Dr. Cosmas Maduka, who was the keynote speaker at the League of Anambra Professionals annual end of year dinner recently, took his audience on an exciting journey of his life, a story of hope, courage, and the triumph of the human spirit, writes Kasie Abone
From Elementary 3 to Harvard University, and a resource person at the United Nations, here is the humble beginning of a man whose condition was seemingly hopeless given his background. His kind of elevation to the position of knowledge, power and influence rarely happens except by divine arrangement. But Dr. Cosmas Maduka’s true life trajectory bore testimonies to the awesomeness of God of impossibility, resilience, doggedness and the triumph of human spirit over adversity. Faced with abject poverty thrust on his family by the untimely death of his father at the age of four he surmounted limitations his life’s circumstances must have put on his ways to establish one of the biggest corporate brands in Nigeria, Coscharis.
At the recent League of Anambra Professionals (LAP) annual end of year dinner and lecture, Maduka, who was the keynote speaker held his audience spell bound for over an hour. Erudite Professor, Pat Utomi, Nestle Director and founder LEAP Africa, Mrs. Ndidi Nwuneli, the youngest Anambra State-born SAN, Mr. Chijioke Okoli, LAP President, Mr. Willy Nzewi, Nnamdi Nwigwe among many other stellar audience were captivated by his oratory and depth of knowledge and experience as he took them through the journey on how to think home and develop the home front.
In a lecture titled, ‘Capitalising on Untapped Opportunity in Anambra State,’ Maduka took his audience on an exciting journey of his life, a story of hope, courage, the triumph of the human spirit and the lessons he learnt from his mother that instilled rock solid confidence in him, a factor that was hugely responsible for his life’s successes so far, and why and how the home is the place to invest. Paying glowing tributes to his dear mother, he challenged all mothers to emulate the sterling examples of his mother if Nigeria nay Anambra would be great again.
In line with Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano’s call to Invest at Home philosophy otherwise known as ‘Akuluo Uno’ Maduka called on Anambrarians to expedite action in bringing their investments home as the time to take action is now. The state’s forerunners, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ekene Dili Chukwu, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Dr. Nwafor Orizu, Prof. Chinua Achebe, and many others described as giants on whose shoulders the present generation stood and shielded by trees they spent their lives planting, built a solid foundation on which the present day development of Anambra State was anchored. “And so long before this moment; long before we ever came to Lagos and became a part of LAP, our paths collided in beautiful disorder, the future started,” he added.
Making Anambra great again
He said Anambrarians collectively and individually are doing great and therefore called on them to join hands borrowing Donald Trump’s parlance “let’s make Anambra State great again”. He added that the history of the state was replete with great intellectuals who have made their marks both in commerce and politics in Nigeria.
Inspired by his experiences while growing up in his home town, the domestic hub of the East, Nnewi, Maduka said in the 1970s and 1980s despite the absence of a sea port, Onitsha Main Market served as the centre of commerce in Africa while Nnewi was the industrial nerve centre with traders coming from Zimbabwe, Congo Brazzaville and Congo Kinshasa for their auto parts and other components locally manufactured in the town.
“Onitsha has boasted of numerous factories in the past such as Uka Wood Furniture, Enamel Ware manufacturers of various plates of different shapes and sizes way back before Elizade. People came from different countries to buy quality plates of various shapes and sizes of enamel wares; Ekene Dili Chukwu Steel factory, Madu Coats Paint Industry, GMO Group and their various factories. We have once been there leading in the manufacturing of various household equipment etc. I saw all of these as a young man and drew a lot of inspiration from them growing up and hoping to replicate some of the things I saw,” he added.
He however lamented the sabotage occasioned by consistent federal government policies that led to the death of both Onne Port and Port Harcourt Sea Port, two major ports through which they imported their goods. The sabotage forced Onitsha and Nnewi business men who ordinarily would have remained in their homeland to migrate to Lagos.
“When I started business and importation, I was at Nnewi and all of us at a time, only imported through Port Harcourt Sea Port and Onne Port. We were forced to divert to Lagos and ultimately moved down to Lagos to support the business.”
Despite huge potential and challenges in the country, Maduka reminded his audience that entrepreneurial success required optimism and passion. With the drop in oil revenue, Maduka said huge opportunities in agriculture, trade, ICT, entertainment waiting for young minds to spring up solutions.
Agriculture, the new gold
Oil boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s according to Maduka led to neglect of agricultural sector. Nigeria became a huge importer of agricultural products and food. With petro dollar drying up, focus has once again shifted to agriculture. “Nigeria spends N1tr annually on massive importation of food, especially rice, wheat, sugar and fish.” With this development Coscharis boss said he sees a world of opportunities today in agricultural industry; a reason his company, Coscharis went into farming. “Using the vehicle Coscharis Farms, we have started a five-year journey to embark on full-mechanised farming and cultivation of rice over 6,500 hectares (3,500 hectares directly owned and another 3,000 hectares throughout-grower scheme) located in Anambra State, which the produce gotten from the farm will significantly contribute towards the food sufficiency dream of the country.”
