CALL him a man of many parts you will not be faulted. He is a prince, lawyer of international repute, entrepreneur, politician, environmentalist and Proprietor/Chancellor, Stars University of Nigeria among others. He reveals how he has been able to distinguish himself in these pursuits.
APART from academic knowledge, what other things made it possible for you to become who you are today?
I am a Prince of Idumuje Kingdom in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State. I am a lawyer by training, a businessman. I was a member of the House of Representatives for four years. I was born on December 21,1960 in Idumuje-Ugboko in Aniocha North LGA, Delta State.
My life generally has been influenced by my tradition, especially my background as a member of a royal family. While growing up all I saw around me were traditional activities. I took this in my character as I grew up. My being abroad for my studies did not adversely affect my appreciation of our rich culture and tradition. It will also not negatively affect my children. I think that it has enhanced my appreciation of our deep cultural heritage. It has also increased my appreciation of my culture because I have seen how they have promoted and preserved theirs.
I think my education also shaped me and my world view. While growing up, I could remember that I loved adventure. I was passionate about nature and natural habitat, the interaction between man and other creatures, sports as well as service to humanity. These are the influences that have shaped my life and my worldview. I have been trying to inculcate some of these values in my children. When they come to Nigeria, they don’t always want to be in Abuja or in Lagos. They often want to be in my village because they love our tradition, culture and what they see there.
They spend more time in the village when they come from the UK. Even my children, who are in Abuja, prefer to be in Udumuje Ugboko than the Federal Capital Territory. I will describe these as the core values that are part of me such as hard work, sincerity, honesty, dedication and service to humanity. The United Kingdom is a conservative environment which bequeathed Nigeria its legal system, to set up a legal practice in such an historic environment and made a success in it is a remarkable accomplishment. I worked as Legal Assistance, Kumar’s Solicitors, Crown Persecution Service, London; Solicitor and Partner, Pascalides & Co., and Principal Partner, Ned Nwoko Solicitors. This came at an early stage of my life and we are not letting go. This left me with the lesson that hard work pays regardless of the environment, set your goals, focus on them and be determined to succeed.
On responsibility as adults
We have a responsibility as adults to encourage our children to appreciate our culture and traditions. I have always been fascinated by the history of arts and over time, I have come to realise that individually and collectively, we can help to sustain and promote our culture. I have also come to appreciate the fact that in most countries of the world, if not in all, people do appreciate the arts and cultures of others. As a matter of fact, there is no country in the world today even in Nigeria, where tourism is not principally linked to arts and culture of a people. It has become the hub and most important source of earning for most countries. From Britain to France, Thailand, Brazil and the US, tourism has suddenly become the number one source of revenue.
On academic pursuits
I attended the University of Keele (England), where I obtained a BA (Hons) Law and History with subsidiary Subject of Biology and American Studies. I went to Kings College, University of London, LLM, where I majored in Insurance, Maritime, Company and Commercial Law, after which I went to the prestigious Inn of Court School of Law-BL (Barrister at Law of Lincoln’s Inn. London). I also attended the College of Law – London got the QLTT (Solicitor of the supreme court of England and Wales) and the Commonwealth University College, Belize, where I bagged the D.LITT (Doctor of Letters).I served as; Ex-legal adviser to Nigeria Liberal Party, Europe; Visiting Advisor, Citizens Advice Bureau, London; Member of the Society of Black Lawyers, United Kingdom; Elected member of Law Society, England and Wales and Ex- Secretary General, Nigeria Legal Practitioners, United Kingdom, amongst other positions.
My career experience includes the following; working as Legal Assistance, Kumar’s Solicitors, Ealing London; Crown Persecution Service, London; Solicitor and Partner, Pascalides & Co, London and Principal Partner, Ned Nwoko Solicitors, Eailing, London W53EA. My areas of specialization are Civil and Criminal Litigation, including insurance, personal Injury, international conflict of laws, Immigration, Matrimonial law, wills and Probate, Commercial and Domestic Conveyance, Company Commercials including matters. I can’t say I have had professional regrets. However, I will leave that for posterity to judge but I feel pained by the death of my son in the heat of the primaries for governorship election in 2015. He was a second year law student in UK where he died on December 9, 2014.
