By Godwin Onyemaechi
Can we know you properly sir
My name is Isaac Balami. I am the MD/CEO of Seven Star Global Hangout, Seven Star Global Airline and other Seven Star. It’s just a group.
What’s your vision for setting up your line of business?
Well. This vision I think what is more important in life is I keep telling people whether you are a Muslim or you are a Christian or you are a Pagan, there is a reason why, there is a purpose for which you are existing here on Earth. So, if you are privileged or you have the will power to ask questions, ask God, ask your parents, ask mentors then you would know the reason why you are even existing in the first place. then if you know why you are actually existing, then it would guide you. I think I am saying it with all sense of humility. I have just been privileged to know why I actually exist, to know my purpose on Eath even beyond Nigeria. for me it is about my generation. That is why I am called Isaac. Isaac means laughter. It means that I have been called to put smiles and laughter on people’s faces and that is my basic assignment.
So, at the age of eleven knowing who I was then, I worked for nine months after primary school. By the time I was twelve, I had worked for nine months and I paid my school fees into JSS one and all through when I graduated. Till I wrote my WEAC, every holiday I spend that three, four, five weeks either farming, making firewood or evacuating soak-away shit manually. In those days you don’t have the tankers to come and suck it. you dig the six foot pit beside the soak-away and use a plastic bucket to evacuate the feces manually. I did that growing u for my neighbours for people living in my estate to raise enough money to go back to school when its time. I have slept in the bush farming for weeks in groundnut farm or beans farm, millet, sesame seed and what have you. So, at some points and I never felt working with my dad who always told me that even when I am tired he sad go and rest. And one thing he assured me is that he said, sickness can kill you but stress and hardwork can only stretch you to be a man.
that has been the story today. So, when other people go to farm and they close by 11.am, you go to farm by 6.am and you close by 11 maximum 12 noon they are back home, in my family, we stay in the farm till 6,pm in the night. We come back home when it is dark. I have worked in the farm before where we worked about 24hours and only rested about 5hours as young boys because we had a deadline to meet up. You taken a five ten hecters of land maybe ten twenty of you and you just have three weeks to finish weeding off the grasses and what have you, you just have to double up. All we need to move into the bush with is a drum of water and a bag of garri and a small tin of salt because sugar was even a luxury then. You just have the garri and the salt to soak it and drink. And that is how we were actually able to survive. So, by the time I was in the university, by the time, I just see myself fighting for people’s right because I have seen it all. And the time I got expelled from Ahmadu Bello University fighting for people’s right because of lack of portable water to drink in the hostel or leaving the library open even in the evenings for us to study for exams, they just close it and I couldn’t stand it. I just couldn’t stand it. so I fought the libraries were all opened.
The students got everything that the wanted but I had to pay the price by leaving the school. So, that was where the next phase of my journey began. After praying I now found myself in some prophecies by some men of God, I went into the Aviation College. From the Aviation College, I tell you, I couldn’t pay my school fees. But I have to wake up every morning by 6.am after my prayers, by 7.am I am in the cafeteria because in the Aviation College they give you a room to yourself breakfast lunch and dinner. Furnished room and everything, power was provided. I would eat by 6.10. By 7.30, I was done eating breakfast because by 7:45, I am seated in the class and aviation is everyday 8.am to 4pm. You only have 2hour break which takes off by 1. I did that for three years after 4pm, I will take my bike, go to PZ buy 40-50kilos of beef. Come back, prepare it, cut it and then go straight to ABU, Zaria.
Go to the Lebanese woman, pick up some bread and that was how I was surviving. Before you know it, after paying all my staff salaries I had about N300,000 profit as a young boy then and I would use that money to support my school fees and my Aviation studies. Until the third year when it was impossible for meet up the pass mark of 70 or even 75% out of 100 of the Aviation course because we have always believed that there was no parking space in the air. Sometimes they even introduced what we call the negative marking. So, if you have 100 objectives questions, and you failed 10, you are not scoring 90. You are scoring 80 because it is minus 10 because you are somebody who would be responsible for people’s lives.
For pilots and for passengers to fly safely and there was no parking space in the air so, the pass mark is quite high for every course you take in the Aviation industry. That was how I was having difficulty in passing because of the demands of the business. There was no time to study and I said God if you can help me with scholarship, till I die, half of my income will go to the less privileged. And within seven days, God showed up, I got scholarship, I got to Zaria. I was even being paid my allowances in dollar when I was in school. I got a house in GRA Ikeja, everything was done for me up to leaving Zaria, coming back to Lagos going to the US about $100,000 paid for me to do a course I did in the US. I came back and today I would say its about 16 years since God answered my prayers. I not just only give half of my income. I twist the table around and I say God, since you can raise me from nothing to something.
