Understated but avant-garde, his black-rimmed glasses sit delicately on the bridge of his nose. His visage is vibrant as a bright noon sun. Exuberant he sits in the lounge cackling with laughter. In simple attire, he exudes class and style. He has become one of Nigeria’s crouching political tigers in a political arena of flying daggers. But when he and others like him emerged on the scene with the advent of democracy in 1999 following the demise of military jackboot, the nation was treated to politicking of class and intellect. He and his peers were vibrant, colourful, dashing, and young at heart. They were regarded as the breath of fresh air in the nation’s dirty politics. The likes of Saminu Turaki of Jigawa, Donald Duke of Cross Rivers, and Niyi Adebayo of Ekiti held sway as governors in their mid-30s, late 30s, and early 40s. Chibudom Nwuche was barely 38 years old then and he was among the shining stars – as the deputy speaker in the House of Representatives. For the former deputy speaker politics is a hobby, not a profession. Nwuche’s political and life’s dynamics are both enduring and enthralling. Funke Olaode, who interviewed him recently, writes
Like never before the country witnessed an array of young politicians who had hitherto not held any political office, occupying the political space shortly after the expiration of military rule in 1999. The era gave hope that the sky was not the limit for young Nigerians who had aspirations and the capacity to actualise their dreams in governance. With idyllic gusto and gait – barely 38 years old – Hon. Chibudom Nwuche, from Rivers State, was elected Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives.
Son of a policeman – though his father would later venture into the lucrative oil and gas business and later became a monarch – Nwuche was born in Enugu into the family of the late Clifford Cheta Nwuche, an indigene of Ichigba town in Ahoada East in the local government area of Rivers State.
“My father was a King of my land. My grandfather was also a ruler and we have had this long history of royalty. My father was a business man who was dominant in the oil and gas sector,” Nwuche said.
The former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives’ life before and after political office smacks of a carefully designed trajectory: an alumnus of Cyprians State School and Stella Maris College, Port Harcourt where he had his early education. He then proceeded to Lansdowne College, Oxford, United Kingdom for his ‘A’ Level. Between 1982 and 1985, he acquired his first degree in politics and philosophy, second degree in Law at Aberystwyth University. Not done yet, he returned to Nigeria for the mandatory Law School after which he was called to the Nigerian Bar. His thirst for more knowledge no doubt pushed him back to King’s College, University of London where he pursued his master’s degree in Law specializing in shipping law, international finance, intellectual property and international commercial law.
Nwuche’s leadership quality manifested early having held various positions while in school and at a time was elected president of the Nigerian Society while at the University of Keele, Staffordshire.
In 1999, as a seeming political greenhorn, he sought political office on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party and was elected to represent his constituency – Abua-Odua/Ahoada East – in the House of Representatives when he had hardly clocked 38. Later, he served as the deputy to the then Speaker, Ghali Na’Abba, after the short-lived tenure of the pioneer Speaker, Salisu Buhari.
Seated among the “20 prestige customers” selected by the telecommunication giant, MTN, to watch the Nigeria versus Argentina World Cup match in Russia, Nwuche adorned the looks of youth and athleticism. He exuded jovial disposition as he exchanged banters like someone who was trying to catch up with old friends. Has he always been like that?
He said: “What you are seeing is the reflection of my personality. I don t have any worries at all. I take life as it comes; and if whatever I have worked hard or craved for doesn’t come to pass I believe it is God’s wish. So I don’t stress myself. Again, I don’t set target for things that are impossible. I do my thing and commit my ways to God. I won’t join any groups to gain worldly power. I am a contented man who lives within his means. I am a lawyer by training and have a practice in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos. I am also in the oil and gas sector.”
Nwuche parades an enviable pedigree which seems to have opened various vistas in his life. Unassuming and self-reassuring, he epitomizes diligence and intelligence. Perhaps, it may be argued that his father – rich and royal – paved his path towards adult life with gold, both literally and figuratively. This is how he views the matter: “Well, my father only gave me education. I was born in Enugu in 1961 when he was serving as a police officer. So I grew up in Enugu and could recall my early years with nostalgia. My father later left the police force after the civil war to become a businessman venturing into oil and gas. He was a businessman; he was into oil and gas. “He was also a politician and later became a traditional ruler. He was a man of means but only gave me education. He told me that I should work hard and be my own man. I think every man should strive to give the best education to his children. So it was never our (his children) ambition to run after what he had. He gave us solid education that enabled us to stand on our feet, to be self-reliant.”
