SATURDAY PLUS STORY
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa – that name certainly rings a bell. He has led interesting professional life, done extraordinary things in his field, and gone through a remarkable experience. But there are aspects of his life you probably have never heard of. The pharmacist, entrepreneur, social activist, lay minister, and author shares some profoundly personal experiences with Vincent Obia
If you are conversant with the inner circle of Nigerian entrepreneurs, you surely know Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa. Ohuabunwa is a familiar figure on the business scene. He has interests in different sectors and deals with a wide range of people.
“I’m networked, perhaps, in an unusual manner. I am in business, I relate to business associations; I’m in God’s work. I relate to religious organisations; I’m a community man, so I relate to community people. I’m a professional. I was in Umuahia for one week (November 6-11, 2017); we were hosting the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, which is my original constituency,” Ohuabunwa says.
Ohuabunwa is, perhaps, best known for his role in private sector economic advocacy. He is the former president of the West African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, ex-president of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, and ex-chairman of Nigerian Economic Summit Group. He was a member of the Vision 2010 Committee, National Council of the Vision 2020, and the Presidential Steering Committee on the Global Economic Crisis.
He is a fellow of several professional and academic associations, including Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists, Nigerian Institute of Management, Chartered Institute of Marketing of Nigeria, and Nigeria Institute of Public Relations.
Now formally retired, but still working hard, Ohuabunwa looks back on past events, particularly romance, and relives what he saw in his wife, Stella, with evergreen fondness. His initial standards while looking for a wife never favoured her.
“My wife was very submissive, both from her external look and her real character,” he says. “That was what endeared her to me. Of all the people, she was the least educated, the least able to earn money. That was why those criteria were not favouring her. But when I threw those things away, I went for what my heart was telling me.”
Both have been married for 37 years. They have five children and seven grandchildren. Yet, looking back at the past decades, and forward to the future, he says, “Each day I wake up, I say, thank God. I say, God, if I had made one right decision, this was one.”
He explains, “The truth is that I was praying. I wasn’t such a wonderful Christian. But I went through Christian school, and I had a family experience. My father married two wives and there was always commotion. So I kept praying to God that I didn’t want to have commotion in my home and saying, ‘God, please, give me a good woman that will not give me reason to start looking for a second wife.’
“Eventually, when I made up my mind to marry, I had a number of prospective wives. Somehow, I was a little bit a guyish, a boy around town. Finding a wife entailed making sure that from the list I had I got the best. Often, I would take the list I had and score them according to things like education, financial capability, physical beauty, etc. But when God wants to help you, all those things won’t count. At times, after doing the list, I would tear the paper, because where my mind was, was not where the scores were leading me. Then I said to myself, who am I happy with among my girlfriends? Whom did I sit with and I felt good?
“Then somebody I had met and told, please, go your way, was the same person I went back to and said, I have made up my mind with you. Even the circumstances of our first meeting showed me that it was God. People should learn to pray. God is a merciful God. He hears our prayers, even when we think we don’t deserve it. Don’t say because I’m not holy I can’t pray, no.”
Ohuabunwa narrates how he met his wife.
“Our meeting was divine,” he says. “Where I used to live, my wife was in school and they came to do what they call bob-a-job. When I saw her, I was really enthralled. What caused my enthrallment was that the school she came from, I used to pass it on my way to work. I used to say, who gave these girls the uniform that made them look like petrol attendants. I was in Enugu then doing my internship at the teaching hospital. But this girl, the day she appeared for the bob-a-job, dressed in the same uniform, she looked fantastic.
“I also thank God that she had a very humble spirit. Men want women that are submissive. I have told my daughters, if you want to win your husband, be submissive. The Bible says, woman, obey your husbands (be submissive), husbands love your wives.”
It is this sort of personal appeal to spiritual solution that has helped him to face and surmount the challenges of marriage – and life generally.
Ohuabunwa says he encountered three major challenges in early marriage.
“One is the challenge of a young man and infidelity. I was a boy around town, and when I married my wife, I still had some other extramarital activities. Of course, it was going to cause problems. Sometimes you come home late and in all kinds of shape,” he says. “But that was solved the day I gave my life to Christ. The day I got born again, that behaviour ceased. I couldn’t solve it myself because I tried New Year resolutions and it didn’t work. You hold it for one or two months, and by the third month, something you didn’t plan for happens. Sometimes, you may not ask, but if they asked you, you didn’t know how to resist. But when I gave my life to Christ, I became a faithful husband and a good father.”
He adds, “The second problem was having enough time for my wife. Wives like their husbands around. If you cannot give enough time to your wife, that would cause trouble. Again, two things worked for me here. First was bunching. Second was being able to show result for all the absence. If you are always absent and they ask money for food, school fees, rent, etc., and you are not bringing light, they would say, what is all this not being at home? I, therefore, made a policy that unless God didn’t provide, if my wife needed anything I could afford, I will not hold it back.