We need the media to publicise what we are doing. We need to develop domestic tourism first. We need Nigerians to know what we have and what they have and be able to appreciate it. For instance, in my place, how many people are aware of its existence? So we need to help government and government also needs to help the private sector in a symbiotic relationship.
It has to work. There must be well thought out government policy or policies that could drive these projects. We must encourage Education tourism. We expect ministries of education to include tourism in education curriculum by ensuring that apart from the theoretical aspect of it, there are practical visits to palaces, festivals, tourist sites and infrastructure to catch them young, promote the culture of holidaying and what tourism is all about. This will entail schools visiting tourism sites and locations. There must be education of how Nigerians should be able to appreciate what we have.
We can begin to do this from the primary schools; inculcating into our kids the idea that it is not only in France that they have to go and see Eiffel tower, London Bridge in London, Mausoleum in Italy or Disney World in Florida or the Taj Mahal in India or the Pyramids in Egypt. Through the development of Tourism education curriculum, school children will travel from place to place within and outside the states on sightseeing. The private sector and schools will have to work out plans on how to provide vehicles and make adequate security arrangements for such visits.
We are blessed with so many resources. I believe that I can in my own little way help to spearhead this inevitable revolution. It will happen. It has happened in other countries. We have all that it takes to make it a reality. We just need to organise ourselves and sustain the tempo when it eventually becomes a reality.
Your country home in Ugboko has been described by the authorities as a tourism site, what inspired the construction of such an edifice in a village?
Our vision is to use it to promote tourism in Idumuje Ugboko. Some visitors have described it as a fortress of peace, with its enchanting sight, which you only approach through a 9-hole metre golf course. Its architectural design is a blend of Arabian and Western design having a royal traditional look given to it by the alluring designs and most notably the fences and building made with local bricks.
Inside it is a castle with its most notable and intriguing feature being the finishing, its elaborate and beautiful plaster works and handmade ceilings imported from Morocco makes it to have the look of a palace. It also boast of a tunnel being one of my favorite places in its environment with wall engravings describing some of the cultural acts in Nigeria locally designed by one of the residents in the locality. The setup of this tunnel is so wonderful that it exhibits the property of a good location in film making. The mansion has a combination of Arabian and Western design spiced up with rich African royal traditional designs.
The architectural master piece has been described as one of the most fascinating tourism destinations in the country. Apart from the main building, other features are beautifully mowed garden found nowhere else in the state and perfect for family camping and relaxations. The place has a zoo with many species of animals including crocodiles, ostriches, horses, sea eagles, porcupines, monkeys, rabbits and others. Another section of the land has fish ponds that have about 50 thousand cat fish and other species in them. Apart from these, the land also has a poultry section with about five thousand chickens, while another part is filled with thousands of palm trees. Just behind the main castle is an Olympic size swimming pool and a lawn tennis court, with a standard table tennis board adjacent it.
Award on promotion of human rights
I will say that since I left the House of Representatives in 2003, I have received so many awards from groups, institutions, communities etc. Recognition, Appreciation and rewards for our work are sources of encouragement when earned and when deserved. It means that people are still appreciative of my contributions to governance as a lawyer and a law maker at the parliament.
When you realise that we live in a culture where people lobby for awards and honours from traditional institutions and the academia, then you will know that being recognized by the people you don’t know about or sponsored to get ego peddling awards is not a mean feat. The award is in the area of promotion of Good Governance through law making and promotion of human rights. Of course you now that I left the House of Representatives in 2003, but the awards have continued to come in recognition of the work I did during that period. I was able to sponsor over 20 bills including those which impacted on some very key sectors like: A Bill for the establishment of a National Information Network Centre; A bill for an Act establishing a National Disability allowance; National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) reform bill (2000); A bill for the establishment of a National minimum wages council; A Bill for an Act for the Protection of Nigerians Abroad; A Bill for the Amendment of the Firearms Act; A Bill for the Prohibition of Expensive Burial Rites in Nigeria; A Bill for an Act for Community Legal Service; A Bill for an for The Convening of National Conference and A Bill for an Act for Establishing A National Sports University, amongst others.