a human life, God installs the programme of a lifetime in the emerging embryonic cell. The resulting human being must inescapably follow that graph of life and, so, whatever occurs during the individual’s journey through life, must strictly be in accordance with that divine master plan. That is called Destiny. It is a done deal, which God seals for and with the individual. Therefore, the phrase, “Destiny Deal”, strikes me as the most fitting title for a book that, more or less, mirrors a man’s destiny.
Every man’s life is a veritable lesson for others to discern. The life of Mr. Dan Okeke is no less so. I want to thank Dan for, in his characteristic generosity, offering the entire global reading audience the benefit of a peep into his life, the story of which he could, otherwise, have reserved for his immediate family members, intimate friends and confidants. As we take advantage of this magnanimity, I invite us to absorb the story with an open mind, and with the aim of learning from the life of a successful man.
It is my assignment, as a reviewer, to whet your appetite for the delicious meal that has been encapsulated within the pages of this excellent exposé. Written in the style of a classic, almost every page is decorated with boxed excerpts for emphasis or attention. I assure you that this book is a worthy reading. If you suffer inertia for reading, I am almost certain that by the time you go through this review, you will probably begin to shed off your lethargy for reading, at least for the sake of the book. I encourage you to collect copies of the book for yourself and your loved ones. It will be worth an investment.
Circumstances of His Birth And Infancy
The Character, Dan Okeke, was born in Ubila Ututu, which is part of the present-day Arochukwu Local Government Area of Abia State, Nigeria. I would like to quote him as he explicitly describes the circumstances of his birth and childhood. “I was not fortunate enough to grow up under the nurture and warmth of my mother. Before I could mutter ‘Mama’ like other infants, the cold hand of death struck and snatched Mama away from mother earth. And thus, was started for me, a tortuous beginning that took Providence not much to put right.” Only a relatively small number of people, worldwide, can make this kind of statement about the circumstances of their birth. Most citizens of the world are normally nurtured to maturity by their biological parents.
Majority of those who are not so lucky often end up in ruins. Sometimes, we inadvertently refer to God as the Father of the fatherless, or Mother of the motherless. In some situations, this approbation turns out to be real and visible. Considering the circumstances of Daniel Okeke’s infancy, it is right to say that, indeed, God adopted him right from the moment he became motherless, seven months into his life on earth. No one has ever seen God with physical eyes. Each time we “see God” He appears to us only in human forms, in the forms of living persons. So, from the age of seven months and throughout the period of his infancy, motherless Dan encountered God in the person of his grandmother. God, through grandmother, caught Dan and shielded him from the obvious vulnerability of motherless babies.
Therefore, Dan is correct in saying that, from the beginning, it took Providence not much to put things right for him. See how it all happened. In the absence of his mother, seven-month-old Dan needed breast milk to survive and grow, like every other baby. Grandmother was too old to produce breast milk, but through her instrumentality, God made other younger mothers to volunteer, in turns, to breast feed Dan. In that way, he grew up as a robust, healthy baby, despite the several attempts supposedly made by his departed mother to take the infant along. Beside grandmother, the closest person to Dan, as he was growing up, was his earthly father. His father, Mr. Anthony Okeke, of blessed memories, was popularly known as Teacher Anthony. He was a multi-talented man. Apart from being a highly respected teacher, he was a wise community leader, an arbiter in cases of conflict between individuals or communities, a farmer, and palm fruits merchant.
Even at an early age, Dan was his father’s most favoured child. The relationship between Dan and his father could metaphorically be described as the water without which palm fruits cannot be processed into valuable oil. And so, because of their remarkable closeness, Dan earned himself the sarcasm, “handbag of his father.” Not minding the derision, Dan stuck tenaciously unto his father and, thus, learnt a lot about the traditions and histories of his family and people.
Dan started school in Ubila-Amaetiti Primary School, the same school where his father was a teacher. When he graduated from primary school, he was enrolled in Umunnato Secondary Technical College, Ututu. Dan’s father was poised to play that human ladder with which Dan was to climb to greatness. Dan describes it thus: “Father wanted me to take after him. He wanted me to be great and attain a height no one else in the family had ever ventured… Father wanted to give me the best of everything. Most especially he wanted me to be well educated.” But those lofty plans were cut short by the sudden and most unexpected death of his father, at a time when Dan had just been promoted to Class 2 in the secondary school. The death of his father at that time appeared like the sunset of Dan’s life. But, it was not to be, for God had positioned some angels on his path to lift him up to his destined height.
