• Monday, July 15, 2024
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Tribute to Rev. Engr. Jonathan Osemedua ODEGA

20240701_171016_0000

Tribute to Rev. Engr. Jonathan Osemedua ODEGA

Chairman / Founder

Specimen Builders and Orchid Hotels

DOB: September 17, 1958.

Date of Rest: March 18, 2024.

In my opinion, life’s providence arranges for how we meet one another, but what transpires afterward is up to the individuals involved.

I was introduced to Rev. Jonathan Odega by Doron Umansky, a friend and customer of our shop Colours in Africa, who, like many expatriates, saw an opportunity in Nigeria’s hospitality industry and other sectors of the promising economy. Rev. Odega, an engineer who had studied building engineering at the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, also sensed this. He was already an established property developer and had already been successful flipping real estate, but he was looking to broaden his business portfolio beyond short-term real estate transactions. He had established a construction company, so he comfortably turned to hotels.

His first property was in Asaba, where Doron was contracted for the fitted kitchens, while I was to provide all the furniture in the new building, which was about to be completed.

This project was the first of that magnitude that our factory had undertaken, a challenge that we relished. What I saw then was a young-looking entrepreneur with the zest and drive of someone with great dreams and fortitude, which was very inspiring. The project was completed successfully, and the Orchid Hotel Asaba was established. It’s safe to assume that 15 years later, although Asaba has as many hotels as there are streets, Orchid still hosts a significant number of events and accommodates a considerable number of guests. It ranks among the top hotels on TripAdvisor for places to stay in Asaba.

Following his success with the first property, four years later in 2010, he completed construction on a big plot of land he had acquired, directly after the Lekki Conservation Center. When he commenced, the area was severely underdeveloped, yet he confidently ventured to establish a retreat hotel with over 120 rooms.

Once again, our company provided the furniture, and Orchid Hotel, Lagos, was born. It became well-known for residential retreats for both the public and private sectors.

The early years were marked by significant expansion and development in that area. With the land he had acquired and the potential, the engineer felt the need to build an additional facility of 80 rooms so they could hold multiple retreats at the same time, thereby becoming a preferred destination in Lagos, as most hotels do not boast 200+ rooms except for the likes of Eko Hotel, etc.

The hospitality sector, like most industries, has struggled in recent years due to COVID, an ailing economy, weak infrastructure such as utilities, declining disposable income, and recent devaluation.

Rev. Engr. Odega would lament about things that were beyond his control, but he would always make the best of the situation with a grateful heart.

He always had a bottle of groundnuts to offer you, and he would say, “Soji jékà lò jèun” (Let’s go and eat), so it was always fun hanging with him in his workplace cubicle.

The banter was always about how to improve things, but he did admit that we would have difficulties in the absence of stronger infrastructure.

He was incredibly empathetic and dedicated to his employees, going above and beyond to make sure the business did everything in its power to make them feel at ease during a time when much was in short supply. It was wonderful to watch people advance into important roles within the company.

Perhaps what I found appealing about him was his simplicity as a person. He exuded grace and dignity in his demeanour. He dressed smartly and stylishly, which would even make him look even younger.

He read a lot and enjoyed discussing everything from politics to technology to history. I thoroughly enjoyed the biography of Louis Phillip Ojukwu that he gave me, as it gave a clear insight into perhaps the first Nigerian industrialist and the opportunity that this country gave. It is sad to say that due to events that led to the Civil War, this man’s journey has almost been obliterated from our history. Men of wisdom have come to accept that we stand on the shoulders of those before us, so regardless of circumstances, what we can learn from those before us must be a part of our journey. More so for those who have taken the sojourn of entrepreneurship, many can take a leaf from Rev. Odega, who was a strong man of faith beyond everything else. He expressed his gratitude to God for all of life’s blessings and claimed that his good fortune would not have materialised without divine assistance.

Rev. Odega was an avid chess player, which would clearly be seen in how he made strategic decisions in his business career.

Without a doubt, the struggles of the recent past must have had their effect on him, as I spoke to him days before his untimely departure, and he bemoaned the challenges of keeping things operating, the top of which were poor power supply and the exorbitant cost of diesel, among other things.

To say that he would be sadly missed by me and so many others is an understatement. His philanthropy, which included scholarships and continuous acts of charity, has left an indelible mark in the hearts of many. Therefore, as I said before, I would “not change my journey” because he, like others, made it worthwhile in difficult circumstances.

My greatest sympathies to his wife, Mrs. Adeline Odega, who, like him, is a much understated lady of significant fortitude and joined him full-time in the business after many years of outstanding service in the public service.

I ask God to give his beloved wife and children wisdom and grace as they navigate the ship without him.

The same God who started this wonderful work can finish it.

Thank you.

RIP, a rare, hardworking, honest Nigerian.

My dear Big Egbon and Oga, I’ll miss you and the special times and conversations we shared. You did enrich me immensely.

Adieu!

Soji Akinkugbe; Founder, Colours in Africa / Tangereen.