An Urhobo man, born and raised in Sapele a suburban city in the current Delta State by a disciplined father, he sometimes credited the strict family background and practice as being a complementary factor in his success as a disciplined civil servant and corporate administrator.
Throughout his career, Dr. G. O. Onosode has chaired several private and public sector businesses and initiatives. He was the Chairman of Dunlop Nigeria Plc (1984-2007), a former chairman of Cadbury Nigeria Plc (1977-93), the Presidential Commission on Parastatals (1981), Nigeria LNG Working Committee and Nigeria LNG Limited (1985-90) and the Niger Delta Environmental Survey (since 1995). He is also the Chairman of Zain Nigeria, a GSM telecommunications company, the oldest GSM operator in Nigeria.
Mr. Onosode was Presidential Adviser on Budget Affairs and Director of Budget (1983). He is a Fellow of the Economic Development Institute of the World Bank, the Nigerian Institute of Management, of which he was President (1979-82). He is also a Fellow of The Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, having been elected to membership of its Board of Fellows in 1998.
In addition, Mr. Onosode is immediate past and inaugural President of the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers, immediate past Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of the University of Uyo and immediate past and inaugural President & Chairman of Council of the Association of Pension Funds of Nigeria. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters and holds Honorary D.Sc. degrees of Obafemi Awolowo University (1990), the University of Benin (1995), and the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (2003) as well as Honorary D.D. degree of The Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso (2002)
Gamaliel Onosode, 65, is a beacon of hop of Nigeria a country troubled by all sorts of voices.
A man of integrity in all aspects of life especially business and religious matters, Onosode commands high demand in corporate boardrooms and at public functions. At one point, Onosode was on the board of over 30 companies including blue chip firms like Cadbury, Dunlop, Vanleer, nal merchant Bank, and the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Project. It is like his very membership of such boards give it added value.
Onosode, revealed that he has had to turn down many invitations either because he cannot personally attend all given his busy schedule, but has encouraged these people to seek other credible citizens to perform such roles. He attended the University of Ibadan and thereafter joined the Commonwealth Development Corporation cdc through a highly competitive interview process.
He rose from executive assistant to regional controller f the organisation. But he quit on principles in 1965 when he disagreed with is employer ‘s decision to finance the federal mortgage bank solely on its share capital. This set a trend that was to work Onosode’s public career.
Unlike the typical Nigerian who will not quit in the face of irreconcilable differences, he proved otherwise. At the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank ndib which he joined later and Commerce Bank where he was pioneer chairman, he quit when he disagreed fundamentally with the way things were going there.
He prides in his sojourn and experience at cdc which moulded him. “But I will always remain grateful to that organisation because I was well trained by it, because of the spread of projects all over the Commonwealth and I was given the opportunity to study everyone of those projects. I think more than anything, that single important experience was responsible for what I am today.” Every other work he did on experience acquired was not dramatically new as the cdc.
Onosode has a strong character and is a man of deep convictions. He believes that he picked these traits from proper upbringing by his parents and God’s interference in ensuring that he not only got good training but also good examples to follow fro his Baptist minister father and mother.
On his quitting jobs, he says “it is a question of integrity. Some people say I am a coward, maybe I am. But I prefer to be that kind of coward. My view is that since I never asked for any position, the position doesn’t bring anything to me. On the contrary, I try to take something into the position. So on the basis of that, I couldn’t possibly have any problem quitting a position.”
He surprisingly declared his membership of the United Congress Party of Nigeria, uncp and ran for the party’s senatorial nomination. He was disqualified but like the principled man, he remained in the party and participated its activities rather than quit politics, decamp to another party or protest over his fate.
He was presidential adviser on Budget Affairs during president Shehu Shagari’s second term in office, and blames the country’s problem on corruption and lack of integrity including distress in the banking industry. “There was widespread corruption, within the entire system. And if there is widespread corruption you can never get anything right. No policy can come up right.”
He is chairman of the Niger Delta Environmental Studies Project which takes some of his time today. He was the first indigenous chairman/ceo of nal Merchant Bank and Chairman/ceo, Intercommerce and Consulting Associates Limited, his consulting firm. He is still chairman, Dunlop, and President, Institute of Stock Brokers. He is also a Baptist Deacon.
Primarily a business personality, he has seen his career wade through different sectors of the Nigerian economic environment. Though, he was a part of a profligate democratic experiment which was the Nigerian Second Republic,Gamaliel Onosode tried to bring a disciplined approach to public finance.
Towards the end of 1983, when public confidence in the economic direction of the country was eroded and accountability was lacking in government subsidies to public enterprises, he was brought in to find solutions to the lackluster performance of public enterprises, as the head of a Nigerian Commission on public parastatals and to bring in a disciplined approach to government subsidies.
The offshoot of his honest and disciplined approach earned him respect from subsequent administrations. A report which was later tagged the Onosode report, an outgrowth of his role as the chairman of the commission to review Nigerian parastatals was the first in the nation to tackle comprehensively, the industrialization drive and capital spending which dominated the oil boom of the 1970s and the early 1980s. The report identified five major defects in planning which it believed had become evident by the end of 1983:
- Public capital expenditure rose during the oil boom at a much faster rate than Nigeria’s physical, technical or financial abilities.
- Huge expenditure on particular industrial projects did not yield expected returns because of “inappropriate choices in their selection, size, design, location and management.”
- Government policies laid too much emphasis on industrialisation, without regard to Nigeria’s resource base and comparative advantage.
- Frequent changes in fiscal and monetary policies created planning problems for the private sector.
- The exchange rate of the naira was not managed “to reflect the basic strength of the economy and the need to encourage domestic production.
In 1995, he became the Chairman of the Niger Delta Environmental Survey, a non-governmental organization that conducted scientific studies on environmental and social impact assessment of oil exploration in the Niger delta. The survey was partly financed by Shell. The survey reports which apportioned responsibilities and blame for much of the environmental degradation in the region on oil operators, the federal government and communities has not been made public.
Deacon Onosode is an alumnus of the University of Ibadan, and has contributed immense time to see through philanthropic and governing matters concerning the university. He is the former Pro-Chancellor of the University and Chairman of its Governing Council.
He is also a devout Christian and started Good News Baptist Church in his Sitting Room on 1st Feb.1984. Good News Baptist Church is now a large church of over 2000 people and has become a force to reckon with in the Nigerian Baptist Convention in terms of missions and evangelism.
Mr. Gamaliel Onosode was the inaugural Chairman of the Global Missions Board of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. In addition, Onosode is Chairman of the Governing Council of the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, Nigeria’s oldest degree awarding theological institution, which would, in 2008 be marking 110 years of its existence while the University of Ibadan would be 60 years old.