LUCKY IGBOKWE IS AN ENTREPRENEUR, MUSIC PROMOTER/MANAGER AND FOUNDER OF GREEN PEACE NIGERIA. CALL THIS PHILANTHROPIST A CHILD OF CIRCUMSTANCE AND YOU WOULDN’T BE WRONG. HIS PARENTS LOVED MUSIC. SO, WHILE GROWING UP, HE STUMBLED ON A MUSIC MAGAZINE, WHICH CHANGED HIS PERSPECTIVE ON LIFE AND CAREER. AS A RESULT, WHEN HE WAS GIVEN MONEY TO ENROLL FOR A PRE-DEGREE PROGRAMME, HE USED HIS SCHOOL FEE TO RECORD AND PROMOTE AN ARTISTE. HELP EVENTUALLY CAME IGBOKWE’S WAY AGAIN AND HE WENT BACK TO SCHOOL. SEVEN YEARS AFTER GRADUATION, HE RETURNED TO HIS FIRST LOVE -MUSIC. OVER THE YEARS, IGBOKWE HAS MANAGED TWO MAJOR ARTISTES AND DELVED INTO OTHER SIMILAR AREAS OF INTEREST. TODAY, AT 37, HE WEARS MANY CAPS AS A SERIAL ENTREPRENEUR WITH INTEREST IN MUSIC, ENTERTAINMENT AND PROPERTY. HE IS ALSO UNITED NATIONS PEACE AMBASSADOR. IGBOKWE SPEAKS TO ADEDAYO ADEJOBI ON HIS BUSINESSES, GROWING UP, FAMILY LIFE AND NIGERIA’S ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY
You have an interesting and remarkable story. What were you thinking when you ventured into entertainment business?
While growing up, I had a sailor uncle. In Junior Secondary School three, he brought home a catalogue which featured deaf Jamz and popular record labels in America. As a child, my parents love music, and that spurred my love for the music business which I started in 1999. When I was going to start the business, my parents had given me N123,000, being the total sum of my school fees for the pre-degree course at the University of Lagos. Instead of enrolling, I used the money to start the music business, expenses to record the artistes and promotion. At some point, I used to trek from Akowonjo to Rhythm 93.7 FM in Jakande in order to hook up with Alozie Ezeoku, who is a relative and the Head, Entertainment at Silverbird. At that time, there were no mobile phones, only pagers were the form of communication. I could page him a million times a day. The venture didn’t become so much of a success along the way because there was an issue. My parents got to know I wasn’t in school because I didn’t pay my school fees. It almost caused a major division between my parents, as they borrowed almost 70per cent of the total sum from my uncle. I ran to my auntie, my mum’s sister. With family intervention it was resolved.
So, at what point did you return to entertainment business?
I however came back to the music business fully in 2006. Before then, I had started little gigs and shows. I used to go to Apple Cosmetics, My Uncle’s business with my Dad- Nature Perfect – for them to help sponsor some of the events. They were helpful and I was able to achieve much until I established the business fully in 2006.
I started with Morachi, Sheyman and also worked with a few other notable names in the entertainment industry. I’ve also organised shows. The Rush is my brand. I also initiated and organised the Abia Youths Empowerment Concert which featured P-Square and other artistes in 2003. I did documentaries for Abia State Government under Senator Theodore Orji’s administration. He gave me opportunity to showcase my talent, working for him in six years.
At what point would you say you hit it big?
My major breakthrough was when I was doing things for the state government. I was given the opportunity to do the Abia State documentaries, youth empowerment programmes, governor’s image and wardrobe.
What challenging moments shaped you and your global perspectives?
It was challenging in the early stage of doing business when I invested and it didn’t yield profits. It was indeed a labour loss. I however kept telling myself that it would pay off.
Was there a point in your life you thought of giving up?
In my life, I’m self-determined. I’ve never thought of giving up for once. I’m believer in perseverance, hard work and diligence.
You are a man of many parts. How do you juggle being that entire in one?
