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INTERVIEW: My Relationship With Owelle Rochas Okorocha Taught Me To Fully Understand The Real Meaning Of Giving & Impacting Lives – Uche Nwosu.

Uche Nwosu.

Uche Nwosu is a household name, either in politics, in humanitarian work, but his political journey and by virtue of being made Commissioner for Lands in Imo State and later Chief of Staff to Owelle Rochas Okorocha as Governor.

He had a One-On-One with our Publisher recently and this interview would be brought to you in three parts

We present to your reading pleasure, Uche Nwosu, President, Ugwumba Leadership Centre for Leadership Development in Africa.


Q: Give us an insight into your journey with humanitarian services and helping people, especially the youth?

I have discovered that you cannot go wrong with helping young people, and I discovered this during my election, that even when I moved from the APC to AA within a space of two months, the young people followed me and I defeated everyone who contested with me in that election. As a Commissioner and later Chief of Staff, I tried it and that was the best decision I ever made. These are the people that will grow and remember where they are coming from. I have helped so many young people and I told myself that I cannot stop because of how I started.

Q: How did all start with you? Did you stumble on this?

When I started my life, my father died 1983, we were left with my senior brother who was a Custom Officer, but he died in 1987, 4years after and our lives became very miserable, so I had to join my uncle in Maiduguri, so, when I came back from Maiduguri, I had a friend called Abdulraman Zubairu, a Muslim, we were very close, if I’m going to the school chapel, Abduraman would follow me, and wait outside till I was done and we would go home. On Fridays, if he is going to the Mosque too, I will follow him too and wait till after prayers and both of us will go home together too. That was my understanding of Christian and Islamic relationship, we would sit together, share notes of both the Bible and the Quran, while Abdulraman would tell me things in the Quran, I would share thing in the Bible with him to too to the extent that that we both discovered that the only difference in our believes was Jesus Christ. While Muslims believe that Christ is a prophet, Christians believe that He is the son of God. While they believe that God does not son or brother and mother as the Almighty, we believe that  He is the son God knowing that and that we have God the father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit. So, we were very close. I did Arabic language in my JSS1, JSS2, Arabic language does not mean that one is being converted to Islam, it is like French language, Chinese language, English language, Igbo language and the likes. Then, it was a must to do one language in school and there was nobody to teach one Igbo language in the North, so I opted for Hausa language, then my friend, Abdulraman was doing Arabic language, so I followed him and we doing Arabic together, we could write the language fluently, as you know, you don’t write Arabic straight wards, but leftwards, so when I got home after the school one day, I told my uncle that I could write his name in Arabic language, he was shocked as a Pastor and asked if I meant it that I could write his name in Arabic and I said yes, he then asked me to go ahead and write his name, I did, he didn’t say anything but out of shock, that evening, he called my mum and told her that I was about to be converted to a Muslim. My mother cried and asked that they should bring be back to Aba, Abia State immediately, so the following day, my uncle told me that my mum asked him to bring me back home, that if he doesn’t, she was going to kill herself, that was how I found myself back to Aba, after crying my heart out.

Then, when I got to Aba, life became difficult, my sister who was second to my late elder brother, her salary then was 5000, with that 5000, she was living in a one room in  face me, I face you compound, so we were all there, my mum, myself and my other siblings, we were 5 in that room. So, what we did was, when we come back from school, my mum would have arranged the trays, if it was the time of any fruits in season, oranges, udara, corns, groundnuts, etc., so, by the time you drop your bag, you just grabbed your own corn, eat and off you go. I would trek from Ogbor hill, Umungasi, cross-road, Osisioma, mevation, Ariari, name them, I was trekking, but in those my trekking, what I told myself each time I saw the children of rich men, was that I would be like them one day. You know when you are carrying your wears on your head and you are shouting to attract customers, my mum taught us even how to cut oranges like Hausa people and how to sell your corn very well.