It can be said that the first human angel, as it were, in whose hands Dan began his journey of survival was his grandmother. If grandmother did not invoke the rare and unusual initiative of inviting younger women to breastfeed Dan, when his mother died, as he was only seven months old, how could he have lived? Whatever Dan has grown to become today was made possible because he lived through those unsure early days of his life. Thanks to grandmother.
Worthy of mention also are Mr. G. O. K. Aluoko, and Miss Grace Kalu (teachers in Umunnato Secondary Technical College) as well as Rev. Benard Ubuo (Dan’s pastor at that time). These people whom God called at that point in time, answered the call, and voluntarily contributed, out of their meagre resources, to ensure that Dan’s school fees were paid. Rev. Ubuo and his wife, in addition, took Dan in, fed him and gave him a room in their residence.
Following his father’s death, another person who showed much love and support to Dan was his uncle, Mr. Martin Ebi. Several times, Martin Ebi contributed towards his school fees and provided Dan with school uniforms. Later on (as is well described in the book), Uncle Martin was to be the fulcrum that God used to propel Dan to greatness. Yet, another human angel that bore Dan on her wings was his aunty, Mgbokwo Okore. Till date, Dan remembers, with intense gratitude, the role this aunty played at a time he had almost been abandoned to die after a dangerous snakebite. Mgbokwo took passionate care of him and eventually brought him to an herbalist who cured him of the snakebite. Once again, Dan defied death by the whisker’s breath, under a very precarious circumstance.
His Challenges, Disappointments and Ordeals
The first major disappointment that Dan experienced in life came soon after his father’s untimely death. A number of people who came to console the family over the death, promised to shoulder the family’s financial responsibilities, including sponsoring Dan’s education, if only “to show appreciation for your father’s kindness towards us…” But the reality was that they all backed down on their promises immediately the man was laid down into the grave, thus dashing Dan’s raised hopes of attending an elite secondary school, as pre-planned by his father. Under such conditions, Dan found himself having to relocate from one village school to another depending on the direction from where a flicker of help could come. From Umunnato Secondary Technical College he moved to Ututu Secondary Commercial School (aka Okpukpu mmuo), with virtually nothing to be consoled by. You can read details of his harsh and unenviable experiences in these village schools in Chapter 4 of the book.
His Haters and Hurters
Among the people Dan was supposed to grow up under their care was his stepmother. Dan writes in the book that rather than receives love and care from his stepmother, he constantly received hatred, envy, maltreatment, neglect and open antagonism. Dan claims that the malice got to a crescendo when his father died in an excruciating circumstance. Dan was only thirteen years of age when his father died. It was as if Dan had lost all he lived for. There were no consolations, and no respite. People around him replaced Hope with hostilities and false promises.
Turning Points in His Life
The first happening that can be called a turning point in Dan’s life was when Uncle Martin Ebi, his mother’s younger brother, invited him to leave the village and come to Port Harcourt. At that point Dan did not even have money to pay his fair to Port Harcourt. He pleaded repeatedly with his stepmother for help, but she would not budge. He then decided to trek, come what may, from Ubila Ututu to Port Harcourt. Providentially, at that critical moment of decision-making, two of his friends, Isaac Kalu and Kalu Uka, appeared from nowhere and offered him some monetary assistance. Isaac Kalu doled out 25 naira, and Kalu Uka complemented with 15 naira, making a total 40 naira. That was all Dan had in order to start the long journey to Port Harcourt.
Dan says of this marvel, “I will forever be grateful to these good friends of mine whom God used to rescue me…” Accepting to go to Port Harcourt at that time was one of the wisest steps that Dan took in his life, and that singular decision placed him on the trajectory to greatness. God used his uncle, Martin Ebi, to connect him to an endeavour that was to become for him a transformer from poverty to affluence. Uncle Martin was determined to stir up the latent entrepreneurial skills in Dan. So, on arrival in Port Harcourt, Martin put him into various trades, starting from the hawking of bar soaps, to the hustle and bustle of rice trade. At that time, Dan was slim and fragile. At all times, the rice business requires sufficient delivery of brainpower, as well as brawn and stamina. Dan had the brain, but one could not say the same about his having the kind of brawn and stamina needed to haul bags of rice through a bustling market. And so, before too long, things got to the brink, and Dan threw in the towel against the rice business, and informed Uncle Martin about his decision.
