After Leaving The POLICE Force As A Constable
+Why He Folded Up His OKADA Airline
Born in the year 1934 in a farming community of Okada (now a University town and headquarters of Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo State to the late Road Overseer and iconic community leader, Josiah Agharagbu Igbonedion (who founded Okada Town) and his amiable wife, the late Madam Okunozee Igbinedion, the little boy, who was named Gabriel Osawaru at birth lost his enterprising father to the cold hands of death one afternoon in the year 1942, only two years after his father enrolled him at the Catholic Primary School Okada. His father died in the prime of his life when Gabriel was only eight years old. From that time onward, Madam Okunozee was saddled, as all single-mothers in the world, with the weighty responsibility of Gabriel’s education and upbringing.
Chief Igbinedion left Okada village to live with one Mr. Samson Aiwekhoe, who was a Forest Guard in Benin City as a domestic servant. That period, in his life, is to be remembered more for the cruelty meted out to him by Mr. Aiwakhoe and his senior wife. The was besides the hardship and adversity he suffered doing menial jobs to survive as he attended Benin Primary School, Mission Road Benin.
Gabriel’s next destination on completion of his primary education in Benin City was Lagos, where he was admitted into Eko Boys High School. His education in Lagos was truncated by lack of money to pay fee and levies, while he was in class three. He returned to Okada and took up a teaching appointment in a primary school at Okoro II in the defunct Yeka – Ovie Divisional Council. His landlord at Okoro II wanted him to marry his daughter, a girl that had been bethroled to his late father, Josiah Agbaragbu and when the young Gabriel refused to marry the girl, the girl’s father threatened to make life very difficult for Gabriel in Okoro II. Consequently, Gabriel resigned his appointment after consultation with his mother and travelled to Benin City where he got a new appointment as a Messenger in the Benin Divisional Council.
While working in Benin City, Gabriel successfully penetrated the higher echelon of the city’s social circle and made friends with prominent civil servants such as Mr. E. K. Kizor, a Superintendent of Police and Justice Stephen Peter Thomas of the High Court. He was able to access the exclusive clubs of people of authority and influence because he enjoyed the confidence of the rich and powerful of the period
When Gabriel lost his mother on 26th November 1958, it was his two friends. Mr. E. K. Kizor and Justice Peter Stephen Thomas who assisted him with six pounds and two pounds respectively to give his departed mother a befitting burial.
After successfully burying his mother, he now felt free and unencumbered to pursue a career in the Nigeria Police Force (His mother, Madam Okunozee in her time had been implacably opposed to his joining the Nigeria Police). Gabriel approached Mr. E. K Kizor, Superintendent of Police, who was his bossom friend and requested his assistance to have him enrolled in the Nigeria Police. Mr. Kizor was quite pleased and expeditiously arranged a special interview session for Gabriel in which he was successful.
The young Igbinedion was given an admission into the Police College, Ikeja in January 1959. On successful completion of the course, he was enlisted into the Nigeria Police Force with the official identity of Police Constable (PC No. 12647. His first station was Ibadan, the capital of the defunct Western Region of Nigeria. From Ibadan he w as transferred to Osogbo in the same Region of (now capital of Osun State).
At Osogbo, the attempt of a jealous boss to humiliate him before a white woman, Miss Irene Kieman, (whom he later married) boomeranged as the superior police officer was immediately transferred with ignominy from Osogbo, leaving all residents of the Barracks in awe of PC Igbinedion’s power and influence .
PC Igbinedion resigned from the Nigeria Police on September 9, 1963 and joined the services of Leventis Motors, Ibadan as a Sales Manager on a most high salary that was four times his annual salary as a police constable.
During the peak of Nigerian’s Oil boom in 1981, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, the Esama of Benin Kingdom, saw the need for an active participation of the private sector in the aviation industry.
In that same year, Chief Igbinedion bought his first private aircraft through Mr. Derek Lowe of Executive Jet Sales.
The HS125 was launched and blessed at the Benin Airport by the Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Oba Erediauwa, the then Oba of Benin Kingdom. Thereafter in 1983, Chief Igbinedion boldly recorded the first private initiative in the fledging industry when he established Okada Airline Ltd. His next venture was the purchase of a BAC 1-11 executive jet, which was formerly owned by the deposed president Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines.
Chief Igbinedion was enraptured with the BAC 1-11. By 1988, the Okada Airline fleet comprises two executive BAC-1-11 and nine BAC 1-11 passenger /cargo aircraft. The feat was accomplished with the help of Mr. D. H. Walter of British Caledonian, who was responsible for the sale of the BAC 1-11 fleet from Sir Freedie Laker of Laker Airway. From that moment on, Okaka Airline began to grow by leaps and bounds with the support of major aviators, such as British. Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, Aer LIngus, Dan Air, Rogers Aviation, A.J. Walter, FLS Aerospace, Dunlop Aviation and Tyres among others.
At the climax of Okada, Airlines success, Chief Igbinedion amassed a fleet of 40 air craft.
Chief Igbinedion made history with the acquisition of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. The BJ47 was officially commission.
As a regular air passenger in Nigeria and international routes since 1962, he always observed the inconvenience air passengers suffered because of regularly disrupted scheduled flights, cancellation of flight routes, which forced many passengers to fail to honour very important appointments and other scheduled programmes, resulting in huge financial losses for companies and individuals.
At the peak of Okada Air Operations in 1994, it had forty aircraft in its fleet.
The speed with which its aircraft flew from location to location nationally and internationally largely influenced the choice of the name “Okada,” by the general public throughout West Africa for motor bikers who ran errands with dispatch and conveyed commuters from one point to another in a city or town without a waste of time.
Today, Okada Air is no more. Most of the 40 aircraft are lying waste in a hanger at the Benin Airport.
Investigation revealed that most of the aircraft were grounded by strange birds that destroyed the engines.