By Henry Ojelu
Rupert Ojenuwa may not be your regular superstar but he has chosen a path that draws superstars and great achievers to him. While many regale the negative narratives about Nigeria, Rupert has chosen to celebrate every positive achievement that brings honour to the country. Through this passion, he has become one of the new faces of positive Nigeria. In this interview, he shares his passion, struggles and successes.
I am Rupert Ojenuwa, from Delta State. I am from a family of nine children and the second child. I had a very rough upbringing. The chart was somewhat zigzag; zigzag because things went from bad to good and back to bad and so we had to do all manner of menial jobs to support ourselves. In all, God was kind to us. Though I am a graduate of Accountancy, I have been a Public Relations person for the most part of my work experience.
What were the challenges for you growing up?
The challenges I had growing up were many and multi-faceted. I had a personal challenge and then we had family challenges. As a child, I was very quiet. I was indoors because my father won’t even allow any of us to visit people as close as the next-door neighbours but somehow, we found a way to adapt to that lifestyle and it is still a part of me, in a sense. However, a major challenge was finance. When we were a bit older and got into nursery and primary schools, things had gone from good to bad already and it was tedious getting along. Schooling sometimes was epileptic. You know the kind of situation where you go today and you are not sure you’d be allowed in next week because school fees may not have been paid. But by God’s help, I was able to scale through.
What was your motivation for initiating Hall of Grace Award?
Hall of Grace, HoG Awards began some eight, nine years ago. We had floated Alpha Grace Media Resources, whose major undertakings were largely about creating media content, public relations for all strata in the nation. In fact, we simplified our media products such that Small and Medium Scale Enterprises are able to afford them. However, the situation of Nigeria gave me grave concern. Nigeria was reported in the media, locally and internationally for all the wrong reasons and I thought that wasn’t fair. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am extremely passionate about Nigeria. The Nigeria of my dreams and the one I wake up to see each passing day are miles apart but I thought within myself: ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’ So, I felt if we initiate a unique award which will focus on celebrating people who are truly doing well, it will serve a dual purpose of first serving as an impetus for them to do even more and then second, motivate those who are not doing as much or who are not doing well at all. So, I took it to the Board which was led at the time by the former Minister of Information and Sports, Sir (Chief) Alex Akinyele who gave it express approval and here we are today. Our current Chairman is the revered Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi.
Who are some of the people you have honoured so far and why?
We have honoured extremely distinguished Nigerians. For example, we have honoured Africa’s richest man, Dr. Aliko Dangote for his impact on the nation’s economy through job creation. We have honored H.E Atiku Abubakar for his fight to return Nigeria to democratic rule. We have honoured Dr. Akinwunmi Adeshina of AfDB for his work in the Agric sector and diversification efforts. We have honoured Senator Shehu Sani, Senator Ben Bruce, Dr. Ibrahim Dankwambo, Abdulfatai Ahmed, Idris Wada and a host of others.
What benefit do you derive from honouring people?
Like I said earlier, when people are honoured and the media captures it, the nation is reported for the right reasons but more importantly, it encourages awardees to do better as well as serving as a motivation and inspiration platform for others to follow the good works.
What lessons have you learnt in your quest to actualise your dreams?
I have learnt several bitter lessons, one of which is that when the chips are down, it is only God you have and also that life never serves you a meal on a golden platter. If anything, life will desire that you live out each day hungry, even though the same life has all that you need in it and can afford whatever you want. So, I have learnt that you name your price and force life to pay. However, sometimes the pay may not be commensurate with the measure of work one is putting in but one’s ability to stay on will do the magic, sooner or later.
Who is your role model and what role has mentorship played in your success?
I have many role models depending on what part of life I am looking at. I am a Christian and Pastor E.A Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God is one of my role models. His life, story and success in all facets of his life inspire me greatly. I also learnt a lot from Chief Alex Akinyele who is a PR guru. On the international scene, Barrack Obama’s inspirational oratorial deliveries keep me in awe. I have also learnt a lot from my parents.
You are young and successful in your calling. What key factors are responsible for your success?
First, I like to think of myself as being on my way to success. But if you talk about factors to success that I have put to use, I think the first will be depending on God through prayers. I am a learner. I learn from anything and everybody. I also have a goal-getting spirit. I never say never. I hardly take no for an answer. I believe the word impossible exists only in fiction and that if you keep pushing, you may discover that the prefix will disappear and you will be left with the word possible.
Nigerian youths appear to be docile on issues of leadership. Why is this so?
Nigerian youths appear to be docile on issues of leadership for many reasons but I shall highlight a few. One, youth leadership appears to be a mirage. The elders do not seem to respect retirement. They are still as active as ever and do not want to leave the stage. So, some youths wonder why they have to be involved in a process that already has a predetermined outcome. If I get your drift correctly, you mean political leadership. Vote- buying and money politics is another reason why so many youths run away from political leadership. It takes a crazy budget to run our kind of campaign and electioneering. Only the old who have been in government or have amassed wealth can pull that through. The Nigerian system doesn’t favour the youths going into political leadership.
Having said these, I think that they are not enough reasons to shy away. If you keep pushing frontiers, something might give sooner or later. So, I think we should just keep at it but there is also the need for the youths to strategize correctly.
If you had the opportunity to change anything in this country, what would it be?
I will like to change the value attached to Nigerians. Nigerians don’t seem to be valued by successive leaderships in our country. A Nigerian is afraid in his own country and even more so on foreign soil. It is very difficult for a Nigerian to fight for his rights outside the shores of the nation because he knows that when the chips are down, the nation will not fight for him or her because he is not valued. Our foreign diplomacy isn’t as good as it should be.
So, if I have the opportunity to change things in Nigeria my first work will be to instil a sense of ‘being important and valued’ into all Nigerians. To make them know that they are important and to do a national re-orientation. You see, one reason why we have very few patriotic Nigerians is that Nigerians are aware the nation doesn’t value them the way they should be.