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Chief Gabriel Osawara Igbinedion

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The Lion of Okada is here!

Welcome to Logbaby’s Biography of Gabriel Osawara Igbinedion (The Esama of Benin Kingdom)


Name: Gabriel Osawara Igbinedion 

Date of Birth: Sep 11th, 1934

State of Origin: Edo State (Benin Kingdom)

Spouse(s):  Oredola Maria Agho

          Irene Kiernan Igbinedion(m.1962)

                    Lady Cherry Igbinedion(m.1977)

Occupations: Entrepreneur

Other Roles: Esama of Benin Kingdom


Mabel (F) Michael (M) Okunozee (F) Orobosa (F)
Charles (M) Bright (M) Ehi (F)  
Peter (M) Patience (F) Omosede (F)  
Frederick (M) Philomena (F) Ivie (F)  
Lucky (M) Peter Osawaru (M) Amenze (F)  



Gabriel Osawara Igbinedion (The Lion of Okada) is a man that you must mention when it comes to indigenious business in Nigeria. He is a man driven by love for his people and is very passionate for development in Nigeria with a deep committment to his people of OKADA, as is evident in his works.



Gabriel Osawara Igbinedion was born on Sep 11th, 1934 to Chief Josiah Oviawe Igbinedion and Mrs Okunozee Igbinedion at Okada village and is the only surviving son of his parents. His mother was the daughter of the Ihaza of Usen, a descendant of the Usen Royal family and his grandfather was a warrior.

His father Josiah Oviawe was the founder of the present day Okada when he initiated the movement from the old Okada with his friends and relatives to establish the new settlement in 1929. This was motivated by the desire to settle near the new road constructed at that time. Oviawe died at an early age when his son was barely 9 years old.

The young Osawara would have to find his feet without his father and so he left Okada in search of a better life.



His movement to Benin was motivated by a number of factors, fundamental amongst which was the death of his father. Being of a humble home he was not in the position to continue his education without his father and had to seek the support of others. This was why he came to live in Benin City as a househelp to among others, Mr. Samson Aiwekhoe Idahosa, a Forest Guard at Okada who enrolled him at the Benin Baptist School.

During his days at Benin Baptist School he was made the General Monitor due to the ease with which he administered duties that called for leadership. On completion of his primary education he proceded to Lagos where he lived with Mr. Ben Edemakhiota and enrolled at Eko Boys High School.

At Eko Boys High School he did very well in sports although he had to return to Benin owing to financial limitations and the fact that the man he was livng with was transferred out of Lagos.



On his return he got a job as a probationary teacher at Okoro II village. It was at this period his mother became insisted he took a wife  wife and eventually got him  a wife from Usen her home town, Oredola Maria Agho, who bore him four children Lucky, Bright, Patience and Philomena.  

He soon became bored with life in the village and then sought and secured another job in Benin City, as an office messenger at the City Council and was paid  £3:16s (three pounds and sixteen shillings) and also served in the Local Adult Education office where he became involved in the circulation of an adult literacy campaign newspaper “Ebe Ukpalaghodaro” (Progress Book), introduced in 1955 by the Education Department to eradicate illiteracy in Benin Division.

The circulation of the paper was very poor due to poor transport network, Chief Igbinedion tackled this problem by acquiring a motorcycle and doing the deliveries himself thereby increasing revenue and also leading his division to wining the cup for fighting illiteracy for 2 years.

In 1959 at the age of 25  he joined the Nigerian Police Force, 10 months later lost his mother When Gabriel lost his mother on 26th November 1958, it was his two friends. Mr. E. K. Kizor and Justice Peter Stephen Thomas who assisted him with six pounds and two pounds respectively to give his departed mother a befitting burial.

He got married in 1962 to Miss Kiernan a Scottish lady who was the then Principal of Queens School Ede subsequently in 1963 he quit from the Nigerian Police Forece because the pay was too poor to sustain his new family and the job became boring for him.


His first venture into the private sector was Leventis Motors Company where he worked as a sales representative for the distribution of Mercedez cars and lorries. He worked excellently well and was promoted as the Sales Manager of the  company’s area office of the Mid-west Region in 1964, he left for his home base bringing the new branch into prominence in less than 2 years operating the sales department from his living room before moving to hired quarters in 1965 and by 1966 Leventis Motors took the leadership from Armels Transport Company Limited as principal distributors of Mercedez Benz cars and lorries.