Form grass to grace, I will not just give you 10% or half of my income as promised, I take 10% and you take 90%. So today, with that proceed in the last sixteen years, I have only eaten 10% of my income and 90% of my income today have been used to empower we have 600 orphans. Some are now graduates, some are married. These children are now grown up and some are still upcoming. And the more money I make, the more I empower people because 10% is even more than enough for me and my family. 90% is good enough. With what god has done for me now, we have the biggest aircraft business facility in the entire West and Central Africa. I carry out meetings on Bowing aircrafts, Augusta aircraft, Helicopter from Italy, Airbus ans Helicopter from France, Embry Helicopter all the Legacy 600,650, the Embry 165,145 aircraft, the Hocker Sydney the Hocker Jet,
we can do up to A,B,C and G inspection on it, we can carry out a non disruptive testing, we can build aircraft tyres we can build aircraft brakes. But the excitement is not that I have not arrived.it is not for me to go and start intimidating girls in town or boys in town by buying Rolls Roys or Bentley which I can afford. The aim now is to see how much more offers, how much more schools can we build. Because I have free education that I have built primary 1 to 5 free. We are building one now in Oworonshoki. The first one is from my village because they say charity begins from home. The first one is from Shafa in my village it is currently running. Free education , textbooks, exercise books and even uniforms now are been supplied next week when they resume they will have free uniforms. We are doing the same thing across the six geo political zones with the 90% of my income. I am very very happy about it. my wife accepts it. nobody complains in my family everybody supports me and we are happy that God is using us to put smiles on people’s face just like my name entails, Isaac.
What’s your advice for Nigerians?
One thing in life is the first assignment I ask every young person even if you are old it is not too late to discover who you are. I have seen a granny at the age of seventy- five going back to school and at the age of eighty she was a graduate and she was able to achieve something in her life before she died. So, what is important is that just know your purpose. The issue with young people is that everyday you jump from one thing to another. You got this job, you haven’t gotten another job, you have resigned, you have left. You are not focused, you are not serious, we don’t have patience, we can’t even volunteer. i volunteered for some airlines for two years without earning any salary and I am in the office by 6.am in the morning and I will close in the evening and I will work harder than the people that are earning millions of naira per month until the ownership say who is this guy.
They did not just say Balami, come and become a Board Member in Aero Contractors Company or come and become a manager in Aero Contractors when she was the owner of Aero Contractors and the Owner of Oceanic bank and of course it is till the shareholder of Aero Contractors, but, they saw what I was doing. I was a junior staff and I was working as if I was the MD of the company where I was. I was working as if I was a director or a Co-Owner of the company. Commitment, integrity, loyalty. When you are faithful to people as a young person, people will see it. they can hate you for a while but somebody will see you one day but this person is too faithful. Why don’t we employ that person or promote that person or lets send him or her overseas. Aero didn’t just send me overseas.
They looked at my hardwork, my efforts. So, you are a young peron out there and you think because you are a graduate or you just want to go to school, no no no no no. you have to work hard. I have seen young persons today that even work for me and they want to even drive a car that is bigger than my own. And I just look at them and say okay, it is your dream, it is your priority. That is your priority in life. You just want to have a big car and intimidate people, fine. Provided you are good in your job, I don’t have any issue with that. But the point is that I think we have a lot of misplaced priority. When you see young people today going into yahoo yahoo, drugs, 419, kidnapping, it is because of lack of contentment. What is more important is contentment. They said a thankful heart is a grateful heart. If you are somebody who appreciates the little, first of all you ask yourself, just go to LUTH go to any hospital and check people that just had an accident today alone.
On okada or in their vehicle, their legs broken or it would be amputated they will never walk on that foot again. And then you see somebody intelligent first class with a phd but that person’s kidney has failed and the person cannot even afford a transplant or the person has done transplant twice and the body is rejecting the kidneyand the person doesn’t know what to do yet you are complaining. If you can start from the point where you can appreciate God first and foremost, thank him for good health even if you are sick tou can still thank God for life because some people have died without achieving nothing in life. I think for young persons in Nigeria that is why you see people so desperate that’s why you see people go into drugs, 419 because they can’t be patient. For five years I didn’t earn salary. I struggled to pay my children’s school fees. I struggled to pay my rent in my office.
