By Charles Kumolu
Sound, affluent and ambitious, Uchenna Annie-Okonwkwo is building an identity that may dwarf his father’s in business and politics. The scion of Annie Okonkwo dynasty, who is the Executive Director of Topwide Ventures Ltd, a multidimensional conglomerate with core interests in commodity trading as well as Oil and Gas, discusses his successes and ambitions. He is part of a team of investors reviving Nigeria’s mining industry and in partnership with PT Tema of Indonesia
In the beginning
With hindsight, I remember growing up almost amidst people of all tribes and status. They often came for political, economic and social visits daily. People came early in the day and stayed till late in the night. I remember their animated discussions and loud arguments about our country and governance. I’m privileged to be my father’s son. As a prominent political figure in Nigeria, he has contributed more to shaping my life than anyone else. Even during the era of coup detat, I remember how he discussed in hushed tones with visitors. Before becoming a politician, Sen Annie Okonkwo, my dad, was first a successful businessman. Such a background influenced me and made my childhood delightful. Also, my mother was an inspiration. Her moral regimen was a source of wisdom to me. Lolo Chinyere, as she has become better known, enjoys a special knack for propriety and exactitude. My education, all the people I have met and read about, shaped my philosophy in life. For these reasons, I vowed to promote humanity through service by examples. It has dawned on me that I can’t just help myself alone but also make others better because an improved humanity breeds an endowed personality. To that extent, leadership should be for service and followership.
Zeal for greater things
My success was not wholly defined by being the first child of my parents. What some describe as my success was shaped and determined by my earnestness, humility, patience, resilience and insatiable quest for a better life. The zeal to achieve greater things electrified me to adopt these virtues. To an extent, they are also God-given. They’re both innate and learned. Opportunities for youths are not what they were in the past. Only those who are prepared for opportunities of this era, would not be left out. It’s, however, sad that there is no intensive government support for young people. More than 95 percent of young people do not have mentors. I had to put myself in their shoes in order for me to know what not having mentors feels like. Apart from my parental background, I knew quite early that I needed to be grounded in order to build my own identity. That’s how it has been for me. Parents don’t have to teach all the time or be there all the time. I learned many things through experience, interaction, faith and good mental health.
I believe in destiny, hard work, not handouts. Over time, I developed the values of humility, perseverance and patience. I’m always working on something. Insatiable quest for knowledge, innovation, deductive reasoning and entrepreneurial spirit have kept me going. Anyone earnestly seeking breakthrough should value time. My time is valuable. People should not underestimate the key principle in timing. There is time for everything. There is time to celebrate and even time to be melancholic. When all these are added together, life can be so much easier. Anyone who imbibes these ideas will not regret. That’s what I have done and I still do. These values keep me grounded and guide my ambition in life.
Peculiar Nigerian challenges
Topwide Ventures is not really a new company. It was incorporated in 1996. Its primary business is commodity trading, especially fast selling consumer goods. We have diversified into real estate and construction. Our emerging subsidiaries are involved in oil and gas, mining and manufacturing. We are graciously doing well and our turnover has been incremental. We are where we are now, because we’re not limited by Nigeria’s peculiar challenges. So far, we have done very well in our ventures. My major breakthrough was my decision to return to Nigeria from overseas. Sticking to that decision , remains fundamental to me. Why is that a breakthrough for me? For me to forgo the numerous job opportunities internationally and come home, endeavoring to develop my homeland is a major breakthrough. To speak to my constituents and make sure they believe in my leadership is an added breakthrough. Many of my peers do not wish to return home, because of the deplorable state of things in our motherland. Even those who did regretted after a few months. They were discouraged by lies, insecurity, financial challenges, lack of listening ears and mentorship and underemployment. My perseverance is a major breakthrough.
Leaving business for service
Anyone in a position to help others or change the course of events cannot sit back, fold his arms and watch things go wrong. It’s wrong to watch things being done in an irrational way. Between our basic governance architecture, that is, the leaders and the followers, there has been a cascading defect in the leadership cadre. There are so many irregularities and inefficiencies that have trapped our system. That is why we are experiencing regression. My belief that we can collectively solve our problems influenced me to get involved. I am getting involved by offering myself for service. I am doing so by mobilising people to stand up for their rights. I want to ensure that followers get returns for investment in their leaders. Nigeria is a comatose political patient in the theater and every concerned citizen should get involved to revive her.Instead of being seen as accomplished, I prefer being described as a pathfinder. I consider it a privilege to have ascended the ladder as an Executive Director in a thriving conglomerate with so many responsibilities. I am thrilled by our investments in mining and real estate and particularly in the mining sector where our proactive nuances attracted the second largest mining company in the world to our shores. The company has been here for a year and looking good. I feel accomplished that we brought the company to Nigeria. I have also bankrolled many poverty alleviation programmes which I don’t see as accomplishments but normal civic philanthropy. I feel fulfilled and excited whenever I help people.
Actually one of the reasons I’m in politics is to possibly improve lives.
Plethora of setbacks
Nigeria has a plethora of setbacks that affect the youths but there are also a lot of opportunities they can use to create value. One of the major factors is technology. The advancement and adaptation of technological knowledge among the budding stars in our nation have been incredible. Youths are running their business through the social media. There are a lot of opportunities to be optimized there. The possibilities are vast. So, young people should not neglect that area replete with opportunities for their greatness.