View Full Version : [General] Who is this $500m Nigerian in Mexico?

Feb 20, 2005, 10:33 PM
This story dey one kind.


Dr. Isaac Osadolor Odemwigie, The Only Cellular - Therapist in Mexico
'How I Built My $500m Empire'

At a relatively young age of 44, Dr Isaac Osadolor Odemwigie sits comfortably atop a self-made personal fortune worth over $500m. His $54m mansion sitting imperially on a large expanse of land in the exclusive Callera residential area of Puebla-city, Mexico, due to be commissioned sometime in next month, is a testimony to how much he is worth.

The array of exotic and expensive cars ranging from Statecraft Chevrolet to various models of Mercedes Benz is also proof of how well he is living out this wealth. He owns other homes in places like Houston-Texas and Miami (both in the United States of America), Japan, Warri in Nigeria and Manzanillo in Mexico. His success is not restricted to material achievements only, his exploits on the intellectual plain is equally outstanding and impressive. With four doctorate degrees already in his kitty, and still rearing to go, Dr. Odemwigie is the only medical-doctor Scientist in Cellular-Therapy in the entire Mexican Republic.

His privately-owned hospital located on Calle-Pipila No.5-2 colonial insurgentes C.P 72540, Puebla, Pue-Mexico, is ever filled with patients as evidence of his ground-breaking scientific inroads in the treatment of such difficult diseases as Cancer, Alzheimer, HIV/AIDS and Parkinson Disease. Born on October 1, 1960 at Urunigbe, Orion Local Government in Edo State, Nigeria, Dr. Isaac Osadolor Osademwigie is one of the few privileged scientists in the world to have also worked at NASA, USA. He is married to a Mexican gynaecologist, Patricia Hernandez Urbano de Osadolor and they have three children. He spoke exclusively to Robert Kajo in his Puebla home on his life, family, Mexico, Scientific achievements, Nigeria and other matters.

Tell us about your childhood...
I was born on October 1, 1960 at Urunigbe, former Bendel State of Nigeria, now in Edo State. I was reared in the same village and at the age of six, I started my elementary education at St. Charles Primary School now called Urunigbe Primary School in Orion Local Government of Edo State. Then I attended Urunigbe Grammar School before I moved overseas.

When did you leave Nigeria?
I left Nigeria on June 1, 1981. Well, I had to leave Nigeria for my education, for medical education, of course.

What is your area of specialization in medicine?
Well, in the first place, I am a General Surgeon and I did my general surgery at Ben Tanb Hospital, Houston Texas. Later, I did a Master's degree at El-Clinic Coni-House in Bever, Switzerland to be a scientist in Cellular-Therapy and it was there that I had the opportunity of meeting Dr. Jimmy O'waddel who took me to Hayaslubara Laboratory Corporation or what is now called Fujisaki Cell Centre, at Okayama, Japan. I did my doctorate and my doctoral thesis at Motor-Meloma 8,226 on Leukemia Antharotora-10.

After that, he sent me to Dr. John Glenn, at NASA U.S.A to do my post-doctorate on Cellular-Therapy and then I came back to Mexico to be a Scientist in the faculty of medicine, in the department of Immunology where, I designed a module on how to study blood from certain perspective, that is, from Cellular-Therapy point of view. Later, I went to Japan to continue my research in Cellular-Therapy against cancer and other degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer, Parkinson, AIDS e.t.c.

Later, my Director told me that I had to go into the field of Psychology and that is how I found myself in psychology and psychotherapy. In this area, I studied clinical psychology and psychotherapy at the Master's degree level on his promptings. His plan was to send me to Australia but I rejected it and came back to Mexico where I did my Master's degree in clinical psychology psychotherapy at the University of Ibero-Americana, Golf-Center, Puebla City. I graduated from this master's degree programme on the August 21, 2001 and in the same year in the month of September, I was offered admission to do a doctorate in Cerobral research which has 108 credits, instead of a doctorate in psychology which is 66 credits. We successfully finished this doctorate on the May 12, 2004 and we are just on the finishing aspect of the thesis.

Looking back now, would you say, you have any regrets over the choice of your career?
Oh! No. I am very proud of myself and my careers in Medicine, with specialty as a General Surgeon, a Scientist in Cellular Therapy and a Doctorate too in Psychology and especially, research in terms of deep, deep research in Psychology and my area in Psychology is Logotherapy. Now people will ask, what is Logotherapy? Logotherapy is the area that seeks the sense of life. When people lack the sense of life, Logotherapy helps them to know the way to get the real roots of life. This is what Logotherapy teaches in psychology.