I founded Green Peace Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation focused on environmental issues, erosion control, air pollution control, and climate change. It has been in existence for over 10 years. However, it was officially launched on Wednesday, 27th of June 2018, in Ohuhu Umuahia North Local Government Area in Abia State. The aims of the foundation are providing access to quality education to children, shelter to the less privileged, widow empowerment, healthcare and reducing extreme poverty especially in Abia State and Nigeria at large. We decided to launch our version of the Poverty Alleviation Programme, to qualitatively transform the life and education of our children through our Back to School campaign and Scholarship Endowment Fund, Provision of Shelter to the less privileged, widow empowerment and a N40 million interest free revolving loan facility to artisans, traders among other indigent members of the community. I have travelled all over the world as a young man, but I’ve never stayed outside Nigeria for more than a month. Even with my son and spouse in the United States, the highest I’ll stay outside the shore of this country is a month. I believe in Nigeria. People can make it work. We all need to sacrifice.
What drives you?
My mum is a very strong woman, and she’s had a considerably huge positive influence on me growing up. At a time, my mum was in a very abusive marriage, yet she never misbehaved. Instead, she showed express love and respect to my father. She did her business and supported her husband, even when my father’s business failed; she stood with him and never repaid his inactions. She has a positive energy and I learnt a lot from her.
When growing up, when I went asking my uncles for money, my mum was always mad at me. She always told me to be strong and that my future is great. She urged me to use the experiences to toughen up. It didn’t make so much sense to me then, but now I fully understand the import of her courage, advice and resilience.
Because of my mum’s experience, my life took a great leap. Giving birth to me at 17 years old was tough. She left the boarding school to take care of me. She continued school in my Dad’s house. My mum is upright, tough and firm. She believes in discipline. At some point, for her disciplinary measures, I thought she didn’t really love me and wasn’t my mother.
Growing up to see our father physically abuse your mum, how did you break out of such a deeply ingrained emotional and physical abuse? You must have thought that was how to be a man?
My parents were in love until it went waned. The issue was family; my dad was a sweet man from the onset. But my dad’s family was against my mum being from the same extraction. My mum’s family being exposed, they were always against my dad. They did a lot. Growing up, my father was very caring. I still have pictures and memories shared with my dad. There were good moments. My dad was very temperamental and my mum is outspoken.
Some children come out traumatised after going through what you saw growing up as a child. How did you fight the inner battle and come out strong?
I have the heart of my mother. She forgives. My mum loved my dad so much that’s why he was able to get away with so many things he did.
What lessons did you grow up with from your parents’ marriage?
I’ve grown to handle my relationships differently, and sometimes it’s not love that drives a relationship. Commitment, values and understanding are the key.
What was the relationship with you and your dad growing up?
I was cool with my dad despite the fact that he was always spanking me and sometimes ill- treated my mum, my mum never let us to insult her husband. She protected and guarded her husband jealously. Even when they had quarrels, she reported me to my dad.
Are your parents still alive?
My dad is late now.
You must miss a part of him. Don’t you?
I miss my dad. In his dying minute he changed and started appreciating and apologising for most of all he did wrong.
When you look back at your growing up, do you see yourself in your children?
Yes, they will be better than me. My son is independent and fearless.
What’s the relationship with you and your spouse?
Good. It’s fantastic and we don’t have a problem. The first time I met her; she laughed at me and went to report me to her big brothers. We became friends afterwards for 10 years and we go married afterwards. The marriage has been strong. My wife is perfect to an extent. We are soul mates.
Who offends the most?
I offend more. At these times, I wish my dad was alive because we men have issues. Sometimes, there are some habits my dad engages in and my mum wants him to stop. It stirs problems. I used to be annoyed at my dad. But, now I find myself in the same shoes.
How do you manage a marriage across the Ocean?
I’m in and out every two months. I travel four times a year to America.
What are your future plans?
To establish more and grow so I can help people.
When you say help people, how do you define helping people?
Helping people gives me joy. It’s not pretense. Helping people comes natural to me. As we’ve sat to talk in the last few minutes, I’ve received at least five account details requesting financial aid. I can give my last to help. My mother was selfless.
She must be old now?
She’s young and 53 turning 54.
What is your relationship with your mum?
I speak with her every day. The relationship is robust.
When you look back at your life, what kind of feeling does it evoke?
It makes me happy. I believe the paths I have had to cross have made me strong.
Deep down, do you feel a sense of fulfilment?
And why is that so?
I have to work to my last breathe. Nothing is enough. The only fulfilment is my son and family.
What is your assessment of the music and entertainment industry?
There is huge potential. We are still assessing about 10 per cent of the huge potential. The business industry is not structured.