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The Great Life of A Pioneer

Igbinedion as a Benin family name is now a household word. It has become synonymous with Aviation, Industry, Education, Finance, Medical Care and Rural Development at local, national and international levels. The man who has made this possible in Africa is Sir (Dr.) Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion, the Esama of Benin Kingdom.

Chief Igbinedion has attained great heights in life reminiscent of great achievers. He is a philanthropist and and a humanist of national dimensions and an industrialist of international fame...read on



The present Benin Kingdom is the remains of the once great Benin Empire which at the zenith of its power spanned from the River Niger to the East, to parts of the present Ondo State to the North and the Atlantic Ocean to the South. The Western boundaries of the Empire varied from time to time but it remained more consistently at Eko (Lagos) from the reign of Oba Orhogbua in 1565.

The Benin Empire remains in history as one of the oldest and most prominent of all the empires of West Africa and indeed Africa and was certainly the most stable of the four empires the Yoruba, Hausa-Fulani and Bornu empires that dominated the political landscape of the present day Nigeria. Endowed with such proud origins, there is little wonder therefore that the Benin Empire was also blessed with heroes, heroines and achievers of both national and international fame. Naturally most of these are members of the royal family, notably kings and queens like Ewuare, Ozolua, Esigie, Idia and Ovonramwen, to name a few, who contributed in one way or another to the establishment, consolidation, expansion and defence of the Benin Empire.

While Ewuare and Ozolua were essentially empire builders, Esigie and Idia were both empire builders and consolidators of Benin superiority, Ovonramwen was an embodiment of Benin resistance to foreign domination.

Among those heroes of the Empire who were not strictly of the royal family were citizens like Asoro who fought gallantly in defence of the independence of his people against the British colonial invaders. Benin as an empire ended officially in 1897 but the Kingdom which replaced it did not cease to be endowed with the attributes of the Empire which it succeeded. Heroes and achievers remained in the Kingdom, albeit in different forms, thanks to the persistence of the historical consciousness, the lessons and achievements of the founding ancestors. The heroes of modern Benin Kingdom need not be defenders of the independence and pride of the Kingdom in the style adopted by the heroes of old. The circumstances and strategies are now different but the goal of protecting and projecting the image and prestige of the Kingdom

remains the same. One of such heroes and achievers who has been contributing to the prestige of the Kingdom is Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion to whom this documentary biography is dedicated.

Chief Igbinedion's heroic contribution is in the form of putting back the Kingdom on the map of the world as in the days of old. Benin Empire had acquired international status in the 16th century as an empire of commerce and cultural excellence, a situation that was marred partially by the event of 1897. The Benin Kingdom today has sufficiently regained a large portion of its lost glory not in terms of territorial size, but in international fame through the conscious activities of contemporary Benin heroes.

The Benin Kingdom has produced, in Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion, the first Nigerian to set up an indigenous motor distribution company in 1968 to market Japanese made vehicles such as Hino trucks, buses and Mazda cars as well as Polish manufactured Nedion Fiat vehicles in Nigeria. Chief Igbinedion was the first Nigerian to establish trade links with British Chrysler Company for the importation and sale of Chrysler vehicles in the country. The Benin Kingdom has also produced, through Chief Osawaru Igbinedion, the first Nigerian to establish a vehicle assembly plant in Nigeria in 1972 and even more importantly, the Kingdom also produced, through Chief Igbinedion, an entre­preneur in the private airline industry in 1983; the Okada Airlines Limited, the largest private airline in the continent of Africa: Through the airline, whose logo is the famous 16th century Ivory mask of Queen Idia, seized by the British in 1897, and held in the British Museum, the world is again reminded of the history and greatness of the Benin Kingdom. Queen Idia remains in history as one of the greatest women warriors of all time. As the mother of Oba Esigie (1504-1550), she led Benin warriors in defence of the territorial integrity of the Benin Empire including the Benin-Idah War of 1515-1516. The use of the Queen Idia ivory mask as the symbol of the Okada Airline emphasizes the importance Chief Igbinedion attaches to the spirit of nationalism of the Benin people and to the place of Benin heroes and heroines in the sustenance of Benin pride.

Similarly, the Kingdom was made proud in other circumstances. It produced through Chief Igbinedion, the highest donor to the 1984/85 Bendel State Development Fund, the Cross Rivers State Development Fund, the Plateau State Development Fund, Langtang Chapter, Niger State Development Fund, and the highest donor in Nigeria to the Southern Africa Relief Fund, being Chief Igbinedion's contribution to the dismantling of apartheid arid the freedom of Nelson Mandela. He was also the first individual in Africa to provide and maintain a point-to-multipoint microwave telephone system to link Okada, his home town, to the world, a project commissioned by Col. A. Tanko Ayuba, the then Minister of Communications on 10th August 1987. Chief Osawaru Igbinedion was the first Nigerian to establish the largest and best equipped private hospital and medical research centre in Nigeria and West Africa.

With thirty six aircraft in his airline fleet, the Okada Airlines Limited, Chief Igbinedion is qualified for the Guinness Book of Records and with him the Kingdom of Benin. He was the first indigene of Benin Kingdom to be granted the private radio and television license in Nigeria. He is also a pioneer Nigerian indigenous prospector in the oil industry having been granted rights over OPL 471. This illustrious son of Benin began his life from very humble origins. This biography investigates these origins and estimates how they came to influence his present life pattern.

Like many biographical surveys, this work studies the life and times of the subject, Chief Igbinedion, from the cradle to adulthood, his moments of trial, his failures and successes up to his sixtieth birthday which was celebrated on the 11th of September 1994. Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion rose from humble origins in the rural setting of Okada in Ovia North-East Local Government Area of Edo State, to become a world citizen of a rare significance

within a short span of barely three score years. It is the making of this man that constitutes the subject of our study, and it is our candid intention to present him to our readers in the way he is and has been, avoiding as much as possible undue embellishments. Our principal objective is not only to write a biography of the person in focus but to write one that can form effectively one more source of materials on Nigerian biographies.

In this biography, we have attempted to adopt a chronological approach in our investigation. By this we mean, tracing the life and times of the subject from birth, through boyhood to manhood, identifying his failures as well as his trepidations and successes along the length and breath of his life. The idea is to unfold him from the beginning to the present, presenting him in the way he has been from stage to stage in order to afford the reader the benefit of understanding and appreciating his developmental process. In this regard efforts have been made, as much as possible, to present him under the various titles he has passed through in his path of life from Master through Mister to Chief, Doctor and Sir

This biography has been written to commemorate the 60th birthday of Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion.













A great son of Africa who has become a towering international success. This is the powerful moving biography of one man's determination to win- H. R. H. Oba Lamidi Adeyemi lll, The Alaafin of Oyo
This remarkable biography weaves the story of an endlessly fascinating man, his family and business empire- Dr. Brian Aghedo PhD
Do you have what it takes to be an industrialist, businessman and philanthropist? Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion's life story tell how, withouth mortaginng your soul- Chief Pearnel Charles, Jamaica
Sir Igbinedion is a great man of trmemendous and unqualified resources. His humility and great service to humanity coupled with his willingness to help the less-privileged has earned him respect and admiration the world over- Prince Abubakar Audu, former executive governor of Kogi State, Nigeria.
Igbinedion does not believe in failure, he says, "don't be afraid, everyone has them and sometimes they can be resurrected with resounding success- Alfred Eghobamien Esq.SAN

Afew Acknowledgement of Chief Igbinedion's Sense of Philanthropy

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