What would you consider as your high and low moments in the course of your career?
Well, before I come to the low and high moments of my career, I would like to go back to my days as a student especially, when I was in Paris. Every Nigerian who has travelled from Nigeria to Paris would probably know Charles De Gaulle International Airport. Before I was given the Mexican Visa, I slept at Charles De Gaulle Airport for three nights, because the money I was carrying by then in traveller's cheque,
I was afraid to spend it on hotel accommodation. So I opted to sleep at the airport and by then, life overseas was safe you know. The Security was not as tight as it is now.

So I slept for three nights at the Charles De Gaulle Airport before I moved to Mexico. Now what happened was that, my flight was reading Lagos-Paris, Paris-Mexico, but when I got to Paris, my flight was changed to Paris-New York, New-York-Mexico. Unfortunately for me, I was not having USA Visa. I travelled from Paris to John F.Kennedy International Airport without a Visa.

The immigration officials interviewed me and found out that I had a return ticket reading Lagos-Mexico, Mexico-Lagos, so they allowed me to go. I never knew what was happening and I was allowed to go outside of the Airport and I could have gone into the United States, but I didn't know, I thought I was still at the check point you know. So I took my first flight from New-York to Mexico on Aero-Mexico 401. I arrived Mexico City at about 11:00pm at night on the June 5, 1981. So you can see my route, I left home on June 1, 1981 and got to Mexico on the June 5, 1981.

When I got to Mexico International Airport, my plan was to come to Puebla City, so I took a taxi which charged me $80.00 (dollars) by then from Mexico International Airport to Puebla. So, I got to Puebla at about 2 or 3:00pm on the June 6, 1981. So this hardship of sleeping at the International Airport probably helped me in a way and now as a psychologist, I remember the positive aspect of it; it helped me to save money. But my sleeping was not comfortable anyway, and you know, that is another aspect of it. Now, my student-life in Mexico was tough.

Everybody knows that Mexico's education is not very easy. It's not very easy. It's not very cheap. In the University where I studied Medicine, I was registered as a foreigner because I was indeed a foreigner by then. We the foreigners then used to pay in U.S. dollars and Mexicans by birth used to pay in Mexican Peso. So I was able to pay just what I had as school fees for only one year as a foreigner and I was owing the University almost three years' school fees, because there wasn't money to pay them you know.

One day, I was called to the Vice-Chancellor's office and I was afraid because I thought they were going to expel me from the University because I was owing school fees of two-three years. But instead the University announced that I was given an International Scholarship because of my academic standpoint of performance. So this is why I was able to study Medicine in Mexico.

That must have been a turning point in your life?
Well, it was then, and there was one other thing, I am a person who never gives up a fight, you know. I had in mind then that I could study Medicine but the money was not there. But the zeal and the academic standpoint was there all the time and the hard work was there all the time and the University recognised this in me.

Another thing here is that, before holidays, I used to pass all my subjects and get all my credits and go to the States and work during holidays especially, in the city of Houston, Texas. This is, however, another history on its own which time may not permit here but, like I used to say all the time, suffering is part of life and it makes you become very knowledgeable and without suffering, there is no education.

Suffering is part of education and this is why I will tell the youths to really struggle for themselves and not to depend on anyone.
There was a man by name Professor Oscar Walker, of blessed memory now, and Professor Maria Lisa, husband and wife. Professor Oscar Walker is now late but the wife is still alive. This couple taught me Spanish because I never went to any school here in Mexico to learn Spanish. I studied Spanish three weeks, one hour everyday of private lecture and this couple, they never charged me any cent, they taught me Spanish for free. Out of their free will, they dedicated almost 15 hours.

It was always from Monday through Friday and for one hour everyday and after that I began to study Spanish by myself.
So when I went into the University, the first semester was the Preliminary course; if you passed, you would go ahead but if you failed, you are turned away. I was able to pass and it was then I learnt the standard Spanish. So, I can say, I learnt the Spanish language by myself and this helped me to become a very standard medical student in the university.

I learnt you make an average of $20, 000 in a day?
Well, that's true. That is very true, sometimes, that is true.

That is doing really great!
Well, I would say yes, but money is not really everything anyway, but without money you can't do anything. But the spiritual aspect in my life is the most enriched circle in me, because money without spiritual wealth is nothing. All the patients that come to my clinic do appreciate my presence in Mexico and I attend to a lot of patients in my clinic on an average of 200 everyday but, sometimes, we do have less number of patients.

