Sir UgochukwuUdemezue, President General, NzukoOraNnewi tellsTHEO RAYS that despite all the challenges that confront industry and business in Nigeria, Nnewi, the commercial/industrial city in the south of Anambra State, has lived up to its billing as the ‘Japan of Africa’.
In the early 70’s, shortly after the civil war, Nnewi, the Anaedo Kingdom located in the Southern part of Anambra State, was tipped to become the ‘Japan of Africa’. As if the war didn’t happen, Nnewi was, in those heady years of the 70’s, witnessing exponential growth in industrial and trading investments in a manner that was thought practically impossible for a town and people that had just come out of a devastating Civil War.
Although Nnewi businessmen were hitherto big-time importers of sundry goods, especially motor spare-parts, they began to build industries in the town soon after the war as if they had finally come to the realisation that industrialisation was a better business option for the town from which the great Louis Ojukwu, the man who co-founded the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), came. Thus, the likes of Ibeto, Omata Holdings, Luis Carter, Curtis, Ngobros, Uru and others became pioneer industrialists in Nnewi. They were to be closely followed by Chikason, Edson Dansars, Cosharis, Babynet, Innoson and others.
However, plagued by deficit in essential infrastructure and other factors that help business growth—lack of quality access roads, poor power supply, lack of pipe-borne water and, even more importantly, lack of access to soft loans and unfavourable government policies and even outright government neglect—Nnewi has witnessed, to say the least,a decline in the competitiveness of many of its pioneer industries. And many now ask, whatever happened to that dream of the Anaedo kingdom as the emergent Japan of Africa? Is it as good as dead?
No, certainly not, saysSir UgochukwuUdemezue, a prominent indigene. AlthoughMr GozieAkudolu,
former chairman of Nnewi Traders Association (NTA) believes that Nnewi’s Japan potential is yet to realized because of the aforementioned factors militating against industry, Udemezue,President-General of NzukoOraNnewi, the umbrellea organisation of town unions in Nnewi, argues that the potential has, indeed, been realised.
He told The Oracle Todayin an interview that for the fact that all types of auto spare parts are today produced in Nnewiand full-fledged vehicles, such as security vans, Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV), commuter buses, luxury buses and the rest of them are being manufactured by Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) Nnewi, Nnewi’s Japan potential has, to a large extent, been developed.
“We have realized the Japan feat, there is no argument about that,” he declared. “Nnewi is now the Japan of Africa because Innocent Chukwuma from Nnewi is manufacturing all types of vehicles at Innosonmotor manufacturing plant here inNnewi, so Innoson is like every other motor manufacturing company in Japan and one can get those things they do in Japan here inNnewi.”
The NzukoOra boss, who is also the Chairman of Nnewi Electronic/Electrical Dealers,further argued that those who share the opinion that Nnewi is still far from being the Japan of Africa in reality are mistaken as, according to him, achieving the feat of manufacturing vehicles, which Japan is known for, is remarkable enough. He also speaks on a number of other issues.
How are you coping with the dual positions of PG Nzuko Ora Nnewi and Chairman of Nnewi Electrical/ElectronicsMarket
The two positions are really tasking but as the saying goes, no matter how old a woman is, she will always fare well in dancing her familiar music. The issue of leadership is what I started way back in 2001, so I have enough experience on leadership and that is helping me a lot. So far so good, God is helping me and I am working well to the satisfaction of the people.
Nnewi is a very big community with four giant quarters and made up of wonderful people namely Otolo, Uruagu, Umudim and Nnewichi and you have to take care of them as a community. Nnewi is calm and peaceful. Right now, we are about to execute the first phase of Governor Willie Obiano’s N40million community development grant project.
The first phase is N20million and we are about to start off the project. I am just coming from a meeting I hosted in respect of that. On the other hand, we have a new ultra modern Nnewi Electronic/Electrical Market completed and ready for business under my administration as Chairman.
As you can see the market is a large shopping mall and one of its kind in this State. All Electronic/Electrical dealers are relocating to the new market from Onitsha road. There is opportunity for petty traders like food vendors, provision dealers and all that.
