KB Omatseye rubber in Malaysia
Prince KB (actually Kenekueyero Boyewa) Omatseye was a household name that was more than a household name in our part of Nigeria which is the famed Niger Delta of people of glory in their land of immeasurable natural wealth given to them by the Almighty. In their respective ways various ethnic nationalities that inhabit the region relish their pride and desire to place them at the divine dawn of creation that carved them into what they have been and will always be. They know and understand who they are in regard to their purposes – to excel against all odds or to damn any venture or all ventures that want to damn them. Their very survival as ethnic nationalities of solid human beings who worship their future in their eternal present is a model many other ethnic nationalities cannot fathom. Of course, they have their unique problems of disagreements and quarrels and wrestles and battles, but they collectively constitute a kind of infinite progression towards and beyond the boundary of excellence they desire.
Prince KB Omatseye, of Itsekiri stock, who died on April 30, 2019, was one absolute personage of the Niger Delta region whose universe was beyond his expansive lucrative ventures and undertakings. When he died at the time and year he did, I was not in the position to goad myself to attend his wake. I was miles and miles away from our shores. Not long ago, however, his final burial events in line with the custom and tradition of his Itsekiri ethnic nationality were held in Sapele where he lived to a rich old age in wealth that was wealth, which he painstakingly but rightly made in the ancient booming coastal city of yore. The traditional burial events spanned several days. I attended the events of Saturday, 29 January, 2022. Prince Sunny Omatseye and Prince Tony Omatseye, his two most eldest sons, whom I had known since our boyhood decades in Papa’s land, as Sapele brought-ups call their wondrous Safa City, were hosts that were hosts who managed very handsomely the very handsome events. Their other siblings also played their roles as hosts who followed well the examples of their elderly brothers.
What one noticed first in the sprawling place and space of super entertaining gyrations of graceful Itsekiri gender-friendly dancers even in their moving acrobatics was the symbolic catafalque colourfully decorated to match the colourful occasion – which, like the gracefully-endowed Itsekiri acrobatic male and female dancers called Omoko, projected the ideas, desires and dreams of the departed, an Itsekiri cultural icon, among other outstanding things and qualities of his possession. Ancient dishes, utensils, clothes and other miscellaneous articles or equipment which constituted the paraphernalia of the glorious existence of the departed man and prince of graceful mark on this side of the great divide also did not escape one’s notice. Their artistic arrangement in a studio form spoke volumes that projected the artistic flavour and outlook which powered the mind of Prince KB Omatseye who was a grass-roots mobilizer and politician in the colour of the late Chief Festus Samuel Okotie-Eboh, this country’s first minister of finance who was his mentor in grass roots politics and in the art of selfless mobilization of mobilizers to serve the cause of his peoples and of this country your country my country our country.
But my wandering mind created space, bountiful space, for my imagination of superabundance. I took flight to several years back. When the Bendel State Branch of the Association of Nigerian Authors was to be launched in Benin City as the first branch in the country to be so launched at the main auditorium, the Akin Deko Auditorium, of the University of Benin, Prince KB Omatseye was our chief launcher. When I, as the arrow-head of the launch, broached the subject to him in his Amukpe, Sapele office, he did not hesitate to give me his nod. He was represented at the event by his first son Prince Sunny Omatseye. His launching money was money for super rich jingle-bells. Professor Chinua Achebe, Justice Rufus Ogbobine, Mr. S.M.O. Aka, Dr. Ikoyo-Eweto (Bendel State Government representative) all of whom graced the occasion, but are now late were proudly happy with his gesture – in the same way that other dignitaries, who included other government officials and academics from far and near, were. Prince KB Omatseye’s artistic mind compelled him to be our great giver and philanthropist. We always remembered him and the late Mr. Mike Negbenebor of Soccer Pools who took charge of the launch we gave to our numerous guests at the choicest hotel – Saidi Centre – in Benin City at that time. Then we still had a country.
Something else leapt into my mind and memory. In the United States where I was when Prince KB Omatseye’s wake held in 2019, his death was a subject in a gathering of Sapele brought ups and other Nigerians who were friends of Safarians. One Ibo chap who had just returned from a journey he made to Malaysia spoke glowingly of his discovery in the South East Asian country. In fact, his Malaysia friend, who was in our midst and company, corroborated the story we were told, to wit: KB. Omatseye rubber helped to make Malaysia. Roads in Malaysia and the leading international air-port (the name has escaped me) and other institutions, establishments and industries virtually in every part of the country were constructed and built mainly through proceeds from rubber which Malaysians came to get from Sapele. The Sapele rubber seedlings were transported profitably to Malaysia and planted there in huge and large numbers. They eventually became the main economic inspirer and developer of Malaysia. Specifically we were told that KB Omatseye rubber of Sapele was the best specie of rubber in the world and Malaysia owed its economic development to KB Omatseye. In other words, KB Omatseye rubber was the “crude oil” that made Malaysia the economic El Dorado that Nigerians and other nationals flock to today. Our gathering of Safarians in America became an Australian corroboree when we heard this pleasant news that was a healthy, and tall pleasant news that was beneficial to the image of Nigeria. We knew that the late Prince KB Omatseye was a merchant and tycoon of rubber in which he excelled, among other things (as the late Chief Festus Samuel Okotie-Eboh also was), but we never knew that his fame flew to Malaysia as we learnt – in the Unites States. Truly, truly and truly we were on top of the world. But we were equally saddened. Why could Nigerian leaders not give the right economic attention to rubber as Malaysia did and are still doing? (Of course we were familiar with the tale of oil-palm seedlings that Malaysians came to Nigeria to harvest for their country, but we never knew that K.B. Omatseye rubber was highly rated in that country until we learnt what I have just narrated).
These thoughts and more were mainly the pictures I drew in my mind as the sights of my mind convinced me to draw in Sapele on the afore-mentioned Saturday, 29 January, 2022. May Prince KB Omatseye, OFR, an excellent example of a Niger Delta merchant and tycoon not be obliterated from our yearning and questing minds of remembrance. His middle name Boyewa (one who enters his world in glory/greatness) and his first name Kenekueyero (everyone has his life to live) were apt and fitting names that captured his destiny. That was the fitting sentence that my tongue silently uttered as I took my leave.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.