Lucky Igbokwe:My Biggest Mistake Was Not Marrying Before 30
Lucky Igbokwe, also known as Don Lulu, is the Chairman of 2Flame Media, a media and entertainment company in Nigeria and Kedu TV in US. He is also the CEO of other ventures like the Lucion Towers Construction company, the Don Lulu Foundation, and Green Peace Nigeria. Igbokwe, sets out very early in life to conquer his world. With hard work and dedication to his passion- entertainment – he is now a household name within Nigeria and beyond. Igbokwe participated in the just concluded governorship primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party in Abia State where he came second. In a very conducive environment at his Umuawa country home in Umuahia, Igbokwe told Charles Ajunwa and Emmanuel Ugwu-Nwogo about his growing up, family and business
What were your formative years like?
grew up in Lagos. When I was growing up, between the age of one and four, my father was transferred to Onitsha and from Onitsha we went back to Lagos. I lived with my grandma a lot and that’s how I got to learn some native wisdom. First, at the beginning it was very okay but at a time, it was very difficult. My mum, she really tried and my dad as well, he did very well. My mum was a business woman. She was always trying to make us look like others. She was into okrika (second hand clothes). At first, she started with a restaurant and then went into okrika business. She travelled to Cotonou to buy her goods. She always made sure we dressed fine; from the okrika, she selected the best for us to wear.
So, it wasn’t that easy at a certain time. That also developed my passion for entertainment. I remember when one of my uncles, when he was coming back from America, asked me what do you want? I said I would need a list of recording labels in America. I started writing them as a little boy. I could remember at a time when I started writing them, I had to find a way, struggle and make my way from where I was living – Akowonjo in Egbeda, trekking to Silver Bird at Jakande Estate to look for this man (pointing at his uncle). It was pager then. I remember there were lots of business centres where you just go and pay N20 per minute. I will go to him so that he would play my artiste’s music. He is my uncle, Alozie Uzoukwu, known as Alonzo in the industry, head of entertainment in Silver Bird and part of Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) organisers. That was when the struggle started.
Even before my uncle, Petals Cosmetics and Apple Cosmetics-there was a guy called IK but he’s late. He was living on our street. Every time he was going to work, I would go to his office and say, ‘I can help you market this thing.’ He would asked how? And I said in the universities and schools I would bring artistes and you people would sponsor it and part of the attraction is ladies making hair. So he started bringing money, having spent my pre-degree money my parents gave me. I used it to sponsor those fairs, boys in the entertainment world. It became a problem and even brought problems with my parents until I started generating funds through those cosmetic companies. And that was the beginning of my success till date.
Where did you get the inspiration at that young age?
From my parents and anybody from Umuawa, Umuawa is like A Lane. Anybody from Umuawa has the gene of entertainment with all sincerity. My uncle, Wilfred Ogu had a hotel just in front of there doing events – Ogu Miliki. Alonzo is my mother’s cousin; he’s into entertainment. One of my uncles again, Obire, he’s my mother’s cousin, had been with Fela supporting his Movement. Abomark Hotel, he built it at Umuawa, he’s into entertainment, hosting shows in the village. I have Charles Ndudim, one of my brothers, coordinating Cross River Carnivals from inception. So, we have a lot of them. My father loved music. Even if we didn’t have TV, my father had a good radio. There was a time my father bought speakers and placed them on top of native pot for bass effect. As a child I would sit down and begin to imagine. On weekends when he didn’t go to work -he didn’t work Saturdays and Sundays- he would wake us up with music.
What type of music?
(Yvonne) Chaka Chaka, Lucky Dube, Boney M, (Sonia) Spencer – all those old school, Ghana highlife, Nigerian highlife, you talk of Joe Nez. I still play it and when I play it, it seems like I’m in another world because it brings me childhood memories. I started with that and it had been entertainment, entertainment, entertainment. I started moving around with that. People thought I was not gonna be useful. I went into entertainment; I was doing shows. In fact, I brought everybody to Abia. Now I’m into digital. I own Kedu TV Channels in America, an IT-based TV and I’m trying to build it to the level of Netflix exclusives and having a live TV on it, having channels in one App. When you subscribe you can watch Channels, CBNC, everything through the APG. This thing is a generational thing. And we have a license for radio – two radios, one community, one commercial. They are about to be launched in Umuawa, in my village because I recognise where the bloodstream started from. So, I brought it home in order to enhance the young ones coming up. We are going to train them in all aspects of digital communications. Please, Abians should just wake up and let’s just do what we have to do.
