Renowned Nigerian industrialist, business mogul and publisher of the defunct Post Express Newspapers, Chief Sonny Iwedike Odogwu, has passed on. The elder statesman and the Ide Ahaba of Asaba Kingdom in Delta State died in Lagos on November 5. Odogwu was the founder of SIO Group of Companies, a holding entity with investments in property, shipping, finance, industrial relations and hotel management.
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Odogwu’s passage has attracted eulogies by some Nigerians. In his tribute, President Muhammadu Buhari observed that “through his vast business networks, range of skills and perspectives, the late Odogwu demonstrated deep understanding and commitment in empowering indigenous businesses, encouraging entrepreneurship and creating thousands of employment opportunities for Nigerians.” To former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the deceased was an “inspiring and frontline indigenous industrialist, an accomplished administrator, a foremost businessman and a tireless philanthropist.”
Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa said “Odogwu demonstrated his large heart in Nigeria by creating and supporting an educational endowment fund for the education of the underprivileged students in secondary schools.” Also former Delta State governors, Chief James Ibori and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan have extolled the sterling qualities of the deceased.
According to Ibori, “the late Odogwu was among the first generation of businessmen to challenge the expatriates in specialised businesses such as insurance and shipping. Even when the insurance sector of the Nigerian economy was under the control of the white colonialists, Chief Odogwu was audacious enough to set up Dyson and Dikets Insurance Brokers in 1953.”
Born on March 20, 1931 in Calabar, Cross River State, Odogwu started school at Government Elementary School, Lagos. He also attended Ilesha Grammar School and Lagos Grammar School. The deceased worked as a trainee pilot, Operations Department, Nigeria Airways, 1944-1948. Odogwu was a trainee Insurance Inspector and Manager, Norwich Union Insurance Company (Bewac, Lagos), 1948-1952. In 1953, he established Dyson and Diket (Insurance Brokers).
Odogwu also worked as Insurance Inspector, Pearl Assurance Company, London and Manager, C.T. Bowring (Insurances), London and Manager, Swiss General Insurance Company, Zurich, Switzerland, 1954-1958. Later, he became the Assistant Director, C.T. Bowring (Insurances), Nigeria Office. He was the Proprietor and Managing Director, African Underwriters Ltd and Managing Director, African Pruden- tial Insurance Company Ltd, 1966 and later became the chairman of the firm. Odogwu became the Director, Robert Bradford Group of Companies (Lloyds) and Odogwu Bradford Savil Ltd, 1967- 1870.
He served as the Chairman, Odogwu Group of Companies Ltd, 1970-1976. He was a member of many professional associations including the Association of Chartered Insurance Institute, London; Association of the Corporation of Insurance Brokers, London; Fellow of the Corporate Insurance Brokers (FCIB); Underwriting member at Lloyds, London and Fellow of the Corporation of Insurance Practitioners (FCIP).
The deceased was conferred with the Zik Leadership Award in Business in 1997 and Africa’s best businessman in 1998 when he received The World Bank Group/IMF African Club prize in Business Leadership. He was awarded the national honour of the Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR) in 2004 by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo. His other traditional titles include, Eze Udo 1 of Ogwashi Uku; Ononenyi of Amandugba; Igbologboobi of Ubulu; Nkume 1 of Eziama, Aba; Ekwedike 1 of Aba zone; Sobaloju of Ogbere, Ijebuland; and Tobalase of Ojoland, Lagos.
Without doubt, Odogwu was a great Nigerian patriot, a businessman and a philanthropist. The deceased was a role model and mentor to many Nigerian businessmen and industrialists. He contributed immensely to the growth of insurance business in the country. Those in insurance business should emulate his shining example. He was a detribalised Nigerian and a patron of the arts.
We call on the Federal Government to immortalise him for his contributions to insurance business and national development. We commiserate with his family, business associates and Delta State government for the great loss. May God grant his soul eternal repose.