EMMA OKWARA’S JOURNEY: FROM STUDENT-ENTREPRENEUR TO CORPORATE EXECUTIVE
All through his stay at UNN, Emmanuel Okwara smelt money and good breeding like someone who went to expensive private schools (what the British, for reasons I’m yet to understand, call public school education). One of his usual expressions was, “Oh, my gosh!” But he was not a snob. On the contrary, he was a natural leader and rallying point in his class. I saw this clearly when we worked together on the departmental newspaper, The Record, along with his two best friends, Nedu Okwu and Segs Adebayo.
You see, Emma and the graphics guy, Ambrose Thomas, were student-entrepreneurs. They ran computer businesses: typing assignments and projects, doing poster and handbill designs, stuff like that. So when we wanted to revive The Record, they provided their computers, scanners, printers, generators, everything that was needed for the work before the official procurement could be made. (A few other students also brought whatever they had.) In addition, they did whatever software and hardware maintenance the equipment required as we went along. Their generosity made it possible for their classmates to have much-needed practical experience during that interlude.
While they were both indispensable in our operations, Emma was more of a people’s person than Ambrose. Although he was not the editor-in-chief (Nedu was), he inspired loyalty in the other members of the editorial crew. He celebrated them and helped to bring out the best in everyone. Segs did the same too. These leadership skills and generally being good with people also shone through in Emma’s capacity as the president of the Mass Communication Association (MCA), as the student body was called then.
I sensed that his computer business was not so much motivated by the pursuit of profit as by a desire to have an avenue for helping less privileged students. It means a lot to an indigent student to have an assignment typed without charge. I also confirmed that Emma didn’t necessarily come from a millionaire family but was accustomed to a certain level of comfort and did what he could to ease the burdens of his mates. In the long hours spent producing the paper, he often bought snacks for everyone and cracked jokes to lighten the mood.
Emma couldn’t understand my habit of praying over everything. In fact, he found it amusing. I would get everyone to hold hands and commit our work into God’s hands. He wasn’t an unbeliever. On the contrary, not only was he saved, he went to the Deeper Life Bible Church then, if you catch my drift. But being a practical person, he didn’t see the need to bring God into mundane matters. Yet, one day when things kept going wrong and introducing delays, who should ask, “Aunty, have you prayed about this” but Emma? We were caught up in addressing the issues as they arose and neglected to pray. He, Ambrose and I held hands in prayer. Soon we had the solutions we required and went on to meet our deadline.
In my view, this attitude of being pragmatic and using human intelligence, rather than seeking God’s counsel first, continued and informed his acceptance of the first job offer he got in his final year through one of the corporate recruitment drives that took place on campus. He probably felt that sailing through the very competitive exam and the subsequent rigorous selection process was all the evidence he needed to know that God was in the picture.
Two or three years down the line, he was suddenly and inexplicably relieved of that job and went through a time of soul-searching. For someone whose middle name seemed to be success, someone who’d gotten used to planning his life and getting just what he wanted, it was a horrifying experience symptomised by feelings of rejection and self-doubt. The resulting introspection and slowing down helped him to reconnect with God and deepen his faith.
But more troubles were still ahead. Emma began to face health challenges that nearly took his life and the business into which he sank the severance money he got from his previous employer tanked completely. He was thus thrown into a merciless cash crunch with a houseful of relatives to cater for. But God, who makes a way of escape for His own, gradually settled his controversies on every side.
Since then, Emma has had a high-flying career which I’ll only mention briefly in this article for reasons I’ll explain shortly. He has added a Masters in Human Resources Management to his degree from here and is currently the regional head of compensation and benefits for a global multinational. His responsibilities span over ten countries in Africa and the Levant.
Some are erroneously assuming that Aunty is only interested in ultra-successful Super Jacksonites. Just like sharing testimonies in church can demoralise those waiting for their own breakthroughs, I didn’t set out to pick those with intimidating CVs to make others feel inadequate or unaccomplished. I was focussing on those who blessed or impressed me personally in one way or the other while here and they also happened to be hyper-successful.
Back to Emma. When I saw his frightening CV, I knew that using it would only fuel the wrong notion I referred to above. But outstanding career success has not changed him at all except in being insulated from the public due to what he calls his “media shyness” and in the packing on of kilogrammes. You need to look twice to recognise the once slim guy. He and his wife, the tough and sweet Udoka (another Super-Jacksonite from the 2007 class), remain admirably down to earth.