Were you born with a silver spoon?
No. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon. My parents were average people. At a time, things were so tough, as I had told you. My mother had an accident because she was struggling to raise money to feed us. So, it wasn’t easy. And that’s why I cannot sleep having neighbours hungry. Just step out and ask around, ask anybody you see about me not just in my community but the whole of Ohuhu, even strangers. If you go to my Facebook page most people that write to me are from outside. You see people that I don’t even know praying for me and wishing me well. They say, ‘we know you can do it’, they feel that it’s easy but they don’t know the processes. I don’t even know them but I believe in their prayers and I know it is time. That thing that gave me the guts to go and obtain the PDP governorship nomination form and that same God that has been leading me will see me through: Freedom for Abia.
Did your background in any way contribute in shaping your life?
A lot. There’s one article that I saw and I even posted it on my Instagram. It says, hunger teaches you how to save, hunger teaches you how to arrange yourself. Do you know what it means? It may make you go and beg. That’s why I cry; I don’t want it to happen to my people, Ndi Abia. They’re gonna to be part of me. I’m going to make Abia the number one state in the South-east. Indeed, Abia is Lucky. Abia is lucky to have Lucky Igbokwe.
What was your father into?
My father was a civil servant. He worked with the Ministry of Steel before he left and then started his transport business and after that he started to produce soaps. Then the responsibility fell on my mother. She started selling okrika, she would bring bale. On weekends, I used to sell for her and do clearance. There’s what they call ‘clearance’. After they sell and sell, they now do clearance. She would give me a target and I would still save some and buy sugar (laughs).
Among the three – your mother, father and grandmother – who influenced you most?
(Laughs) How did you know about my grandmother? She is late now. She died a year ago. I don’t know how to say it. She had more influence on me. She tried. I loved her so much. She named me Obinwa. It was a natural love from birth. My mum had me at a very tender age. So, even when I mistakenly poured water from a bucket, I received heavy beating. My grandmother would hear it and would take a bus to Lagos. When we were at Onitsha, she would come to Onitsha, scold my mother. That was how she took me away. She would quarrel with my mother because she used the heart of a teenager to handle me. My grandmother had her own way; she was a meek woman in heart, tender, loving, caring and she was a politician. She was not educated but she handled situations more than educated persons. She had foresight as well. She knew how to count her money, and she could be very diplomatic. So, she was my love; my mother is my love too but I miss my father. I lost him at a very young age and sometimes I still cry over him.
So, what lessons did you learn from these three persons?
On my father’s side I learnt a lot but I understand that he made some mistakes. At the beginning, my father was very fantastic. Sometimes, I used to blame him for certain things but now that I’m grown up, I would say to myself, ‘oh it could be that that made my father react in certain ways.’ So, I felt like I could change it, reason like that with him and say this thing I feel you did it out of mistake and I feel you could do better now. So, it still hurts me that he is not here for me to correct it now. Learning from those mistakes, I cannot use it on my wife. I can just talk to my wife and get angry, maybe leave her, stay away for a long time and it would have a negative impact on the family. On my mother’s side, I used my mother to know how to handle my wife because I understand that women sometimes have their own nature because that’s how God created them. They have their own perspectives and it’s not our own perspectives (as men). Sometimes I don’t judge my wife. If I want to do that, I would remember my mother; I never judged my mother. I loved her unconditionally. So, I apply same to my wife. Then on my grandmother’s side I learnt patience. She was very mature. She was very mature in handling issues and didn’t speak fast in judgment. My mother can just out of anger say something, same with my father. So, they were not mature and it was not a plus for them. My father had me when he was in his 20s and my mother was not up to 20 years. I grew up with them. At a time, me and my daddy were wearing the same clothes. My grandma gave me my calmness, my maturity.
What was the best gift you received as a child?