He had wonderful business strategies which led to increase in sales. These strategies helped to promote the activities of the Leventis Company and project Mr. Igbinedion as an astute businessman, as well as to challenge top management staff of the company to greater productivity. On the other hand, the rise and successes of Igbinedion within a short time in the establishment was seen as a threat to some of the senior staff. It was at this point that Igbinedion, having identified his entrepreneurial ability, decided to end the foreign monopoly in the Nigerian motor industry by pioneering an indigenous motor company “Mid Motors Limited” which was the first of its kind.

The Mid-Motors company formed the foundation stone of Igbinedion's business empire, the Okada Group of Companies which today comprises several business ventures including aviation, shipping, banking, education, soft drink manufacturing, hospital and medical research, agriculture, holiday resort development, radio and TV communi­cations and oil exploration.

The same year, 1968, Mid-Motors Nigeria Company Limited began to market Japanese built Hino vehicles and Polish manufactured Nedion Fiat cars in the country. The business deal was preceded by an agreement between the Mid-Motors Company and the Japanese Hino Motor Factory of Tokyo, giving Mid-Motors the sole distribution rights in Nigeria. From motor vehicle distribution, Mr. Igbinedion went into vehicle assembly. In June 1972, Mid-Motors commissioned a £3 million (three million pounds) assembly plant with a capacity to assemble 16 Hino trucks weekly, and within six months it assembled some 400 trucks and tipper lorries. The company which started with an initial investment capital of £2,500 (two thousand, five hundred pounds) in November 1968 had by June 1971 a share capital of £1.3 million.

The Managing Director of the new company, Mr. Igbinedion, made it a point of duty to send his employees annually on six month attachment training with the Hino Company Tokyo, Japan, in order to sustain a good crop of trained personnel for the new company. Moreover, as part of his business tactics, Mr. Igbinedion seized every available opportunity to advertise the products of his company to the public. He took delight in organising motor exhibitions for businessmen and other likely consumers of Hino vehicles. Participants at the 13th annual conference of the Association of West African Surgeons in Benin City in 1973 were beneficiaries of such exhibition..

He used this opportunity  to acquaint the delegates from neighbouring countries, notably Ghana, Cameroun, Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire with the products of his company; and they in turn requested for Hino vehicles to be sold in their countries, urging the management of the company to work out the modalities for the development of such international business.

Admittedly, not all of these business strategies yielded the anticipated dividends. Nonetheless, Mid-Motors vehicle assembly efforts soon led to the expansion of its endeavours with the establishment of another motor assembly plant in Kano and a sales sub-agency in Onitsha. What was important, in this case, was the business method adopted by the Managing Director of the young company. The success story which accrued from this, again showed that Mr. Igbinedion was destined for great heights.

In August 1973, Mr. Igbinedion  signed a half million naira vehicle assembly agreement with the Marco Polo S.A. Company of Brazil represented by Messrs. Jose Martins and Gomes Printo. The assembly plant also sited as a unit of the Mid-Motors vehicle assembly factory in Benin City assembled and distributed Brazilian made luxury Marco Polo buses in Nigeria. Within a space of two months, the Managing Director of Mid-Motors went into another agreement, this time, on vehicle distribution, with Chrysler Inter­national in London, he went into this deal because their car was at the reach of an  average car as it combines elegance, durability and adaptation to our road conditions". True to Mr. Igbinedion's expectations, the Chrysler range of cars sold relatively cheaply and was quite reliable even under the hard conditions of the Nigerian roads. The initial problem as regards spare parts was soon solved with the massive importation of the items into the country, by the Mid-Motors Company. 

