• Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Felix Ohiwerei- Leadership prosperity and posterity

Felix Ohiwerei- Leadership prosperity and posterity

I was discussing this with one of my mentors when the topic of prosperity and posterity arose. In our usual long expository on life and leadership, Prince Hakeem Adeoye took me to another landmark of wisdom. We reflect on the past and present events in Nigeria and how leadership has impacted the current outcome. We wish our leaders had put posterity ahead of prosperity when using their positions. One man came to mind as I resonated with the importance of leading with contentment and posterity in mind. He is Elder Felix Ohiwerei, the one-time larger-than-life corporate leader and most sought-after board member.

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Elder Felix Ohiwerei is well and healthy at 87. I called him last week when I decided to write about his past leadership exploits. He is sound, still quick-witted, and remembers the little contacts and impacts he made with me. I used him as an example of a man whose leadership and prosperity didn’t stain his posterity. He came, saw, and conquered the menace of opportunistic leadership grit where others failed. He prevailed in character and influence, leaving his positions unblemished and living a fulfilled retirement life with multi-coloured impacts across people and organisations.

At a time when the Nigerian corporate space was filled with credible names like Dr Christopher Kolade, Dr Chris Abebe, Dr Michael Omolayole, and many others, Elder Ohiwerei’s flag was seen flying higher and was respected by his mentors. He rose to the peak of his career at Nigerian Breweries Plc to become the Executive Chairman. His performance at NB plc endeared him to many companies who wanted a piece of his presence on their boards, showcasing their association with him as a testament to their organisations’ integrity and sound corporate governance. No wonder Dr Omolayole described Ohiwerei as an embodiment of the highest standard that any country in the world can boast of. Dr Chris Abebe said Felix is the most conscientious and dedicated person he has ever met.

“He has the positions, but the strength of his character prevails above the available prosperous opportunities.”

In his position as chairman of top-grade companies and someone well respected, the standard norm for leaders is to entrench themselves into the company either by legal or illegal acquisitions or concessions. This is rampant in the banking industry, where those who boast to be the owners of banks today have either arm-twisted their investors or benefactors to take over investments in corporate takeovers. Everyone in a position of influence wants to use the opportunity as much as possible for self-aggrandisement. It takes someone with a considerable quantum of what the Yorubas called ‘Ayookan’ and ‘Eriokan’ to be different. Leadership contentment is scarce, and so are an unlimited number of people in leadership positions without conscientiousness. Being contented and conscientious are two variables that separate Elder Felix Ohiwerei.

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He would have used his positions to acquire shares of the companies that ride and leverage his integrity if he desired. He would have been a significant shareholder of many organisations, yet he chooses to simply serve, develop people, and leave when it is right to hand over to others. Elder Ohiwerei chose the path of contentment in his approach to the opportunity life gave him. He has the positions, but the strength of his character prevails above the available prosperous opportunities.

I met Baba in 2016, and I was privileged to learn life-changing lessons from him. When I requested him to be the special guest of honour at the Students’ Fortress Conference, the gathering of five thousand students at Agege Stadium, Elder Felix took no time to fill his ever-busy calendar to attend the event. He took little time and no convincing for a man with value and standards to see the need to invest in the future of others.

Elder Felix shared his mantra with the five thousand students at the event during the unveiling of the Students’ Fortress Club. He read aloud, ‘Work hard, play hard; when wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when a character is lost, everything is lost’ to the students. The outcome of an event is evergreen. The pass rate in the Lagos Education District I moved from 39 percent to 71 percent in twelve months. The district has been number one in Lagos State since 2016.

Elder Ohiwerei taught many the importance of family values at every opportunity. He had deliberately avoided being praised, but he saw and lived life as a platform to serve God and people. He had influenced many lives, yet without a record of corporate scandals or struggles for possession. He was content with his role and quit boardrooms for active service in the vineyard of God.

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Felix Ohiwerei’s factor that gives meaning to leadership is contentment and conscientiousness. Without ‘ayookan’, a leader will want to use his position to be number one on the Forbes list. Without ‘eriokan’, nothing is wrong with getting the wealthiest share of other people’s efforts and entitlements if the end justifies the means. Therefore, to have a life full of peace and wealth, leaders are urged to live with contentment and focus on leaving a legacy of moral influence in people at the expense of excessive ambition to be named the great.