The Enigma Called Egba Okumagba
GUEST COLUMNIST BY CHIKE OGEAH
I met Egba sometimes in 1989 while I was working with the Law Firm of Sofunde, Osakwe, Ogundipe & Belgore. He was with CentrePoint Merchant Bank…we had gone to their office for an All Parties Meeting and we hit it off thereafter and thus began a lifetime of brotherhood.
I recall with nostalgia in 2006 when as Managing Director of the Federal Government-owned Skypower Aviation Handling Company (SAHCOL), I was saddled with the responsibility of the full privatisation of this moribund Agency. I invited Egba even before he approached me and handed him the entire brief and working with the Liquidator to the transaction, the now also late Babbington-Ashaye, they delivered what has been adjudged the best and most transparent privatisation process ever in the history of our country.
Egba made history with the rest of us that delivered a hitherto Government wasting asset to a World-Class profit-making private and now a Public Quoted Company Limited by Shares in the Nigerian Stock Exchange. Egba was my Chief Adviser from the beginning of the transaction in 2006 until it was completed in 2010.
Fast forward to our time working together in the Delta State Economic Council. Egba will call me to know when I’m coming to Lagos for the next meeting and whether I have put “the Great Duke”(Nduka Obaigbena) on notice to make sure he gets those large snails we often enjoyed whenever we visited his Glover Road residence after our deliberations. That was Egba, simple and down to earth, no-frills and no pretences.
Egba was an enigma, an incurable optimist, a big picture player and great all-round non-conformist genius. He could see aspects of a deal that was not visible to the naked eye and was always ready to thread where eagles would not dare. He was also very humane and sensitive, always eager to make sure that all was well with everyone around him.
He had a “side name” for everyone he liked usually prefixed by the word “Great”. Whenever or wherever I heard “the Great Ogeah” I knew Egba was not too far away. This was often followed with loud hearty laughter the best smile ever…he was a good looking guy and a jolly good man.
Again, we fast forward to the purple patch, when things were not looking too good. Egba will call me and after the usual hailing ask me if the 100 million USD he had told me to raise was ready and I would be like, Egba, where am I going to get that from in this depressed economy? He would tell me to stop underrating myself and go get the money, that the money is right here in this economy.
And we went through this ritual even just a couple of days to his death when he called as usual but this time I did not know it was his way of saying Goodbye because I was supposed to see him that weekend as he had come in from Abuja and GOD knows I tried but all the road works and bridge closures all over Lagos made it impossible until he left back to Abuja where he had been spending more time in his latter days. Not seeing him for our usual banter was a grievous mistake as I never got to see him again.
I would forever treasure the bond of true friendship and brotherhood we shared and it will forever be a source of pain to me that me and all his very distinguished friends should have stepped in much quicker to arrest the situation though, to our defence, Egba did not make it too easy for us as his dreams were just too big for our myopic comprehension.
It is well my brother, my friend, my comrade, my Egbatics as I often called him. You have run your race and you have done your time and gone to a place where I’m sure you will be better understood. You certainly came before your time.
Sleep well and enjoy eternal rest but, knowing you, I’m sure you must be structured the biggest Deal going down in Heaven right now…Missing you.
•Ogeah is Vice Chairman, Skyway Aviation Handling Company Plc.