Prince Emeka Obasi
It seems like yesterday, but in reality it’s now over 20 years, since Mr. Okey Kalu introduced me to Chief Marc Wabara. I was then the young, enterprising and energetic publisher of the fire-eating weekly tabloid, Hallmark Newspaper.
Wabara was the Managing Director – later Chairman and Chief Executive Officer – of Hallmak Bank. The coincidence of the names intrigued many, especially the MD. I didn’t pay much heed to the fact, but apparently, Okey Kanu did, which was quite understandable because it was his core brief to manage the image of the bank.
I still recall that first meeting. It was was at a fund raising dinner for the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential campaign project at Eko Hotel. At some point during the event, Kanu pulled me aside to meet this debonair; a well-turned-out figure who reeked of corporate success, resplendent in his satiorial elegance. Before extending his hand, he looked at me quizzically, with a bemused smile struggling for fuller expression by the sides of his lips. I was in one of my irreverent moods and promptly went into my act…”will you allow me, sir, the privilege of sharing your name?”
Of course, it was not an original line. I lifted it off Sugar Ray Leonard’s playbook. The young boxer who was then in the making was introduced to the original Sugar Ray Robinson; phenomenal master of the craft, iconic prize fighter and rated for the ages as “pound for pound, the greatest boxer that ever lived !”.
Of course I told him the story of the two Rays while stooping very low to shake his outstretched hand, all the while smiling mischievously. In that instant, I saw warmth in his eyes and a life long connection was made. It was like the day, “Stanley met Mutesa…”
As the Bible says, the Good Lord orders the footsteps of the righteous. HE was surely looking out for me and my publishing career that night!
It’s to the eternal credit of my naivety that I didn’t understand the cost implications of publishing before jumping full-body into it. Within two months, my funds dried up. My initial funders had even less knowledge of the financial requirements of the business. I was at my wits end. Then Wabara stepped in.
First he granted me an OD (over draft) line . Then he permitted me to publish any Hallmark Bank advert I saw in any newspaper, often against the position of his corporate communications people. For a fledgling newspaper enterprise, that was a Godsent intervention. And yet, that was not all.
I had strong reservations against the Obassnjo administration and used Hallmak to canvass those views. It irked the administration greatly and the security agents considered me a major irritant. Once in a while, President Babangida would call me; “Emeka, what did President Obasanjo do to you? “
“I beg, Oga , leave that man, joo!”.
He would laugh. “Emeka, the problem with you is that you are too stubborn. Anyway, Gusau (then NSA) called me to report you “.
He also called Wabara, who had become quite close to the administration so much that he leveraged on his contacts to assist his elder brother, Adulphus, to emerge as president of the senate.
The NSA accused Wabara of funding Hallmark Newspaper and demanded that he should issue a disclaimer. Wabara flatly refused. He also refused to withhold support for me. Most remarkably, he never sought to influence our editorial thrust in any way. He simply let me be, in all my legendary stubbornness!
Today, this great man has stepped onto the seventh floor; the platinum age of grace and wisdom. He has remained such an influential factor in my life as mentor, supporter and inspirer.
Of course I know that our meeting was not coincidental, rather it was part of the awesome master plan of the great HE above.
Two years ago I confronted him in my house…”Chair, you taught me everything, why didn’t you teach me about sibling rilvaries and the envy that stoke them?”.
He simply laughed and said, “some lessons are better learnt by personal experience.” I agreed with him. But mine has been at a steep price !!!
Nevertheless, the good lord has been faithful. As the Bible says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.”
On a day like this, all I can say is, “thank you very much, Chief Marc Wabara. The light you helped in igniting many years ago still illuminates the pathway! May the Good Lord continue to bless you richly in Jesus mighty name, Amen “.
Happy birthday, great in-law; beloved husband to our beautiful sister.
I remain grateful.
Prince Emeka Obasi, Publisher of Business Hallmark Newspaper