50 Hearty Cheers to Eberechukwu Oji 

The MD/CEO of ND Western, an independent Nigerian oil and gas exploration and production company, Engineer Eberechukwu Oji turned 50 last week. His brother Dr. Boris Oji, a US based physician and International President of the Climate Change Organisation and NGO- Zespronet, writes a birthday tribute in his honour

The best way to craft a befitting birthday tribute, an intro of a future Odyssey of Eberechukwu Oji is to pick some lines from C.P. Cavafy’s epic poem Ithaka and trace this wonderful journey of a wonderful son along the path of how we were brought up as children of highly disciplined and ambitious parents and the impact left in our total world view. 

Says Cavafy on the Promised Land called Ithaka:  

Keep Ithaka always in your mind. 

Arriving there is what you are destined for. 

But do not hurry the journey at all. 

Better if it lasts for years, 

so you’re old by the time you reach the island, 

wealthy with all you have gained on the way, 

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich. 

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. 

Without her you would not have set out. 

She has nothing left to give you now. 

And if you find her poor, Ithaka will not have fooled you. 

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,  you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. 

Our backgrounds as human beings determine what we do, what drives us on a regular basis. For the children of Rev. Prince Joshua Kanu Oji and Dr. Mrs. Doris Oji, our background was defined by strict Christian principles and exemplary lifestyles. We had the upbringing that fired us to a life of great achievements, and that sense of adventure defined by C.P. Cavafy’s Ithaka. They did not disappoint as fifty years in the life of Eberechukwu Oji have proven.  

A little bit about the background of my parents, beginning with my mother, will tell better the story of Eberechukwu 

Mrs. Oji went to Ibiaku, Union Girls High School, that has over the years produced prominent old girls. She started at the University of Ibadan (UI), then the war broke out and she transferred to the University of Nigeria Nsukka, graduating with an Honour’s degree in Biology; she later became a principal at 27 or thereabout. She went ahead to acquire a Master’s degree, and a PhD in Education. She was a principal of many schools across the entire Igbo land. She was at Ovim Girls from 1979 to 1985. Then she went to Saint Catherine’s Nkwere and to Aba, retiring as a Permanent Secretary. In between she had eight of us, four boys and four girls. 

My father Prince Joshua Kanu Oji is the third son of a former Eze (King) Aro, Eze Kanu Oji. He retired from Lever Brothers as a manager and went back to school and became a Presbyterian minister. Even though my father’s family tends to be prominent in Arochukwu, because of the Eze Aro dynasty, for me, I tend to relate more with the history of my mother’s family. 

My mum’s father, Emmanuel Oti was the first or second set of students of the Hope Waddell Training Institution Calabar founded in 1895. He was the first Nigerian or African Superintendent of Schools in the old Calabar Province. Everything for him, like Eberechukwu, was first. He was the first headmaster in that part of the country, and first Superintendent of Schools in the same part of the country. He and his wife could be described as early Christians, which must have influenced my father’s choice of getting betrothed to his sweetheart because members of my father’s family were not Christians at a point. History records my mother’s family to have brought Christianity to Arochukwu.  

This recount relates to aspirational achievement which is part of the driving force behind my brother Eberechukwu’s accomplishments till date; that is also important to me and my other siblings. My mother here is an inspiration looking at her pursuit of academics. Her numerous successes and achievements as a teacher followed that trajectory. My mum’s elder sister Dr. Grace Shilds with ex-Second Republic Minister Mrs. Keziah Asinobi were the first set of girls given scholarships in Eastern Nigeria. Thus, my grandfather’s first daughter, my auntie, Dr. Shilds, was already in the U.S in 1945 on scholarship and was to later work in the World Bank, retiring as its representative in East Africa. 

This alchemical mix of strong Christian principles, a strong character embedded in royalty which demands the best always, and looking for the best that academics could offer, runs through the spiritual and physical blood vessel of Eberechukwu. Although he is my junior, he remains my mentor and role model for who he is in terms of his leadership and creative afflatus; he is the second child and son of my parents. What is interesting is how he has imbibed the spirit of service to God and humanity, of royalty and academic excellence between father and mother. 