I struggled to pay staff salaries. I struggled to do a lot but I knew where I was going to and I also want to sell the vision to my child. Sometimes we soak garri in the office we were manging ourselves. You see somebody who is supposed to earn 5 or 4 million naira a month the person is not earning up to 300,000 from you and the person says, well, I am not going to leave you, I believe in the vision because they can see. It is clear. When you write it down, people will run with it. So, for me, yes, it is tough. I have said it that I thought of committing suicide severally but what would make me not to is that I now remember the promise of God. I now remember the vision I have. Then I said, okay, if you die who will continue with this vision then I will just have a restraint and say okay , I will be patient and just at that point, most times when you get to that point and you can be patient for another few days or weeks, God would just show up. That is how God actually operates. Because he will not give you a temptation that you can’t actually overcome.
So, these are the issues and for me, for young people out there, be patient, be faithful. How many people today can just see somebody and say sir can I just serve you? Even if it means you would trek for thirty minutes to that place or for an hour everyday because you cannot afford transport money. Even if that person is a Devil, he will look at you one day. In Aero Contractors, I was marketing everyday, going to help them get this contract, that contract, it wasn’t my job. It wasn’t my job description but I wanted the company to grow. Today now I have my own. Nobody has to tell me where the contracts are, how to get jobs. So sometimes when you are even volunteering as a young person, you are serving somebody faithfully and diligently, you are only training yourself. Today now, I don’t need to employ somebody and pay the person five million naira as Director of Marketting. I have more than enough jobs to do as a virtue of my contact and my marketing skills that I learned volunteering. So, these are the issues.
How do you keep your self from distraction?
There is a verse in the bible that says an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. I am not a perfect human being, nobody is perfect on Earth but I know I do my best. What keep me safe, what helps me is the fact that I am not idle. Yesterday I left this office around 11;pm, before I could wrap up my other assignments I had another meeting which was around 1:am that I was done from work yesterday. That is my daily routine. I am very very busy. There is always deadline. I have seven aircraft to bring into the country. I have thousands of pages of documents to read. I have to ensure that those aircrafts are properly maintained and safe. I have to look for my pilot visas to go and bring those aircrafts. I have to talk to the bank to … the funding of the aircrafts. Where will I have time to be misbehaving around. It is when you are idle and you have no vision that you would be distracted either a male or a female.
You allow men to distract your life or a woma. And even if you see a woman in my life or a man in my life they are all progressives. These are people that are also die hard, they are also workaholic, they also want to achieve something. So, the time we are supposed to spend misbehaving, we spend that time solving problems. I only have about 600 orphans, I want to have thousands. So, to achieve that goal, it is not by misbehaving. It is by being focused in the vision. creating the wealth to help those children. Not creating the wealth to carry women to a five star hotel to go and misbehave. I attend parties. If you are doing your birthday today in the club, I don’t have any issue with going to the club. I don’t have any issue with that but I have my rules of engagement. Afterall I cant even dance so I am just an observer in some of those locations.
What’s your favorite colour and food?
I love blue, brown and white. Actually, I hate food. How I wish I don’t need to eat food because it takes a lot of time from me. Like what I just had here now, since morning I went to eat somewhere, I saw what I was going to eat, I didn’t like it so I just left. I just eat just to survive. If there is a supplement I can just put in my mouth and I just take it once a week or once a month and just take only water, I am fine. So, when you talk about food, I eat but I am not a foodie. I don’t really like food per say. Anything healthy can go.
What is your with NCA?
They are the people that licensed me. I am not just having a cordial relationship with them, I am having a working relationship with them. They are guiding us with the regulation. They ensure that we comply with the international aviation laws. They ensure that we don’t constitute danger to the industry. Like our vision says, to ensure aircraft serviceability. If an aircraft is not serviceable then it is not safe it can crash so the NCA is to ensure that we follow the books, the manufacturer’s manual. The approved maintenance procedure and that is the way to go.
How can you describe the journey so far?
When we started we could only register the business. The next thing we could now do a proper business plan. One or two person’s can drop few thousands here and there we kept on moving until we got to a point where we could convince the government to give us this particular hanger. And then we got the hanger now we had deadline to pay we now had to rally around weeks, months to raise the money and pay. But one thing is when you have a vision, you will come across people who will believe in it and give you all the support you need and that is how we got to where we are today. Today we spent about %100million in the last nine years and today you can see our equipment. You can see that we are there.
How do you recruit your staff?
I think that there is a difference between being a manager and being a leader. I have had causes to sack people after giving them not just three last warnings but about five warnings. Last warnings five times. And if you are not serious, I sack you. But for the ones that you can see certain level of passion and their interest to grow, you allow people to grow. We don’t just employ people anyhow, we handpick them. There must be something I have seen in you before I can say let me work with you. Or somebody recommend that you work with me, during the interview, there are things that I look out for. I don’t look out for your certificate per say, its good, but I look out for your sabificate. Wetin you sabi. I have architects here that are doing jobs in our electrical battery shop. They have passion for electrical works so they go charge aircraft batteries. I have mechanical engineers here that are helping us in our ICT.
