Chief Kingsway Ogbeinbiri Warikoru (1938—2023)

Chief Kingsway Ogbonibiri Warikoru was an esteemed leader hailing from the Odi community in the Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government of Bayelsa state. He played a significant role in advancing the petroleum sector of Nigeria starting in the 1960s, as well as contributing to the development of the former Rivers State from the 1970s.

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Professional Secretary, Businessman, Politician, Administrator, Chief

Birth and Parents

Kingsway Ogbonibiri Warikoru was born on the 10th of October, 1938, into the family of late Mr. Ogbonibiri Warikoru, who belonged to the Mamuwa compound of Odi community, and Mrs. Ozini Warikoru (nee Mbolo) of Okele family in Gbagbawari in Igbedi community. Both of these communities are situated in the Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa state. He was the youngest of eleven children in Mr. Ogbonibiri Warikoru’s family.

Although his parents were hardworking and possessed commendable character, they were not particularly affluent during that period. However, they were able to provide him with the essential necessities of life, and he enjoyed a contented childhood with his family.

Education and Career

During his formative years, Kingsway Ogbonibiri Warikoru served as an exemplary embodiment of God’s grace, hard work, and patience, even in the face of life’s ups and downs. He embarked on his primary education journey at St. Stephen’s Primary School in Imgbela, Odi community, a period that spanned from 1948 to 1955. Throughout his time in school, he exhibited remarkable intelligence and successfully obtained his First School Leaving Certificate, demonstrating his academic prowess.

Following his primary education, he ventured to Lagos, Nigeria, at the insistence of his maternal uncle called Papa Clock Mbolo, who resided in the Ajegunle area of Lagos. This uncle worked with the Marine agency of colonial Nigeria, which could have evolved into the modern-day Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA). Under his uncle’s care, Kingsway Ogbonibiri Warikoru was provided for and enrolled in a commercial school known as Agugu Commercial Institute.

Regrettably, the precise date of his enrollment and subsequent graduation from this commercial institution could not be determined. Many records and documents containing such information were lost and destroyed during the tragic events of the Odi massacre in 1999.

It is recounted that he pursued basic secretarial studies at the institution, encompassing typewriting, shorthand, copywriting, and more. His performance at the school was exceptional, and he quickly gained recognition as the top student. Before long, he secured a position as a typist at a well-regarded law firm in Ebute Metta, Lagos, known as Barrister Coker and Chambers. During the early 1960s, this legal practice was one of the finest in Lagos. Kingsway Ogbonibiri Warikoru’s skills were highly valued by the law firm, to the extent that he was occasionally tasked with representing his boss in court and requesting adjournments.

As fate would have it, a colleague of Itsekiri origin who worked as a Stenographer at Shell British Petroleum was impressed by Mr. Kingsway’s work and recommended him to join the organization as a copy typist. During an interview, around 1963, he was recognized as the top candidate for the job and subsequently employed by Shell BP. He served as a secretary to the manager and exceeded expectations in his role. His boss held him in high regard for his outstanding work and dedication.

In the mid-1960s, Shell-BP recognized the importance of enhancing the skills and knowledge of its personnel through in-service training. As a response, they established the Department of Secretarial Studies at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, Eastern Nigeria. Mr. Kingsway was one of the Shell-BP staff members who enrolled in the three-year Diploma program in Secretarial Studies. He proved to be an outstanding student who diligently completed the program with admirable results. Notably, he was among the top five pioneer students in the Department of Secretarial Studies.

Late Mr Warikoru Kingsway

In 1963, he successfully graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Eastern Nigeria. However, tribal sentiments within Eastern Nigeria led to an unexpected turn of events. The department awarded a certificate in Secretarial Studies instead of the anticipated diploma. Nevertheless, he accepted the outcome and returned to Shell-BP in Lagos, Western Nigeria.

Fortuitously, several months later, the Registrar of the University (UNN) revisited the records of graduates from the Department of Secretarial Studies and uncovered irregularities in the awards, including Mr. K.O’s records.

The Registrar’s discovery understandably left him very upset, and he questioned the Head of the Department for this irregularity. As a result, the University wrote to Shell-BP, expressing their apologies and requesting the withdrawal of the certificate awarded to Mr. K.O. Initially, he was hesitant to accept the Diploma Certification, but under pressure from Shell-BP’s management, he eventually agreed to accept the new award. It is worth noting that the University of Nigeria covered the expenses for his travel from Lagos to Eastern Nigeria to rectify this matter.

With this remarkable achievement, he received a promotion at Shell, and soon he became a highly sought-after professional in Lagos. Numerous firms in Nigeria expressed their interest in hiring Mr. K.O, as he was affectionately known among friends and colleagues. However, he remained loyal to Shell-British Petroleum and did not succumb to the pressure to leave the company. He held deep gratitude for Shell-BP for enabling him to become a highly skilled and respected secretary in Nigeria.

Mr K .O

Shell-BP Kaduna

Six months after he got his diploma certificate, He was transferred to Kaduna to serve as the confidential secretary to the Managing Director. Is time in shell-BP Kaduna was epic and he never failed his boss or the organization in carrying out his duties. It was during his sojourn in Kaduna, Northern-Nigeria that he bought his first car (Morrris Minor) from a retired British woman who worked with Shell-BP. With huge excitement during his first leave, he drove his car from Kaduna to Lagos to have fun with his good friend still residing in Ajegunle at the time.

