With a successful career in banking, Raymond Chukwugozie Obieri, OON, worked in many financial institutions in the country, leaving each better than he met it. A former president of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, he has chaired many public and private companies and still sits on the Board of several companies. At his 70th birthday celebration and the launch of his autobiography held at MUSON Centre, Lagos, recently, he spoke toCHIJIOKE IREMEKA on wide range of issues, especially his successful foray into the corporate world, his modest family background notwithstanding.YOU look strong at 70. What is the secret'It's by the grace of God. But having said that, there is nothing like aging gracefully. When you are aging, your body will tell you that you are aging. Do not be deceived by the looks.What were the important attributes that helped you achieve the feats you have so far recorded' There is no magic to what I have done or achieved today. Everything is by the grace of God that I achieve them. When you do the right thing, pray to God that He keeps you going, then success comes. It gives me a great joy that He keeps me going despite the challenges of life. I feel fulfilled when I look back over 50 years ago when I started my banking career and where God has taken me. I'm really grateful to Almighty God.As a young child, had you any premonition that you would go this far in life, owing to your background'Certainly not! That is why I said that everything that happened to me was by the special grace of God and my trust in Him. I passed through hurdles in life as a young child but God was there for me. I titled one of my books Testimony of Divine Grace. It summarises everything that happened to me.What were the challenges that shaped you' My life history should help to demonstrate that one's journey in life is, indeed, a pilgrimage. Our expectations and the outcome of our plans are all in God's hand to direct as it pleases Him. I was denied entry into a grammar school of my choice because I had no birth certificate. I ended up attending a commercial school that was not approved to take school certificate examination. Yet God provided an exit route for me by linking me to a brilliant boy that helped sharpen my intellect to go through secondary education. That enabled me to pass examinations of the Royal Society of Arts, London in Class Four. In that process, I finished one year ahead of my mates that attended to grammar school. I sat for IQ tests with candidates who had school certificates and I passed while many of them failed. Only one out of five of them passed the IQ test to join Barclays Bank in Kaduna in the following year. As a result, I started working a year before my mates that went to grammar schools. My studying for Associate of Chartered Institute of Bankers, London Examination, right from the very month I joined the Bank of British West Africa Limited, proved to be a launching pad into career progress. Also, my transfer to Sapele after the Biafran war and marriage to my lovely wife, Bethy, all proved to be God's guidance. What can I say about resigning from First Bank Plc, where I was already an officer with prospects to join an unknown NAL Bank' But it was at the NAL Bank that I gained wide experiences in International Banking Operations.I left NAL bank in a very painful circumstance, which forced me to start a different career in finance and stock brokering. Could I have progressed to become the president of the Nigerian Stock Exchange if I didn't leave NAL' Could I have co-founded two banks while working for NAL' Serving as the Chairman of one of the banks for over 20 years was a feat that could only have been achieved by the grace of God. Likewise, serving on board of several public companies, being awarded national honour and being called to serve in my church by my Archbishop and parish are not as a result of any engineering on my part but a testament of God's favour and blessings. From all I have said, the lesson from these stories remains that when one is passing through various challenges on his life's journey, one should not be despaired. It may seem to be the end and all hope may seem to be lost but God may have a different plan that will always come through for His children. It happened to me!What is your advice to the government in tackling youth unemployment' This is an area where government at all levels would focus on. Unemployment is a major way of creating youths with poisoned minds and the reason for the insecurity all around. Having said this, the world is going through meltdown. Every country is affected but our situation is worse than other countries. I believe the government should pay close attention to the issue of job creation because they can see how blink the future is and I'm sure they will not allow it to continue unabated.As a senior citizen of this country, would you say Nigeria has achieved any meaningful feat in the past 50 years' There are two ways to look at it. When you look back, the country has made a tremendous progress. But the major reference point for me is that we now have transportation system, access to roads and one gets transport to travel from one place to another. When I was younger, I used to trek six miles to board a bus to Enugu, but now I can board a bus right in front of my house. So, in this regard, we have made certain progress. But when you compare our country with others that were at par with Nigeria few years ago, then we have not done anything different.Building Nigerian economy, what is the way forward' I think the effort of the government towards privatisation of power sector is a step in the right direction because it will stimulate economic development in the country. When privatised, the private investors would want to invest fund in the business and generate more power for all and sundry. Now we have GSM everywhere and airlines are everywhere too. So, privatisation would help build our economy.There is this fear about possible break-up of the country. Do you see any such thing happening' I think God brought us together and anybody talking about breaking up must be a politician, trying to score one political point or the other. I don't think we are going separate ways. It's the politicians that are alarming on the dividing point.What informed your decision to channel the proceeds from your book launch and birthday celebration to an orphanage' When someone is so much blessed, I believe it's for a reason ' primarily it is to bless others and expand the good news of Christ as much as possible. From an early stage in my career, I realised that God intended to use me as a channel to impact lives and communities positively. I have been doing so personally as well as through organised efforts. This has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my life. Establishing Living Fountain Orphanage started when my first daughter's health problem arose, and her admission and treatment went on without any hope that she would pull through. Bethy, my wife, made a vow to God that she would devote the remaining part of her life to serving humanity, if God saved our daughter. After a while, Amaka recovered and returned to Nigeria from London, where she was being treated and went on to complete her education at Queen's College, Yaba. Upon her graduation from the University of Lagos, Bethy concentrated on computer sales and training but the burden to save souls weighed on her heavily. In 2006, she remembered the vow she made to God regarding Amaka's recovery.She decided to establish a home for the vulnerable, orphaned and under privileged children. I gave her my full support and she embarked on looking for a suitable location for us to build a house to serve as the orphanage. The buildings were completed in June 2007 and by November of the same year, we were given provincial approval. We invited our Vicar, Venerable Igein Isemede of Our Saviour's Church, TBS, Lagos, along with his curates to dedicate the home. It was with great joy that Bethy commenced running the orphanage full time. I perceived that her work at the orphanage was a revelation of the role she was born to play, which she does with much grace, wisdom and deep love for children. Despite the challenges that come with the day-to-day running of the home, it gives us immense joy to see it happen. God has also provided partners, which has been supportive to the cause. Our family funded the orphanage 100 per cent from the beginning but now we have supporters. All our family members support the home; it is one legacy we are proud of. Click here to read full news..