Tuesday, March 28

Philip Oduoza And Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo As Unsung Heroes

By Patrick Okigbo

Recently Philip Oduoza retired as CEO of UBA Plc. I am sure that in the coming days, there will be many encomiums on a very stellar banking career. Permit me to share with you another aspect of the man’s life that may not be very visible behind his stoic appearance.

In the aftermath of the 2011 Presidential Campaigns, political violence broke out in Northern Nigeria, and many non-northerners lost their lives. Early one Saturday morning, I got a call from Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo (“AK”) stating that hundreds of Youth Corpers were stuck in Bauchi and feared that they might be dead before morning. He instructed that I figure out a way to get them out of Bauchi. So began my most intense 24-hours.

When it became clear that the only way to get the Corpers out was through an airlift, I extracted a commitment from Dana Air to provide the service. However, they needed full payment or a creditworthy Nigerian to guarantee the payment. I reached out to several top Ndigbo, but many had many excuses. The CEO of Dana Air advised that I contact Phillip Oduoza because their corporate account was with UBA Plc. and the latter’s commitment would suffice.

Through Emeka Ugwu-Oju, I contacted Philip Oduoza. He listened intently and then asked me how I intended to pay the cost. I told him that I was sure we could raise the money from Ndigbo, but first, we needed to get the Corpers out of Bauchi. Basically, I didn’t have a firm repayment plan. Phillip went silent for a second and then agreed. He called the MD of Dana Air and gave his guarantee. Dana Air sent two planes to get the Corpers out.

I am sure those Corpers are eternally grateful to Philip and all those who came to their rescue. And they were many: Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo (Oputa Ife Adi; AK-47) – a man of deep passion, Prof Pat Utomi, Chief Ziggy Azike who helped raise money from Chief A.B.C. Orjiako and many others, Chief G.U.O. Okeke (Onwa n’Adazi; CEO, GUO Transport) who agreed to send in his luxury buses at considerable risk, General Emeka Onwuamaegbu who worked with the military to provide escort to move the Corpers from Bauchi to Gombe, and so many others.

As Philip ends a very stellar banking career, we wish him much success in whatever he decides to embark on.

(Originally published 31st July, 2016)

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