How I Shunned My Parents Wealth To Make Billions- Air Peace Founder
The founder of Air Peace, Allen Ifechukwu Onyema, said he ignored his father’s offer to work for Shell to eventually emerge as one of Nigeria’s most prominent aviation moguls.
The Air Peace boss said this on Friday during the second edition of the Access, Stalen Master Class for Entrepreneurship , held in Anambra.
He disclosed this while encouraging Nigerian youths to take up the challenge of creating the right background for success amidst the economic hardship faced in the country.
The Air Peace Chairman said, “Let me tell you how it was for me. Right from the beginning I have always believed that I can be what I can be with God on my side, not without God.
“And when I finished from the law school with people like senator Anyim, all of us were in law school, we were 1988 set. When we finished and I finished my Youth Service in 1989, I started looking for work. My uncles and parents wanted me to relocate to Warri where they were getting me a job with Shell in the legal department.
“I rebelled against my parents. Not rebel in the wrong sense, I didn’t insult anybody. I did it quietly by engaging them . I studied law, yes, easy life, work with Shell, accommodation was there for me from my uncle and others, but I said no.”
Onyema said he wanted to go private, adding that he wanted to practice in a different state.
He said, “I didn’t want to be a lawyer in the first place, in 1984 I was in secondary school. Do you know what I wanted to be? I wanted to go to the Nigerian military and what was propelling me was because I wanted to be part of coup plotting.
“That’s all… My mother, may her soul rest in peace, couldn’t have it, because they knew the son they had brought. I believe back then because of what was happening across Africa that it was through military coup that the West African government evolved; and me, I was a born activist. I like changing situations.”
The Air Peace boss said he could not make it to the Nigerian Defense Academy, because his mother opposed the decision.
According to him, his failure to join the military heightened the choice to read law.
He said, “I interrogated my thought then and I found out that it was one of the worst things that I could do to myself. Trying to achieve success or achieve certain change in society through the wrong way by trying to be involved in violent change.”
He said being open-minded helped him get to the level of owning lots of aircraft, adding his friends reshaped his concept of social change.
“Do not believe that what you believe is the best, You have to process your thoughts most times. Even when you get a business coming to your brain, process it thoroughly, but believe in yourself.
“I went to look for a job. I was going from one office to the other and nobody agreed to take me. Somebody invited me, I went there and he promised me a job. When I got there, he said ‘Oh my son I have about 20 other lawyers in my file, I will not be able to employ you.’ He was so impatient to even help me to believe in me.
“That was in Marina then in Lagos, I was crying, but I didn’t lose hope. That is why I say no matter what you face, you must keep hope alive.”
He said he went to a very senior lawyer, Late Chief Vincent Amobi Nwizugbo who later offered him a job.
“He said to me ‘my son, I have five lawyers in my office, we don’t have to pay but you can come and start, at least you learn. By so doing, maybe someday, we might employ you.’ That was the changing point for Allen Onyema that you see today. I took it with so much happiness, I was thankful to him, I was thankful to God almighty. I celebrated that day in 1990.
“I was not looking for immediate money, somebody has offered me what I call privilege. Somebody has offered me a training ground. Let the pursuit of success be your driving force. At least I had a place I could go to and say this is where I work.”
He said since he rebelled against his parents, they failed to pay attention to his needs.
Onyema said, “Remember I rebelled against my parents. My father bought me a passage when I was in law school. That Passatt was so rickety that I couldn’t bring it to Lagos to use. So, I was jumping Molue. I couldn’t use a taxi. At a time I couldn’t even afford to use busses. S0, I started using the train, I will trek to Ido terminal to join the train.”
According to him, a week after his employment without salary, he was given a very bad case which has been in the chamber since he was in law school.
The Air Peace boss said he eventually won the case saying it has no “jurisdiction.”
He said, “That was the beginning of my life. My boss now decided to employ me on N500 a month. But within one week, I handled another case for him, the people that have the case paid me N2000. I was able to get a jacket and some things. Life began for me.”
He said after a month, Dele, a friend of his, introduced him to a place in Alagbado where they had about seven hundred plots of land for sale, a transaction that laid foundation for his wealth.
He said “We saw it and got some people to buy. Those who saw it brought other people to buy. The family invited me and said ‘look, that small lawyer let us give him that property to sell.”
According to him, he was given four hundred plots to sell with an arrangement that allows him to get any amount added to the price.
The Air Peace Boss said, “I went and advertised the property on National Concord, the then late Moshood Abiola’s National Concord and Nigerians were buying from everywhere. Then N10,000 was a lot of money. I ended up buying almost a hundred plots. I became a landowner at the age of 25. “
He said at a young age, he became a real estate mogul, adding that he started expanding his business.
The aviation mogul said he did not enter into the aviation business because he wanted to make money.
Onyema said, “One thing I know I have always done is selflessness. The desire to touch lives. The desire to help others and continuing happening.
“Most of the companies I set up I didn’t set up because I wanted to make money like Air Peace, I just floated Air Peace because somebody told me that one jet could give a job to a thousand people. I naively believed that one jet could give a job to a thousand people. Yes, aviation could give jobs to a massive number of people, but not one thousand to a jet.
“If it were so, Air Peace being the largest airline in West Africa today would have employed about 28,000 people, because we have about 28 jets.”