Magnus Eze, Enugu and Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka
Business mogul and founder of The Dome Entertainment Centre, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, yesterday instituted an Entrepreneurial Research Chair at the Unizik Business School, into the Onitsha Main Market as a central hub of Igbo enterprise development.
The research, according to him, would document the beginning, the growth and development of entrepreneurship at the Onitsha Main Market, which at a time, was the largest market in West Africa.
Announcing the project, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK), Awka, Anambra State, after he was conferred with an award as Business Philanthropist of the Year by the Unizik Business School, at the ongoing 2nd edition of its International Conference in Awka with the theme, “Re-Engineering Africa’s Economies Towards Sustainable Business Development,” Okonkwo said the coming generation of Nigerians have a lot to learn from the entrepreneurial spirit of the Igbo man which according to him, developed from the Main Market at Onitsha.
He stated that before the emergence of large markets in Lagos, the main market held sway as the hub of Igbo enterprise, adding that “at that time, every Igbo billionaire took off from the Main Market in Onitsha.”
Relating that to his humble beginnings in business, Okonkwo recalled that, “I had my first lessons in trading at the Onitsha Main Market, rising from there to become who I am today.”
He noted that most Igbo businessmen and women of the time had their offices in Onitsha and only travelled to Lagos on holidays.
He said that though the trend has changed, a proper study of the market and the growth of the apprenticeship system in Igboland would add value to business innovations that would sustain growth and ensure enterprise survival.
Noting that the upcoming generation of Igbo businesses must learn from mistakes of their forebears, Okonkwo regretted that the exploits of Sir Louis Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who at a time was the biggest name in business in Africa, ended with his passage.
He said Sir Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s contemporaries in Europe, America and Asia, have their names as super brands wondering why same failed in Nigeria.
Dr. Okonkwo challenged the UNIZIK Business School to use the research to help create innovations that would turn Nigerian businesses into super brands appreciated world over.
He said, “I am therefore happy that the management of Nnamdi Azikiwe University accepted the challenge to start a business school that will transform lives and help bring innovation to our traditional trading practice. I was at the maiden convocation dinner organized in honour of graduands of the executive MBA programme of the business school last May. I was highly elated to see a crop of young Nigerians graduate from your programme. Seeing them tells me that there are no limits to what Unizik Business School can achieve in the lives of our people.
“It is for this reason that I accepted to be part of you today. It is also for this reason that I have decided to commit myself to funding a research into what makes Onitsha Main Market such a giant hub in the creation of great businessmen and women with deep insights and guts even when they have no university education.