Another business that deserves a special mention is Okada Dry Nigeria  being the first indigenous soft drinks bottling plant in Nigeria. It was established in December 1976 under the franchised agreement with Canada Dry International with headquarters in New York, USA. The Okada Dry limited has subsidiaries in other parts of the country including Kano and Makurdi, and a depot in Minna employing more than 1,500 staff.9 One other related industry established by Igbinedion is the 0 and G Bakery and Confectionery Factory, a multi-million naira project which was commissioned in June 1987 by the then Military Governor of Bendel State, Co!. John Mark Inienger. The automated baking factory was built for the Okada Group of Companies by Baker Perkins limited of Peterborough, United Kingdom, and it produces on the average some 2,500 loaves of bread per hour.  Another related industry to the 0 and G Bakery and the Okada I Industry is the NEDAC Nigeria Limited, a Carbon Dioxide 1 company established by the Okada Group to supplement the Ca requirements of the soft drink industry. The establishment of NEDl to the unavailability of adequate carbon dioxide anywhere was to cater for the needs of the various soft drink concerns. The N dioxide manufacturing plant built at a cost of three million naira in Nigeria  produced 250kg of carbon dioxide per hour. Its sold some 27 tons of liquid carbon dioxide. 11.

Chief Igbinedion was also the first to establish an airline in the country, Okada Air, and was the first Nigerian to single handedly build a church (Okada Baptist Church) with a capacity of 4,000.

Igbinedion Hospital and Medical Research Centre was the largest and best equipped hospital owned by any individual in Nigeria. The Igbinedion Montessori Nursery and Primary Schools are the first of such institutions to be granted international recognition in Nigeria. Today, with the Igbinedion Hospital and Medical Research Centre in Okada, the town has become the medical village of Africa. The hospital houses some 600 beds amongst which are a 150 bed maternity ward; 80 V.I.P. suites and four bullet proof presidential wards.

Other pioneer members of the Board are Professor T. A. Lambo (WH.a.) Professor A. O. Lucas (WH.O.), Professor B. D. Musa, Professor P. Omo-Dare, Professor T. O. Okeahialam, Professor O. E Giwa-Osagie, Lady C. L. Igbinedion, Dr. N. Lange (UK), Dr. A. B. Sulaiman, Dr. A. Igbinovia, Dr. S. N. Of ole, Dr. A. Morgan and Mr. Marcus Setchell (UK).

In in 1987 he dived into the tourism  when he decided to develop his Okada village into a modern tourist attraction along the line of the "Disney World" of the United States of America. Also influential in his decision to improve the lot of Okada was his knowledge of the story of Birmingham and Coventry in England, two neighbouring towns built by two brothers transformed from a village setting to modern urban centres.

Okada, formerly a rural centre tucked away in a remote corner of the Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo State, some 56 kilometres from Benin City, is today a tourist centre with modern facilities. The new city of Okada houses the Igbinedion estate comprising 1,800 units of one bedroom and three bedroom self contained chalets. Okada enjoys constant electricity supply drawn from the National Grid NEPA high tension cable from Benin City at the expense of Osawaru Igbinedion who has also been responsible for the monthly bill of some N50,000.00 since its installation. The 87 neighbouring villages have been provided with electricity.

The new Okada also houses a 1,500 hectare mechanised farm comprising 16 fish ponds and several vegetable gardens. Also located here are other facilities including a secondary school, a post office with an international telephone system, satelite television, a zoo, artificial lakes, an amusement park, hard courts for both local ctnd international lawn tennis tournaments and a multi million naira golf course. There is a "Garden of Fame and Heroes" with life size statues of great Nigerian leaders and prominent personalities such as Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Major General J.T.U Aguiyi-Ironsi, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Generals Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo, Murtala Mohammed, Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Babangida, etc; and in BendellEdo-Delta States, Premier/Governors including Prof. Ambrose Alii, Maj.Gen. J.T. Useni, General David Ejoor, Co!. Thnde Ogbeha, Co!. John Inienger, Dr. S.O. Ogbemudia, Sir Agbazika Innih, Chief Dennis Osadebey are all in the Garden. Also represented are some of the former Colonial masters including the Head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II, Sir ED. Lugard and Sir Robert McPherson. .

