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The late Captain Hosa: How he lived and departed

By Michael Egbejule, Benin City
16 October 2021   |   2:45 am
Family, friends, business and political associates of the late businessman and philanthropist, Capt. Idahosa Wells Okunbo, fondly called Capt. Hosa, last weekend, bade him their final farewell

Capt. Idahosa

Family, friends, business and political associates of the late businessman and philanthropist, Capt. Idahosa Wells Okunbo, fondly called Capt. Hosa, last weekend, bade him their final farewell in a grand style when his remains were laid to rest in Benin City, the Edo State capital.

Prominent personalities from across the country and beyond had stormed the Benin residence of the late patriarch of the Okunbo family to mourn with his children and relatives. The burial ceremonies, which spanned five days, literarily turned into a celebration amid torrents of tributes paid to the deceased. The convivial spirit, which the late Capt. Hosa displayed throughout his lifetime, pervaded the atmosphere from the beginning of the ceremonies to the end.

However, the countenance of the deceased’s wife, Mrs. Nosa Okunbo; an immediate younger brother, Kingsley Okunbo; eldest daughter and wife of the Olu of Warri, Atuwatse III, Olori Atuwatse; his brothers, Pastor Dadinson Okunbo, Robinson Okunbo and his sister, Mrs. Edith Nwagbuzor, clearly indicated that they were deeply pained by the death of their quintessential husband, father and brother.

Nevertheless, his younger brother, Kingsley, and his daughter, Olori Atuwatse III, who spoke on behalf of the family, we’re grateful to the Almighty God for the life the late Capt. Hosa led.  

“The day we pray never to come has come; our loss is heaven’s gain. Some people have come to show love; we cannot thank them enough. But this is the week that we expected to be able to do everything to celebrate our brother’s life and to be grateful to God for the life that he lived.

“As painful as it is that he has gone to be with the Lord, we are confident that he is heaven’s gain,” Kingsley said.

In her eulogy, Olori Atuwatse III described her late father as a man with many parts and purposes.

She said: “My father was a great man. He lived in service to humanity. My father worked on purpose and in doing so, encouraged others to find their parts and purpose in life.”

Many political bigwigs also paid glowing tributes to the deceased. Among them were Governors Godwin Obaseki (Edo State); Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos State); Dapo Abiodun (Ogun State) and Abubakar Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi State) and former President Goodluck Jonathan.

In his tribute, Obaseki described the late Capt. Hosa as a genius, bridge builder, business tycoon and philanthropist extraordinary.

The governor disclosed that he saw him as a man who was determined to surmount challenges and “pushed himself to the limit to achieve greatness, building an impressive business empire and transforming the lives of numerous people, most of them of Edo origin.”

He added: “The late Captain Okunbo was a trained pilot who mastered the air early in life and set for the land and the maritime sector, prevailing in all spheres. Captain Okunbo was an embodiment of hard work, perseverance, dexterity and acumen, which espoused his Edo heritage.

“Captain Hosa was a philanthropist who gave lavishly of himself and his resources. He will be remembered for his dying love for Edo people. His desires for the development and progress of our dear state, the Niger-Delta region and Nigeria, as well as his valuable contributions to building bridges across the country, must never be forgotten.
“In building a diverse business empire that spans maritime, transportation, logistics, agriculture, hospitality and security, he displayed rare business acumen, providing employment for thousands of Nigerians and contributing greatly to the development of the nation.”

To former President Goodluck Jonathan, the late Capt. Hosa lived an impactful life.

He said: “Capt. Okunbo was a great entrepreneur who contributed greatly to the growth of our nation through his hard work, discipline and perseverance. I do not know him too early in his life but I got to know when I got into politics and that was the beginning of our relationship.

“From a humble beginning, he ascended to the height of entrepreneurship and established himself as a great force in aviation, real estate, agriculture and of course the oil and gas where he touched many lives.

“With all his achievements as a successful businessman, Capt. Hosa remained a humble man and never lost his humanity; his love for people was evident in his philanthropy and in the several callings he championed over the course of his life.

“He will indeed be missed by many, including me. Not only his community but also all of us in this country because of the impactful friendship and relationship he cultivated while alive. May God almighty grant his soul eternal rest and grant his family the fortitude to bear this loss.”

Former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, described the deceased as a good example of the Edo fighting spirit.

“From a humble background, Capt. Okunbo would have given up because of what life threw at him but like a captain, he navigated his way into the limelight and fame.

“It is hard to find the right word to describe Captain as he was fondly called. He was unique in many respects. I heard about him from people who were close to him when I decided to contest the governorship in 2006/2007 when we met. He made a good impression on me. I saw him as someone who was frank. He gave me his full support at a time when people believed it was impossible to take the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) out of power.