Emma doesn’t like the focus to be on him and needed some convincing to let me do his story. His schedule is expectedly tightly-packed and involves frequent overseas travelling. So he is often inaccessible but when he is around, he is still the funny, caring guy he was about a decade ago at UNN.
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You know, there are always times in life when we are caught up with some challenges that tend to make us loose balance – and focus if care is not taken. Such times, it takes courage, perseverance and belief in God(that things will only get better) to not quit but remain upstanding, pushing and pushing the more. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story, ma’am. And to Emma, keep being a source of motivation to
‘day-olds’ like us. Daalu sir!
Thank you and remain blessed.
Hmmmmmm, the end justifying the means, depends on adequate preparations from the beginning. Emma had his beginning fully loaded and he is reaping the end bountifully.
Mum, this post about him is a ‘ginger’ to many.
Welcome, Joycie, and thanks.
nice one. patience and enjoyments works hand-in-hand
Congrats Mr Emma
So many times you have to be selfless to make good and lasting impact on people,and make a place for yourself.It shouldn’t always revolve around you and you alone.
nice one. the lord is good
There are moments in our lives when it seems the sky will burst and swallow us, in such moment, we should strive and enrich our faith with hard work just like Emma Okwara so that victory will be ours at the end
Sometimes in life, the things we are passing through or doing prepares our future life. Emma might have spent his time helping people and I believe he is now reaping from all he has sowed. God can never desert his own n he never did to Emma when he was sick. Kudos Emma and I pray your good deeds proliferate and God will continue to bless you………..Amen
Challenges are stepping stones to fulfilling our destinies. after every fall, we ought to rise like the phoenix and the Lord in his infinite mercies will bring back the lost years, in ten folds. wonderful write up ma!
Glory to God!
Every man shall reap what he sows. You plant hard work and you shall reap the benefits of hard work. Congrats Mr Emma. No positive vibe is a waste.
Am very happy for Emma for finally achieving his dreams. Sometimes, life may seem a bit rough but we should always be steadfast in prayer and believe in God because without God we are nothing.
I think that these days,people remember God the most when they are in need or facing really tough times in life but that shouldn’t be the case, we should always love,acknowledge and serve him no matter what we are going through be it hard times or not because he said he will never allow temptation greater than us to come to us.
And no time ever is prayer useless or too much so we should always stick to praying at all times.
Before one succeeds in life, he must pass through huddles.
Because, no cross no crown.
Emma was encouraged by Job’s trial in time of his own trials and he overcame.
As a student reading this post, why not be encouraged by Emma’s trials when passing through one problem or the other.
Thanks ma, for your encouragement post.
Emma did not render out of misunderstanding but believed in what he was doing and now he reaps all, but if he was lazy nothing good would have come out from it.
At a point Emma was feeling he had made it all and then started neglecting God in everything he did. He started going through ups and downs in life but when he ran back to God all became bright for him. No matter how successful we think we are we should always remember to acknowledge God.
It’s non-arguably right that this giant citadel of learning has hatched great men and women of valour who are doing beautifully well around the globe. Am proud to be a student of UNN from the department of Mass Communication.
The beginning may be discouraging but the end is all that matters
Always acknowledge GOD
I admire his leadership skills and act of selflessness.
It is always good to acknowledge God in all our doings cause in every success we have in life, there is always a source of breakthrough in it and that source is God.
Oh my God! Emma is so big now I can barely recognize him. I literally had to look twice. He has really come a long way from his days as a jacksonite. It’s obvious that things turn out better when you allow God to take the lead. He is indeed a product of God’s grace and I’m glad to hear that his success hasn’t gone to his head, he is still down-to-earth and funny. It’s so nice. You must be so proud of him aunty. Thanks for sharing this inspiring story with us?
I like Emma’s pragmatic nature but by strength shall no man prevail, when we submit to God, he will always be there to pick us up no matter the situation. I thank God Mr Emma finally realized that.
God’s grace and favour surpasses human intellect. We should always involve God in all our activities in our everyday life, because we need his help and our intellect won’t always help us but God’s grace will help us.
Having a good beginning or foundation in life, helps one to have a good ending, even when the going gets tough. Kudos! Emma for your achievements .