Exposure. I would say exposure and I thank my father and my mother for going back to Lagos from Onitsha. It’s not that Onitsha people are not doing well but Lagos is next to New York. It has a boundary with New York – mega cities. They have a boundary. Somebody who holds a PhD from ABSU and never gone to Lagos, a Lagos boy can sell him. So, the best thing my parents did to me was to take me to the streets of Lagos. That’s the best gift, it’s not money. Somebody might say, look at this, don’t we have billionaires in Onitsha. There are a lot of billionaires there but everything is not about money. You can have a hundred billion naira but somebody who has N200 million naira lives better than you. So, life is the length you can see, your vision. So, if you are in Lagos, see New York. Those things are not moi moi . You cannot learn it from the walls of a classroom. Classroom will only give the knowledge to be able to communicate. Education is communication not until you have a PhD. PhD doesn’t mean you will have the highest foresight to build the best industries. You can have a PhD and we give you the same material to build the same house. My designs that are allowed on the walls of New York, you can’t take that away from the streets of New York. That is my best gift. Then that took me back again to Lagos, taking me back again to my grandmother as well to the streets of Lagos. And I thank my grandmother for giving me native intelligence. So I’m complete.
What was the most difficult thing that ever happened to you all these years and how did you overcome it?
Losing my father was very difficult. Losing my father was so painful but every other thing is achievable.
What do you consider the biggest mistake you ever made?
Not marrying before 30. Because the way my son relates to me now, I am so grateful to God. Sometimes when I calculate when I’m 50, he is going to be 15 (he is five now). But when my father was 50, I was already twenty something. A big boy! He died at 57 and I buried him.
What is your biggest fear in life?
Not helping my people and another thing is failure.
Is that the reason you are so successful?
Yes, I work so hard.
What informed your decision to go for greener pastures?
What do you mean by greener pasture?
Leaving for New York?
That has nothing to do with greener pasture. You remember I told you about my humble beginning, how I launched my cosmetics business into my entertainment business and then funding it. Is it not a greener pasture? That was the beginning of my greener pasture, organising shows- Ayangba Girls Are Dangerous, Baba Fryo, Tu Face Idibia and many others. I’m an old ‘G’ in the industry.
What are some of the lessons life has taught you?
If I follow what life has taught me both good and bad, life will not be interesting. So, I live with God’s grace and wisdom.
What are some of the motivations for your business ventures?
Something you have passion for. Passion is the greatest motivator. I do everything within me with passion. A lot of people have asked me to come into the oil and gas business. In Nigeria, they like to jump from one thing to another and that is why we are where we are. You take your car to a mechanic, another thing before you know your car is being destroyed. Everybody should maintain their lane. If it’s craft you know how to do, go into craft and it can take you to the streets of New York. I keep calling New York because that is where the World Trade Centre is.
Would you say you were pliable or stubborn as a child?
I was very stubborn. But I wasn’t fighting, I mean creative stubbornness. Normal kids ahiriha, not fighting on the streets, fighting my elders and bringing problems to my parents. Maybe I could just go and join my friends taking risks, following them to the stream and jumping into water.
You took to philanthropy early, did it come to you naturally or you were influenced by someone?
It came to me naturally; I didn’t take it from anyone. Honestly, it’s something that came from my childhood. I always share what I have and it’s my passion. When I give it makes me happy. It’s not a show off. My friends at a point started saying I was showing off but I said, no. I replied them, you try and show since it’s easy.
What are your values in life?
My values are investments and respect. You know when you respect somebody you will know your boundaries. You respect somebody you will not want to encroach into the person’s life. When you respect somebody, you give the person what belongs to him or her and take what belongs to you. When you respect the person, love will guide you. You can love somebody but you don’t respect the person.
What age were you when you got married?
How did it happen?
I knew her when she finished secondary school and my father met her though my father wasn’t there when I married her. She is a humble girl. My parents after many years have continued asking after her. She is a calm person and homely woman. She behaves like a mother. Her father calls her Nne Nkem (my own mother) because of her maturity. She behaves like my grandma too, she is very mature. Even when there is something to do if I come back, she says oh I’m sorry but I should have presented it this direction. So, we basically train each other. At a time, we cut off but any time I’m anywhere I still tell people I have a wife and I was referring to her. But she keeps talking to my parents not talking to me but once in a while as a Soji boy any time, I call not to lose her finally, she would say why are calling me? Go and finish your game. I would say don’t you know you are my wife. At the end of the day, we became husband and wife.
What really attracted you to her in the first place?
Her composure. When I saw her as a child, me too I was younger and you know I started on time.
What are your guiding principles as a father?
Not to joke with them, to give them enough time, love them and to be there as a father. You know even if you are far, give your family enough time. If you don’t give them time that can distract you and once you are being distracted before you know it some damage may happen.
How do you relax?
Hmmmm! Hanging out with people and always with people both young and old- we talk, weshayo. I’m a human. I love to watch musicals, sometimes entertainment discussions and politics.