So, this was how we started our journey in Aba, we hawked and hawked until I finished my secondary school, got admission into school of basic studies in Port-Harcourt, my elder sister said no, that she doesn’t want me to go that school. I got another one at Abia Poly, I went and after 3months, I told my mum that I didn’t like Abia Polytechnic, the, I got another one with Imo State University, but there was no money to pay, my mum said we should call my uncle who stayed in Onitsha, we called him and he asked why I was in a hurry to go to school, that I should come and start trading, that everyone alive will go to school, I refused and ran to the village in protest, telling them that I won’t return to Aba until I go to school. So, my mum had to sell some of the jewelries my elder brother bought for her while he was with the Nigerian Custom, my sister sold her own, we borrowed money with some of our lands, that was how I got to Imo State University.

After the first session in school, I told myself that I was not going to ask my mum for money anymore, I started hustling. During the weekends, I would go to the village and locate any building site, started carrying blocks and handing the bricklayers’ blocks, I learnt how to lay the clocks myself. So, each weekend, I would make 10 thousand, sometimes, 20 thousand Naira and nobody knew any of these then, until one day, I was in my hostel, I saw some people campaigning and I asked what was going on and was told they were doing Student Union Government something, my spirit told me I can do it, what is there and that was how I entered into student unionism. I came to class one day and told my friends that I want to run for office in the student election and they started laughing at me, asking if I thought student election was a joke to me, that all the people seeking positions in the student union are all cultists, they will kill me, I wasn’t deterred by their unbelief, I went for one job, made some money, came back and printed my campaign posters, going for the office of Director of Transport.

When it was time to start campaigning, I would tell them that you see, after close of school, I will bring ABC Transport to this school and it will take you people to Lagos, Abuja and Onitsha. That changed the narrative for me as they all started calling me A, B, C, that was how I knew Linus Okorie, who was running for SUG President, my own slogan became very popular, my friend, Chigozie from Mbaise, the brother worked with ABC Transport, the guy wore the ABC transport uniform and came for one of my campaign and I told them that I had to bring the manager of ABC Transport here so that when I win, the man would bring the bus regularly  and immediately they saw my friend, Chigozie and his brothers uniform he wore to school that day, they started shouting and hailing me. That was how I won that election as Director of Transport in the Student Union Government that year.

From Director of Transport, I became the Secretary of Student Union Government, SUG, from Secretary of SUG, I became the Secretary of National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, Imo State chapter, from there, I became the National Mobilization Officer of NANS, that was how I knew Philip Shuaibu, now Deputy Governor of Delta State, who was then contesting for the National President of NANS. As the National Mobilization Officer of NANS, part of my duty was to mobilize students whenever there were demonstrations, which also was how I got to know Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as Labour Leader, so when Adams wants to call for demonstrations, he would call Philip and Philip would call me and I will assemble Student Union Presidents from different states, we will mobilize, which was how Philip got close to Adams, all of us, from there we started meeting Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Achike Udenwa, I met Rochas, when he contested the first Governorship election, he lost, every other person left, but I stayed, we were like 8 people that met him, when he lost that election, towards the end of my school, others left, Kenneth didn’t go, Agafe remained and this Deputy Chief of Staff to Hope Uzodinma now, just the 4 of us, we told him, your excellency, we want to remain with you, anywhere you go, we follow you, not because of money, but we want to remain your boys, that was how after sometime, Emeka and Agafe left, remaining I and Kenneth, we stayed with Owelle until he became Governor. Those of them that left started regretting why left, which is what I tell young people today, don’t jump from here to there, there is always a process to everything, things man you think has died politically, will rise up again.

