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Men You Should Know: Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion

The life’s journey of Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion started in the small farming village of Okada, in the present Ovia North-East Local Government Area of Edo State, Nigeria, on 11th September 1934. He was born to the late Josiah Agharagbon Oviawe Igbinedion and Madam Okunozee (nee Ihaza) a descendant of the Royal House of Usen.

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Igbinedion: Business Mogul

The Esama of Benin’s name became most prominent due to the business empire that was established by him. Part of these includes an international property portfolio and a private TV and radio station. He also owns a private bank, oil refinery, diamond, gold, marble mines over Africa, a private university (Igbinedion University, the first private university in Nigeria) and a large number of hotels. He previously owned the now-defunct private airline, Okada Air, of over 40 aircraft (planes and helicopters). He has built numerous churches including a Grand Catholic Cathedral, and has set up and owns a number of private hospitals across Nigeria.

It is no easy task to render an exhaustive account of Chief Igbinedion’s conquest on the global business arena. However, it is pertinent to say

“The Chief’s numerous companies have over the years had interest in diverse areas such as aviation, radio and television broadcasting, banking, salt manufacturing, crude oil exploration, solid minerals, soft drinks bottling, real estate, fruit and fish farming, palm oil production, petroleum and gas marketing, shipping, haulage, road transport, confectionery and hospitality, among many others.” (Facebook – Nigeria Book of Records)

But perhaps one of his greatest legacies will be the pioneering of Mid Motors (Nig.) Limited in 1968, the first indigenous motor assembly plant in Nigeria.

Igbinedion: A Name and a Businessman

During the peak of Nigeria’s oil boom in 1981, Chief Igbinedion saw the need for the active participation of the private sector in the aviation industry. In that same year, Chief Igbinedion purchased his first private aircraft through Mr. Derek Lowe of Executive Jet Sales. The HS125, was launched and blessed at Benin Airport by His Royal Majesty Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Omo N’Oba Erediuwa, the Oba of Benin. Thereafter, in 1983 Chief Igbinedion boldly recorded the first private initiative in the fledgeling industry when he established Okada Airline Ltd. His next venture was the purchase of a BAC 1-11 executive jet which was formerly owned by the deposed President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines.

In addition to his exploits in the aviation industry, He has also established companies in the industrial, commercial and education sectors and sub-sectors of Nigeria. He is the Founder/Chairman of the Board of Igbinedion Education Centre, Benin City, Edo State; The School comprises Nursery, Primary and Secondary Schools in addition to the Igbinedion Montessori Teacher Training Centre, Benin City. He is also the Founder/Chairman, Board of Regents and Chancellor of Igbinedion University, Okada.

Academic, Honorary and Professional Awards

Honorary Doctorate Degrees have been conferred on him by seven universities in Nigeria and three universities abroad. Chief Igbinedion has received honorary awards from 38 organisations and bodies including the Paul Harris Fellow. He has also received Professional Awards from 12 prestigious professional bodies.

This formidable accomplishment was not surprising as Chief Igbinedion had before then held sway in the education sub-sector as the Chairman of the Board of the Igbinedion Education Centre, an international school he co-founded with his wife Lady Cherry Igbinedion in 1991. Igbinedion Education Centre comprises:

– Igbinedion Montessori Nursery/Primary School

– Igbinedion Secondary School

– Igbinedion Montessori Teacher Training Centre

The Igbinedion Education Centre is today the sole trustee of the Montessori Concept of Early Childhood Education in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Appointments and Chieftaincy Titles

He is Grand Patron of twenty-one national and international organisations.

Other appointments granted to him include:

– Appointed Justice of the Peace (JP) by the then Bendel State Government (1986).

– Award of Africa’s Man of the Year 1998 by African World News (1988)

– He has been honoured with over 32 chieftaincy titles across the country, including the Esama of the Benin Kingdom and The Gwang Taruk of Jos among many others.

His present appointments include:

– Chairman/Group Managing Director, Okada Group of Companies.

– Founder/Chairman, Board of Directors, Igbinedion Education Centre, Benin.City.

– Founder/Honourable Chancellor/Chairman, Board of Regents, Igbinedion University Okada, Edo State.

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Igbinedion: Esama of Benin

Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion is the Esama of the Benin Kingdom in Nigeria. The title Esama traditionally means the “Son of the people”, with responsibilities including assisting the poor in medial, monetary and private venture firms.

He is of the Baptist Faith and was Knighted by the Anglican Communion in 1992.

He attended the following schools:

– Benin Baptist Primary School, Benin City

– Eko Boys High School, Lagos (Secondary School education was truncated by his father’s death) and he worked as a Teacher as well as a Sales Representative and Distributor for Leventis Motors.

Chief Igbinedion is today the Honourable Chancellor and Chairman of the Board of Regents of the first private University in Nigeria Igbinedion University Okada. This position which he now occupies is a befitting tribute to his over 15 years of tenacious struggle to bring about a phenomenal development in education. It was a struggle of his life to which this relentless businessman selflessly committed enormous resources, time and energy.



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Jeremiah Aluwong

Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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