Former National Auditor of All Progressives Congress and Pro-Chancellor of Olivia University in Bujumbura, Burundi, Sir Paul Chukwuma, recently told the story of his life and why he wants to be governor of Anambra State. David-Chyddy Eleke was there.
A look at Sir Paul Chukwuma will leave one with the impression that he is a priest of the Catholic Church. He carries with himself the thoroughness, polished and bright look of Catholic priests. Of course, he was studying to be one, but circumstances forced him to dump the ambition.
According to him: “I was in the seminary, and had already progressed very well towards priesthood before I changed my mind. First, we were told that going into priesthood means living a life of selflessness. You won’t marry, you may also have to endure poverty, and I looked at some of these conditions and said no.
“That was how I left the seminary. I was sure I wanted to get married. I also had a vow to be rich. I’m very happy that I went to the seminary, 90 percent of what I am today is because I went to the seminary. I’m proud of that very background.
“After I left the seminary, I went to University of Nigeria, Nsukka and finished my degree. I read Philosophy, and I graduated with first class honours. When I finished, my department retained me as a graduate assistant and then I started acknowledging another level of poverty. One of the things that pushed me out of priesthood was hatred for poverty, and here as a lecturer, I started facing poverty again, and I said no.
“Then, you will walk a very short distance and you will be seeing cars parked along the roadside. They are broken down cars, belonging to lecturers. Some were dumped because the owners could not as little as fuel them. And I started saying to myself, is this the kind of life I’m coming to face? They said they will give me a car loan, and I said no, I abandoned the job and left.
“When I went for youth service, I was posted to Benin, and I was posted to a town called Oghenevode for teaching. It was a very interior village and I started wondering if I can ever work myself out of poverty if I remained in this town. So, one day I saw a woman where Catholic corpers were holding their prayer meetings and told her I wanted to be reposted to Abuja. I didn’t know her, but she said she would see what she can do, and on the day people were being handed their posting letters, I received mine and was redeployed to Abuja. I was so happy, and I parked my bag and moved to Abuja.”
The businessman and politician said his redeployment to Abuja was the beginning of the turning around of things in his life.
He said: “Then, it was the very first set of lawmakers in the early dispensation of our political era. I was posted to National Assembly, and if you know how the National Assembly works, it is with committees of the House and Senate. Chuba Okadigbo was still in the Senate then, and he was a great inspiration for those of us who came from this area. I met Okadigbo and I was given my primary posting.
“During my days in the seminary, I was the deputy editor of my school magazine, and later became the Editor. So I already knew one or two things about writing. In fact, the first career I was exposed to was journalism, so at the National Assembly, I was posted to one of the committees. As a corper then, we didn’t have too much work to do. Sometimes they just assign us clerical jobs to do, but I told myself that I was far more than those clerical works, with the experiences I had already garnered.
“So, one day I came to work and saw the committee secretary preparing reports of the committee, and I approached him and told him I could help him do this report since he was busy with other things. He said the report was needed for submission on the floor of the House of Representatives the next morning, and I said yes, that I could fix it. He reluctantly left me to do it. He asked if I could use computer and I said yes and he agreed for me to do it. I finished it very late in the night, printed a copy and wrote on it asking that he could read before I make the final copy. I dropped it on his table, saved the work in the system and passworded it.
“The next morning, the man came and saw the report and said he was not sure I was the one who did it. He said it was perfect, but since I had already written on the copy, I should go and print a fresh one and make photocopies. The staff in the office wanted to take credit for the report, and the man tended to believe them. So when they were asked to make more copies, they went to the computer and could not find it, so the man asked me if I was truly the one who wrote the letter I should prove it by taking the computer and printing more copies. I immediately took the computer and printed it. That was how the man started liking me. He lashed his staff for being unable to find a simple document on the system, and gradually I started shining.
“When the material was presented to the chairman of the committee, the members were so happy, and they said the report was excellent, that it didn’t used to be so before. They enquired to know who did the report and I was presented to the committee, and they were so happy. Some gave me cash gift of N1,000, others gave me N2,000 and so on. That was when I told myself that I had arrived Abuja. I later told the man that I can also write minutes, so henceforth, I was always brought into the committee meetings.
“This afforded me the opportunity to know a lot about governance, and also make connections. Sometimes when there are supplies to be made, I convinced them that I can supply them, and they will give me money and I will use night bus to go to Lagos and buy things at a very cheap price and bring them to Abuja. These were small items that were given as LPO to some people and they don’t deliver. I didn’t want poverty, so I was doing these things diligently and making money.
“At some point, I got customers in Lagos who deal in many items, and once I get an LPO, I will just send a message to them in Lagos, and they would quickly ship goods to me and I will supply them and make money. I kept doing this until where you see me today.
“I was still in that National Assembly when I established Amity Global Press. We were printing in Enugu with Snap Press, but because of my relationship with lawmakers, I decided to move for higher quality printing and from there I started printing in Chichester, London.
“In London, I found out that what we were printing in Nigeria was child’s play. The price was so high, but the quality was equally good. They had all manner of printing equipment, and at the end they advised me to source advert to supplement the cost of printing. So, I walked through every part of London, looking for advert. It was such a tortuous period of my life, and with that I got to know London so very well. At the end, someone told me that if I approached Zimbabwe Airlines, they can give me advert. As true as it was, I got there and they gave me one year contract and paid me six months upfront. I became almost instantly rich and with that, I was footing the bills for my printing. There too in London, I met a company called Value Plus and became their representative in Nigeria, and before long, I had already successfully beaten poverty. I was among the first set of people to bring in expatriates to work for me in that sector, and before long, money was not my problem any longer.”
He attributed his success to his father’s gesture during his growing up days recounting how his father took his entire retirement benefits and gave it out to the church to propagate the gospel.
“But in everything, there is something I did not tell you people. My father was a civil servant, and he worked with Water Corporation. In 1982, he retired, he took his Potomanto (local briefcase) and we went to African Continental Bank (ACB). Then, when you finish your service, you are immediately paid your gratuity in full and you begin to earn pension. In ACB, he withdrew his gratuity and the briefcase was full of money, and the bank used their car to drive me and my father to the village, to our local Catholic parish. He took the briefcase from me and handed it over to the priest, and I was thinking it was for the priest to bless the money, but no, my father gave out the money as offering to the church.
“I was shocked, my father asked that we leave and I insisted that it was not right for my father to take his entire life’s earning and give to the church. My father had to come and drag me out of the church premises, and I was so angry, even though I was a small boy. The next day, I told my mother about it, I told her we need to go see the priest and make him give us even if it is part of the money. My mother went with me, but didn’t have the courage to tell the priest. I summoned courage and told the priest that my father still has responsibilities and we need money to keep paying school fees for me and my eight brothers, that was when the man told me that my father made a vow to give the money to the church when he retires. Two years after, my father took ill and later died. Today, I believe that that seed sown by my father is the reason for my prosperity.”
Speaking on his desire to contest the Anambra State gubernatorial election next year, Chukwuma said: “I have identified the problems with Anambra, and I want to solve it. What Anambra needs is an APC governor, who will be close to the federal government, and also attract development through that closeness. I have been around for a long time, and with the blessings that God has given me, it is my craving to bless Anambra too. What APC simply needs is to present a good candidate, who can appeal to the elites, grassroots, entrepreneurs and academia, and I posses these qualities”.