It is often said that the most difficult phase in the life of a successful Nigerian businessman is when he or she has made it in life and has reached the point when they decide what to do to others and how to control the lives of others.
Such are the outsized privileges and perks of wealth that some feels like playing God with other people’s lives.
Not this gentleman called Matthew Tonlagha, the big man at FENOG (Nig) Limited who I am extolling today on his natal day.
After success, many strive to desperately turn themselves into tin-gods, whose favour all try to curry, while some hoodwink their people into thinking that without them, they can’t survive.
This rare breed of human wears his silent achiever tag gracefully and as unobtrusively as he entered this world.
Today is your day, my brother, my mentor and my role model. He is part of the few in the whole wide world, who are unaffected and, rarely exist in our space.
Their kinds come only once in a lifetime; you start to think about Nelson Mandela, Obafemi Awolowo, John F. Kennedy, Isaac Adaka Boroh, Martin Luther King, Loius Farakhan et al.
In this modern day, one of such rarity is Matthew Tonlagha, ”Keme-owei” (Great man, as the Ijaws would say); a leader, a benefactor and a man that I have been privileged to know as a friend, ally, father, mentor and confidant, and whose birthday today necessitates this tribute from me.
Mr. Matthew, can you imagine that? He is a businessman who is heavily involved in the oil and gas industry, and had through the dint of hardwork and Godly-vested privileges risen to the zenith of his chosen path in life, that is the oil and gas industry.
His rare quiet mien is a testament to his character that had made him achieve so much in all his business endeavours, with an unsullied record of achievements.
His pristine legacy in the lives of Niger Deltans, and his enduring legacy of a peaceful and tranquil individual has made him such a moral force in the mind of his people.
His trajectory in business and personal lives stand him out among all other successful men in the Niger Delta area.
He is as ecumenical in his personal dealings as he is in his business adventures.
Like some others in his position, as a wealthy man, Mr. Tonlagha could have sought to play the role of a “spoiler” in local politics; he could have used his contacts and wealth to secure a niche as a baron dispensing patronage to underlings and wielding influence as a “godfather” over his people. Mr Matthew, as his people are wont to call him, did nothing of the sort.
He could have a chain of titles attached to his name and that of his beautiful queen, Esther, but he rather have a chain of projects that positively impact the lives of his Ijaw people.
His philanthropic deeds, especially those that empower and uplift his people, have always made quite a lot of impression on Ijaw youths and elders and has set him apart as one who truly espouses what the Ijaws call the ”Doukeme” (gentleman) ethos – that blend of good breeding, nobility, decency and compassion that we hold in high esteem in these parts. For me, these little acts were very much the measure of the man.
I am sure I am not the only beneficiary of his generous spirit that has a story to tell. But I owe it a duty to bear witness to the great attributes of this quintessential gentleman – mentor, teacher, leader, friend to many, high and low and an amazing husband, father and great benefactor to the Vineyards of God Almighty.
He is married to Mrs Esther Tonlagha and they both have a princely three-child fold.
I feel especially honoured by the friendship and the kinship of this remarkable son of Gbaramatu and I wish him many more years of fruitful service to humanity in this realm.