Today the population of the new city has increased from about 2,000 to more than 20,000 inhabitants. During 1989 over 87 per cent of the visitors who came to the holiday resort were foreigners. Since then every year has attracted more enthusiasts to the 'Wonderland'. In an interview, the founder and sole proprietor of the new Okada tourist centre, Chief Igbinedion disclosed that although he was inspired by the Disney World project, he nevertheless tried as much as possible to minimise foreign influence in order to maintain a traditional African atmosphere. The idea of the centre was nurtured by both himself and his wife, Lady Cherry 

It has to be emphasised that the hospital complex and research centre were not cited in Okada for the purpose of Okada and the tourist centre alone, but more as a service to humanity. It is meant to cater for the needs of those Nigerians and other nationals who have formed the routine habit of going abroad regularly for medical check up and attention usually at enormous expense. Apart from offering treatment to the sick, the Centre has relevant facilities for medical researchers and provide the right and conducive environment for medical experts.


Established in May 1983, the Airline began its long journey to success with a fleet of 2 HS125, 1 Caravelle four BAC 1-11 aircraft acquired through British Caledonian from Sir Freddie Laker of Laker Airways. With a staff strength of 110 and load factors of 34% the idea was to ameliorate the plight of the teaming Nigerian airline users who had to go through merciless situations to secure both domestic and international flights. For instance, between 1981 and 1983, the number of passengers flying domestic and international routes increased from 2.3 to 3 million and 60% of this increase was for domestic network. Thus, when the Okada Airline commenced its official flights finally in October 1983, it had as one of its principal missions the alleviation of the pressure on Nigeria's only carrier - the Nigeria Airways.

Between 1983 and 1984, the Airline witnessed a remarkable increase in its strength. The domestic coverage of the passenger aircraft which had been restricted to mainly the Lagos - Benin - Enugu - Port Harcourt axis was given a face lift with additional planes and improved services. Within the same period, the Airline branched out to air cargo services to meet the growing demands of air cargo industry. In February 1984, Okada Air purchased a Caravelle aircraft for the domestic service and a Boeing 707 Cargo aircraft which serviced international routes. Simultaneously, a McDonell Douglas DC8 was purchased and put on lease for international passenger service; along with an HS125 aircraft which was put on the internal routes for charter. By December 1984, another aircraft, Dornier 228, was put on the Niger State route at the request of the then Military Governor, Col. David Mark. This marked the beginning of regular air service to Minna Airport, thereby, bringing the total number of aircraft in the fleet to nine, induding two cargo aircraft for international routes...

The year 1985 ushered in an even bigger success story for the Okada Group. In August, four aircraft, comprising three Aerospace BAC 1-11 and one Shorts 330 planes were bought and put into internal service.

By 1987 four more BAC I­II had been acquired including two executive jets, to cater for charter service.

As at 1988, the Okada Airline fleet comprised nine BAC 1-11 Passenger/Cargo aircraft; two BAC 1-11 Executive configuration aircraft; one Dornier 228 Passenger aircraft; one Shorts 330 Passenger aircraft; and two HS125 Executive aircraft, bringing the total to 17 aircraft.

By the close of 1988, Okada Airline which at inception five years earlier, had load factors of 34%, had attained an increase in its load factors of 80-100% thus acquiring an optimum utilisation level of passenger and cargo capacity. The Boeing 707 international cargo service had increased its service range to include Europe, Asia, North and East Africa; utilising to the full its 40 ton unit capacity.

On 7th May 1992, Chief Igbinedion made history in the aviation industry when he became the first blackman in the world to purchase a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. Both the then President, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, and Vice President Augustus Aikhomu in recognition of this great achievement by a Nigerian citizen jointly gave the commissioning ceremony the presidential seal. It must be emphasised that the success of Okada Air is partly attributable to the support given to the Airline over the years by the Federal Government. At the commissioning ceremony, Vice President Augustus Aikhomu re-echoed the administration's commitment to supporting any individuals or corporations who would make similar contributions to the nation in any field of endeavours.

The Airline staff strength reached the 1,000 mark from its level of 110 at inception in 1983. 

The issue of safety in the air was of paramount concern to the Okada Airline. The solution was found in a more thorough and expert training of the flight deck crew and to this direction the Airline turned its attention. From March 1984, Okada Airline began to participate in pilot training and courses organised on a regular basis in various parts of the world.

