Raymond Dokpesi: First Nigerian to own shipping firm, radio, TV stations

ON Monday, May 29, 2023, one of Nigeria’s illustrious sons and tycoons, Raymond Dokpesi, breathed his last.

He was 71.

Dokpesi, the founder of DAAR Communications plc, which runs Ray Power FM and African Independent Television (AIT), battled a stroke after initially surviving COVID-19 with his family in 2020.

He was recovering from the ailment at a hospital in Abuja, where he succumbed to death.


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A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDPl, he was Deputy Director General of Technical and Systems of Atiku Abubakar’s presidential campaign for the 2023 election.

Dokpesi was the first Nigerian to own an indigenous shipping firm and private radio and television stations in the country.

Before venturing into media enterprise, his relationship with the late Moshood Kashimawo Abiola and Bamanga Tukur had helped him launch the African Ocean Lines (AOL), Nigeria’s first indigenous shipping firm, now defunct.

In 2014, he stepped down as the Chairman of DAAR Communication PLC and handed it over to one of his sons, Paul Dokpesi.

A renowned entrepreneur, Dokpesi married politics with business and was successful in both, but with many hurdles.

He was a founding member of the PDP from its inception and remained in the party till he died.

He etched his name as a pioneer in Nigeria’s media industry and a formidable politician who remained focused on his party’s ideals in Nigeria’s teetering political climate. 

Dokpesi built a formidable network of political and business allies, and also mentored and inspired several journalists into stardom.

The deceased’s political adventure peaked when he contested the position of PDP National Chairman in 2017 and lost to Uche Secondus.

Apart from losing an election, he had a tough time with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over corruption charges.

The Commission accused him of illegally pocketing N2.1 billion from Federal Government funds meant for arms procurement to fight insurgency under former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The EFCC charged him to court and froze his accounts, but the Appeal Court eventually freed him.

DSS arrested Dokpesi over alleged link with Henry Okah’s Independence Day bombing in Abuja

On October 1, 2010, while Nigerians celebrated the country’s 50th Independence Anniversary in Abuja, two car bombs killed about a dozen people and injured others.

The Department of State Services (DSS) later alleged that one of the major suspects in the attack, Henry Okah, had a link with Dokpesi, claiming that they exchanged text messages.

At the time, Dokpesi was a campaign director for the former military leader Ibrahim Babangida.

The secret police detained and later released him. 

He later sued the operatives to enforce his fundamental rights.

Statement by his family on his passing

The statement, signed by his son, Raymond Dokpesi (Jnr), shortly after he died on Monday, read: “It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts that we announce the passing of High Chief Raymond Aleogho Anthony Dokpesi (Ezomo of Weppa-Wanno Kingdom) who passed away on May 29, 2023. High Chief Dokpesi was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, and friend to many. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.

“High Chief Dokpesi was also a respected and accomplished businessman, a pioneer in the media industry, and a philanthropist who dedicated his life to the service of his country and his community. His legacy will live on through the impact he made on the lives of many.

“The Dokpesi family is grateful for the outpouring of love and support during this difficult time. We ask that you keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we mourn the loss of our patriarch. We also ask for privacy during this time as we grieve together as a family.

“The family will release further details on the funeral arrangements in due course. May his soul rest in peace.”

Early childhood and education

Dokpesi, who hails from Agenebode, Edo State, was born in Ibadan, Oyo State, on October 25, 1951. He studied at Loyola College, Ibadan, and the Immaculate Conception College, Benin.

He proceeded to the University of Benin and later to the University of Gdansk, Poland, where he earned his Doctorate in Marine Engineering. A former governor of the old Gongola State and former Chairman of the PDP, Bamanga Tukur, trained him in school.

Work experience after school

He worked as a personal assistant to his benefactor, Bamanga Tukur, before working at the Federal Ministry of Transport under Umaru Dikko and General Garba Wushishi.






     

     

    His major regret

    While interacting with journalists during a party held to celebrate his 70th birthday in 2021, Dokpesi said polygamy was one of his biggest errors. He blamed the mistake on pressure from his family.

    He said, “I am a Catholic, and I definitely will tell you that one of the greatest errors of my life is polygamy. But it is not something that I desired or something that I wanted. It was a situation that developed; I just had no alternative. 

    “A lot of people looked at it as if it was wealth that distorted my behaviour, but the truth of the matter is that there were internal family challenges that led to polygamy. I was married to a Polish woman; I wanted to remain with the Polish woman, and I still desired it in my old age, but she left Nigeria for reasons that she was the only child of her parents, and so she had to stay with her parents. I had to stay here, and there is no leave in marriage.

    “And so, I shuttled down to Poland over 16 times requesting her to come back to Nigeria and stay, but as the only child, she wanted to be by them. My mother was very anxious that I should have children that are my own, kids that I don’t have to enter a plane to go and visit. That whole thing caused the instability that later affected my life.”

    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

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