Are you considering hiring an assisitant surgeon to help you out?
Well, let me tell you something, right now, I am the only Medical Doctor Scientist in Cellular-Therapy in the whole of the Mexico Republic and I have dual nationality and so it is not very easy for me to hire any medical doctor. That doctors have to have a Ph.D in Cellular Therapy. Many doctors in the world don't know it anyway. This is an area of medicine founded by Dr. Paul Newhams who was an Endo-chronogist. He was Swiss. He started combining different types of tissues or cells because scientists know that a combination of various cells make tissues for the treatment of many diseases like Alzheimer, Cancer, Parkinson etcetera, and he found that it was giving better results.

So this is how cellular therapy came out to the world. This was many years ago. Cellular Therapy has a society now called The International Society of Cellular Therapy and I am a very active member with number 2,212 and my Website password is 22sa12 :? . There you can find me on the Website. In the month of May, we'll have a congress at Vancouver Canada and I am going to deliver a Lecture to our conference on multiples-miloma and Leukemia too.

You mentioned among the diseases you specialise in treating AIDS, cancer etc. AIDS especially has been ravaging Africa for a longtime now and Nigeria has had its share of aids. Have you in anyway done something or are in the process of doing something to bring your special knowledge of this disease to the benefit of Nigeria?

That is a very good question but there is a problem too here for me; the distance is a problem and how I wish I were in Nigeria right now and this is why your question really is highly rated. I read a book by Odumegwu Ojukwu entitled "Because I am Involved" in which Ojukwu explained that he was in self-exile and an exile has no choices. We, Nigerians, I will say, we the intellectual ones overseas, are in self-exile and so we have no choice.

Now, I will find it difficult to cure a Nigerian with AIDS right from Mexico unless that Nigerian comes to see me here in Mexico but again, what if he hasn't the individual aspect of it? So I would like that the Nigerian Medical Association get in contact with me to see in what way I can help them. Through the e-mail and other means of writing I think I can contribute in the development of the cure of Cancer, AIDS in Nigeria, and there are many ways you can do that.

Why the choice of Puebla City? One would have expected you to stay in a place like Mexico-City for instance so why choose Puebla City?
Well, that is a very good question. When I came to Mexico and since I had the will of studying medicine I went into the library of Peter Franklin one day and I started asking questions about which city allows a foreigner to study medicine. So, I was told about Polytechnic de Monterrey, Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara and Universidad Autonoma de Puebla. But I was already in Puebla, I had come back to Puebla and was living there already.

I went to the University of Puebla without understanding the spanish language and I sat for the examination and passed and was offered admission to study medicine. Now going back to look for other Universities never came to my mind anymore. All that was on my mind then was to study medicine and, after the one semester I spent in Architecture before I changed to Medicine, what was upper-most on my mind was to read medicine and go back to Nigeria.

So this is how I came to settle in Puebla. Later, I gradually became part of Puebla becuase of the people, my wife was then my girlfriend and was born in Puebla and she is from Puebla, my parents-inlaws were very nice people to me and all around people were nice to me and I became in-love with Puebla and so I decided to stay in Puebla. So, I would say that Puebla is now my home. I am sorry to say that anyway but, sometimes, a man has to define many things in his life. It is not always where we are born that we belong to but wherever, we meet victory could be our home anyway.

It could be due to some circumstances, it could be psychic or somatic or it depends and nobody can explain that, or it could come at the same time from existing minds. So, this is why I am in Puebla.

Are you thinking of ever going back to Nigeria one day?
Well, that is a very good question. My mother is presently based in Nigeria, I have a home in Warri, Nigeria but I don't think I will go back to Nigeria and live anymore.

But there is no place like home you know.
No! No! I am a Mexican too because I have naturalised and this was in 1998 and I have dual nationality, but going back to Nigeria, no! I don't think so. Well I have many homes in other parts of the world like I was telling you earlier, I have a home in Miami, USA. During my stay for my doctorate in Japan, I also bought a house in Japan at Okayama so, I am a universal guy but going back to live in Nigeria, I don't think I will go back to live anymore.

My wife and I visited Nigeria in 1996, just one year after marriage. We got married on the April 1, 1995 and we had our first child after four years of marriage and we now have three children. The first is Osade who is four and half years, the second is Adesuwa, who is three and half years and the third and last Alika, who is almost two years now. She will be two years on the February 16, this year.