Shell-BP Port Harcourt

Following his time in Kaduna, he experienced multiple transfers within various Shell-BP formations and even moved between different departments within the organization during the mid-1960s. He had the opportunity to work in both the administrative and production departments. After the Nigeria Civil War from 1967 to 1969, he was posted to Shell-BP in Port Harcourt, where he played a significant role as a production inspector with Shell-BP. His keen expertise allowed him to determine the authenticity of petroleum products with just a touch.

He was also involved in projects such as the Nun River Flow Station construction in Oporoma community (now in Southern Ijaw Local Area, Bayelsa State) and various other Shell-BP projects in the Niger Delta. During his tenure at Shell-BP, he frequently participated in capacity-building programs, both in Nigeria and abroad, often traveling to destinations like Holland and the United Kingdom for official engagements.

Late Mr. K.O and Best Friend (Ven. Woyengikuro Gbeigbei Inokoba (Rtd)) in the mid-60s

Within Shell-BP, he was a well-known Ijaw personality who made positive contributions to the organization. He worked alongside contemporaries such as Late HRM Agama, Late HRH Christian Atani Okpofaa Otobotekere, Late Mr. Francis Gbede Endeley, and Late Mr. Ali Akene in Shell-BP Port Harcourt.

However, in the mid-1970s, he chose to resign from Shell-BP and join Diete Spiff’s Government. Diete Spiff was the first Military Governor of old Rivers State.

It’s worth mentioning that during the 1970s, the appeal of Shell-BP as an employer wasn’t as strong as the Nigerian public/civil service, prompting many Shell-BP staff members to leave their positions and transition into the civil service sector. Mr. K.O was among those who made this career transition.

Governor’s Friend

As the story goes, Mr. K.O, affectionately known as Knockout among his friends, was situated in Kaduna where he learned the elite sport of golf and excelled in it. He became a highly skilled golfer during his prime and used his golfing abilities to establish friendships across a broad spectrum of people. It was through his involvement in golf that he crossed paths with Alfred Diete-Spiff, the then Governor of Old Rivers State, and their friendship blossomed.

Following his departure from Shell-BP, the Diete-Spiff government appointed him as a Director in one of the Old Rivers State-owned agencies named Farah Films. The agency was situated on Finima Street, behind First Bank Nigeria, Aba Road, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He held this position until 1975, after which the Diete Spiff government came to an end.

Gas Station Business

After retiring from Shell-BP in the early 1970s, he was entrusted with the management of a gas filling station located in the heart of Port Harcourt. The filling station, originally named “National,” is positioned in a prominent area of Port Harcourt, precisely at the Lagos Bus Stop, Club Road and Aggrey Road junction and directly opposite the St. Mary’s Catholic School. Today, the station is known as “Connoil.”

Mr. K.O operated this business for a period, but eventually, due to management challenges and numerous distractions resulting from his involvement in politics, the gas station encountered financial difficulties. As a consequence of these challenges, Shell-BP took over the business from him.

Subsequently, he engaged in the distribution of petroleum products in the former Rivers State. He provided this service to government agencies and multinational corporations for a period before eventually retiring to his hometown of Odi.

1979 Politics

In the lead-up to the 1979 political era, he joined the Nigerian Peoples’ Party and participated as a candidate for the position of councilor in the Yenagoa Area Council. He secured victory in this election. During this time, he formed a close friendship with the late Chief Melford Okilo the first civilian Governor of old Rivers state and collaborated with him in various political capacities. He actively engaged in democratic activities until the military overthrew the civilian government led by President Shagari in 1983.

Later in his life, within his home state of Bayelsa, he became a prominent figure in the political landscape of the Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area. He held a significant position as the first Secretary of the KOLGA Elders forum, contributing to the political discourse and leadership in the region.

His Travails

He indeed faced his share of neglect, suffering, and hardships throughout his lifetime. As history tells us, after the military overthrew the democratic government in Nigeria, the nation witnessed a significant deterioration in every aspect. The military officers held the reins of power, and many well-known politicians found themselves in dire straits. It was during this period that he tragically lost some of his children to the cruel grasp of death, around three of them. Furthermore, his first son, Mr. Tariye, a promising young man and a professional accountant in the Bayelsa state civil service, passed away in 2020.

Family and Faith

Late Chief K.O was a striking figure in appearance, tall and handsome, standing at over 6 feet in height. He had a jovial disposition and was known for his faultless character. He held a strong sense of loyalty, being a true friend to those he cared about and uncompromising with those who crossed him. In his family life, he was a polygamist, with two wives and a total of 14 children. From his early years, he was an Anglican and remained devoted to his faith throughout his life.

Death and Interment

It was reported that he passed away due to natural causes on June 8, 2023, at the Bayelsa State Specialist Hospital in Ovom-Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. He will be laid to rest in his hometown in Odi community, which is located in the Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, on December 8, 2023. Chief Kingsway Ogbeinbiri Warikoru was 85 years old.

Conclusion

The story of Chief K.O is one of a remarkable and resilient individual who journeyed through life with unwavering determination. Despite facing various challenges and setbacks, he excelled in both his professional career and community involvement. Chief K.O was a dedicated family man, a devoted Christian, and a friend to many. His legacy is marked by his contributions to his community, his service in the military, and his involvement in politics.

In the end, Chief K.O’s story is one of a life well-lived, leaving behind a lasting impact on those who knew him. His passing signifies the end of an era, but his memory and contributions will continue to be remembered and celebrated by his family, friends, and the community he served.

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Abalijay
"Timeless Persons" is a personal blog project created by me with the aim of sharing the biographies of remarkable individuals from the Niger Delta region and beyond. The blog serves as a platform to captivate and stimulate your thoughts, encouraging reflection on the past, fostering a positive mindset in the present, and inspiring hope for a better future.