Mike Onoja: Tinubu’s sure bet in Benue

As President Bola Tinubu brings his versatile managerial acumen to bear in the formation of a new government, it behoves on him to engage the wealth of knowledge and prowess of certain individuals who have demonstrated exemplary patriotism and dedication to the Nigeria project. These personalities have not only distinguished themselves in whatever positions of responsibilities they served but also used such positions to write their names on the pages of the Nigerian story.

One of such distinguished personalities that could properly serve President Tinubu’s visions to renew the hopes of Nigerians from all walks of life is Chief Mike Okibe Onoja, a distinguished public servant, accomplished entrepreneur and statesman of repute from Benue state.

Born in 1948, Chief Onoja has evolved from a young lad who had unparalleled zeal for education in Agila of present day Ado local government area of Benue state to a statesman of national and global reckoning. He started his early education in at the Roman Catholic Mission School in 1954 in Igumale, Ado local government area before proceeding to St. Mary’s Primary School, Otukpo, where he completed his early education in 1961. He attended St. James Seminary, Keffi, Nasarawa state from 1962, graduating in 1966. It’s instructive to note that the young Mike Onoja set out to be a priest of the Catholic Church and had his faith fashioned out to present day.

In 1969, Onoja was admitted to study economics at the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna state graduating with a bachelor of science in 1972. He later took a diploma in econometrics at the University of Colorado, United States and proceeded for his masters in development economics at Williams College in Massachusets in the United States, where he graduated in 1976.

On returning to Nigeria, the young Onoja was refined with the requisite wherewithal for a prolific life in the public sector. He started as an accounts clerk in John Holt briefly before joining the federal civil service where he served in different ministries in various capacities before being elevated to an undersecretary during the Muhammadu Buhari military junta in 1984. He went on to serve as secretary of the Military Tribunal in Kaduna in 1984 before being transferred to the Ministry of Defence as a deputy director. In 1992, the then Minister of Defence, the late General Sani Abacha, appointed Onoja a director before being elevated to permanent secretary in the same ministry in 1994, a post he retained till 1999.

The distinguished ‘’super’’ permanent secretary served in different ministries culminating at the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, where he retired in 2003 after a meritorious service. His post-retirement foray into business has proven to be successful by all measures as he prides of a retinue of successful business ventures including Monsoons Resources Investment International, Century Apartments, Century Petroleum, etc.
A recipient of one of the highest chieftaincy titles of the Idoma ethnic nationality (Akanaba K’Idoma), Chief Onoja is a renowned philanthropist who has used his hard-earned wealth to meet the needs of many Nigerians in providing scholarship assistance and healthcare. He is often quoted as saying, ‘’My money is a means to serve those who come across me.’’

Encouragingly, Chief Onoja has contributed in no mean feats to the consolidation of democracy and the political development of Benue state in particular and Nigeria as a whole. His foray into politics began in 2007 when he ran for the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Benue state, running up to Gabriel Suswam, the eventual winner of the election after a hard-fraught contest. He made another bid for the governorship seat in 2015, but left the contest when it became evident that the politics of ethnic sentiment prevalent in Benue would not guarantee a fair and equitable process. Since then, the distinguished statesman has pitched his tent with the All Progressives Congress (APC), where he has remained steadfast in brightening the prospects of the party in every electoral outing. His philanthropic strides also saw him constructing a 12-kilometer access road in his local government area that further endeared him to his people and the people of Ebonyi state.

Such a distinguished statesman is deserving of honours. In 1999, then Head of State, General Sani Abacha, awarded Chief Onoja with the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON). He is also a recipient of honourary doctorate degrees from different universities including University of Mkar (2009), University of Abuja conferred him with Doctor of Letters (2017) and Benue State University (2017).

As a new dispensation beckons on the annals of Nigeria with the Tinubu presidency, it is instructive to tap into the robust fountain of resources that Chief Onoja embodies. His wealth of experience, the entrepreneurship of his managerial skills and his strength of character distinguish him as a veritable component needed in President Tinubu’s aspirations to navigate the giant of Africa from troubled waters.

It is even more encouraging to observe that the elder statesman is ready and capable of serving in any capacity deemed fit by Mr President. For a state that delivered majority of its votes in the last presidential election to ensure the victory of President Tinubu, there is no doubt as to the commitment and dedication of Chief Onoja to realising this political objective. The time has come for the administration to appreciate his charitable gestures of goodwill by assigning commensurate responsibilities to a man who left no stones unturned in a bid to ensure APC wins across Benue state and Nigeria.

Abonu, Convener of Benue Progressives Forum (BPF), writes from Asokoro, Abuja.