‘I want to liberate my people’
BILLIONAIRE mogul, Evangelist Michael Obinna Ikemsinachi Ikoku has finally opened up on his dream to be a federal lawmaker. In his first interview on the issue, the Chairman/CEO, Obiron Group of Companies Limited told ENCOMIUM Weekly the reason he is in the race to represent Njaba/Isu/Nwangele and Nkwere Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. The boss of All Seasons Hotels also dissected Imo politics, adjudging Chief Achike Udenwa the best governor in the present democratic dispensation. And unequivocally giving up hope on Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha, the father of five berated the present governor, assuring that Imo people will determine his fate in 2015.
Away from politics, Evangelist Myke Ikoku took us through his rapidly expanding business empire while revealing the secret of his uncommon success.
He also delved into sensitive topical national issues, among others…
The talk of the town is that billionaire businessman and boss of Obiron Group, Evangelist Myke ikoku has joined partisan politics and is now running for the House of Representatives?
That is true. I’m running for the House of Representatives. I want to be a federal lawmaker.
Why the House of Reps and not governorship or the Senate?
I want to start from somewhere.
What difference would you make?
I want to play my own part in making laws that would set up a good system for our country because this is actually where our problem is. Our problem is not even from the states. Things are the way they are today because of the kind of laws that govern us. So, I need to play a major role at the federal level before I can now go back home to think about how to liberate my people.
What’s your constituency?
Njaba/Isu/Nwangele and Nkwere federal constituency. It is the largest federal constituency in Nigeria. It is made up of four local government areas. It’s a mini state or a mini zone, if you like.
Why did you join the All Progressives Grand Alliance instead of the ruling APC or the PDP?
What’s my name?
Evangelist Myke Ikoku.
Is it an Hausa name?
Is that not an Igbo name? And the only party that has the interest of the Igbos is APGA. That’s why I chose to run where my people are. I’m not interested in romancing the aristocrats. I’m interested in romancing the masses who need the dividends of democracy to change their lives.
But the fear of some of your supporters is that there is a serious division in APGA?
There is no division in our party. The chairman of APGA is Chief Victor Umeh. We only have one APGA. So, I wonder where these talks are coming from. These are wicked imagination of people who are romancing with the devil who wants to destabilize the Igbos.
What are your chances at the polls?
I have 99 per cent chance, but it is not a do or die affair. I already have an address. So, I’m not afraid of losing. It is only the people. Mine is not a situation where a politician goes to Abuja to represent his selfish interest. I have seen it all. I’m going for the people. I want to liberate my people and better their lives.
How did politics start for you?
In the first place, I hate politicians. I don’t like politics. I hate the game, but our lives depend on politics. So, as long as people like me who are successful in their various businesses and endeavours remain in their cocoons and do not come out from their hiding place, the system will not change.
Why did it take you this long to step in having been around for a while?
I said I have never been interested in politics because I hate politics. Politicians are liars, bunch of deceivers, they are demonic and satanic.
And you still want to join them?
My people put pressure on me. They said I should come and save them.
You have worked with almost all Imo State governors in the present democratic dispensation. Who has been the best, so far?
To be honest with you, to me, it is former Governor Achike Udenwa. He engineered my return and investment in the East. He gave us the enabling environment to come back home and invest. So, he did well for the state. I will also give it to my friend and brother, Chief Ikedi Ohakim. Nobody is perfect. People can make mistakes. You know that when you marry two wives, you know who is the best (an Igbo proverb). We (the Imos) have married two wives (Ohakim and Rochas Okorocha), we now know that the one we divorced should have stayed back.
Let’s narrow it down to the present Okorocha administration. What is he not doing well?
My brother, I’m not interested in Okorocha. I have tried to play my own part in bringing development, job and empowerment to my people without government support. But I don’t have to shy away from this because the support is not coming. We have to do that by ourselves. If the government cannot do it, we do it. That’s why I’ve been in the forefront of creating jobs which is the most essential thing you can use to stop crime in society. So, Okorocha as much as I know, I wouldn’t say I regret playing a role in the process of making him our governor. Everything happens for a reason. God chooses leaders. God demotes somebody to promote another. So, it’s only God who knows the reason He gave us Rochas Okorocha.
Who is your godfather in politics?
Interestingly, I don’t have any godfather. My godfathers are the masses, the peasants, Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth. With them, we can make it.
You were once the Director General of Imo State Tourism Board? How did you fare?
I was chairman of the Imo Tourism Board under Ohakim. It was during my tenure we developed the master-plan for the massive tourism development of Imo State. Unfortunately, before things could be done, there was a dislocation. You know what government of these days does, they don’t continue with the programmes of their predecessor.
What do you think would be Governor Okorocha’s fate in 2015 as regards the Imo governorship election?
I think people are no longer naive and ignorant. What is happening in the country today has opened the eyes of many Nigerians. Security of lives and property of the people is now the issue. People now know better. I am an Igbo man, I will be an Igbo man. I’m still an Igbo man. The good people of Imo would always be Igbo people and they are going to speak like Igbo people in 2015.
Away from politics, how is your conglomerate Obiron Group of Companies doing?
Businesswise, we give God all the glory. We are still there. We are still creating jobs. And we are doing very well.
What about All Seasons, the biggest hotel group in the Eastern part of the country?
We are equally doing very well. You know we lead and others follow. We keep innovating, redefining the business of tourism and hospitality in Imo State.
