By Chinelo Obogo
Allen Onyema, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, discovered his passion early in life. He is indeed exceptional for his humanity.
As an undergraduate at the University of Ibadan, he developed the reputation for diplomacy and conflict resolution. He had led a group of students from the University of Ibadan to help quell a religious and ethnic riot that claimed lives in Zaria, Kaduna State. Upon his return from Zaria, he spearheaded the formation of Eminent Friends’ Group, which was formed with the objective of promoting ethnic harmony.
Born in Mbosi in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, Onyema attended several schools, including St. Anthony’s Secondary School, Azia; Urhobo College, Effurun and Government College, Ughelli, Delta State, and University of Ibadan, where he read Law. He graduated in 1987, attended Law School and was called to bar in 1989.
While at the Law School, he invested in social activism to foster peace. After a stint at a law firm on a salary of N500 monthly, he established his own firm, Onyema and Company. From the resources he made, he played a major role in restoring peace in the Niger Delta at the peak of the bombing of oil pipelines by militants. His efforts in ensuring that peace returned to the Niger Delta paid off. It was this effort that brought about the Amnesty Programme of the Federal Government.
In 2005, Onyema initiated the First Nigeria Forever Project, an initiative for the promotion of broad nationalism as opposed to ethnic nationalism. He subsequently won for Nigeria the hosting rights of Global Conference on Non-violence and Peace in 2007.
When in 2013, he established Air Peace, a commercial airline; his focus was on job creation, rather than profit. Presently, the airline employs over 3, 000 workers and currently services 17 domestic routes, five regional routes and two international destinations, including Johannesburg.
With Air Peace, he has taken his act of philanthropy to higher level. In 2019, the world watched in horror as xenophobic attacks were unleashed on Nigerians living in South Africa by South Africans.
Many Nigerians lost their lives and property in the attacks. Onyema deployed his planes free to South Africa and evacuated Nigerians who were willing to return. He spent over N280 million in this philanthropic gesture.
Last year, when Coronavirus ravaged the world, Onyema also used Air Peace to help humanity. At a time other airlines grounded their fleets, he made available Air Peace planes for evacuation of Nigerians and other nationals. It was also his aircraft that brought Nigeria’s COVID-19 vaccines and other medical equipment that helped the nation in the fight against the pandemic.
For his philanthropy, peacemaking efforts, diplomacy and reconciliation, Onyema is winner of The Sun EXCEPTIONAL PHILANTHROPIST Award.