By Prince Ejeh Josh
The British screenwriter, film maker, philanthropist and best-selling author of Harry Potter, J.K Rowling, while assessing the impact the human specie could make to recreate their cruel environment, create a new world devoid of rancour, hunger, poverty, hopelessness for humanity, and more particularly, avert the possibility of a dystopian state, echoed the significant role everyone of us in the eco-system can play in bringing the above to fruition.
It takes everyone playing their roles in accordance with the dictate of conscience and compassion for humanity to achieve the ideal society of everyone’s dreams.
According to her: “The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet….Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places….We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”
Rowling, in her coherent bearing of somberness, had bemoaned the state of human casualty and waste in a society plagued with the abandonment of the poor, aloofness of the elite and common suspicion of entrenched vault between the affluent class and the impoverished class dictated by what Karl Marx, the celebrated German economist and revolutionary communist, would readily refer to as a perpetual “class struggle” between the intercepting classes.
In the midst of this confusion and bitter struggle between the two irreconcilable classes that, paradoxically, mutually have to work together, lies hope for humanity. Like many humanitarians had written, it’s too early to write off humanity and hold a perverse view of the world. The world still works not because of its self-regulating mechanisms in the science-system-theory explanation. It works because there are still good people toiling ceaselessly to redefine and rework the human understanding of nature, man and the purpose of creation.
Within the microcosmic league of those striving to leave a better world more than they met it is an all-season humanitarian, philanthropist, catalyst of hope and big-hearted statesman, Hon. Chief Ikeje Asogwa, Ide Iheaka; a celebrated man of the people.
His name, from a very reserved perspective, will keep ringing even louder than the bell in the hearts of the people of Enugu State. From whatever belvedere or vantage point one would be assessing Chief Asogwa, one thing is clear, and perhaps, with an unencumbered verdict, and that is the fact that his name has gained a generic meaning for what he always does. It’s a household name that would not be driven down the aisle of extinction or obliviousness anytime soon.
In a simple term, the name, and more precisely, the bearer of the name, possesses an uncanny disposition to humanitarian gestures. Whether that was inborn or a culture cultivated over the time is immaterial. What has caught people’s attention and would continue to agitate the human minds is the motivation behind Asogwa’s flair for reaching out to the people, whether known to him or perchance, the consequence of coincidence. Once the path is crossed, one will see Asogwa on the plane of empowerment, pushing hard to make meaning out of such life, whether meaningless abi initio or not. That reminds us of the timeless inscription of the Egyptian feminist, psychiatrist and writer that, “When we live in a world that is very unjust, you have to be a dissident.”
Chief Asogwa has kept being a “dissident” to make the world functionally livable for humanity. That’s the beginning of a new history for people whose lives have been touched and are starting a new life better off the slump they were initially mired. Ours as human beings is to make history in the little way we can. However, some people have impacted on history that they can never be forgotten in a hurry. The making of the history is either defined by negative or positive impacts. For Asogwa, it’s in the realm of humanitarian wave which is readily positively embedded. And that calls for celebration of a selfless life lived for the love of humanity.
In recent times, the sleepy Oba Community, a small town between the commercial hub of Anambra State—Onitsha and the technology city of the East—Nnewi, came under a sudden glowing limelight. It was Cubana and his boys shutting down the roads, the air, the big cities, and feverishly, the media, en route Oba Community, for Obinna Iyiegbu Cubana (Obi Cubana) mother’s burial. The show swirled emotions, sentiments, divisions, arguments, debates and introspection. One particular take home from the gathering and its aftermath echoes was the impact of empowerment, goodwill and humanitarian gesture on the lives of the people. While Obi Cubana was of the Anambra fold, Enugu State has got its own in the person of Chief Ikeje Asogwa. Despite his often simple and modest lifestyle, Asogwa has raised appreciable number of millionaires through series of business connection, partnerships, human capital investments and patronage.
He doesn’t have to make a noise over the it. He doesn’t need the buzz and fuss of people rolling drums or the barrage of commotion from people’s songs. He keeps it low but keeps on making a new history in raising youths doing exceptionally well as entrepreneurs and emerging leaders. That’s what life should be. A life dedicated to making other lives meaningful, and giving people the reason to live rather than regretting their existence due to their state of being.
Chief Asogwa, though a state actor, was known, primarily, as an entrepreneur, real estate mogul and an investor long before joining politics. Coming to be identified in the political cycle could have been motivated by exerting pressure from the people on him to serve them better. Asogwa has been driving social capital and heavily investing on people who would in turn invest in others. Asked him whether he knew most of the people laying credence to him as their providential emancipator, Chief would rather answer in the negative. Hundreds of those he has been able to give a new lease of life or raised from the rubble of destitution and privation were neither related to him in terms of consanguinity nor in term of family affinity. The possibility of having these people enjoying the helping hands extended to them by Asogwa was his usual penchant to leave his comfort zone in order to meet hustling youths on the street and give them that push—connection, contracts, partnerships, patronage, guide, and mentorship—they need to escape the trap of a treadmill.
My first encounter with Chief Asogwa is only but recent—about two years ago or less. However, I’ve known him, and perhaps, admired his style of administration, leadership and entrepreneurial drive as far back as over 8 years ago. I’d only heard of the name and his impact. I’d craved that I would meet him in a fateful day. In 2015, Asogwa came to our office. He had an appointment with the Governor. It was at the twilight of the day when some staff had closed from work. As we egressed the anchorage, Chief Asogwa was making an ingress. We intersected, and in his usual humble nature, we exchanged pleasantries unbeknown to me he was the man I had always admired!
