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As Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion, CFR, Esama of Benin Kingdom turns 86, not few people will call to mind, fact that he is one of Nigeria's most successful business leaders whose economic, social and cultural activities have touched many lives. He is a billionaire of many years standing and a notable philanthropist. Born September 11 1934 in Okada community, Ovia North-East Local Government Area of Edo State, Igbinedion is frontline traditional title holder in Benin Kingdom. At 40 in 1974, when he was conferred with exalted chieftaincy title, Esama, by Uku Akpolokpolo, Omo NOba NEdo Akenzua II, Oba of Benin, he was said to be one of youngest ever to be so honour in the Kingdom. However, he had long before then, acquired fame and wealth. Among Nigeria business men of his generation, Igbinedion stands out as a man who has score many firsts in his business life. In aviation industry, his Okada Airline, established in 1983, was the first privately owned airline in the country with a large fleet of aircraft. His entry into the sector brought dramatic changes, as most local travelers experience, for the first time, practice of taking the next available flight. It became popular for that and consigned to history, disgusting experience of waiting endlessly for the Government's own airline that was notorious for not adhering to schedule. That is why today, commercial motorcycles, fallout of economic downturn and failure of successive governments to provide efficient transport system and road infrastructure, go by the name Okada, particularly in southern parts of Nigeria. Igbinedion may have also been among the first few Nigerians to own an executive jet. Soon after the establishment of his Okada Airline, Benin Chief purchased the BAC 1-11 executive jet that was originally owned by Ferdinand Marcos, deposed president of the Philippines. In 1999, he established Igbinedion University, Okada, first private university in the country. One of the landmark achievements of the university is that it is the first private university in sub Saharan Africa to produce medical doctors. The university also prides itself on producing the first graduate from a private university to earn first class at Nigeria Law School. That is one of Igbinedions valuable contributions to the development of the education sector in Nigeria. Way back in 1968, he established Mid Motors Nigeria as the first indigenous motor assembly plant in the country. His expansive business empire also covers petroleum and gas marketing, shipping, haulage, road transport, confectionery and hospitality, radio and television broadcasting, banking, salt manufacturing, crude oil exploration, solid minerals, soft drinks bottling, real estate, fruit and fish farming, palm oil production, among others. Through his numerous business interests, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion became one of the major employers of labour in Nigeria. His philanthropic gestures have equally changed lives across the country. Across the country, Esama of Benin has won many well deserved traditional titles, largely as a result of his philanthropic gestures.
The title Esama traditionally means son of People, with responsibilities including assisting the poor in medial, monetary and private venture forms. He was suspended from participating in palace activities in 2008. It is on record that Oba of Benin did not declare Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion as an enemy as it was widely circulate. On 13 June 2012, the palace press release informed the general public that the suspension of Chief GO Igbinedion had been lift. This was affirmation that Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion is still Esama of Benin Kingdom. Esama of Benin's business empire includes an international property portfolio and a private TV and radio station. He owns a private bank, oil refinery, diamond, gold, marble mines all over Africa, private university and a large number of hotels. He previously owned now-defunct private airline, Okada Air, with over 40 aircraft. He has built numerous churches, including the Grand Catholic Cathedral, and has set up and own number of private hospitals across Nigeria.
Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion is a businessman and Esama of Benin Kingdom. The title Esama traditionally means Son of people, with responsibilities including assisting the poor in medial, monetary and private venture forms. He was suspended from taking part in Palace activities in 2008. He was born on September 11 1934 to the family of Chief Josiah Oviawe Igbinedion and Madam Okunozee Igbinedion at Okada Village, in present Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo State, Nigeria. Gabriel is the only surviving child of his parents. His mother was daughter of Ihaza of Usen, descendant of the Usen Royal Family with a proud history. He lost his father die when he was just nine years old and inherited a house in the Village and six cocoa plantations. His mother was a big trader, selling fish. He sold kerosene for seven pence for more than three years when he was houseboy and also go to fetch firewood from the bush five times a week. T He young Gabriel began his primary education at Roman Catholic School, Okada, now known as. Gabriels Primary School Okada. He then moved to Benin, where he enrol at Benin Baptist School, now known as Emokpae Primary School on Mission Road in Benin City, after short periods at Ezomo Baptist School and Ore Oghene Primary School, all located in Benin City. Gabriel Igbinedion started working at an early age and some of his earliest jobs were assisting his uncle with block moulding and trading rubber and timber in Benin. He served in Ogbomosho as a police officer in the early 1940s. He also serves as orderly to Awolowos wife. When he was deployed to Awolowo, Awo's wife snatched him and he started driving her car. Motivate by a lot of factors, he left Nigeria Police Force in 1963. The first of which had to do with poor pay in the Force that could no longer sustain him and his family and also, service in Nigeria Police Force do not quite satisfy the enthusiasm of young Igbinedion. There were few serious challenges and the decision-taking process was such that initiatives from lower ranks were hardly entertain. For any ambitious young man, and in this case for young Igbinedion with Mission, Nigeria Police Force does not seem quite the right place. Igbinedion joined the private sector in 1964 when he moved to Benin to become regional Sales manager of Leventis. He left Leventis in 1967 and established a motor sales and service firm, Mid-Motors which was partially funded with Bank loans. In the 1970s, his firm began assembling Hino Trucks in the country and it is considered the first motor assembly plant in Nigeria. The firm obtained distributorships with Hino Motors, Yamaha, Nedion Fiat and Marcopolo buses. Igbinedion later ventured into bottling with Okada dry with the help of Canada dry and Okada airlines which he launched in the early 1980s. He purchased his first private aircraft through Mr.
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