By Emeka Nkwoji
Mika, as was fondly called by his mother and siblings was the youngest child of his parents, Bessie and James Nwanaemeka Nkwoji Umuezenwona clan in Umuatulu Awovu Village, Enugwu Ukwu of Anambra State.
The birth of Mike Chukwujekwu Nkwoji, 73 years ago and his achievements in life clearly confirms the old Igbo adage that “Only God Plants an Iroko Tree.” Young Mike was naturally endowed with a very high intelligent quotient and ability to learn. The humble background of his parents was a dog in the wheel of his educational pursuits.
He attended St. Peters School, Coal Camp Enugu for his primary school. During the period of his primary education he lost his father, and being the youngest was the only one left to assist his mother with her petty trading alongside attending his classes. Being a determined child, he scaled through his primary education and proceeded to Okongwu Memorial Grammar School Nnewi for his secondary education.
Mike’s secondary education was a struggle, as he had to assist his widowed mother by selling oranges, kites, bananas etc during holidays to help raise money for his next term’s needs. He was not ashamed that while his peers were basking in the euphoria of “ndi college” he was selling fruits under electronic poles at Coal Camp just to help his mother make ends meet. It is worthy to note that Mike’s fruits always sold out before any other person’s. Even the girls. As a result, they always avoid taking a stand to sell near Mike’s stand. However as time went on, he wondered how long he would continue to do this and also achieve a sustaining life style which would enable him look after his mother, a widow when he grew up.
Mike disclosed that one day, on his way to the stream to fetch water, a voice called him severally but looking at every direction, he saw no one. The voice asked him to leave the school immediately and go home, that his destiny would not be achieved through education but through trading. The message was repeated. It was a woman’s voice according to him.
Young Mike followed the advice, went back without returning to the stream; parked his tinker box and left school. As he got home and narrated his experience to his mother, she broke down disbelieving his story. She felt that Mike made up the story to make her suffer even more, especially as she had just managed to pay the term’s school fees. Mike was not deterred but asked her to pray for him and watch him grow to take care of her. This promise he kept until his mother passed on at a very ripe age.
The Journey of his destiny started at Onitsha where Mike commenced his apprenticeship in buying and selling. He later joined his elder brother, Sir Gab Nkwoji who was already in radios and record business in Aba. He served him for several years and believing he had acquired enough knowledge, decided to open his own business.
In 1963, he opened a shop known as “Mike Radios” at no 1/3 Asa Road, with less than 10 pcs of radio sets but with loads of empty cartons arranged as if they contained radio. He relied on “Oso Afia” on a daily basis to break even and it paid off. He maintained a relationship of honesty and trust with anybody he collected goods from and before long, his business flourished and he bought his Limousine –white horse rally bicycle’. According to him, he rode on this bicycle only from 4pm when the major sales for the day would have been over and will have time for enjoyment. While on this ride, he would be waving to his pears who were still hustling to get the days feeding money and they would cheer his style. The next year, business flourished and he bought a Suzuki motor cycle. As time went by, Mike rose from being a distributor’s representative to becoming a distributor himself. All these because he was honest, focused, efficient and hard working. This relationship of trust extended to all electronics firms in Nigeria including Philips Nig. Ltd., Waides Co, Adebowale Electronics, and other private individuals who dealt on importation of electronics at that time.
In 1967, Mike was seriously wounded on the leg and arm during an air raid attack in Biafra so it became impossible for him to ride on his motor cycle which he enjoyed. He was forced to buy a car – Flat 750 (blue) a car he used to evacuate his belongings when Aba fell.
During the war, he was able to sustain his family by engaging in “Afia Attack”, taking all the risks attached to crossing over to Nigeria, buying tobacco in cases and coming back to Biafra to sell them with huge profit. Mike’s gift of vision to decipher what and when to invest in business made him invest all his Biafra currency in buying and storing cars as if he knew that Biafran money would be useless should they lose the war. At the time the war ended Mike had bought (5) five cars Holden, Mercedes, Passat and 2 Peugeot cars.
After the war, he found it very convenient adapt and start a new life in business. With proceeds from sale of these cars he was able to marry his heart throb, Ongodi from Odi in Bayelsa State. He later opened his business again at Aba with branches at Onitsha, Umuahia and Enugu.