Not giving up, Martin went ahead and introduced him to John Okeke, his friend, who was into the business of “clearing and forwarding”. That one clicked, and Dan jumped for it. That was it. One thing led to another. Dan’s personal charisma and hard work stirred up admiration for him from many people, some very influential. Among such people who took liking for Dan were Mr. Solomon Azuma and Chief B. B. Umeh. God, once again favourably, flung those men at Dan. Solomon Azuma was the owner of a clearing and forwarding company, while Chief Umeh was a Senior Customs Officer. While Dan was still an apprentice under Solomon, Chief Umeh spotted him and intuitively adopted him as a son. Thus, Dan providentially fell into very good hands. Chief Umeh, in addition to maintaining Dan on a weekly stipend of 500 naira, for rendering no service, whatsoever, to him, also got him a job in a major shipping company, Panalpina. From there, Dan was propelled like a meteor into the world of clearing and forwarding business. Today, Dan Okeke is a proud owner of a very successful shipping company named, “Express Concerns”.
The following persons have also made, and are still making, impressionable impacts in his shipping business: Mr. Solomon Asaad of Saipem Contracting Company Limited, a foreign shipping company; and his very close friend and confidant, Chief Okafor Itam. There are many sides to Dan Okeke’s entrepreneurial acumen. Despite the fact that he has stirred up a lot of oceanic waves in the shipping business, Dan has also been very successful in the real estate business. In addition, Dan is into big-time importation and sale of motor vehicles. To underscore his business versatility, he has also taken a step to make a mark in the hospitality business with the completion of a hotel in Port Harcourt in 2016 under the Swiss Spirit Franchise. The hotel consists of two blocks with a total of 148 rooms, swimming pool, underground snooker bar, VIP Lounge, Italian Restaurant, 4 Conference rooms, one banquet hall, video conferencing facilities, regular restaurant, and bar to provide the guest with a lasting experience.
His Spirit Of Generosity
Dan is an extremely generous man. You may say he is generous to a fault. He extends his generosity even to his adversaries. Out of magnanimity, he always wanted to immortalise his late father. That led him into recovering a piece of land bought by his father, which was snatched by the original owners after the death of his father. In the process of recovering the piece of land, he was made to pay twice the going price of the land, and he willingly paid. In addition to paying for the land, Dan went ahead and sponsored the original landowner’s son, who wanted to register for the WAEC O-Level examinations. Dan stopped at nothing to acquire back the land, if only to use it and honour the man, his father, who influenced his appreciation of the value of determination and hard work. As the glorious face of God started shining on him, Dan built his first house. Surprisingly, the people he offered the house to live, for free, were children of his stepmother. That is the generosity of a man with a large heart.
The book contains photographs depicting some donations Dan had made to his family and native community of Ubila Ututu. These include a country home for his family, and a block of classrooms for Ubila-Amaetiti Primary School, his alma mater. Others are: a residential home serving as a memorabilia in honour of his father, borehole water supply to his native community, and a customary court building donated to the government of Abia State. Among other extraordinary manifestations of his generosity are: donation of a Mercedes Benz V-boot car to the State Overseer of his Church, the Apostolic Faith Church, in Port Harcourt; and donation of four Toyota Sienna vans in support of the youth empowerment programme of the government of Chief Theodore A. Orji of Abia State. Dan extends his generosity, even beyond his immediate frontiers, to people he may not have known too well. A number of times, because of his open mindedness and easy trust in other people, he has been swindled of huge amounts of money (running into millions of naira). You will read about “The Spanish Swindle” in chapter 15 of the book.
Dan is happily married to his heartthrob, Mrs. Agnes Okeke. They are both from the same village, Ubila Ututu. They have been married since 20th of April 2000, and have been blessed with beautiful children.
I want to conclude this review with just one statement that summarizes the lesson I, personally, have learnt from Dan’s story. Success is the reward of sincere adherence to your own Destiny Deal – God’s plan for your life.
Adolphus Areban Abraham, the author of this book is also the author of “Arrows of Jacob Red Stew” and “Return to Canaan” both published in 2013. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org