“Fortunately, for me, my wife doesn’t need much. There is no vanity in her life. She is just simple; she doesn’t wear gold or makeup. So the little she wants, I try to make sure I provide. Then, showing her genuine love. The other one is openness. When you become open to your spouse, it builds confidence and suspicion goes down. When you say, this is what I want to do; they feel better that you have taken them into confidence.
“The third problem I had with my wife is the issue of relationship. My wife is introverted, I’m extroverted. That relationship starts with the children. My wife is very attached to the children, I’m not so attached. I believe they should be given more freedom; she thinks children will always be children. But what I do is to defer to her, because I find that it is better to be careful than to be sorry.
“Also relationship outside. My wife prefers minimum relationships; she likes to be on her own and, therefore, feels that I’m over-exposing myself. How do I deal with that? I deal with that by letting her know that God has created me with a mission and a purpose, and all I’m doing is in line with that purpose and mission. Overtime, she feels the consistency and begins to adjust to it. She was telling my brother recently, if I see my husband at home for one week I’m wondering whether everything is okay.”
He believes that in every marriage, there are times of misunderstanding or unhappiness. “But what heals it is true love,” he says. “If you pattern your life where there is genuine love, and you subscribe to a faith and follow the tenets of that faith in your relationship, because your closest neighbour is your wife, you won’t have much problem.”
Ohuabunwa started his career in 1978 in Pfizer Products Limited, a drug manufacturing firm. He rose to become the company’s chairman/chief executive officer in 1993, and led the management buyout of Pfizer Inc. from Pfizer Products Limited in 1997. Following the buyout, Pfizer Inc. was transformed to Neimeth International Pharmaceutical Plc and he remained the president/chief executive officer.
He has interests in many companies and businesses, and he is on the boards of a number of firms.
A knight of St. Christopher of the Anglican Communion and a national director of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International, Ohuabunwa maintains a busy schedule packed with family, business, and church activities, as well as travels.
He says, “Within the context of my schedule, I build in relaxation. I don’t have any time I devote as relaxation time. Of course, there were times when I used to go and play golf, but I don’t do it anymore.
“My work is varied. I know that what would kill somebody is when you do a job that requires a high level of concentration or consumption of your energy, physical, emotional, spiritual. I am a busy person. But the way to make sure I don’t burn off is that I integrate my work with pleasure or relaxation.
“I’m social. I attend parties. And most of the time, I am before God. I’m a lay minister.
“I travel a lot, but in my travels, I also create opportunity for relaxation. In the aircraft I may put ‘do not disturb’, and I’m sleeping.
“I go to community meetings.”
Though, retired formally, Ohuabunwa says, “I am working harder than when I was in full employment.” He believes every man needs God’s guidance to decide how to avoid burning off or imperilling the ability to fulfil his destiny, “because everybody has been brought here to do the work of God, and you must accomplish it. Otherwise, you will have questions to answer.”
He recalls his own personal strategy for making up for his absence to his family.
“When I was bringing up my family, because I travelled a lot, I didn’t have enough time for my children. I was aware,” he says. “But good for me, my wife compensated for me. But what I used to do was that what I lost in quantity, I gained in quality. I worked out a system such that if I am at home, I would bond so much with my children that when I leave them, the taste of our last activity would linger. They would look forward to the next time we are going to meet and they create a new excitement.
“During holidays, I would take them out, drive my car. In those days, every Sunday I used to drive my children to church, and back. After church, we stop somewhere, have fun. I was conscious that I wasn’t giving them enough time. But I compensated that by giving them quality. We would drive together, come to a hotel and everybody would stay in one suite for a few days, and they probably won’t see me for one month.”
Ohuabunwa has had an excellent career and family life. He offers some advice on what young people who have decided to give up the single life and get married should do.
“First, marry your friend,” he says. “Two, follow God’s injunctions. Man did not create marriage. Adam never told God he wanted a wife. It was God who saw Adam and said, ‘this guy is lonely, no matter what I do for him, he doesn’t look happy, so I need somebody to make him happy, somebody to be his companion and to help him.
“Thus, God created the woman and gave an injunction: husbands love your wives even as Christ loved the world and gave his life for the world. Wives, obey your husbands in everything. The moment that happens, the marriage will work.”
He says, “The marriage doesn’t work when the man does not love the wife and loves other people, and the woman is disobedient and over-asserting her will. Men don’t like that. There is a hormone in man that doesn’t like to deal with two captains inside one boat. There is a rebellious hormone in the man. For a few men, they have conquered that hormone. But for others, it is still very active. And it is much more active when they are young.
“Let people play the role God has assigned them.”
QUOTE: I was a boy around town, and when I married my wife, I still had some other extramarital activities. Of course, it was going to cause problems. Sometimes you come home late and in all kinds of shape. But when I gave my life to Christ, I became a faithful husband and a good father