From Christian Chime, Onitsha-Nigeria
Some men were born great, while others had greatness thrust upon them. So goes the popular saying. Yes, that could be said of Sir Louis Carter Izuchukwu Onwugbenu, a quintessential Nnewi-born international businessman.
He rose through intense hardwork and uncanny perseverance from what could be described as local toddler six decades ago, to an international business executive and household name that has etched his name in the golden sands of time today through honesty, charity and philanthropy.
Certainly it wasn’t easy at all. Because Onwugbenu’s life has remained weaved very tight around service to God, humanity and industry. The virtues he said were inculcated in him from the cradle by his mother-Mrs Cecilia Onwugbenu (aka Omakaa) and priests who he was sent to live with, before he ventured into local trading.
That like a mustard seed in 1972, it took just five years for him to blossom into an oak of business success by 1977, through vending of multiplicity of whatever wares he considered to be in high demand at any point in time. He had shuttled between his Nnewi base and under the Carter Bridge market at Idumota, Lagos Island weekly.
Speaking yesterday at the annual get together of the beneficiaries of the Louis Carter Scholarship Foundation which he set up about five years ago, Chief Onwugbenu expressed deep joy that the beneficiaries of the scheme were doing excellently well in their academic works. He used the opportunity to announce the admission of new set of beneficiaries and the adoption of two sets of quadruplets and quintuplets respectively into the education foundation and welfare scheme.
The new arrivals now brought the number of beneficiaries to about one hundred fifty(150). They cut across nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary school students, as well as seminarians-priests in training. The foundation also carry out welfare programmes like clearing hospital bills for indigent patients, welfare of some priests, the aged, invalids and the sick.
He went down memory lane of life’s journey, how he started from a humble beginning and his late mother’s everlasting role and deep impression in his life. That it was his mother and the resident Catholic priests he lived with and served as a growing young boy that ingrained in his heart the love for charity. The love for those in need, especially now that he has enough resources to share with them. And to ensure the sustenance of the programme, Chief Onwugbenu decided to formally establish and funded a foundation to carry on the good works even on a wider and stronger spectrum. For it to serve and touch the lives of more needy young men and women.
He commended those that have graduated, and said he was delighted that their superlative academic performance had remained great morale booster to him. He admitted that coming from a humble background, whose inability to go further in his educational pursuit in life was inhibited by inadequate resources his generosity towards others, especially scholars has never been curtailed by age. Instead, it manifested more, making him appreciate the need to give back to the society.
Counseling members of the foundation, he said he was raised to be God-fearing and charitable in words and deeds, and had impacted same in all of his children.
That from an early age, his parents had nurtured and imbibed the solid foundation for an undying love for others and faith in God in him. And having lived and learnt under the tutelage of the early missionaries, who brought and propagated Christianity in Nnewi, service to God, humanity and philanthropy have remained his lifestyle. This truly showed in every step of his growth, from ‘altar boy,’ ‘mass-server’ and a regular face at the Uruagu unit Block Rosary.
Onwugbenu said that he drew inspiration from the bible Psalm 128, which says: “Blessed are those who fear God and do His will, for they shall reap bountifully.”
Announcing the latest members of the foundation including a set of quintuplets-4boys and a girl, named Akachukwu, Chiemelie, Chidiomimi, Chinweolu and Ezinwanne.
Onwugbenu who is popularly called “Okpata Ozuora” -meaning, wealth that is extended to all; had at their birth in a relatively unknown God’s Mercy Maternity Home, Obiuno-Otolo, Nnewi picked the huge medical bills of the quintuplets born to a 40-year old Keke operator Mr Abuchi Odo-Ezugwu and his wife, Ndidi, 30.
A man of few words, Chief Onwugbenu, an ordained Papal Knight who was holidaying overseas in the United States of America (USA)along with his family when they were born on July 27,2018 had told journalists on the phone that he loved babies, and would have loved to receive them personally.
So, besides undertaking their medical bills and announced their instant adoption into his education foundation upto university level, Chief Onwugbenu announced a global scholarship for the babies. He also adopted an earlier set of quadruplets delivered July 14,2014 by an-Awka-based 30-year old housewife from Awuda-Nnobi, Mrs Chiamaka Eze Udenyi.
Mrs Eze-Udenyi, an unemployed 2009 graduate of Microbiology from Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Uli had burst into songs of praise amidst tears, praising God for their benefactor for his kindness and love for her family especially the children.
She said she was so relieved and overjoyed when the great philanthropist intervened in their matter, pointing out that his intervention not only saved the lives of the children but her own too. More so that he has continued to be by their side till date. And has just announced their adoption as part of his household and that their scholarship has now gone global. That both sets are now covered to study in any university in any part of the world.
Nnewi high chief’s life of philanthropy has remained amazing, limitless
and seeming inexhaustible, with the donation of a three-storey building
complex to St Louis Primary School, Uruagu-Nnewi. And Testimonies
abound of how the businessman has truly touched the lives of those
around him, irrespective of tongue, tribe or creed.
In their anniversary address, an undergraduate and one of the leaders of the beneficiaries of the Foundation, Mr Arazu Chigozie reiterated that the foundation started in 2013 with 43 students-20 university undergraduates and 23 secondary school students. But that it has so far grown to about 200 beneficiaries. He described Onwugbenu’s philanthropic zeal as having root far deeper than those of contemporary philanthropists. That he has been constantly dedicating his time to proving to the world that the poor economic situation in the country which leaves many with low standard of living added to the easily observable institutional dysfunction need not be a barrier to an enlightened future. They presented special anniversary songs, traditional dances, mock newscasting and dresses.
The management of the foundation in their message read by Mr J. Ifejiaka presented a glorious graphic picture of things, from inception. They also introduced a beneficiary of the scheme, Mr Ike Chukwuemeka who made First Class.
The management urged all the students to gird their loins for harder work and better performance in their academic works, as a way to encourage the benefactor. They described him as one among many, who uses his resources to uplift the less privileged around him. That so far, five seminarians have joined the foundation.
Rev Father Alphonsus Okonkwo who led the anniversary church service held in Onwugbenu’s estate at Ndi-Ojukwu, Uruagu Nnewi charged citizens to drop all the bad experiences of 2018 and to count all our blessings. To carry the good experiences across into the new year.
He admonished everyone to cultivate the attitude of sharing with others what we have, no matter how little as it goes a long way in ministering to their needs and situations. The priest described Chief Onwugbenu as radiating the benevolence of his late mother. That giving is in the family.