To begin with, this article is inspired by Chuks Oluigbo’s two-part piece, “Igbos, think home!” (BusinessDay, March 7 and 21, 2013). In the first part of that piece, Oluigbo wrote: “Huge Igbo investments are scattered in all parts of Nigeria with the exception of Igboland. Igbo people are all over the place contributing to socio-economic development while Igboland remains grossly underdeveloped.”
While he feels aggrieved at the situation, however, the writer admits, realistically: “As it is, it’s obvious, given their stakes in their various host communities in other parts of Nigeria, that the Igbos cannot possibly return home en masse – permanently. That can’t and won’t happen – not even for those Igbos living in the flashpoints of northern Nigeria. It’s not even desirable at this point…. What can be done for now is for the Igbos to begin to consider taking part of their investments home.”
In part two, Oluigbo expressed his conviction, given the response he got after publishing part one, that Igboland is not totally lost, that Igboland can still be redeemed, that many Igbo sons and daughters living and doing business outside Igboland realise that something urgent needs to be done to redeem Igboland.
I quite agree with the writer, but most importantly with the last bit of what he said. Indeed, not only have some Igbo Diaspora realised that something urgent needs to be done to develop Igboland, some are already doing something positive in that direction. There may be others, but one such person that I know for sure is Godwin Chukwunyere Ezeemo, a great philanthropist who hails from Umuchu, Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State.
Ezeemo, an astute business mogul and CEO of a chain of businesses, has for many years now been establishing his presence convincingly in his home state. In fact, many people who know Ezeemo associate him with this think-home philosophy. He was once quoted as saying: “For now, no more investments outside 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.”
And, walking his talk, Ezeemo has set up a number of businesses at home – not necessarily for profit (of course, return on investment is better guaranteed in a city like Lagos or Abuja) but mainly as a means of alleviating youth unemployment. In his native Umuchu, for instance, there is the massive Orient Farm, which focuses on poultry production, with other aspects of agribusiness on the sidelines. Fresh Life Water, another Ezeemo initiative, is already producing and distributing best quality drinking water across many parts of the state. There is also the Union Haulage Filling Station, and many other investments. All these employ numerous youths in Anambra who ordinarily would have been idle thereby possibly constituting security threat in the state.
Yet another brainchild of Ezeemo is Orient Magazine, Newspaper and Communication Limited, publishers of Nigerian OrientNews Magazine and Orient Daily Newspaper, a route through which this man of foresight is championing development in Igboland. Though the publications have their operational base in Lagos, Ezeemo has ensured that they have their head office in Awka, the Anambra State capital. Moreover, both publications are dedicated to the exclusive coverage of the South-East. Only last year, the media company organised a seven-day value reorientation conference in Awka, with the theme “Rediscovering Lost Igbo Values”. The event saw the best Igbo brains in the academia, politics, and other professions gather together to brainstorm on the way forward for Igboland. Ezeemo has also contributed his quota in alleviating the housing problem in Awka by providing affordable housing through massive estate development.
He is the founder of Charity (Ezeemo) Trust for the Less-Privileged, a non-governmental organisation through which he has continued to reach out to the poor and the needy in the society, particularly in Anambra State. But beyond that, the Trust, in living up to the saying “catch them young”, has for many years now sponsored football competitions among primary schools in the entire Old Aguata LGA. Through this means, young talents have been discovered, who have been given the necessary encouragement to advance in their careers. Moreover, the Trust also sponsors numerous indigent but brilliant students, especially those of Anambra origin, at all levels of education.
Currently, this great Igbo son is singlehandedly completing the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Press Centre in Awka. For many years before his intervention, the Anambra chapter of NUJ searched in vain for a saviour, but none was to be found, until Ezeemo stepped in. For this reason, the press centre, when completed, will be named Godwin Ezeemo International Press Centre, Awka.
For all his efforts, Ezeemo has received numerous accolades, which include Entrepreneur of the Year 2011 by Anambra NUJ. Recently, during a courtesy visit to Virgy Etiaba, the former deputy governor commended Ezeemo for all his efforts, praying God to continue to be with him in all his future endeavours.
Now that Anambrarians are in search of their next governor, I think it will not be out of place to beam their searchlight on this great son of Anambra State. My thinking is that if Ezeemo has done so much with his personal resources, he will do even more for the state with the state resources at his disposal.