The drama that played out at the book launch of a former Managing Director of The SUN, Mr. Eric Osagie, at the Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, on December 10, 2019, was more than what attendees must have expected.
The launch of the book titled, ‘The Big Interviews’, came barely months after the general elections and attracted several dignitaries including then All Progressives Congress national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole; chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Uche Secondus; Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike; and several others.
After both the PDP and the APC had traded sufficient insults, it was time for the book launch proper, which eventually became an opportunity for a display of financial capacity.
Wike launched the book for N20m, saying, “To launch this book and support Eric … I am not afraid of naming anything. I am not afraid of anybody. I will support him and launch this book with the sum of N20m.”
Oshiomhole, who was next, said he was not as rich as Wike and subsequently donated N500,000.
“We will negotiate and I will pay what I can afford and it will not be in excess of what I earn in a month.
“I will transfer it to you quietly because there is a new revenue board (FIRS) chairman. He will ask that we deduct consumption tax. So, thank you, I will support you with N500,000,” Oshiomhole said.
APC stalwart, Bola Tinubu, who was represented by his Media Aide, Tunde Rahman, donated N5m; ditto for Governor Bello Masari of Katsina State.
However, when many thought the show was over, a soft-spoken Captain Hosa Okunbo, the Chief Executive Officer, Ocean Maritime Security, donated N25m on behalf of himself and his company, thereby emerging as the biggest donor at the event.
“Who is this Captain Hosa?” An attendee whispered.
Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo, popularly known as ‘Captain Hosa,’ had been many things in his life time.
Having retired as a commercial pilot at the age of 30, he embraced entrepreneurship in the late 1980s and became a business tycoon. He soon established himself in various sectors, including oil and gas, agriculture, marine security and logistics, real estate, hotel and hospitality, aviation, entertainment, energy, telecoms and manufacturing; and had sat on the boards of several companies.
Although he was not a member of any political party, his role in the 2020 Edo State governorship election and feud with his former friend, Governor Godwin Obaseki, brought him unprecedented exposure, given how intense the campaign to remove Obaseki was.
Obaseki, who is also a son of Benin like Okunbo, had been involved in a feud with his predecessor and godfather, Oshiomhole.
Amid the feud, Okunbo said he visited Obaseki and knelt before him, asking him to end his fight with Oshiomhole but that the gesture proved abortive.
This was despite the fact that Okunbo was a close friend of Obaseki’s father and older than the governor.
In an interview with The Vanguard on September 7, 2020, the business mogul said, “I was in his house for three hours. I knelt down, begging. I said for the sake of the state, I don’t want this animosity to continue; whatever it takes, please close it out.
“That same night, when I got home, I got a call from a common friend in Lagos, who told me ‘Godwin said you should stay out of this matter, otherwise, you might be collateral damage’.
“I said, collateral damage? Me? Should I ask him? The person said I should ask him. The next morning, I called him. I said ‘Ogierebor (that is what I call him), this is what this guy told me.’
“He said, ‘Yes, it is fight to the finish oh. You better stay away so that you will not be caught up in the middle.’”
Eventually, Obaseki orchestrated Oshiomhole’s suspension from the APC. Oshiomhole, who also retaliated, ensured that Obaseki was disqualified from the APC primary and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu was given the APC ticket.
Okunbo switched sides and publicly endorsed Ize-Iyamu and funded his campaign, while Oshiomhole and APC and former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, also assisted in the massive campaign to oust Obaseki.
Obaseki joined the opposition Peoples Democratic Party and ran a campaign with the slogan, ‘Edo no be Lagos,’ which was done to portray the governor’s candidacy as one that would bring an end to politics of godfatherism.
Obaseki won his re-election on September 20, 2020.
Okunbo was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late 2020 and was in the United Kingdom for treatment.
In a statement he issued in October, Okunbo said it was wicked of people to insinuate that he was sick because of his role in the Edo State governorship election.
“My attention has been drawn to a rash of social media posts concerning my health and the inhuman manner in which it is being orchestrated to look as if it was as a result of the outcome of the September 19 Edo State governorship election, in which I publicly supported Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
“It is evidently ungodly for people to gloat over the fact that I am not feeling well. God does not approve of such disposition and those who engage in that pastime are only mocking and playing God.”
In January 2021, he was also involved in a highly publicised feud with former Skye Bank Chairman, Tunde Ayeni, over a business deal worth millions of dollars.
In addition to his business exploits, Okunbo was also a philanthropist and gave to numerous causes.
The business tycoon, who is believed to be one of the richest men from Edo State, passed on at the age of 63 on August 8, 2021.