Book Review: Beacons of Nigeria Maritime Industry



Professor Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, Book Reviewer

TITLE OF BOOK: BEACONS OF NIGERIA MARITIME INDUSTRY
PUBLISHER: Manifest Books Surulere, Lagos
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2017
REVIEWED BY: Prof. Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika,
Department of Mass Communication
University of Lagos, Lagos

Introduction
The book, Beacons of Nigeria Maritime Industry, which is being presented today, in part is designed to attract attention to the maritime industry; in a part, a biographical narration of 50 different personalities in a specialized industry. What is offered to us therefore, is a rich insight not just on their lives, but how they dealt with situations and survived the times.
Main Thrust of the Book
The authors, Hope Orivri and Obiajulu Agu, embarked on a purposeful journey to establish the fact that it takes an enduring process to build value, shaped by the things people do over time.

Presented in a story form, the writers made the book an easy and interesting one to read, by telling each person’s story in segments – A well-crafted introduction, which gives the reader an overview of who a personality is and tells the reader to search for more. The other segments of each story – Fond Memories, Spectacular Experience, Career Path, and Early Life give the reader a full picture of a personality’s life in enjoyable doses. Interestingly, you can decide on what aspect of a person’s story you want to read now, and come back to, over and again!

Photographs have been well used to tell parts of the stories; photographs of early life and more recent ones; some of them leave you giggling, and wonder how transformation happens as the years roll by.
As it will be boring to do a summary of the 50 different personalities, what follows, gives a flavour and overview of the discourse. So, let me restate that the book presents 50 different personalities; and globally, people are drawn to reading biographies or autobiographies because they want to know what, why, and how notable people did the things they did. They want to know how people dealt with situations and survived the times; want to know what things informed different decisions that such people made, and how they handled failures and managed successes. Hence, anytime, a book about people – their backgrounds, early life and how they have been able to weather the storms and stabilize in a place, will make for interesting reading.
On the whole, the contents of the book have mirrored life in its entirety; exposing the truth about life, that experiences will always be different for different people. But, the baseline is how people are able to piece the puzzles together and find meaning in what they decide to do.
The stories tell us that there are no short cuts to success, rather, contents of the stories show long, enduring efforts and purpose to sustaining achievements. For reason of time, I will just take a few highlights from across the stories to represent different activities that add up to the collective value embedded in this book; some from tough experiences in early life, some on the career front, and some others, how providence and the circle they found themselves charted a path for them in life.

Some of the highlights:

“So, my wife took me to kings Cross and then she bid me goodbye as I took a train, but I stopped by the next station and came back to London. Then, I went to Mission to Seamen and rented a room, bought coffee and books. I locked myself up and started reading.”
A Marine Engineer recounts his strategy to passing an examination.

…the crew prepared for the worst as water entered the vessel steadily. But, rather than sink after a while, the ship started stabilizing. Safe at a Port, they found a whale fitted in the gash on the bow where water had entered freely.
A shipowner’s story of surviving a near-disaster voyage

When his vessel operated a five –year contract with zero down-time and zero loss-time injury in February 2015, this shipowner walked shoulder-high on this world record. When they operated for one year zero down-time, zero loss-time injury, the company celebrated the crew members at a ceremony graced by industry players.
A story of precision, focus and achievement

The trawler owners association take actions to back their trade…, once, they blocked the Lagos channel protesting that the Navy provides security on the waterways… again, they supported the building of a testing laboratory to guaranty quality fish for export… but, they still want one more thing!
An Industry Agenda!
“I woke up as early as 3:00am in the morning and walked to the unknown places looking for trucks. When I flagged the big Lorries down, they would look at my size and just drive off.”
A story of tough beginnings
Conscripted into the Biafran Army as a boy soldier during the Nigerian Civil War when he was just 13 years old, he became a war detainee. He was considered a security threat after it was discovered that his father was still in Nigeria.
An almost-lost dream