When I came in here, I saw a lot of exotic and state of the art cars including various models of Mercedes cars, State craft Chevrolet etc. I believe these must have cost you a fortune, Isn't it?
Well, definitely no and like I always say without sacrifice, victory cannot be attained, everything is done through sacrifice. Let me tell you a memorable story in my life, during those days that I was trying to make it in my life and had to go to the states during holidays. There was a time during the winter season I used to wear four to five trousers in Houston working, sometimes in the street, sometimes in different companies.

Well as a student, Dr. Okeke told me then that I should do everything that I meet and he would encourage me. So I met a friend called Micheal Bunderstadt who was able to help me to be working in the States. The first time I travelled to the United States, I travelled by Bus from Puebla to Mexico-City, (two hours) Mexico-City to Laredo-Mexico almost two days by bus and then from Laredo-Mexico to Laredo-Texas, Just crossing of about 30minutes. But my mind was to go to the states but I didn't know anybody there or where to go. It was in the bus while still travelling that I made up my mind to go to Houston. But I was afraid but.

I had all my documents as a medical student and so when the immigration officials interviewed me at the border of entry, I said I was going on vacation but actually I was going to work to improve my economy for my education because money was not coming from Nigeria.

So, when I got to Houston Greenham bus station, I was wandering and wondering where I would stay and with whom since I never knew any person. Then, all of a sudden I took my luggage, just a few clothes and started to walk on the street, but then, a guy was just driving around, his name was Micheal Bunderstadt, he saw me as a foreigner and I stopped him and I just started talking and I said hey! Guy, I am a Medical Student and I came here on holiday but I've come to work please, help me.

Then he said, come into the car and I will take you to a place where you will stay but please, don't fight with anybody there. And this was a place where homeless and jobless people stayed, a church called Mission situated on No.407, Labranch, Houston Texas. It was very close to the down town. So he took me there and told me that the church opens at 9:00am and closes at 6:00pm in the evening, please stay there, tomorrow at four o'clock in the morning, I will come and pick you and we go to work..

I never really knew what was happening so I was very happy and that was great spiritually you know, God helped me at that point. So I had to register myself and luggage and I discovered that many people there were jobless, homeless, crazy people and some of them insane and in poor condition of health, so I had to be very humble, stay cool. I never slept that very day. I remember it was in the month of July, 1984.

Micheal promised that four o'clock in the morning he will be there to pick me up to go to work and I thought I was going to have a permanent job but he instead took me to a labour pool, a place where you just stay after writing your name firstly, in the list as a person looking for a job. They will just call on you and take you to any place they want.

So, the first time they called on me, they took me to go and work at the "Houston Chronicle" Newspaper. At the "Houston Chronicle" my job was to be loading the big train with the bunch of newspapers. So, my first experience was to work there for four hours and I made ($12) twelve dollars that day and after tax, I was left roughly with ten ($10) dollars. So, what I did was to open an account as a vendor with Street Vendors Association very close to the downtown so that I could save my money.

About a week later, Micheal told me that he was homeless too and that he use to sleep in his car and that he came from Nebraska to Houston to live and I never asked him why and we became good friends and I continued to stay at the Mission. There was a time I became so black because I did not take my bath for five days while working at a carbon company because by the time we close from work, it will be so late and the church will be closed by then and you will have to be sleeping on the street for those days and during the winter season, the cold could be very tough and I passed through these very difficult conditions.

I remember falling from a seventh floor building onetime while working for a construction company. When I managed to report to the office about my injury, I was told to tell that kind of story to myself, they were not bothered about it. So all these hardship conditions, I passed through in life as a student helped me to know that life without suffering has no meaning and this is what we worked with in psychology that suffering is part of life and has meaning in life.

Would you say these rough encounters in the course of your rise-up is responsible for your rumoured generosity as you are said to help those who are in need?
Well, your personal suffering has meaning, now let us come back home to our continent Africa where we have a great guy there called Nelson Mandela, 18years in Robben Island, thereafter , he went to Johannesbourg and all together he did 27years. But he suffered for freedom. When he was saying apartheid was not good, the whole world was against him, but now the whole world is in his favour. Now, when you come to the spiritual side also, Jesus Christ too on the cross, you will learn great lessons.

Now, when you come back home to Nigeria, I have one of the biggest Nigerian in my life called Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, these people fought for the independence of Nigeria. And it was in the month of independence that I was born, on the October 1, and Nigeria got her independence on the October 1, same yearâ€"1960.

