By Charles Kumolu
GODWIN Ezeemo tells how the influence of his doting mother and his sheer determination to succeed in life, changed his story from a child who trekked 15 Kilometres daily to acquire education to a successful Chairman of a renowned group of companies in Nigeria, the Orient Group. It is a journey activated by providence and made worthwhile by hard work and focus.
HOW did it all commence for you?
I was born to a humble family of NzeUmeaku Godwin EzeemoUmuchu in Aguata Local Government Area. I lost my father at a very tender age before enrolling in primary school. It prepared me for an elaborate life of hard work, determination and care for others. As a child, life for me was just about struggles because of my father’s early death, I had to start early in life to struggle to survive because my mother was not considered well to do by any standard. Because of this challenge, everything that came my way, was by dint of hard work and the benevolence of God.I joined my mother early enough in business which I did after school with much commitment. Growing up was a not a life of tea and bread. My upbringing was tough. My mother was left on her own to raise seven children after the death of her husband.
Being the last child, I followed my mother around to help out with the much I could do in ensuring that my family enjoyed a better living. I come from a Christian home where I was thought how to be diligent and it has been a trait I carried into adulthood. Today, I am now reaping the benefit of trusting in God and handing over everything about me to God.
Milk of human kindness
While growing up, I only wished to get a comfortable flat and car. That was just it because I thought with that, I would be made. I prayed to God for that but he surprised me with riches. He has blessed my businesses beyond expectation. Currently, I have business relationships in almost all the continents of the world. I am a philanthropist, a hope giver, and peace maker who touches every man that crosses my path with milk of human kindness irrespective of their social status.
Are there remarkable moments of your growing up that you think if shared, many would draw lessons?
My early school days were at a missionary Primary school in the village, called St. Thomas Anglican Primary School, Umuchu. It was a distance of about three Km from my home. I had to trek this distance five days a week to acquire basic education from the missionaries, who taught pupils from Umuchu and other neighbouring towns. My secondary school education was at St Peter’s Secondary School, Achina, a neighbouring town to Umuchu and a distance of about 15 km from my home. This school was also a missionary school, without boarding facilities. Again, I had to trek 15 km daily to acquire education.
After this period, I relocated to the Southwest where I attended the Federal Polytechnic Ilaro, Ogun State. At this higher institution, I studied Marketing and graduated with HND in Marketing. At Ilaro, Polytechnic, I held several positions, which included Financial Secretary of the students’ union and Secretary, Igbo students Association.
Nature forced me early in life to learn how to fend for myself and my siblings. Hence, devotion to duty, hard work and probity easily manifest in every venture I engage in.
Having said these, what were the significant things that aided your success?
I can say that what shaped my rise to the top was simply trusting in God and doing genuine business that God prospered. After I came back from London because during the June 12 crisis I left with my family to take cover in the UK where I found succour and discovered that I can do a couple of businesses there. With the level of sanity there I started freighting business which was the kind of business I was doing in Lagos.
As a business man, ideas kept flowing in due to the conducive nature of the environment where I was. That was how my businesses blossomed to where we are today. I was able to establish Orient Export Ltd Uk, Sokka International, Orient Feed Mills and Farm, Orient Magazines, Newspapers and communication, Global Orient Water Well,
Union Haulage, Honeywell Hotel, and Orient Mega FM Radio 98.1among others.In Umuchu, for instance, there is a large farm, Orient Farm, which focuses on poultry production, with other aspects of agribusiness on the side-lines. All these employ numerous youths in Anambra who ordinarily would have been idle thereby possibly constituting a security threat to the state. It was because of my belief that Igbos should invest in Igboland that I set up these companies in Igboland. We have done much elsewhere; it is now time to focus on the home front so that our children at home will engage themselves meaningfully without necessarily having to relocate to Lagos or Abuja.
Your story sounds like a self-made success, were you mentored?
The only mentoring I can associate all these blessings with was the upbringing my late mother gave me. That was just a simple training in the Anglican way which instilled core moral values into my life so mine was self-mentorship.
On philanthropic activities
My love for giving back to the society made me to establish the Charity Ezeemo Trust for the less Privileged in the memory of my late mother, Charity AhusieEzeemo. The flag-off competition of the foundation produced a total of 64 talents who would be sponsored by the Charity Ezeemo Trust for the less-privileged.
Apart from giving assistance to the orphanages, Ezeemo Trust Fund had series of programmes in education, offers scholarships to over 120 students some of whom he said have graduated.The foundation effectively took off in 2006, since then, it has been giving scholarships to indigent students yearly at the rate of N50,000 each. This brings the amount given to 20 students on yearly scholarships at over N1m.
The foundation also provides secretarial and stenographical services to the public and the same time provides an avenue through which the less-privileged in the society could be involved in skills acquisition.The Foundation has over the years financed the medical treatment of children abroad. Such treatments include heart surgeries and other complicated surgeries in India. It also pays monthly allowances to widows and orphans. It is worthy of note that yearly, the foundation organizes a football completion for children aged below 12 where future football stars are discovered. The football competition by the Trust covers three local government areas viz: Aguata, Orumba North and Orumba South Local Government Areas.
On empowerment: I believe so much that empowerment is a priority in any society. People should always be empowered so that they will empower others. But to achieve this we all must be committed to everything we do or whichever place we find ourselves. I believe that the best investment in life is human investment.
In the preceding 2012, the following homes and orphanages benefited from the largesse of the Charity Ezeemo Trust for the less privileged: Special Education Centre for the Mentally Ill, Umuchu, Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State; Basden Memorial Special Education Centre for the Blind, Deaf and Dumb, Isulo, Orumba South Local Government Area.
Others are Tender Love Home, Awka; Mother of Christ Compassionate Home for the Needy and Abandoned; and Lucy Charity Orphanage at Ihiala.The foundation has also touched the lives of victims of Boko Haram crises. For instance, I visited families of victims of Mubi massacre where I donated money and other precious items to help children whose parents were killed by Boko Haram to go back to school.
You are obviously a successful man, what is the attraction in governing Anambra State to the extent that you are making a second attempt at it?
I am in Progressive People’s Alliance simply because of its political ideology and commitment. It is not the name of a political party that drives but the ideology and commitment.
As such PPA is the party to beat because of its human face. What am really worried about is the political culture.
I will make PPA an envy of others because we have got what it takes to give people sound living and Anambra can be better under PPA, so I see no obstacle. Yes, popularity comes in what one has done to touch people. I am sure if God permits me to be the governor I will do my best. Obiano as the executive governor of Anambra has done his best but that is not very exceptional because most sensitive parts of governance are yet to be touched. We live so much in denial but that is not right.