However, because of his zeal to carve his own niche in electronics business, he started with the importation of records in 1972. When the goods arrived he was overwhelmed with joy and was very eager to add “Limited” to his business name. Thus in 1973, his business name changed to Mike Merchandise Company Ltd with Head office at No. 10 Asa road, Aba. That same year, he built and moved into his own “little mansion” bungalow at Agwu Avenue, Umungasi Aba.
By 1975, the business spread into his being the sole agent for the importation of Sierra electronic products into Nigeria. When the importation of electronics was banned, he registered Mikko Electronics solely to assemble imported knocked down parts. Mikko products went viral competing very favourably with other electronics in the market at that time.
In 1977, he registered Micia Printing Press which undertook the printing of beer corks, beer labels, bank note wrappers, savings account booklets, paying in slips, withdrawers slips, calendars and stationeries. Their customers included many blue chip companies.
Chief Mike was endowed with skill for very transparent planning and execution of landable projects. Hence he successfully held many responsible positions where he performed creditably some of which are. -Chairman Monier Construction Co. (MCC) Limited; Director, Nigerian Central Packaging Industry; Chairman, Invae Chemicals Industries Ltd. And Chairman, Regency Finance Ltd. Etc.
Sir Mike’s Christian life is worthy of emulation. He maintained his Christian faith till he passed on. A chorister at St. Peters Church, Enugu during his primary school years, he was proud to show his ability as a chorister whenever the need arose.
He got married in the church and raised all his children under God, making it a point of duty to attend Sunday services no matter where he was and inculcating same in his children. He served God with passion and always gave for God’s work with a cheerful heart.
He was a Knight of St. of Christopher of Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion and contributed immensely to the development of the Church. He remodeled his home church, Immanuel Church which his father was known to have contributed to its building in 1913, built and donated St. Monica’s Church Enugwu Ukwu, a fully air-conditioned church and made meaningful donations to the other churches in Enugwu Ukwu irrespective of denomination. At Aba he terrazoed St Michael’s Cathedral and was a major donor to all the projects at the cathedral and several other dioceses.
In Houston, USA he was a major donor to many dioceses as well as making a awesome donation to the face lift project of St. Alband’s Golders Green, London where he worshiped. He was a Trustee of Paul University Awka Anambra State, where he along with Igwe Ralph Ekpeh and Senator Abana built a 4 storey, 400 bed student hostel. He donated ultra-modern ultra sound machines what millions of Naira to the Colleges of Medicine of both Anambra and Abia State University Teaching Hospitals. He had a Foundation which awards scholarships to hundreds of secondary and university students. An active sports man, he contributed substantially to the development of Aba Sports club especially the Golf Course as well as the Enugu Golf Course.
In the affairs of the Enugwu Ukwu his home town he was the front line development agent in other words Obuzogu. He pioneered the construction of Enugwu Ukwu Sports Club as well as Umunri Palace for which he mobilised funds from indigenes at home and abroad as well as supervising the project and being the highest financial contributor.
He was survived by his wife, Chief Mrs. Ongodi Nkwoji Onodugo Enugwu Ukwu na Umunri, 5 children and 12 grand-children. Okpata worldwide was celebrated in his life time by family, friends and Enugwu Ukwu Community in Nigeria and in the Diaspora for his gifted qualities. He will be generally and surely missed.
A commendation service will hold in his honour at St. Michael’s Cathedral Aba on Wednesday 27th April, ,2016 while funeral service will hold at Emmanuel Church, Enugwu Ukwu on Thursday 28th April followed by Interment.
Meanwhile, prominence Nigerian have been paying glowing tributes to the memory of late Chief. Some of the tributes received so far by the family include those from the Anambra and Imo State governors, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Senators Abana, Chris Ngige, Hon Eddie Mbadiwe and Hon Dozie Nwankwo of House of Representatives, Chief Cletus Ibeto and Igwe Ralph Ekpeh of Enugwu Ukwu.
In his tribute, Abana who is the Chairman of the Central Burial Committee extolled the qualities of the late Nkwoji who he said contributed immensely to the landmark projects in the town including the Umuni Palace, Paul university Awka and St Monica’s Anglican Church Enugwu Ukwu.