Are you going to spread out of Imo?
We have done that already. We are in Port Harcourt. We were to be in Abuja if not for the present national security challenge. We want to first create more jobs in the East. So, we are now thinking of going to Calabar and Enugu.
What is your overall business outlook for Obiron Group?
We are now into media. I’m now a publisher of a purely entertainment magazine. It’s called Envy magazine. We are nursing the child.
How is family life?
Family life is cool. I’m a man of one wife. I have five beautiful children. Three of my children are in the university.
How long have you been married?
I’ve been married for 22 years! I was only 24 when I got married.
What has kept your marriage intact and this long?
The fear of God because nobody is perfect. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
You have a grass to grace story.
Yes, when I remember where I’m coming from, I give God all the glory. That is why I stand by the poor and the downtrodden.
You really started small?
I started like the normal Igbo businessman. They call us traders, but fortunately because of my wisdom, which is the gift and grace of God, I was able to rise faster than my peers. I later diversified. I was not doing the regular type of trading, I put some innovative touches to make it what it is today.
What is your business portfolio like now?
We are into hospitality and tourism, we are mostly into property development (that’s our cash cow). We are into manufacturing. I have been in manufacturing for about 18 years. We are going into the media: publishing, broadcasting. We’ve diversified into oil and gas. Remember we are still into electrical/electronic products and services.
What is your favourite automobile?
I just love Mercedes Benz.
You have almost all the brand’s exotic models?
No, no. I don’t buy cars that way. I’m not a car freak. I’m no longer a young man that my joy would be complete with cars. I am a businessman.
What is your favourite quote or saying?
‘Yes, we can do it.’ It’s my own saying.
What about your business philosophy?
‘Forward ever, backward never.’ Always be at the right place at the right time. With God on your side, you will surely make it.
What don’t you really like about people?
A lot of people like deceit and flattery. I don’t like it. Tell me what I’m doing wrong without fear or favour. You don’t have to please me by telling me I’m doing the right thing when you know the truth. I like it when people come out to criticize me and make me learn and change from the wrong thing I thought was right. I’m open to learning. I’m still learning. I don’t know it all. That is why when I’m sick, I run to a doctor. When I have flat tyres, I run to a vulcanizer. I don’t go to a vulcanizer when I’’m sick neither do I call a bricklayer to defend me in court.
Let’s discuss some pressing national issues. First is the menace of Boko Haram, what is your take on this?
It still boils down to the early fathers of this country. They are the cause of our problem. President Jonathan is not and can never be the cause of Nigeria’s problem and after him, the problems would still remain because he met them there. Can I force you to marry a wife and I tie her in your house and force you to sleep with her? I can force her to live with you but you can’t be compelled to make love to her, neither can I force you to like her. That is what is happening in Nigeria. Before you say we are a country, we have to discuss and agree on how to live together. If we’ve failed to do that and no effort is made to correct it, things won’t change. We cannot be expecting result from nothing. We are tired of praying for Nigeria. God has already answered our prayer by opening our eyes to see the wrong things we have done. What we need now is action, not prayer anymore. And how do we start? By discussing how to live together if we want. If we don’t want it, we go our ways; we don’t force unity. I want to live, you say you want to die, can we live in the same house?
Not at all.
I want my children to enjoy the basic things of life and you said, you don’t. Can we live together? No. My son cannot come now, take the university matriculation examination (UME), score 250 and you tell me you can’t admit him in a university. But a boy from another tribe and state scores 100 and gets admitted. If in future, they graduate, the guy that had 100 will come and lead in an establishment where my son had 250 works. How can that establishment work when you have somebody that has no knowledge because of federal character? Why the country cannot move forward is that people don’t talk about Nigeria. It is all about tribe and ethnic sentiments. My people this leads us to nowhere. We need to start talking about Nigeria. How do we talk about Nigeria? It is when we are united, discuss and agree we are going to live together. We will respect each people’s right to self determination, that’s the only time we can proudly say we are Nigerians.
Many still insist President Jonathan is not doing well?
President Jonathan is doing very well.
He is doing perfectly, honourably and wonderfully well. No other Nigerian president has performed like Jonathan. I can say it spiritually; I can say it in my dream and when I wake up, that Jonathan is the best president Nigeria has ever had. In terms of everything about leadership in this country, President Jonathan has done very well. He has provided infrastructure more than any other Nigerian president. Jonathan has also done well in the areas of international diplomacy more than his predecessors. The only thing is that Jonathan is being vilified because he comes from an area they presume is in the minority. But in the first place Jonathan is not from the minority. He is an Easterner, one of the largest geo-political blocks in Nigeria in terms of population. It was the divide and rule strategy that created South-South out of Eastern Nigeria. And this was purely a Northern agenda. They created South-South to bring enmity between the brothers, if not this, we are one. So, I consider Jonathan as my brother. I speak of Eastern Nigeria, not South East or South South.
So, you support his return in 2015?
Yes, he must return. Why won’t he return? How many years did Shehu Shagari spend? He was on his second term when the military struck. Obasanjo also spent eight years. And if Yar’Adua didn’t die in office, he would have equally done eight years. So, why should Jonathan be robbed? Is our law not made for all Nigerians? He has the right to return to power and he has to do that.
What is your ultimate ambition in life?
My ambition is to see my people grow.
– UCHE OLEHI