He is the totem of today’s tattered and disadvantaged Abia youth who engage in all manner of menial jobs to survive. He is the first of nine children born to a police tailor father and a petty trader mother.
Akin to today’s Abia youth, he endured countless nights of famishment. He trudged the streets hawking buns and chin-chin as well as labouring on construction sites to prevent his family from becoming an object of scorn.
Customary to the less privileged, his childhood was stolen. He never had the opportunity of a holiday across the border. He couldn’t select or eat any food of his choice and never dressed resplendently. Incapacitated, he only watched desirously his peers from wealthy homes chauffeured around town in luxury cars.
Instead of showing fear or tears, looking for pity or sympathy, he exploited the silver lining in the unpromising circumstances to become a paragon of excellence. Already a white knight to millions of battered Abia youth, Professor Greg Ikechukwu Ibeh OFR is an embodiment of utopian Abia State we fantasise.
His story told by the Assistant Registrar, Gregory University, Mr Sleek Ogbonna Ogwo, is inextricably tied up with that of today’s battered Abia youth hoping for the chance to turn a handful of beans into a vast fortune.
“The hawking experience helped him develop the spirit of enterprise. From selling buns and chin-chin, he also tried his hands on helping site labourers execute their daily man-gree-die work. Through this adventure, he acquired many skills including masonry, carpentry, surveying, etc.
“He was so committed to his newfound man-gree-die work that many site labourers, who gathered daily at Owerri post office in search of prospective clients, looked forward to hiring and deploying the now popular small boy.”
Wow! Doesn’t this deserve a page in the famous Guinness Book of Records? If you asked me, I’d suggest a compulsory mass production of a handbook containing this story for every Abia student. It is deserving in our quest for greatness.
This is rightly so because that sought-after young boy who climbed storey buildings with a head pan of mixed cement and gravel is a professor of entrepreneurship who owns a conglomerate of businesses. He is a director at Songhai Integrated Farms in Porto Novo, a World-Bank-supported integrated farm system. He owns Songhai partnership initiative in Nigeria that has projects in Rivers, Calabar, Enugu, Katsina, Lagos, Owerri and Delta states.
Aside from being a United Nations (UN) insider and expert on diplomacy, Prof Greg Ibeh is also the chancellor of Gregory University; the best Nigerian private university in skill acquisition and knowledge. He spoke authoritatively about his rare transformational aptitude thus:
“When it comes to giving humans new skills that will lead to growth, I am the right person for the job. Once you are 13-years and above, I must give you skills. We will also allow you to contribute to society. Our strategy will lead to a drastic decrease in crime and an increase in skill acquisition, entrepreneurship, scholarship and employment. I am a complete reformer.”
If this assertion did not convince you, then the changed narrative of his family, the ascension of his poor parents to royalty and the success of his six children are enough evidence of his ingenuity and philosophy. His first son is a consultant orthopaedic/oncologist and the second, a consultant cardiologist marrying to an internal medicine practitioner. His third son; an economist is also married. The fourth is a lawyer while the fifth; a girl is an accountant. His nine-year-old son is the baby of the house.
Suffice it to say that Prof Greg Ibeh achieved nobility at just 57; a self-made tycoon and a fulfilled grandfather. Can you beat that! Just take a look at his message of restitution below. It is an attestation that with Prof Greg Ibeh, Abians will have sex on the beach after decades of deprivation.
“When elected governor of Abia State, I will bring the wealth of knowledge from my hard-earned openness to the entire world. Every contact I have ever made in this world will come to Abia State to help develop and uplift the people.
“I have a short, middle and long-term blueprint for the progress of Abia State. At this stage of governance, you must do something visible and we have that template already. I am ready to work and I believe that, by the grace of God and with the help of the people who believe in me in Abia, Nigeria and all over the world, we will succeed.
“I have been able to bring the world presidents to Gregory University. I can do so much more when God allows me to re-enact ‘God’s Own State’ in its meaning. I will bring people together to contribute to the success of the good people of Abia. There is going to be a total revolution.”