Okada is synonymous with efficiency in transportation all over Nigeria. From Sokoto and Maiduguri to Lagos and Port Harcourt motor cycle transport are now known as "Okada" in recognition of its ability to beat the traffic and convey the commuter to his destination promptly.


The Igbinedion University was established in the year 1999 and was the first indigenious private University, it is located in Okada, Ovia Local Government Area.

It's graduate and under graduate prograns accredited by the Nigerian University body and other professional bodies involved, it also has 7 colleges namely; College of Law, College of Health Sciences, College of Natural and Applied Sciences, College of Business and Management Studies, College of Pharmacy, College of Engineering and College of Arts and Social Sciences.

Thus University was the first private University to produce Medical doctors in Sub-Saharan Africa and producing the first private University in 2006 to gradute with a first class from the Nigeria law School.

It also has as its notable Alumni Ibraham Hassan Dankwabo (PhD, 2013). Governor Gombe State.and Kingsley Kuku (MSc, 2012). Former National Adviser, Niger Delta Affairs amongst many others.


He has gotten over 30 traditional titles of a very importance is the Esama tiitle which was bestowed on him on April 5th 1974 and which literally translates  to "Son of the People" being the Esama of Benin at age 40 basically makes him the youngest to be bestowed which such hihg ranking title, 3 years later he performed the Iyanhien rite which is the highest chieftancy  rite in the kingdom, he is also nicknamed the Esama of Africa or the Esama of the World, he held other titles which would be summarised for easier comprehension.

The Ngwang Tarok of Langtang Otun Parakoyi of Ibadan  The Olubadan of Ibadan
Mayegun Ode Ondo(Harbinger of peace) Balogun Tayese of Oshogbo Kingdom  

The Esama was honoured with the title of Grand Commander of the Knights of the Order of Saint Benedict (GCKB) and was  also honoured by the then Duke of Edingburgh  for his contribution to the preservation of African wildlife


Mid-Motors Company  Igbinedion Education centre Igbinedion Hospital and Medical Research Centre
Okada Dry (Nigeria) Limited The United Mrican Shipping Line Limited Intercontinental Merchant Bank Limited, Jamaica
IBW Radio and Television Okada Air  Nedac (Nigeria) limited,
Gabdion Motors limited (1973) Okada Export and Import Company limited (1975) Cable and Rods Company (Nigeria) limited, (1975)
I.B.W Enterprises (Nigeria) limited (1975) Okunozee and Igbinedion (Holdings) limited (1975) Day and Zimmermann (Nigeria) Limited (1979)
Okada Bottling Plant (Nigeria) limited (1979)  Okada Farms Limited (now Ovia Farms) (Nigeria) limited (1980) Mako Bottling Plant (Nigeria) limited (1980)
Bala Bottling Plant (Nigeria) limited (1980) Okada Brewery limited (1980) Moncrief Oil International limited (1981)
Swede Water (Nigeria) limited Help (Nigeria) limited (1983) Gabdion Steel (Nigeria) Limited, (1986)
Okada Wonderland limited (1987) Okada Fishing Company Limited (1987) Omah Construction limited (1987)
Okada Tours Limited (1987) Okada Stevedoring (Nigeria) limited (1987) 0 & G Bakery limited (1987)
La 'Phamachin (Nigeria) limited (1988) Crown Corks Crown Estate. Limited
Nigeria Salt Factory The Telegraph Newspaper  The Speaker Newspaper
Igbinedion University(1999)    



As a Chief and traditional Benin man, Chief Igbinedion would not disclose the number of his children. But going by the ones known to us, the Esama has well­bred and educated children. A number of them, notably Lucky (his eldest son), Mabel (his eldest daughter), Bright, Charles, Peter, Frederick, Michael, Philomena, Patience, Okuonzee and Ehi have all successfully completed their higher education and are well placed in their respective endeavours of life. The first of the children, Lucky Igbinedion, was a one time Chairman of the Oredo Local Government Council, the premier council in Edo State. He is also a politician of top quality, who contested for the Edo State gubernatorial seat, the highest political office in the State in the election of 1991 and was the Governor of Edo from 1999-2007. His other children are also doing well in their various fields.He has numerous grandchildren and greatgrandchildren.








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