She got a broader understanding of the maritime industry when she was made a registrar of ship in 1983. She became the first elected President of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) in Nigeria, having become prominent through her public service activities in the industry.
Career building blocks
He started his working career in his father’s company as an indenting clerk. The position afforded him the exposure and knowledge of cargo clearing at the ports. Subsequently, he got interested in shipping and put in for a shipping bid, which his company won.
Mentorship for a future

His second time on River Andoni, he was the chief officer. The captain was a Ghanaian, there was a Kenyan, a Gambian, a Malaysian, which made them nick-named the ship United Nations. The company built 19 ships; 11 in South Korea, 8 ships in Yugoslavia, present day Croatia.
Building relationships

From the 40 candidates selected after an aptitude test, he emerged among the final eight; four engineer cadets, four marine cadets, who passed the interview at the ministry of transport. That was how he started a life-time career in seamanship. But, it was a sad one for him the first time he got back from sea only to find that his mother had passed on shortly before his arrival.
Surviving trying times

Reporting to the Western Naval Command, this young engineer was sent on NNS Olokun FSG Group, where they repaired ships. There, the engineers on board both marched him nobly to the engine room and said to him, “Young man, in school, it is the Y, the X, but now, it is spanner and screw-driver.’’
Facing realities.

In the course of his work with the Navy, he was listed among those to go for a foreign training, but that plan suffered a twist. One of his close relatives working at the navy replaced his name with that of a girlfriend’s brother and, instead, sent him to the war front.
The place of providence

After studying at the Britannia Royal Naval College, he had sea-time in a fleet, where he was able to travel across countries world-wide. Serving on board the HMS Rothesay, a frigate, this Nigerian was the only non-British of the about 350 crew on the ship.
Driven by distinction.

“I wanted a life-long happiness for the workers. I wanted to look at the faces of workers and be sure that they are truly happy. I wanted workers with dignity. But, I know also that dignity would be far from them if they have nothing to fall back to at the end of the day.”
Planning for the future

When he turned down an offer to work with the Airforce as an airplane mechanic, the other option was to go to the navy for training, even though it was a tough one. But, a great memory of watching his father work with machines and helping to carry his tool box remained with him.
Life-time bonds

Both brothers quickly retrieved the eggs from the fire, put out the fire, and went to a safe place to have a feast of roasted eggs; a couple quite burnt, a number partly-cooked, and others that were raw. They enjoyed the luxurious meal and drinks, and by the next day, they spent the shillings like big boys would.
Taking on adventures

“Growing up, I use to see men walking down our street, swaying stylishly from side to side, and having handkerchief dangling at their back pocket. When I asked, I was told that they were seamen. So, out of curiosity I run after them to see what they were doing at a place called California Hotel.”
Purpose-driven

Critique and Conclusion
Taking time to read through this book, Beacons of Nigeria Maritime Industry, I like the fact that the writers of the book focused on people who stand tall in a specialized industry. Taking together, they constitute an inspiring testament dedicated to men of excellence who are upstanding, not grand standing and wear the garb of distinction. Like any good book however, the book is not without weaknesses. For example, is it possible to have a more rounded picture of the 50 personalities than what is presented to us here? In other words, how do their strengths balance up and outweigh their weaknesses, which make even the greatest of men, mortals? In this reviewer’s opinion, iconic personalities such as we are dealing with in the Beacons of Nigeria Maritime Industry, do not necessarily preclude mention of failings.
Notwithstanding these suggestions, an outstanding merit of this book, is its ability for piecing together into one book, semi-biographies of 50 different personalities. It gives the book a remarkable credibility, and makes it a resource to teach young people about life from diverse perspectives, and in a form that they can never be bored with –story-telling. So, I am pleased to announce that this is a book of great merit and worth. It deserves a conspicuous place in any decent library.
For a close, get a copy of the book for yourself, and another copy for a young person who needs encouragement to remain determined for success. You will be glad you did.