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Book Review: Beacons of Nigeria Maritime Industry

Professor Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, Book Reviewer


PUBLISHER: Manifest Books Surulere, Lagos
REVIEWED BY: Prof. Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika,
Department of Mass Communication
University of Lagos, Lagos


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.
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
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.”

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.
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
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.

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