Eberechukwu’s track record in the corporate world especially in the oil and gas sector deserves a handclap and applause. 

Engr Pastor Eberechukwu Oji was born on May 6th, 1973, in Onitsha Olona Iselukwu in Delta State; we moved around a lot. Among his siblings, he was an early learner, the first person to come first in his class; I remember those days vividly when he took the common entrance examination from Elementary Five and the West African School Certificate (WASC) examination in Class Four coming out with excellent scores in both exams. He started at Methodist College Uzuakoli an institution that has so much in common with Hope Waddell but completed his secondary school education at Emmanuel College Owerri whose track record of academic excellence is top of the bill. He gained admission into the Federal University of Technology Owerri at the amazing age of 14 years and graduated with a Second Class Upper degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. 

 Growing up Eby as we call him knew he would be an engineer. He was always building and designing things-cars, playhouses and lighting them up with torch batteries which was very cool thinking about it now. He was always tinkering with one thing or the other, especially with one friend called Chinedu who had similar interests. While growing up: we always shared a room together. While I was interested in making the beds, Eby was not interested in that and always told me that it was not important when I tried to make a fuss about it.  

Looking back now I know I learned a life lesson from that episode which was to focus on the more important things in life, to focus on the big picture. Eby thanks for this and other subtle life lessons you taught each of us your siblings. Though he is my younger brother he has always inspired me and is my hero. I had the tendency of pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable by constituted authorities and getting nearly into trouble in those days, but he was my northern star as in my despondency I will ask myself: “what will Eby do given this type of situation?” 

 He went on to work with the National Engineering and Technical Company Limited (NETCO), a joint venture engineering company with NNPC for youth service and from there got a job at Shell Oil Company. rising through the ranks rapidly as an international staff for over 23 years and was subsequently seconded to the LNG in Bonny, Rivers State before leaving shell to ND Western as the current managing director and chief executive officer. He obtained multiple advance degrees and multiple master’s s degrees from some   of the best universities outside Nigeria. With all these hectic job schedules he is also an ordained pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), in charge of multiple churches. 

What is interesting about Eberechukwu is that the humanitarian activities for which the family is known, have become very much a part of ND Western’s active corporate social responsibility programme. In my Zespronet  CSR involvement, my brother and my extended family including my dad and mum helped to raise the new residential post graduate block of my Alma Mater, the Abia State University. In 2021, ND Western unveiled its E-Library-the Mosobalaje Oyawoye e-Library for Geology students at the University of Ibadan. According to the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Eberechukwu Oji, the Professor Oyawoye e-Library, is one among the many ND Western CSR activities. He said: “For us this e-Library is much more than a building with world class facilities. It is our contribution to assisting our students and the academic community with resources that would enable them to compete on some level of competitive footing with their counterparts in the advanced economies.” 

I was equally elated by his response to the online Energy Year publication, which asked him how committed ND Western was to the development of host communities. You could see the family value in him being demonstrated in reaching out to all with the same zeal the missionaries of old carried out their work among heathens and the Christian community. There was always a sense of urgency and commitment. His response: “We have an excellent relationship with our host communities. In 10 years, we have not had one community related shutdown. Our sister company Niger Delta Petroleum Resources pioneered a host community relationship programme where a certain percentage of our profit is designated for helping the local community.”  

Eberechukwu is married to beautiful Nneoma, and they are blessed with two adorable and exceptionally intelligent children Esther and Isaac and to say his world revolves around his family is an understatement. Eby, last week May 6th, 2023, was your milestone celebration of 50 years, we are happy and proud of all your accomplishments. We are blessed to have you in our lives and privileged to call you our sibling. We celebrate you because you are worthy of our celebration, and pray for many more years of a happy, long healthy life.  

May this new age open a new vista in your accomplished and exciting existence. Congratulations sir and May God continue to bless you and your beautiful family Happy birthday sir from all of us your siblings with wives and children. Your parents Doris E Oji PhD and Rev Prince Joshua Oji JP join me to wish you a happy birthday and many more years of greater accomplishments. 

 Ithaka, the Promised Land bequeathed to us by our parents has been full of many beautiful summer mornings and ornaments of value. 

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