In this interview with journalists, the deputy governor of Imo State, Prince Eze Madumere gives an insight into how he maneuvers the rigours of work as the number two man in the state and make time for his family. He also bares his mind on some contemporary issues. Emmanuel Mgbeahuruike was there for Leadership Weekend.
What exactly has kept you going over the years?
Well, this is an aspect of me that most people seem not to understand.
I am a moderate socialite. This is not unconnected to my experience as a young boy in the United States. I became paranoid going to places where others go because the first time I went out for such, I escaped the deadly metals of a shooter by the whiskers. I nursed that wound to survive. You can imagine the traumatic experience. So, such experiences make up what you are. Again, as a boy on scholarship, I had to remain focused to the extent that I had little or no time to mix up in a manner that suggest what people choose to call social life.
However, nothing could be more sociable than bringing your people together to chart a course of collective interest and to help one another. I championed a lot of this in the United States of America. I sought a platform to bring our people together and to the glory of God, that little effort of mine still binds our people together in the far away Americas. However, I love being with people. It is true that I sleep at about 2am everyday. Guess what? That is the time I ensure I see people and know the reason for their calls and give either my advice or whatever help I can offer. That is what relaxes me. Any day I do not see people around me, I become afraid. I love to attend social programmes that bother on people’s life and survival. Again, this may account for one of the reasons I have obstinate love to periodically spend time with the less privileged to encourage and inspire them. What can be more social than these?
You are seen as a Lagos boy in Imo politics, how have you been able to adapt?
A Lagos boy, true, but partially, I am a Lagos boy but my father insisted that we never lost touch of our culture and tradition. I did not complete my duration in St. Finbars because my father relocated me and registered me at my village school for fear of losing track of our culture and social values. I thought it was punitive but I appreciate those knock-into-shape efforts because that has made me to be very close to my people and I understand the traditions and way of life of my people. Most importantly, I speak our core dialect, even the Owerri dialect. It may also interest you to know that because my father was a Contractor, I was also on the move with him. This is the reason you could say that I am one of the few Nigerians who understands the way of life of other people.
So coming to Imo politics, you could see that I understand the intricacies of Imo politics and my people appreciate that. Remember too that I have been around at least for over two decades of Owelle Rochas Okorocha’s political expl oits both in Imo and at the national stage. Hence, I am appreciated by people and they know I have been around and the system appreciates my worth. Remember, a man who does not travel is like that person who could hardly see beyond his nose.
Understanding others people’s way of life other than yours makes you a more realistic and balanced person even in decision making.
Having worked all your life in the US, what have been the challenges of managing work ethics in Imo State?
Well, it is true that one can hardly escape from the appreciation of organized society where most people are committed to their responsibilities especially in the area of the functionality of the institutions. By this I mean, people stick to the spirits and ethics of their professional calling. But here, you can also appreciate the fact that we are not really a disorganized people who pay lip service to the spirit of our job. Let me say it loud and clear, the problem is leadership. If you get the leadership right, you get everything right.
Functionality of institution is it but the drivers of the institutions remain the key to success. In the United States where I worked for many years, there are also occasions where perceived right decisions or policies turn out to be mostly irrational. Of course there will be call for review or outright change. In Nigeria some institutions both private and public have excelled following the leadership qualities of a particular leader at a particular time. Another thing is the mindset of the leaders. The set goal could be selfish or otherwise. The tradition may be that of continuity of the old ways of doing things.
In Imo, where we find things are not working, we make it work. His Excellency, my leader and the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha has shown the political will as a leader. This has led to the development we have in Imo State today. So, the reason God put you in a place is to make it better. What you call challenges are actually the reason you are there. Work ethics are established norms and acceptable ways under which one is expected to work. If one is used to doing the wrong thing, teach him the way, if possible, best practices.
There is this seamless rapport between you and your boss, His Excellency, Owelle Rocha’s Okorocha. How do you do it?
I have had to face this question in the past. They keep coming. The truth is that you must show gratitude for any favour done to you. Life of gratitude is a virtue. Two, Loyalty is not all about it but it is the heart of success in any relationship that is focused. You must show devotion to what you believe in. Commitment must be ploughed into what you consider a project. I understand the vision of my boss. I feel his pulse in his passion to render service to humanity. In all these, keep it simple and ensure you make input to make your leader succeed because that is one of the reasons he has me around. Again, my leader, Owelle Rochas Okorocha is gifted. You should also pray that God grants you the grace to be able to understand him at every point in time, interpret his vision and you must be proactive to ensure a smooth sail of work plans. Again, always show deference to your father irrespective of your knowledge, exposure or whatever because such is the heavenly prize you must pay in gratitude. What I have been exposed to by Governor Okorocha in his magnanimity is nothing money can buy.
Before now, the office of deputy Governor in the heartland state had always been far at the background, what have you done differently that is making it the talk of the town?
My brother I cannot deceive you. My predecessors all did their best and they all did well. I will rather talk about what has happened differently than what I have done differently. The difference may be that I have a lot of opportunities because my leader has given me more assignments than others. In the course of getting me acquainted to other areas of governance, my leader, Owelle Rochas Okorocha has always given me the opportunities to handle even sensitive assignments. And by the special grace of God, I enjoy the trust of my Oga any day, any time. I am sure that my boss has exposed me to the highest level of any government business transaction. I have been delegated by him to negotiate so much for the state and to the glory of God and by the understanding of the parties involved we all walked away equally satisfied. I am one of the most visible deputy governors in Nigeria not by my making but by the making of Owelle Rochas Okorocha who believes in exposing and giving everyone the opportunity to get better. And I will ever remain grateful for that. If you want to appreciate what I am saying, do your research in the Constitution, and you will discover that deputy governor’s statutory responsibilities are quite limited. You do not forget the fact that there is only one captain because you enjoy immunity. We must respect that. So, like I said, I am different because I get more assignments from my Governor.
