• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Celebrating Prof Jo Irukwu at 80

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If there is any Nigerian who has contributed to the growth and development of insurance in Nigeria and indeed Africa, that person is no other than Professor Jo Ogbonnaya Irukwu.  At 80, he stands tall above his peers and contemporaries.

A fore most  risk management expert, professor of Insurance, educationist, award winning author and holder of many distinguished fellowships and academic awards, Professor Irukwu is a  Senior  Advocate of Nigeria and past president of Ohaneze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-political organisation, whose contributions to Insurance in Africa is unparalleled.

A highly detribalised Nigerian, elder statesman and nationalist of repute, Professor Irukwu’s journey to limelight started during his early childhood days. As the eldest son of the family, Professor Irukwu admits that he did not have a long childhood and was relatively independent as his parents instilled in him the virtues of hard work, honesty, humility and leadership. Those qualities have helped to shape his future and impact positively on his journey through life.

“I did not have a long childhood because I was made to behave and act as an adult when I was relatively young” he avers.

Called to the English Bar in 1962 and enrolled as a solicitor and advocate of the Supreme Court in the same year, he has held many top positions in both Private and public Sectors of the Nigerian economy. Professor Jo Irukwu abandoned the lure and lucre in politics and Law to pursue his dream of building an insurance industry that will be the envy of all.

Political Life

For some, politics is business and a way of personal aggrandisement but to the likes of Professor Irukwu, politics is meaningless if the desire to serve the people is lacking and if the political terrain is ridden with violence.

He recalls with nostalgia efforts by some prominent politicians including the late Premier of the then Eastern region, Dr. Michael Okpara and close family friends to drag him into politics on his return from England in 1962 and how his refusal to join partisan politics surprised many of them. In spite of his refusal to join partisan politics, Professor Irukwu has participated actively in many efforts to shape the Nigerian nation. He was a delegate at the National Political Reform Conference in 2005, 

“I have been actively involved in positive national development and there are many well meaning Nigerians who are not politicians as such but who have contributed most effectively to the country’s growth and development” he noted

His scholarly works

As a scholar and writer, Professor Irukwu bestrode the intellectual turf like a colossus.

He has authored 20 books in the last four decades. They include Insurance Law and Practice Insurance Management in Africa, Accident and Motor Insurance in Africa, Reinsurance in the Third World, Insurance Law in Africa: Cases, Statutes and Principles, Nigeria at the Crossroads, The State, the Individual and Insurance, Nigeria: the Case for a Better Society, Basic Facts about Insurance: You and Insurance, Risk management in Developing Countries, International Encyclopaedia of Laws: Monograph on Insurance Laws in Nigeria, The Company, the Shareholder, the Director and the Law, Corporate Responsibility in a World of Risks, The Challenge to Nigeria, Nigeria: The Last Chance, Nation Building and Ethnic Organisations, Judicial Excellence: Essay in Honour of Justice A.I. Iguh, Fundamentals of Insurance Law and Corporate Governance in Modern Africa

His latest book; Nigeria at 100: What Next? is a captivating account of the evolution of the modern Nigerian nation in the past 100 years; from 1914 when the British Colonial administration amalgamated the Northern and Southern Protectorates to give birth to the present day Nigeria. It vividly captures Nigeria’s tortuous journey to nationhood, giving first hand information laced with real life experiences from the pre-colonial times through independence and the challenges of the post independence era. Professor Irukwu’s scholarly works traverses Politics, Corporate Governance and Insurance but despite being apolitical as it were, Professor Mosignor Obiora Ike posits that Irukwu’s book on Nigeria at 100: What Next? “is a must read for all Nigerians, and indeed Africans aspiring to political and national leadership positions”

There is no doubt that Nigerians yet unborn will gain useful insights about the country and its leaders and political developments through the different books by the intellectually endowed literary giant.

As a Statesman

Professor Irukwu is a former President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and leader of the Igbo and South-East delegates at the National Political Reforms Conference.  His patriotic commitment to Nigerian unity and respect for other ethnic groups and their interests earned him the Chairmanship of the harmonizing Leaders and Elders Committee of that National Conference in 2005

As a Statesman actively involved in national and international humanitarian activities, this awards-winning author maintains that he accepted the Ohanaeze leadership position as a challenge to unite the people and to build bridges of goodwill and understanding between Ndigbo and other Nigerians and above all, to work with leaders of other ethnic nationalities in promoting the evolution of a Nigerian nation in which harmony, equity, justice and the rule of law would prevail.

As An Insurance Icon

Whatever milestones Professor Irukwu has achieved in the politics and as a scholar pales into insignificance when compared with his contributions to the insurance industry in Nigeria and indeed in the African continent.

He is Nigeria’s first Professor of Insurance and Insurance Law and a leading African authority on Corporate Governance, Insurance and Risk Management.

He is a past President of the West African Insurance Companies Association (WAICA), Founding President of the Professional Reinsurers’ Association, past President of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria, Past Chairman of the Nigerian Insurers Association, 1981 to 1983, pioneer Chairman of the Nigerian Students’ Loans Board, now (Education Bank), 1972 to 1978 and Pioneer Managing Director of the Nigeria Reinsurance Corporation 1977 – 1989, former Chairman, African Continental Bank Plc and former Chairman Co-operative & Commerce Bank Plc., President of the Nigerian Insurance Law Association,  Chairman, Inter-Ministerial Committee on Review of Insurance Laws in Nigeria, 2009. He is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and holds the National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) and Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON).

In 1990 at the International Insurance Conference in Paris, France, he became the first African to receive the John S. Bickley Gold Medal for Excellence, which is the highest award for an individual in the World of Insurance and Risk Management.  He is the founding Chairman of the African Development Insurance Company Limited and the Cargo Defence Fund of the Nigerian Shippers Council.

At 80, there is no doubt that Professor Irukwu has paid his dues. Little wonder why the Nigerian Insurers Association, the umbrella body of insurance and reinsurance companies operating in Nigeria decided to celebrate this Nigerian of repute whose sterling qualities and contribution to the insurance profession remains unequalled.

According to the Chairman of the Nigerian Insurers Association, Mr. Godwin Sunday Wiggle, “there is no greater time and season to celebrate the insurance icon and the leader. He has set a pace and blazed a trail which generations yet unborn will struggle to equal. He is a quintessential leader and the leading light of the Insurance profession and the whole industry attest to the position of pride which he holds in Nigeria and the entire African continent. He deserves to be celebrated.” he concludes.

As he celebrates his 80th birthday which coincides with Nigeria’s centenary celebrations, this is wishing Professor Joseph Ogbonnaya Irukwu, OON, many more hearty celebrations and God’s divine protection.

DAVIS IYASERE