By Tope Adaramola
It came like a thunderbolt in the wind to hear that the Nigerian insurance industry and the financial services sector have lost one of the prominent stars in its galaxy. George Onekhena, the immediate past deputy commissioner, Finance and Administration of the National Insurance Commission(NAICOM) is dead.
According to information released by NAICOM, George died in the United States during a brief illness, bringing a flourishing chapter to a close.
Personally, I came in contact with Onekhena late 90s when he was the Executive Director of Finance of Lion of Africa Insurance Co. Ltd. He was one of the regular contributors to the Nigerian Insurers Association Journal, of which I was the Editor.
On first contact, no one could resist the rich gift of pedagogy of George and his ever desire to impart knowledge. Quite unassuming, you could feel his knack for making disciples amongst younger professionals who were still at cross roads or at sea about what to do with life.
An encyclopedia of some sort, Onekhena was a pride to the accounting profession, having graduated from the University of Benin and earned the Associateship and Fellowship of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, amongst others.
Prior to his foray into the insurance profession, he had flourishing `experience with first-class Accounting consultancies, the rich knowledge of which he availed the insurance industry as one-time Chairman of the NIA Accounting Technical Committee, among others.
After the defunct of “Lion of Africa”, the late Onekhena had a break from public view, taking advantage of the period to further fortify himself and raise other younger fellows through his rich reservoir of knowledge and noble heart. He came back to the front row of the industry‘s reckoning again when news broke out that he had been appointed as the Deputy Commissioner, Finance and Administration of the Commission, where he served his two term tenure with profound impact on the finances and administration of the Commission as the officer in charge.
Feelers from the Commission indicated that the present level of manpower development coupled with the increasing savvy technological innovation of the Commission could not be entirely devolved from the impact of this egg head. Little wonder, the news of his death has cast a deep gloom and an undesired beginning of the year gift from nature on the staff hierarchy of the Commission, many of who are morning and ruing his departure at this crucial period when his impact was still being tapped by many who were close to him.
In retirement, the late Onekhena left for the US to join his family and also take a vantage position to be of value to the industry and humanity. His knack for training continued unabated with his highly resourceful Crown Height Consulting Services, oiled by the benefit of the social media and IT. He was able to rally many prominent egg heads in the field of economy, commerce and academia as think thank and facilitated rich intercourse of ideas for the benefit of the financial services industry.
A common feature on several platforms and professional discourses facilitated by Financial Institute Training Centre (FITC), KPMG, ICAN, the College of Insurance and Financial Management, Late Onekhena was apt at digging out issues relating to the future of Nigerian economy and global advancement in areas such as impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Digital Economy and Cyber security. Like Nostradamus, he was a man who had a glimpse of the future, but unfortunately, he could not live to experience it.
Many, including this writer, are in mourning mood for the loss of this iconic lecturer, mentor and intellectual in the professions. In one of our conversations, I recalled him telling me, on inquisition about why he was so passionate about imparting knowledge on others, saying that it was going to be a great disservice for anyone who had been providentially blessed like him to go to the grave with all he had.
Though this seemed he had a premonition of his death, he indeed fulfilled this mandate, especially towards the eclipse of his life for those who were close to him. Like the passionate sower who had sowed all his previous seeds, what would be a delight to him in death is that those seeds of greatness germinate in all the soils upon which they were planted.
Adieu a great teacher, quintessential administration, rabid scholar and noble-hearted persona, until we meet to part no more.
Painful, but we have abided with the omnipotent power of the Almighty God, whom you passionately believed while here, that He alone had the power to give and to take. No doubt, the world will sorely miss you.