When you served as Chief of Staff what would you say were your very low points and best times ever? What would you have done differently?
There were no low points. What we had was more of hostile take-over because we had issues over the formalities due to how we emerged. There were no files, no clues as to where to begin from. I took time to kick-start what we have today. By God’s direction, I was able to assemble those who played one role or the other to ensure we had a smooth sail. You may not appreciate the arduous work that we had to do to get the government running. I am grateful that my leader Owelle Rochas Okorocha reposed such confidence in me and believed I could deliver. So, as the Chief of Staff, to the glory of God I excelled even as I demystified the office because of my open door policy. The things I did, I did them with dignity, sense of purpose and no regrets.
Looking back at your involvement as a key member of the highest decision making team in Imo State, what would you point to as the team’s staying strength?
Number one strength of the Okorocha-led government is the delegation of duties. This sounds simple to the ears but the best way to give your lieutenants sense of belonging is by allowing them get deeply involved in working out solutions for the betterment of the people. It gives you an innermost fulfillment. This is one aspect of Governor Okorocha most people cannot afford to fault. Another staying strength going by your words is the performance of Rescue Mission Administration.
You will agree with me that if a system is performing, it gives you a whole lot of encouragement and motivation to continue with the team.
Another factor why you cannot afford not to be proud to work with Governor Okorocha is his zero tolerance for lobby. It is in this government that we produced the youngest Commissioner, Engr. Alex Ogwazuo and others. Appointments are not for sale. It comes based on merit and inputs. Governor Okorocha cares less about your challenges or where you come from. In as much as you know your onion, he will work with you. In my case, I did not have my kinsmen taking bullocks to Governor Okorocha as it used to be. Nobody gave anybody anything to buy the position or even anything in return. Meanwhile I have been Chief of Staff and today, I am a second time deputy governor. We must appreciate the man, Okorocha. He is neither tribalized nor ethnocentric. This accounts for his successes as a leader and as a role model to what Nigerians should look out for in themselves as Nigerians. True, Okorocha is no God neither is he a perfect being but he is a rare leader with a Midas touch.
Outside your very busy schedules, how do you spend your time with your family?
At home, it is usually impossible. You never can get appreciable time to be with them because of visitors you cannot always turn back because of the import of their visits. So, what I do periodically is to quietly travel to Abuja or Lagos State and just stay and relax with them especially when they are on vacation. That gives me ample opportunity to look into what they do through free association. At times, I could turn off from everything to engage them on phone for thirty minutes to one hour. This one is done more often. I am always in constant touch with my children and when I do not call, they must call Daddy to know the reason I have not called. We are friends and in their decisions, they tend to tell me, to seek my opinion even though they win at their choices at times. I always accompany them during annual school registrations. Now that my son has got scholarships to go to college, I must get involved to ensure he makes the best choices out there according to what he wants. It gives me sense of fulfillment getting involved with my children and for them in turn to relate to me not just as a father but as a friend.
Where is your favorite vacation spot?
It’s a function of what I want to achieve, I do not just go on vacation without looking at some of the values I wish to benefit from at a particular point in time. Like my boss will say, buy one and get one free. Going on vacation means running cost, but beyond that, what other value or benefit beyond vacation. I could go for vacation in Abuja, which I had done severally in Abuja and Lagos. I could also quietly travel to the United States based on other issues that may bother on the need to see our people and other personal issues. So, it is a function of the composite needs coupled with relaxation. I can take time off to Abuja, Lagos, United States, it all depends.
Left on an Island alone, what are the two things that you will need?
I need to be environmentally sensitive to opportunities and to be hardworking which goes with determination.
Who are your heroes and why?
My first hero is God who has given me life, sustained me and spared me from what ordinarily should have taken my life. My father is my number two hero because he taught me most of the things I know when I was a child especially enterprise, hard work, consistency, deference, dignity, sincerity and humility. The number three person is my leader and our governor, Okorocha who raised my morale, endeared me back home, led me into imbibing and appreciating the act of giving and its indefinite benefits.
What informs your style for each day?
Golden rule! Do unto others as you will wish others to do unto you. Treat people with dignity, respect their beliefs and never extricate what they consider their values with disregard. Each day, I take issues and subject to the same way. Always think about tomorrow because our actions and inaction’s of today have a way of returning to us tomorrow.
What is your favorite food and colour?
I love beans and plantain. My favourite colour is white.
How would you describe your fondest moment as a kid?
It is always nostalgic remembering spending our holidays at my grand ma’s place. There she would so pamper us but the most interesting thing is going to the farm with grand ma. Other fond moments were the mischief we played in school especially during my secondary school days.
Between mum and dad who was your favourite, and how would you describe your growing up and the family setting?
I must say that while my mum showered on us with love as a mother but I spent the better part of my time growing up with my father. Like I said earlier, he taught me most things that are seeing me through life till date. My dad was very itinerant, which had to do with his work as a contractor. Of course I was always on the move with him. This made me not to finish any stage of my school in one school. Growing up was interesting especially the aspect of taking part in jobs on site where I saved enough though not to the knowledge of dad.
What turns you off?
Pretenses, laziness, impervious to correction, stagnant knowledge and above all when one is not trust worthy because I easily trust.