That was how Owelle became Governor, made me Commissioner for Lands, made me Chief of Staff, so, when the outcry arose against me with people saying and asking questions about my pedigree and so on, I just sit and look because none of them knew how I started with Rochas. This is why today, whenever I see people who don’t have, I feel for them from the bottom of my heart because I have been there. When you see somebody selling ordinary groundnut, you wouldn’t know what that person maybe going through, because then, when I would be hawking, the kind of insults and humiliation I would receive, especially after seeing children of my age in their parents cars going to school while I was on the road hawking, but those challenges didn’t get into me, as all I kept telling myself then was, I will be like them, because my mum taught us never to look at where we were coming from, but lo forward to a brighter future.

Q: Are you saying Your Excellency sir, that some of the challenges and deprivations you faced then culminated into what you’re doing right now?


Yes, my mum encouraged me because she was a great giver. You know when she died, she died of cancer, immediately she died, some street hawkers all assembled in her house crying and wailing, so, my sister started asking them questions. Which was when they all started confessing all the good things my mum did for them. It was then I realized that if I sent 500k to my mum now, within 3 days, she would call, demanding for more, telling me that the money I sent to her in less than one week is finished. I will question her and she would get angry, asking if I wanted to tell her how to spend her own money, then I will keep quiet. It was at her death that I realized that she was giving those monies to be shared amongst the less privileged. That was how my mum taught me how to give and when I met Owelle Rochas Okorocha too, I now understood that there is a huge reward in giving and impacting the lives of others.

I was with Owelle, when we went to Enugu to honor Madam Ngozi Okonjo Iweala when she was give an award by Umuada Igbo as the Political Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo, we went to Enugu to celebrate with her, but by the time we were done and got to the airport, we saw the Sosoliso flight leaving Enugu Airport. The minister of state for finance then, Nemadi Usman  said she was going to Lagos from Enugu, she had a private jet Dangote gave to her, Owelle agreed, so we could go to Abuja from Lagos, on getting to Lagos, I bought ticket for Owelle, bought for his Orderly, Andrew, and bought for myself. Belview, the last flight, 7:30.  The MD of one of the banks was there, Chief Joseph Igwe, Chairman of Bolingo Hotel and a former Special Adviser to Chief Obasanjo from Kaduna were there too. So, they were discussing and waiting for the flight to land, and when they called for boarding, others left, the only person who was still with Rochas at this time was the former MD of one bank, Owelle excused us to ease himself, leaving myself and that MD who engaged me in discussions on where I am from and where he was from, so he now told me to tell his friend that is Owelle, that he was going to board and that they would meet on the plane. So, I was waiting for Owelle and when he came out from the rest room, his eyes were red, very red and angry, I said sir, what is it? Are you ok sir? He now said he doesn’t think we should travel to Abuja that day, I now protested to the fact that the plane had landed and we didn’t have any change of clothing, which was why we even came through Lagos in the first place, he insisted we must not travel, there was only one girl left at the VIP Lounge, she asked him too if he was not traveling anymore, which he answered in the affirmative, requesting we should get a taxi because we didn’t have any vehicle in Lagos then, the lady went out and got a taxi for us and we now left.

But I and the orderly were very angry with Owelle’s decision because we didn’t have any change of clothes with us, nothing at all with us. We now took him to Sheraton to lodge, and we went to look for a smaller hotel around to stay, I was in my room on the bed thinking about to get what to wear and how to manage myself the following day when the orderly rushed into my room asking me to put on AIT and we were shocked to learn that the Bellview airline we were supposed to board had been declared missing through the scroll message on the screen of AIT. “My brother, this was how I was on the bed, looking at the TV and the TV was looking at me”. For more than 20mins, I was dazed and calls starting pouring in like water. I was trying to convince them that we did not board the aircraft, they refused to listen to me, because what we do sometimes is that when we get to the airport and there are available seats, it’s either Oga and his orderly goes and we wait or we go before them, depending on the occasion.

