By By Ishola Balogun
Prince Nnagozie Ochi is the fifth child of HRH, Late Igwe Godwin Uchenna Ochi and Lolo Angelina Ochi in Ogugwu, Enugu State. His approach to life is influenced greatly by his down to earth disciplinarian parents who taught him how to bring about a change in the life of others.
Haunted by this idea, after his university education, and his stint with AGIP, he opted for a training in the United states of America in character development. Today, Prince Ochi upholds this ideal as he’s currently dedicating all his energies and resources to building and celebrating goodness and greatness of the Nigerian youth. This, according to him, will translate into a better future for the country. He is our cultivated man this week.
I grew up under my parents who were educators. My father always talked about education as an investment you can make in people. He almost had a disdain for acquiring property. He would rather invest his money in the education of people in his neighbourhood. Hence, he died without any assets.
Although, he was a traditional ruler. But people celebrated him when he died. For me, that was an inspiration. So, while growing up, I wanted to be my own man and do my own thing. Over the years I kept realising that I was a chip off the old block. I found out that many people don’t emphasis people’s development’ especially government.
That is why government and community programmes never really worked. We can’t develop the state without developing the people. The concept of human infrastructures overtime evolved in me as something I should do. I then kept defining it until it became everything I look forward to do for the rest of my life. Now, I have been able to develop it not just at the top but also, I have been able to practise it and undertake series of pilot tests on it.
When we talk about human infrastructure, there are three areas of it. One, for us is to be able to know at the foundational level in the modern world, what is the critical thing a human being needs to be independent. It is simply education or literacy, but people take it for granted. Imagine an illiterate living in this 21st century.
He can’t compete. Now, look at the level of illiteracy we have in this country even with the so called investment in education. People go to school but they can’t read and write. It means we have a problem. We started the project to accelerate illiteracy.
At the private level, I also found out that you can’t seat back and fight government; you must also get involved to bring about a change with the little resources you have. We have been able to undertake literacy programme in my own community and right now, we have seen improvements.
So, we have a strategy to accelerate literacy. It is when you have a growing number of people being able to read, it is then that other aspects of development begin to take place. But if people can’t read, they invariably become a menace to the society, internal frustration sets in. The result is what you see today as the nation bleeds. So, we focus on human infrastructure to develop the people.
We had a partnership with UNICEF about two years ago, we conducted a reading competency test across public schools in nine states, and the result: we could not get up to 10 per cent. We have to do something on this area. As an organisation, we are set to deal with all of these problems.
The next key area is character. If you educate a person in mind and not moral, he will still be menace to the society. Intelligence without character is zero. If on the one hand we are able to combat illiteracy, the work is half done. We must ensure that it literacy comes with good character, or emotional intelligence or whatever you call it.
The individual will ultimately harness his potential. Think about a young man who is so intelligent and suddenly he finds himself in a public office, but in a one little lure of money, he soils his hands and his career is destroyed. It is because he does not have moral backbone.
You expect people in high authority to be morally upright when they did not build it? When the educational system was so complacent? What does a degree certificate says: that you have been found worthy in character and learning for the award of Bachelor of Science degree in whatever. But how many courses do they take in character building, in ethics or do you think it just happen? It doesn’t.
So, we are churning out people who are incompetent at the level of morality. That’s why we can’t expect anything from them. This explains why I declared that enough is enough; every young child growing up in Nigeria from now onward must be different from the adult. We must build a culture around the child.
A culture of character where integrity is number one, where honesty is the watchword. We are talking about trustworthiness, responsibility, respect, fairness, justice, patriotism and caring. These are values younger Nigerians must imbibe at an early age mostly through educational system.
The parents have lost it too because most parents don’t have time for their kids. They don’t have a clue on how to bring up a child with good character. So, we focus on character count in schools. It is a character count school agenda programme.
The character count is an integral part of our human infrastructure development initiative. We found in some areas that you cannot compare good private schools with public schools. An average five years old in private school is already reading and writing.
So, we decided to focus on building character in the private schools. While on the literacy programme, we found that the public schools need it first. I have had opportunity to talk to government at high levels and we have so articulated our programmes that we have sent proposals to states governments.
But again, for me, I am not ready to wait for anybody. While on the one hand, we have partnership with UNICEF, we did a pilot and we are still awaiting opportunity to escalate this programme in communities; now, we have over 40,000 students from over 50-60 schools involved in this programme and the feedback have been good.
We are building a culture where academic and character is at par, where academic work will be done on the platform of character. I consider myself and my team as a team of social architect. Our focus is to serve the social good. Our focus is result oriented, is not just action and activity, we produce result and we do bench marking to see the result. A need has to be filled, we are looking for Nigerians that will take responsibility and say: ‘it is my fault, I will clean up the mess.’ we are looking people of integrity.
The character programme is not a mere curriculum. What we have is a framework that the school academic is integrated into it in such a way that teachers become character educators no matter the subject they are teaching. It becomes the culture of a school, in fact from the Assembly Hall, the character programme has started.
This is really a culture changing programme. If you are doing it in a school, the owner of the school and every hierarchy of the school must get involve. You know the younger ones are very amenable; they can be changed through peer interaction and mentoring.
The emphasis is not on punishment, but identifying the good they have done and celebrating them. In no time, every child is jumping over each other to do a good thing and if they keep doing it over a period of time, it becomes their way of life and a new generation of Nigerians begin to emerge. Our vision is to see the emergence of a critical mind of a new generation of Nigerians.
We want to make sure that the government get involved. One of our plans is to have a student leaders’ summit. We want them to talk and brainstorm and to chat a cause for themselves. Enough of all these corruption. I used to tell the young people that they are not leaders of tomorrow but leaders of today because tomorrow never comes.
We also have to recognise the teaching profession. It is one profession you can never neglect. We want to celebrate them because they critical to the emergence of a new Nigeria. We already have a number of training programmes lined up in the form of train the trainers in partnership with Jefferson Institute of Ethics, the founder of character Count. They will be in Nigeria later this year to conduct training for our teachers.
How the idea evolved
While I was growing up, I wanted to be everything my father was not. I always say that I would have a lot of money even against the advise of my father that money is not everything. I read economics in the university. We pride ourselves with the saying that we are the policy makers in the making. When I graduated, I got a job in the oil industry.
I was making money. At a point, I started having the feeling that I want to be on my own, to create wealth. I love the concept of creating wealth out of ideas and I resigned. I went into publishing and importation. Even as I make money in private business, I still felt something was missing; a question just started pumping into my head – if you die now and you’re asked to go back to the world, what is that one thing you would do?
But sometime in 2005, I came across this character building programme and I started to develop the idea wit my wife. It got to a point we travelled to the United States for training as Character Educator. When we returned, we continued to grow that idea but we didn’t do anything until I became seriously ill.
It was from then I decided that this is what I am going to do. When I went into it fully, everything started working, and between then and now, we have achieved a milestone. In 2011, the founder of Character Count visited Nigeria.
Now, we are looking at how we can implement this programme in the Unity Schools and we also working with the crème de la crème of private schools in this country.