Gabriel Igbinedion (born. September 11,1934), is a Nigerian billionaire and philanthropist. Dr, Sir Gabriel is the CEO of Independent Radio and Independent Television.
Sir Gabriel Osawuru Igbinedion is a Nigerian businessman and developer who owns a group of companies under the brand name Okada which is also the name of a location close to the city of Benin where he was born and known for building various institutions such as an educational center and a hospital. He is a businessman known for his diverse ventures in different aspects of the economy most importantly in transportation and tourism.
Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion is the former Esama of Benin Kingdom in Nigeria. The title Esama traditionally means the “godfather of the people”, with responsibilities including assisting the poor in medial, monetary and private venture forms. He was stripped of the title and declared Enemy of the Oba in 2008.
Igbinedion’s business empire includes a private airline, Okada Air, of over 40 aircraft (planes and helicopters), an international property portfolio and a private TV and radio station. He owns a private bank, oil refinery, diamond, gold, marble mines over Africa, a private university (Igbinedion University, the first private university in Nigeria) and a large number of hotels. Igbinedion has built numerous churches including a Grand Catholic Cathedral, and has set up and owns a number of private hospitals across Nigeria. One of Igbinedion’s sons is the Managing Director of Nigerian Aviation, and another, Lucky, was a two-term Governor of Edo State.
Igbinedion under his Okada group owns an indigenous and private airline license which he put to work in 1983 with Okada airline. The airline became the largest private airline in the country towards the late 1980s and early 1990s and had his son, Peter Igbinedion as an executive director, Peter later became head of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria in 1996.
Igbinedion was born to the family of Okunozee and Josiah Agharagbon Igbinedion, his father was an employee with the Public Works Department while his mother traded smoked fish. Igbinedion’s father died when he was 14 years old and he was taken to Benin by his uncle, Mr Idahosa. He lost his mother right before completing his secondary education in Lagos.
He attended the Catholic School, Okada where he was given the name Gabriel, Baptist Primary School, Benin and Eko Boys High School, Lagos.
He started working at an early age and some of his earliest jobs were assisting his uncle in block moulding and trading rubber and timber in Benin. In 1955, he worked as a messenger in the Adult Education dept before joining the Police Force in 1959. He was with the force for 4 years and during the time, he met an expatriate lady, Miss Kairnan. He later married her and with her worked hard to establish his first company – Mid Motors, which first traded from the sitting room of the family home.
In 1964, he moved to Benin to become the regional sales manager of Leventis, Midwest after the creation of the Midwest region in 1963.
Igbinedion left Leventis in 1967 and established a motor sales and service firm, Mid-Motors which was partially funded with bank loans. As a regional sales manager, he was very successful with Leventis and felt he could generate the same volume of sales working on his own. In the 1970s, the firm was involved in assembling Hino Trucks in the country and it is considered the first motor assembly plant in Nigeria. The firm obtained distributorships with Hino Motors, Yamaha, Nedion Fiat and Marcopolo buses.
He later ventured into bottling with Okada dry with the help of Canada dry and Okada airlines. He also owns expansive real estate in Benin where he bought the estates of deceased Bini chiefs. He also owns the ITV television station in Benin and formerly owned an oil license under Moncrief Oil.
In the early 1990s, he was the principal investor in Crown Merchant Bank. Igbinedion is among the Nigerian class of politicians who holds the motto of any government in power, he was a member of the National Party of Nigeria during the second republic and lately and he has been affiliated with the People’s democratic Party recently. His limited education has prevented him from aspiring to higher political office but it has not prevented his son, Lucky from running for electoral office including a successful bid in 1999 and an unsuccessful and controversial bid in 1991 that generated animosity between Gabriel Igbinedion and some in Benin’s traditional council. (1) Through his engagement in politics, he has been suspended from visiting the palace of the Oba and from performing duties tied to the office of Esama.
Igbinedion has spent considerable amount of his funds from the Okada group to develop business and other ventures in his hometown of Okada. The Okada wonderland, a commercial but costly recreational center was opened in 1989. A number of housing ventures were planned and built in the town and a medical center is also located within the Okada estate. At launching, the medical center was equipped with the best facilities available. Okada also has a comprehensive education institute for kindergarten, primary and secondary school students and the Igbinedion University.