As we made for our office bus, one Madan Comfort, a Senior Data Officer, told me the man that just greeted us was the “almighty” Ikeje Asogwa. I had thought Madan Comu, as we fondly called her, was labouring under the influence of the day’s stress and mental exhaustion. To me, that couldn’t be Ikeje Asogwa everyone had been talking about. Too humble to be him. But he was! No aloofness. No strutting. No element of pride. No boisterous talking. That spot of encounter further altered my perception of the human existence that humility should define our path. It gives honour. It’s noble. It’s awe-inspiring.
In 2019, I had taken time to enroll for my Nigerian Law School. However, that was short-lived as the ferociously raging corona-virus pandemic had forced all institutions and normal life to shut down. It was an abrupt destructive impact in the human memory. I came back, buried in the lonest fear of the mystery of death behind the virus. From corona-virus to hunger-virus and boredom virus, Nigerians groaned. In a couple of weeks, I got back to work as an essential worker. That afforded me time to do some checks. Once again, the check was on how Asogwa would be fairing. And the big news came; Asogwa had outlived his first tenure as the Executive Chairman, Enugu State Universal Basic Education (ENSUBEB). But his imprints were littered everywhere like grains that had bored hundredfold fruits in Christ’s biblical allusion of the “sower”. Asogwa had used his four years to sow generational legacy in the education system and cut unimaginable records in the hearts of the people. Feelers from the pulse of the people had advocated that he continued the great job in the fundamental sector. It was this sampling collated that connected me to Chief Asogwa. I didn’t need to fill any form or struggle for litany of contacts. His door was wide open for members of the public to access him.
It’s this little exposure that I’ve had with Chief Asogwa that has given me more opportunities to come in cognizance of his exploits as a captain of industry, a game-changer and torchbearer for others to see. Many families have been given hope and meant to see the light of breakthrough through Asogwa’s empowerment styles. He doesn’t entertain the youth with drinks. He doesn’t give them fish. He doesn’t believe that giving one money would solve one’s problems. What does he do? He teaches people how to fish. He helps people as an angel investor but expects no personal returns. He makes landlords of people that never dreamt of its possibility in life. He re-echoes his vision for a better world for humankind and follows up with his mission.
The above to me should be the virtues of Christianity we’ve been called for. The Bible reckons how Jesus was “going about doing good”, and that is what we’ve been invited to do as disciples of Christ. Asogwa has been going about doing good and re-writing history in the hearts of men. His 52 years on earth, for many, have been countless of blessings. To the church, Asogwa has lived a life worthy of emulation, and purpose to humanity.
In the political clime, no one can wish away the uncommon services rendered by him over the years. This has endeared him to the hearts of men who see him as a man to follow whenever he gives his word. Politics has been riddled with lies, mistrust and ill-feeling due to some politicians known for their usual promise and fail attitude. In fact, it has got that bad that when some political actors, even in their exulted seats, tell you or members of the public that they’ll execute certain projects or promise to do something, the people often treat their statement with levity and disdain. The reason is clearly known to all due to their repeated predictable behavior. However, Asogwa’s “Yes” or “No” remains and that can be attested to.
As a political figure, Asogwa has become a force to reckon with over the years. He has the clout. He has the trust. He has the people. He knows the game. And he has what it takes to play it. As the 2023 general elections gradually approach, one fact is resoundingly irrefutable; Asogwa has the people of Enugu State with him, and to be certain, Enugu North people are unquestionably for him. He has paid his dues. He has made the selfless sacrifices for the people and worked for the progress of many. Having Asogwa’s support by any political party in Enugu State in 2023 will be a huge advantage and easy victory. The easiest way for any party to make an inroad to the Lion Building in 2023, from the statistics on ground, is work with a gargantuan stakeholder like Chief Asogwa. Having his support is synonymous with having the grassroots voters. Chief is a grassroot political mobiliser. That’ll just be a walkover victory to a party that partners him.
In the public service, we’ve seen the ENSUBEB Chairman niched a name for himself in leaving legacies too big for his successors to supplant and in setting new records in the annals of any office he wields. His administrative dexterity blends with his uncompromising act of discipline have led to series of innovation in the public service. Enugu State has witnessed reformed public and civil servants under his watch. His watchword is simple: efficient service delivery. To achieve this, time must be judiciously and effectively managed since it is of essence for society determined to break even. Discipline is key to drive teamwork toward the target-goal. Motivation is the fuel that will instill responsibility and weather storms of failure to achieving the best results. In all the places supervised and superintended by him, standards are achieved and history is left for others. This is why people like Ikeje Asogwa should be encouraged to take more leadership roles for the greater good of the society.
Today, we celebrate, yet again, Chief Ikeje Asogwa’s 52nd year on earth. It’s a life worthy of emulation as it’s a life dedicated to the service of the people. I’m always compelled by conscience to continue with the celebration in a special way. Asogwa’s life will always resonate hope and speak for itself as a life in continuous search for a world where all humans will live a fulfilled and happy life. It’s my prayer that God, in His infinite mercy, will continue to protect him with good health and more grace to go on doing good as he has always been doing. Happy Birthday, Chief. Congratulations!
Prince Ejeh Josh, a Legal Practitioner, writes from Independence Layout, Enugu.