Think Anambra right now
He therefore urged them to think and invest at home to tap into enormous opportunities that abound in the agricultural sector. For the betterment of the state and create job opportunities for the teeming jobless youths at home. Business opportunities in Anambra State are enormous. “I take the liberty to call upon every Anambrarian that is well to do, to have the mentality of thinking home and see how he can attract some level of investment back home.
“People have often wondered if we truly know what we are doing as we have all deserted our home state in pursuit of a better life and new frontiers, settled in other states and created jobs and opportunities for their citizens and have only left our weak ones back home without providing opportunities for them to uplift their lives and be dignified.”
He lamented the hatred against the Igbo nation rather than commendation due to their hard work as their aspiration for new frontiers was perceived as a quest to dominate other people “while we left our own people back home to suffer in our aspiration to render service and create wealth for the good of humanity.”
He added “If we do not know where we are coming from, where we are will make no sense. If we do not understand where we are, we set off on the wrong path on the road to where we should be. If our priorities as a people with regards to where we should be are wrong, then where we can be, we will forever be out of our vision and out of our reach.”
For those advocating for the creation of a Biafran state, Maduka said as a people who are constantly seeking new frontiers to conquer, Igbos would be better off in a true federalism while thinking home seriously. “While we are in our frontiers adventure, create wealth and bring them home and reinvest into a productive venture and not just make luxurious houses that nobody lives in or we occupy once in a year,” he advised.
He noted that “if the level of investment that we have tied down in these houses that do not generate revenue or employment for the citizens of our state were redeployed to productive ventures, the youths would be gainfully employed and would have created a state that will be a centre of commerce and industry; the kind of things that the Jews have done in their home state.”
Continuing he averred that when Anambra become the undisputable economic force, the people will attract the respect of other states and equally earns respects residing in other states. He noted that the privileged positions some of them occupy should as a matter of responsibility entrust some level of obligations on them.
He said as a people, Igbos are special breeds who are privileged and unique. “We are unique products of the unfair and unjust nature of the postcolonial state in Africa. We represent a category of Nigerians with more power and privilege than we are willing to admit and take responsibility for. We are part of the problem, but like the strange paradox that Nigeria is, we are also a major part of the solutions,” he added.
“Nigeria has come a very long way since 1960, but we have a far longer and more difficult journey ahead of us. We can no longer afford to kneel under the destructive spell of mediocrity and fear. In the wise words of Achebe, our elders say, ‘that the sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them’. If the sun will shine on our generation and on the Nigeria we seek to create, then we must stand up for what we believe every step of the way no matter what happens.
We have everything that we need to build something far bigger than ourselves. Why then should we settle for anything less than excellence?” he questioned.
“Our education must bring justice to the unjust. It must fix our economy, tell our stories, find cleaner sources of energy, build ethical businesses to take over the Forbes list, make academy award-winning movies, develop technology for the next century, and bring hope and justice to those that shall come after us. And it is possible.”
Maduka’s new Nigeria
“In our day, in our time, with our hard work and through our hands, that Nigeria can move from a mere possibility, to a reality more powerful than we ever imagined. Ours will be the time when Nigeria’s children will hunger or thirst no more, where our brothers and sisters will not be cut down by violence in their prime, where our uncles and aunts will not burn in the attempt to clean out a fallen fuel tanker.
“Ours shall be the generation to fulfill Fanon’s prophecy of discovering our mission and fulfilling it, because there is no more opportunity for betrayal. All of these are possible, but like all other solutions, they come at a price. In the words of Kaushik Basu, people say unfair societies are self-destructive. In truth, they can last for centuries and that is why we need vigilance and conscious action.”
On the Anambra project, he averred “We are all that we have. We have no one else, absolutely nothing else. If we refuse to believe in the Anambra project, if we refuse to take on the Nigerian challenge by developing concepts in Anambra State that will add value to the forward movement of Anambrarians and Nigerians in general, ours shall be a generation unforgiving for eons to come, carrying with us a mighty burden of failed promises because we have lost the privilege to be ignorant or to choose inaction, this is a promise we must fulfill. May we never forget that our choices matter. It is in reflection of all of these realities and in celebration of the future of possibilities that exist ahead in Anambra State, that we gather here today.”
Concluding he assured, “Will we have the courage and dignity to act and to serve no matter the odds? Will we serve ourselves or will we serve our dear state and country? These are questions each person must answer in their own way, and yet its answer will affect us all.”