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Cyril A. Odu: An island of human rectitude!

According to Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8, there is a time for everything! In verse one, it states that “All things have their time, and all things under heaven continue during their interval.” It continues in verse two with “A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to pull up what was planted.” While I believe in the words of God as contained in the Bible and we are further admonished to give thanks to God in every situation, I must confess that there are situations that it feels like having a face to face discussion with God to clarify certain things.

One of such situations is the transition of Cyril Akporuere Odu, “Uncle CY!” If my desired face to face clarifications were to be granted, I have only one question, why was Ecclesiastes 3:2 not properly followed?

Born about February 11, 1951, and with a degree in Geology from University of Ibadan in 1972, Uncle CY can be said to have worked for over 46 years from the time he joined Mobil Producing Nigeria and his transition on September 17 2019. With his immense career and contributions to ExxonMobil, Africa Capital Alliance, Income Electrix, Union Bank and many other firms that significantly relied on his professional leadership and guidance, I do not think that it was the time to say good bye Uncle CY! As he was to firms, so he was to family, community, church and uncountable individuals.

Untiring in both moral, financial support and generosity! He was an island of national rectitude in a sea of moral turpitude. In him, I clearly learnt that the easiest and most sustainable route to success is not really about your profession or degree but in being a good human being! Uncle CY was unquestionably a good human being!

 While I believe in the words of God as contained in the Bible and we are further admonished to give thanks to God in every situation, I must confess that there are situations that it feels like having a face to face discussion with God to clarify certain things

Just like yesterday, I remember vividly how he took over an hour in Port Harcourt explaining to me how and why he accepted to be the Chairman of Union Bank; of a thriving Technology firm; and CEO of African Capital Alliance almost at the same time. Oblivious of what awaited him and rejoicing in the announcement of his friend Udoma Udo Udoma in the first batch of President Buhari’s ministers in 2015, he received a call with little room to reject the offer to become the Chairman of Union Bank. As he was still trying to understand his new position, a similar call came again, this time asking him to take over from Okey Enelamah as the CEO of African Capital Alliance with Okey also announced as a minister. While trying to reconcile his rapidly changing situation, another call came from a very senior person in government requesting him to also assume the chairmanship of the thriving technology firm.

While engrossed in the gist, we narrowly missed our lunch that day as we had to return back to the 5-year strategy workshop of Income Electrix that I had gone to facilitate in Port Harcourt. Uncle CY was also the Chairman of Income Electrix. This is a man that had retired from ExxonMobil in 2012 as Vice Chairman of the board and Chief Financial Officer. In my admiration and concern on why he was taking up too many appointments after retirement, he confided in me that he never lobbied for any and that he accepted them mainly from his undying belief that Nigeria will be great with our genuine individual and collective efforts and commitments for a better economy and country.

Assessing his approach to work confirms that Uncle CY was a true example of James Allen’s counsel for us to work joyfully and peacefully, knowing that right thoughts and rights efforts will inevitably bring about right results. In both the service of songs and the funeral service, his immense positive footprints and impacts were abundantly very clear! Overwhelmed with the unending eulogies poured on him, a man excitedly bellowed “this is the right way to die.” I reminded him that with such footprints and eulogies, he did not die but only transited! Another man lamented why Uncle CY did not go into government and why our leaders are not like him?

In my disappointment with the state of affairs in Nigeria, he was a messenger of hope and optimism par excellence with his deep understanding of the issues and exceptional curative and optimistic suggestions. Even with a degree in Geology and an MBA, his analysis of public and private sectors challenges as well as family and religious matters gave impression of a man with an eclectic exposition and degrees.

Running into him in Protea Hotel Victoria Island, Lagos, we had a chat about some government policies and based on his insights, I changed the topic of my Business Day Wednesday column which was very critical of the government policy. With people like Uncle CY, the pain of losing my dad, Ozor Jacob Ngwu (Okwunna le edunwa) (the counsel of the father that guides a child) at the time I needed him most in 2011 was significantly lessened. In Uncle CY, I found more than a father, I also had a brother and friend who related and counselled with infectious humility and love! Now that you have joined Okwunna, what will your family, numerous firms, friends and children like us do!

Mathew 5:4 reminds us that “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” We take solace that Uncle CY lived a good and impactful life which will last from generation to generation! 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 states that “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes on not what is seen, but on what is unseen since what is seen is temporal, but what is unseen is eternal.” Adieu Uncle CY!



Dr. Ngwu is a senior lecturer in strategy, finance and risk management, Lagos Business School and a member, expert network, World Economic Forum.


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