From Paulinus Aidoghie, Abuja
Chairman of Gocuz Group of Companies, Dr. Obinna Uzoh, who is marking his 58 birthday, has sensationally told the story of his life. The lawyer, businessman, philanthropist and politician, in this interview talked about his motivation, humanitarian services, among others.
You are 58 today; could you tell us about your growing up?
I was born in Lagos, grew up in my village, Umunnamehi, Ihiala, in Anambra State. I went to primary school and secondary school in my place and proceeded to Lagos to do business and study at the same time at the University of Lagos. I studied Law, and Business Management. I am married with a lovely wife and we children. My growing up was great. There were lots of experiences and successes.
In all of these, what has life taught you?
My parents prepared me adequately for life’s lessons. Life has taught me a lot. Everything comes from God. Life has taught me that whatever we have or what we are is by God’s grace. Life has taught me to be patient, humble, hardworking, focused and prayerful in whatever situation I find myself. In all situations, give God all the glory. Life has taught me to continue to assist and be generous.
You are a businessman and a lawyer. How do you combine these two and strike a balance?
Over the years, I’ve groomed professionals to handle all aspects of businesses we are involved in. With technology, it is not too difficult to co-ordinate. Remember that also that there is my family, which is the most important to take care of. No matter what, I try to create time for my home, business, law practice, and politics. As I said earlier, one must be focused, determined, hardworking and prayerful in order to succeed in one’s endeavours.
Your birthday falls on the same day Anambra governor is sworn into office, March 17. Does it have effect on your interest in politics?
No. At the time I contested for governorship of Anambra State in 2003, the handover date was May 29. However, I am happy that it is now on my birthday. My motivation to join politics is because I know I have the competence, capacity and credibility to give my people good governance, justice, equity and fair play in the distribution of democratic dividends and offices. I am always happy to uplift people, put smiles on the faces of people, and help people achieve their talents, goals and aspirations. I have been a philanthropist all my life. I joined politics to have a bigger platform to reach out to the less privileged people.
As an individual, I have been into philanthropy for a very long time. I have done so many things. I built youth hostels, tarred roads, offered scholarships, donated educational equipment and tools, done free medical outreach, built churches, provided water through borehole projects, built houses for the less privileged and built hostels for universities and faculty buildings. You will see Obinna Uzoh Youth Hostel. You go to Madonna University, you see Obinna Uzoh Law Faculty. I have done electrification projects. I have done a lot of things over the years. I did this as an individual. However, I felt that with government machinery, I could do more for the people. That is my motivation to join politics and seek elective offices.
There’s a controversy as to whether the governorship seat is zoned to Anambra South or not. What are your thoughts on that?
There is this unwritten thing about zoning in Anambra. Earlier, some people said Anambra North had not produced the governor, that it had been Anambra South and Central. Now Anambra North has produced the governor. For me, zoning, if upheld, is not bad. Anambra South has only had a governor for one term of four years. The Central has done for two terms plus almost three years, which is about 11 years. Anambra North is concluding its eight years. So, it will be good for the governorship to go to the South. However, if we look at the people contesting now, you discover that we have people from all the zones. One of the parties already zoned to Anambra South. We will see what the other parties decide.
What do you think of politics in Nigeria generally?
Politics in Nigeria is what it is everywhere in the world. It is a difficult terrain just like life itself. Everything in life is a challenge. People tell you that politics is a dirty game. I don’t think so. A lot of people get demoralised and discouraged, particularly when you see people like me being hounded. There are people who believe politics is their natural terrain, such people would not want professionals like me, lawyers, doctors, accountants, technocrats, entrepreneurs to come in. When they feel threatened, they will hound you. It’s same in life. If you want good policies, security, employment opportunities, good health care system, good education, good governance, good people must get involved. What I tell such people is that politics is for everybody. It is an avenue to add value to life.
What do you like or hate about politics?
Politics, some people say, is a profession, while others say it is a game. Through politics, you get into government offices, where you make policies that will affect the lives of people for the best. Whether you are a legislator, minister, commissioner, governor or president, through politics, you touch people’s lives. That’s what I like about politics.
What do I hate about politics? Envy and bitterness are tops. It’s not peculiar in politics though. There are hazards in everything in life. So it is in politics. In civil service, journalism, it will be difficult to say that there are no people who are envious of your rising profile, who would want to pull you down. So, in politics, a lot of people tell you it is a dirty game. I believe in destiny. You have to work hard and pray hard to get there. Never give up.
There is the agitation that youths should be the drivers of government; do you believe Nigerian youths have the capacity to lead?
I believe our youths have the capacity. I believe in the youths and women. They should get more involved in politics. We have a large number of youths and women in the country. If the youth can get focused, get their PVCs, their voters cards ready, join political parties, they would take the centre stage. We need to see youths getting involved in the mainstream politics. In political parties, youths, in the proper use of the United Nation’s definition, should be youth leaders, chairmen, secretaries etc of particularly the leading political parties.
Coming back to your question, I would say confidently that the Nigerian youth are capable of being in leadership positions. They have gone to school. They are educated. What is left is for them to apply what they learnt in school in leadership, in governance. Some of those who are calling the shots today started as youths. President Buhari, General Yakubu Gowon and many others became governor and military head of state when they were under 35. I started running for governorship at 40. Before then, I had been participating in politics. The youth are ready and capable.
What makes you happy in life and what makes you sad?
What makes me happy is seeing people happy and making people happy. Life is tough, but people could still be happy. I like to see the less privileged busy, artisans, skilled men, unskilled men doing something that gives joy and prosperity.
I am sad when the reverse is the case. When I see a lot of people out of work, a lot of people not having resources to attend to their needs, it saddens my heart.
How has Obinna Uzoh Foundation touched lives?
Obinna Uzoh Foundation has been doing well with the men, women, youths, children and the less privileged people generally. We have done quite a lot in humanitarian services. As I said earlier, we have built houses for the widows, widowers, less privileged. We have provided clean water. We have been involved in rural electrification. We have offered scholarships, built school hostels, university faculty buildings, renovated schools and donated church buildings.
We did all these as a way of helping people. We didn’t do them because of politics. In fact, I never wanted to go into politics. So Obinna Uzoh Foundation is rendering humanitarian services. Even if I am not around, my family, my wife, my children, will continue with Obinna Uzoh Foundation.