Hon Ned Nwoko is a former member of the House of Representatives. In this interview with select journalists at his resort centre in Idumuje Ugboko, Aniocha North, Delta State, Nwoko speaks on why he ventured into philanthropy, the idea behind his sports university, tourism, amongst other matters
What is the motif behind your building a tourist centre in a remote village?
I want to make Delta State a world tourist centre. As a billionaire, my billions are useless if I cannot use it to affect people’s lives and change my environment. That is why I am building a tourist centre in Idumujen-Ugboko. My town will soon be known all over the world because the whole world will soon be visiting the place for tourism. We have built a monumental edifice that is displaying our cultural inheritance such as artefacts and you can see culture being preserved. I want to preserve our culture and show the world that we have rich cultural values.
People see our cultural inheritance as fetish but that is a lie. Other countries of the world are preserving their cultures while we are in a cultural dilemma, throwing away what God has endowed us with. I want to change the narrative. You can see for yourself what is being done here. We have preserved lives.
In this resort, we have a zoo where we preserve animals. A company has been contracted to bring in bigger animals, especially those that are going into extinction. There is a poultry farm among other things. This resort centre is to make the world appreciate our rich culture. This place will soon host the world. You have seen the Star University. It is also called Sports University. It is the first of its kind in the Sub-Saharan Africa.
Why a sports university?
Students are going to study Sports Science there. We would teach 13 different types of sports, though we will add some conventional courses -such as Accountancy, Law, Business Administration and so on. However, we are going to focus more on sports. After study, our students will compete and blend with the international community.
Why are you investing in tourism?
Tourism empowers a country economically. People asked why I am “wasting” billions in a remote town such as Idumuje-Ugboko? And I smiled. After developing the resort centre to a level, this town will become a city. People do not know that tourism develops and empowers a country economically. There are countries that do not have mineral resources but they are run with money made from tourism. Right now, there are over 300 staff working in my resort centre. It is a way of empowering my people. After building the University of Sports and developing the tourist centre, there is no way we won’t have more than 1,000 staff.
The Nigerian government and individuals should start investing in tourism. Tourism is a money-spinning business that can take care of our annual budget. Our natural resources may finish, but tourism is forever. We need more tourist centres in Nigeria. There are many artefacts and many monuments in the resort centre. It is a research centre, where many things have been preserved for our children’s children to learn from.
You are reputed to be a philanthropist. What is the reason behind your philanthropic gestures?
A philanthropist is someone who blesses people with what he or she has. To be a philanthropist is to empower people. When people call me a philanthropist, they make me laugh. There are over 500 people eating free of charge in my centre. They are not eating because they are lazy but because they are not opportune. That is why I have opened a foundation to empower them. I give jobs and scholarships to many of them. The foundation is sponsoring over 1,000 students and I have assisted over 10,000 students worldwide. This year N50 billion has been earmarked for scholarships. It has been established that we have intelligent people who are wasting away because they do not have rich parents to pay their school fees. I am using my God-given wealth to bless them. I give to people without expecting anything in return. It is not because of politics. A genuine philanthropist should give without expecting something in return. My joy in life is bringing hope to the hopeless. I am not celebrating anything. Once I’m around, they come here.
I am happy when a person who cannot boast of a square meal eats and becomes happy. I am happy when a sick person who has no money for hospital comes and I give him or her money for medical bills. What is in this world when you have surplus while another person is suffering from lack? I will remain a friend to all. I remain committed to enhancing the fortunes of the needy through selfless humanitarian service and human capital development. There is a scholarship scheme for all categories of students and empowerment scheme for market women, artisans and others in the informal sector. All these are taken care by my foundation.
What are the things the foundation is actually meant for?
Prince Ned Nwoko Foundation is meant primarily to bring down poverty to a reasonable level. Outside of poverty eradication, it is interested in culture, tourism, sports and socio-economic development of people, especially the Anioma people, home and abroad. Concerning technical development of artisans in all trades, we are also focusing on catching our children young. I want young people to be interested in education and sports. Those who cannot pay school fees, junior and senior secondary school, I have made provision for those who have no money for the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board examination. Ordinarily, JAMB form should not be more than N7,000, but I earmarked N30,000 for each student so that he or she can pay for lesson. Over 900 students have applied, but we are making provision for 1,000 students.
Is there any political undertone to these?
I’m always home with my family. A rich man whose family members are away from home is not a happy man. I’m happy that I am always at home with my family. It is not because of politics. My children can afford all the good things in the world but I bring them home to see what I am doing. They have seen that I rear animals. They have seen my poultry farm; they have seen the cows, goats and other things that we produce on my farm. They now know that they have to do certain things though they were born in affluence. They have seen the less privileged and how I treat them. So, they will continue from where I stop. They feel home and dream home. They have seen my stands on nature and culture. They are indigenes of Delta State so they should feel it and they should mix with their people.
What is your advice to people world over?
People should show love to their fellow human beings. There is no need for rancour. We should preserve life and think of posterity in whatever we do. He who has should give to those who have not. We should use whatever we have to help people without expecting something in return. There are people who are looking for money to pay school fees, give a helping hand. There are people facing one challenge or the other, give them encouragement. We should help the needy and not oppress the weak and the poor. People should be their brothers’ keepers.