While Obiano’s community and Market grant projects are on going, some people are saying that he has not done much in the area of road construction…cuts in
Who is saying such a thing?Obiano constructed the biggest road project in Awka the State capital with flyover bridges and other places before the community and Market grant projects were initiated. Development is not about road construction and that is what people don’t know. Before Ngige and Peter Obi constructed roads, we had existed and survived the era of bad governance without road and without nothing from government.
We have to appreciate what Obiano is doing. Let me tell you Obiano’s performance is being commended all over Nigeria and in Diaspora. Before this interview, somebody called me from the United States. The chairman of Nnewi USA
IkO formata called me from Las Vargas where where they are having Nnewi USA meeting and told me that Obiano sent a representative and from what they have heard, the governor is doing well.
He mentioned the community and Market grant projects and told me that they are happy with the governor’s performance on security, agriculture, regular payment of workers and all that. So what l am saying is that Obiano is doing well.
It is not easy to execute a project worth millions of naira in each of the 179 communities and in each of over 60 markets in the State. That is a big project at this time of economic recession in the country. For me Obiano is doing well and we should be grateful to former Governor Peter Obi who brought him from the United States to succeed him.
As the head of Nnewi town union your position could be viewed as the position of Nnewi as a community. George Muoghalu from Nnewi is in the race for the Government House in Awka and from all indications you have endorsed Obiano for second tenure. People would like to know: isNnewi behind Muoghalu or not?
To be frank with you,as the PG of NzukoOraNnewi,Muoghalu has not informed me that he is running for governor. I am speaking from the realities on ground that NdiAnambra want Obiano to remain there for another four years. The town unions in the State of which Nzukoora is one, have endorsed Obiano for a second term. First is that he has done well.
Two is that we want to give way for zoning and rotation of power in Anambra State. Peter Obi from Central was there for eight years and we are now saying allow Obiano who is from the North to continue and complete eight years for the North and then the south would have their turn.
Let us allow Obiano to complete and balance the zoning formula. Zoning will guarantee a more peaceful political atmosphere and save the cost of electioneering campaign. Election inAnambra State is too expensive and we have to put a stop to it.
Way back in the 70’s,Nnewi was christened the Japan of Africa based on its industrial potential and some people are saying that due to Government insensitivity and neglect the potential has remained in cocoon. Do you share this view or do you think that Nnewi’s potential has been realized?
Nnewi has realized that potential 100%. There is no argument about it. One thing people should know is that Nnewi man believes in self-help and that has been our driving force. Most often, we don’t wait for government.
We don’t sleep and wait for government like others do. We go before and ahead of government and by the time government comes, they will appreciate and support us. Louis Ojukwu, our father and role model did not wait for government instead he was ahead of government. Nnewi people were the architect of the potential of Nnewi as the Japan of Africa because of our breakthrough in business.
From Ibeto, Louis Carter, Omata Holding, Uru, Edison Dansar, Chikason, Ngobros, CoscharisBabynet and Innoson among others, we have industries that manufacture spare parts, full fledged vehicles, cement and other things.
All they manufacture are evidence that Nnewi is the Japan of Africa. Japan is known for manufacturing vehicles and at Innoson motor plant located here inNnewi and owned by Innocent Chukwuma, all types of vehicles are being manufactured including trucks. Go to Innoson you will see trucks including waste management trucks which shows you that Japan is here with us.
Do you think that government both State and federal have appreciated and supported Nnewi enough?
I would say yes, considering the challenges of governance and the way things are done in the country. Most often, things don’t go as we hope they should go. I would say yes because successive governors in Anambra and the incumbent Chief Willie Obiano (Akpokuodike) are doing well and Nnewi is benefiting from his performance. It is the same thing at the federal level.
Presidents recognize Ibeto, Chikason,Cosharis, Innoson and the rest of them. Virtually all the big time industrialists from Nnewi have national honor awards like OON, CON, CFR and what have you. That is recognition and appreciation.
More so, we have technology incubation centre established by government among other things which I cannot give off hands. If you talk about the impact of government in Nnewi on the issues of power supply I wouldn’t say that government has failed because that is a national problem.
I wouldn’t know if there is anything that government at any level could have done differently or specially to improve power supply in Nnewi. So going by the way things are done in this country, government both Federal and State appreciate and support Nnewi.