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Marinho, Lolomari And Enahoro: Another Class Of 80


odoliyi-LOLOMARIAS Nigerians enter the fabled election year, the gracious transition of three eminent senior persons – Chief Festus Remilekun Ayodele Marinho, Chief Odoliyi Lolomari and Peter Enahoro – into the sagely class of octogenarians, should be a moment of reflection for younger generations in the hope that they can learn lessons of tenacity and patriotism. 

  Chief Festus Marinho, the first Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), who marked his 80th birthday anniversary two weeks ago, has remained one of the most illustrious visionaries of the growth and development of the oil industry in the country. A paladin of integrity, transparency and accountability in the corruption-prone oil and gas industry, Marinho, was known to have ruffled feathers and stepped on toes in many battles with politicians to such a point that on the eve of his retirement, a senior civil servant had stated in commiseration that Marinho seemed to have had “too many battle scars”. Notwithstanding, in his almost 55 years of cumulative active and retirement experience in the oil industry, Marinho has been synonymous with the triumphant side of the chequered history of the Nigerian oil industry, seeing it through from its sprouting stage to its bloom.

  Among the phenomenal achievements he fostered in the petroleum industry, it is recorded that he positioned the NNPC towards the realisation of government policies at a time when government was run with some sense of nationalism. He was also said to have been at the forefront in the drafting of some of the crucial petroleum laws and regulations. Concerning infrastructural management, he was instrumental in the setting up of three refineries, with accompanying networks of nationwide crude and product pipelines and petroleum storage depots, within a decade. His patriotic zeal was made evident when he pursued a Nigerianisation agenda that saw the influx of independent indigenous marketers into the erstwhile multinational-dominated products market, the domestication of technical expertise in the industry, and the aggressive commercial expansion of Nigeria’s natural gas into a success story. What would have been a dark cloud overshadowing an enviable career was the N2.8 billion missing oil revenue, otherwise dubbed the ‘oil-gate saga’. But Marinho was vindicated and re-instated for the second time as Managing Director when the Justice Irikefe Judicial Tribunal of Inquiry, upon painstaking investigation, declared the ‘oil-gate’ a hoax.

  Born on December 30, 1934 in Ijebu-Ode, Marinho had his childhood in the “Brazilian Quarters” of Lagos Island and attended St. Gregory’s College Obalende, Lagos. He matriculated into the then University College, Ibadan in 1956, became a ’College Scholar’ in 1957 and graduated with Bachelor of Science (Special Honours) in Physics of the University of London in 1960. Upon joining the public service as the nation’s second Oil Technologist-in-Training, ever, he proceeded to the Imperial College, London for post-graduate studies in Petroleum Reservoir Engineering from 1960-61. Rising through the ranks in the emerging petroleum resources ministry, Marinho was appointed Managing Director NNPC at its inauguration on April 1, 1977.

  On retiring from public service, Marinho, who is a recipient of many traditional chieftaincy titles, professional and religious awards including the papal knighthood of St. Sylvester, served in various capacities in the oil and gas industry.  

  If Marinho’s career as the nation’s number one oil manager was outstanding, it was because he had with him a kindred spirit like Odoliyi Lolomari, another petroleum and mining guru, who also joins the sagely class of 80 tomorrow, January 19, 2015. Lolomari joined the oil industry on the same day as Marinho, having bagged a Bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of London and a diploma from Imperial College also in London. A patriot and first class manager, Lolomari’s exemplary career culminating in his ascension to the post of group managing director of the NNPC and Nigeria’s representative at the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, remains a reference point in the history of the oil industry. 

  Like the two oil and gas gurus, Mr. Peter ‘Pan’ Enahoro, who joins the privileged club of octogenarians this Wednesday, January 21, 2015, was in the vanguard of journalistic pacesetting in Nigeria. Beyond the instrumentation of journalism as a campaign against the colonial interlopers, Enahoro, with his kindred, honed under the avuncular tutelage of Babatunde Jose, brought moral courage, patriotism and an unrivalled sense of commitment to the pen-pushing profession. Just as he had humour, so also was his pen turgid with vitriol and irritants. But finding himself in a country, where the military regime neither took satires lightly nor forgave audacious reporters who were critical of their government, Enahoro had to flee into exile in July 1966 when the military came cracking down on perceived enemies. While on exile abroad, he was a freelance journalist and later corresponding editor of Africa Magazine in London. He also published Africa Now, a monthly publication that focused on political and economic developments in Africa. 

  Born on January 21, 1935 in Uromi, in present day Edo State, Enahoro was educated at St. David’s School, Akure and the Government College, Ughelli. Straight after secondary school education, he was employed at the Federal Information Service and later joined Daily Times in 1955 at the age of 20. Three years into journalism he became the editor of the Sunday Times in 1958, at the age of 23, and quite later the editor of the Daily Times. His rich satirical columns in both newspapers formed his celebrated work, How to be a Nigerian, published in 1966.

Another election that will usher a new democratic dispensation is around the corner; and according to the permutation of pundits this may be the election that will make or mar Nigeria. Will the election be a question of leadership? Will it be a tussle to rule Nigeria, and thereby be a do-or-die affair? 

  It is here that the positive, beneficial and exemplary lives of these men become instructive. Just as tenacious as members of this generation were in their resolve to be truly Nigerian in all they have done, Nigerians could muster the same tenacity to stay on course as we march on towards the best possible attainment of our political destiny. 

  As this newspaper once admonished concerning lessons to be learnt from the Class of 80, “Nigerians can take a cue from the dedication and selflessness of this class of octogenarians and promote our collective national interests, re-orientate the populace towards the path of core social and ethical values, and respect the dignity of the human person and for rule of law”.  To Lolomari, Enahoro and Marinho: Happy birthday!

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