They build our websites and they build our apps. They have passion for coding, software developments. So, it is sabificates not certificate. If you can identify because it is difficult to manage people. Most times I feel like giving up I feel like closing everything down but then I remember the promise. If I close it down what happens to… so we just keep pushing on for the ones that are willing to improve, if you are not willing to improve that you committed an offense today does not mean that I should condemn him or her. No. but if you commit an offense and you recognize and I can see that remorsefulness in you and I can see that the next time you are not making that same mistake, then I can trust you and give you more responsibilities. But its not easy. It is tough. So, you just have to be a mentor. You just have to be a leader. You have to be a father. You have to guide them. You would see people that are old enough to give birth to you but you just cannot shout on them. You just have to find a way and ask God for wisdom and just appeal to their conscience and let them understand that this is the way to go. And when they see that the success of this place is also their own success, the they begin to key into your vision and give you all the support you need.
Some of those orphans that even bear my name. they live in the same house with me, they attend the same school with my biological children, the same privilege. Whenever I am around them, I cant wait to get back to them.
How are you impacting the society with your God given talents?
First of all, I am a chief in the east, not even in the north. I am the Ochurozor 1 of Ibabanike in Enugu. When I was a pilot president I empowered a lot of Igbo people and the king in Enugu, Igwe Emmanuel, one of the oldest in the kindred and the palace in the entire South-Eastern Nigeria, identified me, called me, looked for me, invited me over, we never paid for our Chieftancy. I went into Enugu with about 400 people, he gave us accommodation. All of us. He gave us food, drinks and we had fun and the whole idea is to see how we can work as one Nigeria. so you can imagine somebody from the North-Eastern part of the country who was formerly Arewa Consultative Forum Youth Congress national president in charge of about 45million youth across the nineteen northern states now receiving chieftancy in Enugu. That was why I played the role I played when igbos were asked to leave the north.
I was all over the media said no igbos can stay and live anywhere they actually want to live because they are slo Nigerians. I did that. Talking about north-east, it is a norm that a prophet is not honoured in his home town. I might not have gotten any recognition from my people but I am happy with the kind of impact I am making. I have built schools. Twelve years ago, I have forty computers in my village. I have trained over two thousand youths on computer schools and different skills. I am making my own impact and I can tell you that from where I come from, that little impact from the effort of other well-meaning indigenes of our local community, our youths are not involved in Boko-Haram. I am from the southern part of Borno state. It is not affected as much as the central and the north but you see, when you talk about Boko-Haram for me I think it is all about ignorance because the leaders that promote this Boko-haram whether locally or internationally, if they cannot just sit down and look at what is the future of your unborn children, the money you are making by creating panic and anarchy and causing confusion, attacking government or churches or mosques or individuals because people are actually benefitting from it. but the question now is all the money they are making, who is going to enjoy it? today, there are vips that can’t even, if they lost their mom or their dad, they can’t even attend the funeral.
So, you have billions but you are worthless. You have billions but you have no peace of mind. So, we would continue to appeal, to pray that for the sake of our unborn children, for the sake of the next generation, so that history can forgive us. we just have to look inward and stop this rubbish because today, if you say that it is because of religion or tribe or ethnicity, when you look at places like india or places like Japan, south Korea, Singapore all these nations are they really an Islamic or Christian Nation? But look at the kind of quality of life that they give people. You think God is not happy with them? Fraud is less. Here, we have the highest number of mosques, every house in some part of the country have a mosque, every street has a church but yet we are the most cruel wicked, dishonest people so that has to change and it is our prayer because sometimes also you see people going into banditry, Boko-haram and other kinds of injustice.
So, I have 100 cows and cattle herders come and take all away from me. I got to the government, nobody is going to stand for me, nobody is going to fight for me. And the next thing, somebody gives me a gun and I join. And I become a bandit, a kidnapper. So, the justice system there is need for equity, fairness, justice. If you have that, it will reduce all drastically. The issue of what is your tribe what is your religion is killing us. If somebody has a solution to a problem, empower that person to solve the problem. Otherwise,this country will remain like this. Even if the trains they have to drive with guns, police and SSS because we have leaders that have failed and it is our prayes that God will touch the hearts of our leaders to identify people in our society that have solutions, that are willing to be selfless to solve real social problems.
How do you relax?
If I am not working most times my phon can even be off or on flight mode or on silence