High Chief O.B Lulu-Briggs went from being a human to literally becoming an institution. His life and times are captured in this tribute by Correspondent Maudlyn Eduke.
The ancient town of Abonnema in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State will be playing host on Saturday (today), to guests from across the world as they come to pay their last respect to the late High Chief Olu Benson Lulu-Briggs, OON, DCF, DSSRS; Iniikeiroari the fifth of Kalabari Kingdom and Paramount Head of Oruwari Briggs House of Abonnema.
The cream of people that will grace the funeral service, the testimonials of his life and times and the tears of his final departure will easily explain the personality and character of the departed business mogul.
The event will evoke a sense of humanity, it will remind people of the essence of life and what it is worth living for, as exemplified by the deceased.
The Late Lulu-Briggs was a bastion of societal re-engineering that easily made him a humanist. He had a benevolent spirit that transcends human imagination. He was a compassionate fellow that gave his all to wrest poverty and pull many from its clutches.
He was a hero to the downtrodden, because of the laughter he brought to their lives. Indeed he was a man who fulfilled his journey on earth before his celestial return to his maker. To put it more succinctly, Opuda as he was also fondly called, came, saw and conquered.
The quintessential Kalabari high chief and nationalist was born on May 22, 1930 in the coastal commercial town of Abonnema to Pa Benson Lulu-Briggs and Madam Rachael Kioba Harrison Lawson. He was the only surviving son of his parents.
At the age of 9, death snatched his father away from him. Without any choice, he found succour in his mother and grandmother, Agbani. Their guidance and counseling influenced his upbringing and shaped his life immensely.
The young Olu started his primary school in Abonnema and later in pursuit of more education to Calabar and Jos before traveling to the United Kingdom for advance studies. This couldn’t have happened if not for his strong determination to succeed in life through quality education and exposure.
He commenced his working life as a clerk at the Mandilas and Karabaris and later moved to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), in 1955. His dedication to duties, hard work and with the grace of God, it didn’t take him too long as he rose steadily through the ranks to become principal Industrial Relations Officer.
He served as secretary of NPA’s workers’ Union for seven years and chairman of the Maritime Trade Union Federation, Eastern Port from 1968-1971. In all the positions, he occupied and the responsibilities he was saddled with, he was never found wanting, as he effectively discharged his duties to the admiration of all.
Opuda voluntarily retired in April 1978, after attaining the position of Head Industrial Relations, in the Eastern Port of Nigeria. His retirement was shocking to many as he still had a lot to offer. But for him, it was time to move on. He had made up his mind to pursue his other passion and fulfill one of his long time ambition, politics!
So, he delved into partisan politics at the beginning of the second republic. He was one of the founding fathers of the then ruling party, The National Party of Nigeria, (NPN) and served as national vice- chairman for Rivers State from 1979-1980 and later, the deputy national chairman of the party from 1980-1983.
While serving in those capacities, he stood for the rights of minorities and his politics was all about equity and fairness.
When he left public service and even before his foray to politics, he developed his entrepreneurial skills by starting his vast business conglomerate. Among them; Lubrik Nigeria Limited, Ludal Nigeria Limited, Rachael Hotels Limited, Krakrama Investment Limited and Rachael Holdings.
In the early 1990s when the federal government of Nigeria deregulated the upstream sector of the nation’s industry, Lulu-Briggs led the indigenous pursuit for an oil mining license.
Thus, in 1992, he established Moni Pulo Limited, an oil and gas company. He was among the few Nigerians that were awarded the oil prospecting licences at the time by the Ibrahim Babangida junta.
With Moni Pulo (Abonnema oil), Opuda blazed the trail in the oil and gas sector. He displayed his business acumen and made significant impact in the lives of Nigerians by employing and empowering thousands of people through direct and indirect engagement.
He resisted the pressure of selling off his licences to foreign concerns for immediate gain which was fashionable at that time. He navigated through the very murky, volatile and risky business of oil exploration and production.
Today, the company stands tall in that sector with overwhelming prospects, making him to be among the wealthiest men in the country. In fact, in 2012, Forbes magazine listed him as the 40th richest man in Africa, sticking his worth to $500 million.
He was also placed by different organizational economic survey as the richest man in Rivers State and South-South Nigeria.
Opuda was a statesman per excellence. A committed patriot and an extraordinary philanthropist. Together with his beloved and amiable ex-banker wife, Dr Mrs Seinye O. B. Lulu-Briggs, they founded the O. B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation in 2001.
The foundation is a non- profit outfit, dedicated to uplifting lives and reaching the unreached with rare human kindness. Since then, they have been active in five thematic areas; Care For Life, Education and Scholarships, Free Medical Mission, Micro-Credit and Entrepreneurship and Access to Portable Water and Sanitation. The Foundation is running seamlessly in the safe hands of his wife doing great things and impacting lives across the Niger Delta region.
The Late scion of the royal lineage of Opuda Young Briggs was honoured with several awards from reputable organizations like Rotary International and Lions Club International.
He was also bestowed by the University of Port Harcourt and Rivers State University in 2006 and 2011 respectively with the Degrees of Doctor of Science Honoris Causa. In 2003 the federal government decorated him with the prestigious national honour of the Officer of the Order of the Niger, (OON).
He was an honorary citizen of Houston, Texas in the United States. He was also crowned with many traditional chieftancy titles across the country. The church too was not left out in recognizing his contributions to the work of God as a devoted Christian.
As a real family man, he loved his wife and children. His wife, Seinye was his alter ego. They both conceived the vision of transforming lives and has been realizing it with the support to hundreds of people even after his demised. His profound affection for her is enough to attract envy.
Sadly, on the 27th of December 2018 the great man, known as “the last don”, breathed his last in Accra Ghana, shortly on arrival for his annual vacation with his wife. He was 88 years. It was the end of an era. An illustrious life that inspired all who came across him.
He was confined to a wheelchair for years before his eventual passing. He was reported to have suffered from Parkinson disease.
The overflow of outpouring in form of condolences that greeted his departure was unprecedented. It was a life well spent. A remarkable sojourn to this world of uncertainties. He left indelible footprints on the sands of time. Mankind will not forget him, he will surely be remembered for all that he did.