We don't have to keep suffering just for the sake of suffering, we have to know the limit of suffering, and what it teaches you. When we go to school, what do we learn? It is not just how to read and write and that is why the Oxford English Dictionary defines education as the training of the mind of the character. Education is meant for that, to train you inwardly and modify your character. When you go to school to train as an Engineer, an Architect, a journalist, a Medical Doctor, we all go through hardship conditions by doing our home work and our various tasks.

All that I went through in my life, in terms of hardship and suffering are now no longer, suffering. They are now knowledge. They now pay tribute to my person on how to handle life and to teach other people that they have to struggle. For example, when I was sleeping at Charles De Gaulle International Airport in Paris and even in Puebla, I slept on the streets on many occassions. On many occassions, I was driven out of my house because I was unable to pay my house rent and that is why I had to think of going to the States to work and by then I could make about ($200) two hundres dollars in two months but now that is money that I make in a second.

So, this is why they say that knowledge is power and I always tell the youth that if they go through hardship conditions, they have to be really encouraged with themselves enduring unbearable cost and undersatnd that life is not just made of joy and the aspect of life like coming back to think, where do I come from to know where you are going to, who am I to know whom will I be? So these are some of the phylosophical adages that I always have for the youth, they should always read about the great people on earth and this is why I am always quite solid with myself.

Your Mansion is estimated to cost about $54m. With this kind of collossal investment, it is apparent that you don't intend to go back home to Nigeria. Now, when is it going to be commissioned?
This year. It is a big Mansion no doubt about that. It depends however, on the Engineers handling the project. I don't want to hurry them into completion so that I will not be blamed tomorrow for hurrying them. But I believe it will be commissioned anytime from now. It could be in one month's time or two but definitely, it will be commissioned some time soon because the money is there for everything that needs to be done.

That is not surprising to hear and though this may appear rather private to ask you but you are reputed to be worth over $500m. How true is it?
That is true. That's very true. You know, when it comes to economic aspect of life, it is difficult to say I am richer than you and you are richer than me. To use an old adage in spanish; "Kara Vemos, Quiera sas sarimos" In English, it means that, "sometimes, we look at a person as very poor and sometimes we look at a person as very rich" but definitely, we don't know who is richer or poorer. Wealth has many definitions, I will say that. You can talk about academic definition, you can talk about geographycal definition, material definition etc. But the richest definition of wealth is, when a man is rich both economically and spiritually. And so I would like to say that I am spiritually rich too.

Mexicans here respect me but you see, after making it, nobody asks the question, how did you make it? That is why I am writing my autho-biography, but I won't tell you the title now. I am writing eight books and like you know, I am 44years old with three doctorates and I am ready to read the fourth one. So, I can call this one, wealth-to-wealth because a man can be rich economically but if he has no knowledge, he is not rich. I would like to advise the youths to try and obtain wealth in academics, it is very important.

Dr, can you tell us at exactly what point you had a breakthrough and started to experience what mexicans here call exito (success)?
Well, you know I am very ambitious, even though people say I am successful, there is one task I have at hand right now, and like I told you earlier, I want to do my fourth Doctorate in Psychotherapy. I want to explore psycho-analysis to Logotherapy. I want to know who I am. Dr. Sigmund Ford and other Psycho-analysts before now, I want to know what happened to them then, so I want to achieve this. There was a time I thought of studying law too. So when you talk about success, it has different definitions. Perhaps, what I have done so far is good but, I still need to do more and this is how I define myself right now. If you ask any great achiever anywhere; have you finished with your own success and he will tell you no! Because the route to mediocrity is there; that I have done great and I will stop here. A man should never stop. The struggles continues. My struggles for achievements and success continues.

There are many questions you asked me about going back to Nigeria, doing this or that for Nigeria, those tasks we must do. I have not given definite answers to those questions like creating scholarship for people who will read for our countryland because there are millions of Nigerians who need our help from we overseas so I can't say that I am victorious now, that I have done everything and I am through with my achievements because we have a lot of tasks. New generations are coming every second to our circle and what have we done? And so I will say that personal achievement is not the only achievement from man. Two, family achievement, environmental achievement, our country is in want of development.

Have we developed Nigeria? It's a question too. And this can be part of our achievements too, to do anything for the greatness of Nigeria. I know that Nigeria did not give me education, but I am a Nigerian by birth and I have a debt there, what I will call a moral debt. I have moral debt to the world too as a Scientist, so there are many achievements to be worked for yet and so a man should not give up that he has done everything