BY CHRISTY ANYANWU
Considering his good looks, Dr. Onah Ekhomu, the Benin-born security expert would pass for a model. Rather than opt for a career in showbiz, the martial arts trainer is treading the rough path of adding value to the country’s security apparatus. His wife and soul mate are co-workers on the field. Ekhomu, who revealed he a black belt holder in martial arts went down memory lane into his journey through the security field.
You are famous as a security expert, why have you chosen this field?
I started as a trainer. As a young man, I was a martial artist and I became a seconder, which means second degree, a black belt holder. When I graduated from High school in 1972, I started training Mobile policemen in Benin and soldiers from the Military base, hospital. I was training them in martial arts as part of their law enforcement duty. That was the earliest beginning. When I went to school in the United States in 1975, I helped a club again in my school. In doing that, you receive appreciation for what security is about, from the inside especially when you are dealing with police types. That heightened my interest. When I completed my schooling, I got involved with the technical side of security through referrals. I was known as a teacher. I got into alarm systems in the 80s and central monitoring stations and later on I was certified in different aspects of security. It wasn’t like I woke up one morning and took up the job, it was evolutionary. The elementary side of my journey into security job was when I started teaching police personnel in Benin, martial arrest in 1973. From there, I taught them arrest procedure; how to take down suspects, disarm people by collecting guns from them.
I understand your wife is into security too, was she one of your students ?
No. we met in 1980 in Benin. When I was at home on holiday and carrying out research for my PhD. By hanging around me, she became interested in the profession.
How is it like, working with your wife?
It’s fun. We try to draw a line between business and pleasure, and home. Of course we are the best of friends. We eat lunch together everyday, we mess around together but we do our works as professionals. In fact, she’s in charge of our worldwide security association (the Africa group), she’s the boss. We work as professionals, we get our jobs done. We keep the work/home separation strictly. Sometimes we carry the work home. We end up working at home. We carried out a lot of researches together. When I carry out research, she’s the first person I call to help me look into what I’m doing and when she was doing her papers as well, she bounced me off too and asked about my opinion. It’s fun in that regard. We are the best of friends, we don’t have problem in that regard. We have been doing that even when our company was a small one in the US because when we got married, she moved in with me to the US. We worked together in the same office. We are 36 years in marriage
When you are not talking security, how do you relax?
It depends on the time. Right now, we discuss Trump and Clinton and their politics. We have many children who are very engaging, and we have grandchildren too. There’s always something. Somebody is always doing something. She has brothers and sisters, and I do the same. Nigerian politics is there for someone to fall back on there are lots of discussion topics to discuss and we have shared interest. We workout together. When we were living in Ikeja, we used to visit National Stadium, Surulere together for many years. We attend the same seminars, conferences, and hang out together quite a bit. People always say that when they see me, they know she’s somewhere around and when they see me; her friends knew that her husband is in the vicinity somewhere. The joke is the day I was somewhere but she was there and they asked where was she? They asked very aggressively and I would reply, ‘no be me hide am o’. She travels a lot. So, when she travels and I go to church or function, like a wedding, our friends would tell me to go back because I was incomplete.
I also noticed that you are stylish, what informs that?
I don’t know about that o. I think my wife is a good teacher. She’s my fashion consultant. She tells me what to wear. For me, I’m brain dead in terms of fashion.
Even as a man, you have a clean complexion, do you do anything extra to look this handsome?
I don’t know about that (smiles) I have a lady in my church who is a dermatologist. We sat together in church and she was looking at my hand. She asked, Dr Onah what do you do to your skin? Even ordinary lotion, I don’t know how to rub. I think this is the way I was born. My father was very light in complexion. I think I took that from him. I don’t even have the time to rub cream.
What has life taught you as a person?
Life has been quite interesting and challenging also. You go out everyday, meet people, serve people and I found out the best time I do things for myself is when I serve others. When I serve others I found out that I’m serving nobody but myself really. Too many examples to illustrate that. When I go out on a selfless service; to do something for other people, it ends up benefiting me even greater. I have to share one story. Many years ago, I was the president of one security association. Global association of private securities in Nigeria, based in Abuja. When I was visiting the city, members of the association told me, please come and lead us on a courtesy visit to the ministry of interior now (Ministry of internal affairs). I was a bit reluctant. But I led the delegation. By the time we got there, we went to see the perm sec. He asked me the name of my organization and I gave him the name of my company. An officer was there and brought out a sheet of paper, after looking at the paper, the officer said, sir, are you aware that just yesterday, the license of your company was revoked? Who did that I asked, he said the minister approved it and it had been done. Sorry, you are no longer a licensed security company. Are you kidding me? All of a sudden the conversation has changed.
What happened? He said I should go and see one Miss Ojo. I went in and I was told my company had not paid renewal fee for three years. God forbid, because I have been sending the money. I had a representative in Abuja. I had been sending the money not knowing the guy had been ‘chopping’ the money, he was paying. When I asked for receipts he would reply I would send it sir. I now told them my predicament. Luckily we even got a document to show that we have been sending money to our man. She now then me to write a letter of appeal. I sat there; I wrote the appeal and submitted it. I came back to Lagos. A week later, they called me that the minister had approved the restoration of my license. The woman who convinced me to come with them, said sir, you were a bit reluctant to come with us, even though it’s not convenient for you, you still went with us. The good that you had done for us had robbed on you. Many times, I go out of my way to help someone and sometimes I call myself busy-body. I just want to help someone not that I want to benefit but at the end, my hands are full of blessings. life has taught me that a life of service is a life well lived.
Tell us about your forthcoming conference?
We are having a conference with the theme: ‘Terrorism face in Africa’. We said that terrorism had gone continental and it has different faces in different places. We have Isis, we have Al Queda, and we have Boko Haram and so on. Difference faces of Isis are showing up on the continent claiming lives. This is not a joke now, people are dying. Look at the North East of Nigeria now laid to waste, particularly Bornu State, northern Adamawa and the whole of Eastern Yobe is in ruins. To rebuild that place, the country needs trillions of naira which we don’t even have and people’s lives have been shattered permanently. A building or school that has been destroyed, you can rebuild it but when lives are destroyed, you cannot rebuild life. Let us look at the way terror presents itself in different parts of the continent. The point is to try to get understanding of what is really happening, why are there so many groups and how can we solve the problems of terrorism on the African continent. Its taking place between 22 and 23v of November in Lagos.