“He was one of the few who believed that Edo can and should benefit from good governance. And even though I had not known him one-on-one, he knew me by reputation and since then we have had a very good and cordial relationship. When he is angry, he will tell it to your face and the next minute he will be smiling at you.

“I think for anyone who comes in close contact with him, you cannot but feel very pained by his demise. It appears that good people don’t seem to live long; there are a lot of people in Edo State who, looking back, can tell you that Capt. Hosa made them. What is more interesting is that he did demonstrate that you don’t have to be in government to impact positively the lives of people around you. Capt. Hosa showed that you can impact more than a government can do. He was an example of the Edo fighting spirit. He was a self-made man. He enjoyed creating and adding value; he wasn’t a red thinker and he had verifiable business addresses across the country, providing jobs for thousands of young men and women,” Oshiomhole said.

The former governor added that for the real Edo man, the death of Capt. Hosa was a huge loss, further describing him as a detribalised Nigerian.

A former Director-General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Julie Okah-Donli, narrated her encounter with the late Capt. Hosa while he was alive, describing him as a great humanitarian with a big heart.

“The deceased was like my father, my mentor. I met him many years ago. We met through my cousin, the late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, and coincidentally I was close to his business partner, who was my classmate, Tunde Ayeni.  So, our path kept on crossing from time to time and we just got close. We had that father-daughter relationship.

“He was the grand patron of the Roost Foundation. He was to be the chairman the day the foundation was launched but unfortunately he was ill and asked his executive director to represent him. Capt. Hosa kept talking to us on the phone, asking how it went and what he could do to make things work better. He was a great humanitarian, a philanthropist, as you all know.

“I was heartbroken when I heard about his demise. I knew he was ill but somehow I was hoping God was going to do a miracle and he would come back home alive. As a matter of fact, I planned to visit him in September but he did not wait for me. He allowed the August visitor into his house to take him away from us. His death was very devastating, very sad. It is one death that I have refused to let go; I will mourn him for a very long time.

“Thankfully, Capt. Hosa brought all his children together; they had a beautiful relationship. They are all very close and I pray that they will continue to be close because that is what Captain would have wanted.

“I pray that they would be consoled by the fact that their father was a great man loved by all and respected by all; his goodwill will continue to live after him.  I pray to God to continue to give them strength to overcome this painful loss,” Julie Okah-Donli said.

Also, a former governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, in his tribute, explained his relationship with the deceased, describing him as a man of peace.

“I met the late Capt. Hosa sometime in 1986. I went to the late Aikhomu and he introduced me to Capt. Hosa. I found him to be a very transparent person and from there we started relating. Sometimes, he came to my office and home in Lagos and gradually we became very close friends. From the time I met him till today, I didn’t find anybody who said this is what Capt. Hosa did that was bad. He was a man of peace. God created some human beings with a large heart.

“Each time Capt. Hosa came to me, he was always concerned about other people’s problems and how to solve them. He would call me saying, ‘Sheriff, you must do this.’ He was concerned about others while he kept his personal problems to himself. His death is a great loss to the nation. I visited him four times in London. I felt very sad when I heard that he has passed on. This is one man that cared for everybody. It will be difficult to find someone like him.”

Mohammed Abacha expressed sadness over Capt. Hosa’s death, saying he was a jolly fellow.

“I met Capt. Hosa when I was in the university; he was already a young pilot then and was flying for Okada Airline. He used to fly us on Lagos-Kano route as a youngster and we became friendly through someone who was already a pilot. This was over 30 years. Since then we became brothers and friends. Our relationship grew stronger and stronger,” he said.

A former House of Representatives member, Johnson Ehiozuwa Agbonayinma, said the deceased did not want to see anyone sad while alive.

“Can one really describe Capt. Hosa? He was irreplaceable; there is no other captain that can be like him in all ramifications. He was not just a friend but also a big brother that would cover your shame in any form. You can’t come to him and leave the same way you came. I wake up every day wondering why good people don’t last. Capt. Hosa didn’t want to see anybody sad. He was a true friend and was dear to me; he took care of my family. He was the reason I came back to Nigeria. He funded my trip; he gave me money to bring my family back to Nigeria. He set up a security company, Westminster, and said that I should head it. I never asked Capt. Hosa for money and I never lacked.”

In a heart-rending sermon during the burial service titled ‘Life is a Mystery’, Apostle Ekwueme Goodheart Obi enjoined Nigerians to always remember that life is a gift and live to please God and humanity.

“We all that are alive are indebted to God as no one owns his or her life. Life is a gift and we would render stewardship one day on how we used the life given unto us all. Life is like a vapour; we have to be careful about life,” he said.

Born in 1958, the late Capt. Hosa died on August 8, 2021, in the United Kingdom at 63 years during a brief illness. He was buried last Saturday in Benin City.