People were calling and Owelle himself had switched off his phone and slept off, because according to him, he had headache, and knew he needed to rest, so he switched off and slept. I and the orderly stopped a taxi and ran off to Sheraton where Owelle was and when we got to his room, we started knocking on the room door and it took him time to wake up and said, “WHAT IS IT? With his sleepy eyes” and we told him that plane had crashed and he was dazed. He then told us to come in and I told him that his wife had been trying to reach him, that was when he now put on his phone and calls starting pouring in again, everywhere calls and that was how God saved Owelle and by extension, myself.

In the morning when we came back to Abuja, Newspapers published the manifest of the crashed aircraft and our names were there, even when people did not know we were supposed to be in that plain. Come and see, all the Rochas Foundation College Ibadan, Kano, Jos, Owerri were all crying in their locations as the only schools we had then. Children and their parents were all wailing across the country, with the believe that Rochas was in the plain that had crashed, Rochas Group here, his office, crowd gathered that morning and women were everywhere crying and the next thing, we appeared and it was like movie to them. One woman came and told Owelle in Hausa was, ‘Walai, that you are alive today is the cry of those children you are feeding’ God save and brought you back so you would continue taking care of these motherless poor children you are taking care of across the country, with free education, food and accommodation when everyone had abandoned them.

So, when you look at it my brother, there was nothing that would have stopped us from boarding that flight that very day. In fact, if that MD had not left to board and was waiting for Owelle to return from the rest room, he would have convinced Owelle to board that flight that day, especially knowing that it was the last flight of the day, but God simply pushed him to go board before Owelle returned from the restroom that day, just to save Owelle and myself. I have come to discover that God has a way of using him, leave the political sides of him, Owelle Rochas Okorocha has grace.

Apart from my mum, when I met Owelle, I saw somebody with the passion to help the poor and I was like, if somebody like Rochas who has everything could do what he does and could afford to use his money anyhow he wants to use it, that shaped me further and in fact, I have the believe that if somebody ask for 10naira and you don’t have that 10naira, if is 2naira you can afford, give, if it is 3naira, give. If someone come to your house and ask for 1 cup of rice and you don’t have that 1 cup of rice, if it is 1 spoon you have, give to that person, don’t allow that person to go empty handed and God had told that person to come to you and God did so because know you have the capacity to render that help.

So, that’s my story and I am proud to share it any day, even amongst people who say they want to be like me and I ask them if they would go through the process I went through in life. 

Let me tell you a story. I have a big poultry farm in Owerri, Imo State, so, whenever I go home, there are some youths in my village that I give money to regularly. I continued to give them money all the time till a day came, I invited them to Owerri, they came and I asked how many of them would like to go into farming and they started grumbling, and I was like, so, I would come and give you guys money and you would be eating my money, some of which came from this same farming I am trying to introduce you people to? They didn’t believe me and I stopped giving them money. In fact, I went home twice or more and never gave them money, until one or two of them came back to me to grudgingly to accept the offer and they are doing well today. One is into poultry and the other one is into fishery. 

Some of our youths don’t really know what they want because they don’t have mentors. The truth is, 99% of Nigerian youths don’t have mentors and their parents are not there for them with the intricacies of our environment now where parents leave for work in the morning and return late at night when the children may have gone to sleep, leaving children with maids to care for. The people the children now see as role models are boys into Yahoo Yahoo and the people they see on Social Media. Their role models will no longer be teachers or civil servants or a roadside vulcanizer who is able to pick your money on the road and return it to you, but boys on the fast lane putting wrist-watches of 1million naira and drives cars of 20million without asking how the wealth came about. 

It is a mistake and an issue we have in this country, which is why I still advocate for the inclusion of Guidance and Counseling in all our schools, starting from Primary and Secondary schools and that it must be made compulsory. When I was in secondary school in Maiduguri, we had teachers responsible for Guidance and Counseling, who were in charge of overseeing children and their behaviors. If you have a problem, the teacher talks to you and by the time that teacher finish talking to you, you would know your stand. We must turn the hands of the clock to let our people know that life indeed is a process and that all that glitters is not gold.

Second part would follow soon.


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