Nwuche as one of the young, vibrant and idyllic politicians of the President Olusegun Obasanjo era appears to have since moved on from politics with little enthusiasm evident in his penchant for the political arena. Not a few Nigerians are worried whether the once new-lease-of-life politician has been consigned to the political Siberia following his travails in the hands of his traducers.
“I thank Nigerians and my state for giving me the opportunity to serve. But politics of yesteryears was different from what is happening now. These days, people who have our kind of backgrounds are often seen as a threat. This has been part of my political odyssey. These set of people constantly see you as a threat and they deny you a ticket. That was why I left the PDP to join the APC. You know you won the primary and they shortchanged you – and kicked you out. I think there will be more to our political lives if we can bring honour to it because it is service to humanity.
“Since my exit I have been focusing on my businesses. I have run for primaries and I have made attempts – twice – to go to the Senate. How else do you want to participate if the party you belong to don’t give you the ticket? That is why a few of us had to leave for these injustices. Politics has become so petty and personal that some have turned it into a personal fight where people see one another as enemies, whereas it should be a congress of people with ideas without taking anything personal. I hope that as time goes on we will support the best minds to go into governance. But if we keep playing politics the way we are playing it now, where people are using thugs to fight one another – undermining one another – we will keep the best minds away from politics.
For now, Nwuche said he is not seeking a political office and that he will not easily succumb to the notion that politics has seen the last of him. “I am a Nigerian. I have interest in governance. I have interest on how my people are being governed. I want to see a better Nigeria. I want a Nigeria where people can find work after school. I want a Nigeria where people can have quality food on their table. So I can never leave politics. It is our lives and no matter what we do we must be involved in politics – in one way or the other.”
When asked if the country should look out for him in 2019, Nwuche replied: “I have no interest in contesting political office but I can motivate others. I would love to support aspirants. So it must not be me in particular. People of like minds who aspire I will support them.”
Without mincing words, Nwuche admitted that educational background in politics and law helped his political career. “It helped me in the House of Representatives and as deputy speaker. It made me appreciate the nature of parliamentary process. It was useful,” he stated.
The House of Representatives expressed turbulence during his time. He, however, noted that it was part of the political process in which the legislative arm tried to check the executive. “Everything is a political process – a kind of interaction between the legislative and the executive. I was there for four years and never got impeached by anybody. I learnt the ropes and left the House without blemish by God’s grace. Also, we got a lot of support from my colleagues who were inspired by the leadership of Na’Abba and mine.”
While most politicians see the act of governance as a matter of life and death, Nwuche views matters from another prism. But it has been 15 years since he left office.
Reflecting on that, he said: “I have moved on because politics, to me, is a hobby and not a profession. Politics shouldn’t be a full-time job. It should be something one does to help society and should not be for the money. I have been a businessman in the oil and gas sector since 1991. I left that business for politics and after my tenure I went back to my business. I sacrificed my business for politics.”
With his thriving enterprise in the oil and gas industry and law practice (chambers in three cities), Nwuche should be considered a millionaire. But the suave, simple and soft-spoken gentleman will rather see himself as a happy, contented individual. ”I thank God for His mercies. I can put food on my table. I am a contented man,” he said matter-of-factly.
How did his family, particularly his wife, reacted to his decision to play politics behind the scene. “Nothing has changed. Whether I am there or not somebody must do the work,” he responded.
Busy as a bee, Nwuche still finds time to relax and this he said accounts for his youthful look. “I try to maintain a certain routine. So no matter how busy I am, I find time to take care of myself knowing that my physical state affects my mental ability to be able to do my job which is mentally demanding. So I try to maintain a healthy life. I am a sport person. I try to do weight lifting and other exercises. This is part of my relaxation.”