By Iheanacho Nwosu, Editor, Daily Sun
WHEN High Chief Obiora Okonkwo, PhD, said that the reflation of Nigeria’s economy was tied majorly to the quantum of entrepreneurial engagements that take place in the country, he sure knew what he was talking about. As a businessman, whose endeavours run through entertainment, hospitality and air transportation, he knows that the oxygen of any country is the economy.
Born in Gombe, North-East Nigeria to Anambra State parents, Okonkwo is an accomplished entrepreneur and chairs the boards of several companies. These include The Dome Entertainment and Hospitality Limited, an umbrella organisation comprising The Summit Restaurant and Lounge, The Camelot Spa, The Bodytrust Health and Fitness Bar, The Francis Hotel, The Bowling Alley, Twins Café and Bakery, Noni’s Pizza; Solicom Engineering Limited, Private Airline Services Limited (PASL), owners and operators of United Nigeria Airlines and Rokada Security Company Limited among others. He is founder of Nigeria-Belgium Business Forum, among other business fora.
Okonkwo holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Political Science (with distinction), from the Russian Academy of Science, Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Moscow, a Professional Fellowship Doctorate from the Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria and Fellowship of the Institute of Chartered Arbitrators and Mediators of Nigeria. He earned a Master of Science degree in Economics, also with Distinction, from the Russian Peoples Friendship University in Moscow and a First Class in Economics from the Russian Peoples Friendship University in Moscow.
Okonkwo started his foray into business as a schoolboy who assisted his father in trading at Onitsha. At that time, he was also involved in managing a horde of apprentices under his father. When his dad fell ill, it was only natural that young Obiora, even at the age of 16, took up the responsibility of overseeing the affairs of the business. That experience and interaction at that very young age helped to shape his business acumen. Today, he sits atop a big businesses empire that employs hundreds of Nigerians and expatriates. He recently ventured into the air transportation business, with the establishment of United Nigeria Airline, which will take off this year, with the aim of bringing innovation, professionalism, class, luxury and style to the aviation industry.
Speaking on his interest in tourism, which influenced his establishment of Dome Entertainment in Abuja, Okonkwo said: “I believe that what you are seeing as the Dome is a tourist destination for the city of Abuja. It has attracted a lot of interests both within and outside Abuja. It is part of our contribution so far, in this area. The Dome is one of the private investments and it is one of the biggest in tourism and entertainment. You cannot talk about tourism without talking about entertainment. They have also aided some rising stars.”
He believes that government could boost tourism by taking interest in festivals, through which huge revenues could be generated.
Okonkwo is also an astute intellectual who has delivered many lecturers where he addresses Nigeria’s challenges. In September last year, he delivered two lectures entitled Media, Democratic Governance and Development in Nigeria and Giving Back to Society at the Media Summit of the Anambra Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Awka. Before that, in August 2019, he delivered a seminal paper on ‘Sustainable Millennium Goals and Its Impact on Youths’ at an event to mark the International Youth Day held at the Shanahan Hall of the Basilica of the Holy Trinity, Onitsha in Anambra state.
In July 2019, he delivered a paper entitled ‘Leadership and Service in the Nigerian Democratic System’ at the annual retreat of the South East Zone of Heads of Federal Establishments and Parastatals Forum, in Agulu, Anambra State. A month earlier, he was on the podium to deliver a lecture entitled ‘The Media and National Integration in Nigeria’ at a colloquium by the Enugu State Council of the NUJ.
He was the 2018 laureate of the Faculty of the Social Sciences, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), where in May of that year, he delivered a seminal lecture entitled ‘The Value of Diversity: Restructuring to Save Nigeria.’ His major publications include: ‘Democracy and Development: A Prolegomena For growth,’ published in Okwadike, a commemorative book on the 80th birthday of a former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife.