Widely described as a man to be reckoned with in the Nigerian engineering sector, Chief Ugochukwu Okeke, chairman, Duotech Group Limited explains to Solomon Nda-Isaiah on how he climbed the success ladder.
Call him a man of several parts and you wouldn’t be wrong. This man, highly revered as the man of the people, no doubt, has come a long way in his infectious style of touching the lives of his people.
Unarguably, Chief Ugochukwu Okeke is also a man of many talents. An indigene of Ihiala in Anambra State, he was born over 42 years ago to the Okekes. A man determined to make the best of his life as well as that of his many friends, he studied banking and finance at the University of Nigeria Nnsuka and yet, went ahead to establish himself in the tough business of engineering – because after his youth service in Kwara State, Ugochukwu moved to Lagos to work in an engineering firm.
Hear him talk of his exploits in that field: “After a while, I went into the communication industry, but later left to establish myself in the telecomm shop business with the help of a friend. I moved to Abuja in 2001 and continued with the business. At first, I encountered some ugly incidents with regards to theft and robbery. After investigations by the police, it was revealed that some members of my staff were involved in it, so I closed shop. While I was running the telecom shop, I was also into some other contracting business on the other side and from there, I went into a partnership with my friends and we established an engineering firm, Doutech Group Limited.”
From that humble beginning, Ugochukwu has gone ahead to expand his business reach and market value, as he explains further: “We are basically into civil engineering, that is, mechanical and electrical. We also do some consulting services. We do some consultancy with some government organisations, and even international firms. We have offices in Lagos, Abuja and other states of the federation and we are doing engineering work in some parts of the country.”
Not afterall a Jack who is all about work and would not balance his home and family life with the dictates of his classification, chief Ugochukwu’s wife interestingly, was recently delivered of a set of twins, being another remarkable source of job and success story which the astute and consummate engineer fondly looked towards and which arrival he recently celebrated in gratitude to the Almighty.
“We were so happy on the arrival of the twins and we had a huge celebration. They were delivered in the United States last year but we decide to do the celebration in May because we had not time until now and we are very grateful to God”.
And how he is exactly able to balance family and work, Ugochukwu acknowledges, “My family is my strength, my wife and my kids are just wonderful. My mother in-law is with us and so, she helps out a lot. My wife’s siblings are also with me. I have had my share of ugly experiences with house helps but God has been faithful. It is not difficult to do my work and still have time for my family. My home is very peaceful”.
But isn’t it funny that someone who studied banking and finance refused to practice the profession despite its hype? So why did he do this? Hear his response: “First, when I left school, my late uncle who was a banker, as well wanted me to become a banker but somehow I could not get myself to always report to one place everyday. I am somebody who sees the strong qualities in other people. I can mix very well with others. I have the ability to do more than one thing at a time. I am not tribal, in fact, most of my staff and my partners are not from the igbo tribe. I guess it was my ability to cut across board when it comes to people that made me go into the business world. When I first started, my father who is also an engineer told me he had no money to give to me but today, things are good by the grace of God. I went into engineering because both my partners are engineers. I had those on ground that were trained for the job, it was thus easy for me. I am still learning on the job because in life we learn everyday”.
Also fondly called Taiwo himself by his friends, not because he was born as a twin but by circumstances which he explains later; however, not a few of his friends have continued to wonder why an igbo man would adopt a Yoruba name. Now, hear him open up on how he got “trapped” with the name. “It was in my secoudary school days that my friends jokingly called me Taiwo and the name stuck since then. I was not happy about it but I guess it was God’s way of doing things. You know that the name is for the twins in Yoruba culture, that is Taiwo and Kehinde. Today, I am a father of twins”.
Ugochukwu further tells LEADERSHIP about some of the things he is passionate about. “I am passionate about the good life for anybody born into this life. Overtime, I have come to identify people’s weaknesses and also to give my support to those who cannot help themselves. I have been doing this since I was single. I am also passionate about my society. A society where everyone can have access to those things that make life meaningful. Where people are not treated shabbily because they did not go to school, where persons of all class are respected. I always say that everybody is important. If the driver to the president is not there, will the president drive himself. If the steward or cook to the president does not cook, the president will not eat well. It is the same for the laundry man and the maid. So, everyone is important. The earlier we begin to understand and appreciate these people that help us in the simple things, the better for us.”
Speaking on how to build a better Nigeria, Chief Ugochukwu says: “The rate at which we crave for wealth in Nigeria is alarming, we should come together as a nation to appreciate each other and you will notice that things such as kidnapping and robbery will reduce”.
The highly resourceful business mogul who has travelled to several parts of the world says that his favourite holiday spot is South Africa. He is also of the opinion that Africans should develop their economies just as the other races in the world are doing.
Ugochukwu enjoys good music but prefers the local traditional ones. He also likes Nigerian movies. “I do watch when I have the time as my job is quite demanding,” he says. Ugochukwu who was given a chieftaincy title in late 2007 in Imo State by the then governor admits that the major challenge of businesses was finance and the Nigerian factor. “Sometimes, I see myself doing a very good job and expect good payment but because of the Nigerian factor, payment can be difficult but God has been faithful. Another thing is that banks are not very supportive to businesses and contractors. They should be more realistic to the Nigerian system because cash is important to do any sort of transaction in this country. I think there should be a type of banking that is meant for contractors that are doing government jobs, that way, things will be easier for us. As a business man we cannot do without the banks.”
Perhaps going by his achievements, it is easy to conclude that Ugochukwu would eventually end up in politics, but he says, only time would tell; but for now, he is a businessman which he is. “I want to focus on my business for now. I am doing consultations with my people are they are asking me to go into politics but I have not made up my mind for now.”
He also commended the present administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, stressing: “In his one year, I think he has tried his best, but things are slow to be effected maybe because of the process of things in this country. I also believe that the governed should play their part because the government cannot be everywhere. Those in government should act with the people in mind because that is the only way to carry out good and effective administration.”
On his take for the Nigerian youth, he admonishes: “The youths of this country have a long way to go. If they can be strong, cohesive and focused, so they can effect the needed changes in this country. The time for the older politicians is long gone. The youths are the next in line.”
Evidently, the future for Ugochukwu can only get brighter as he plans to further expand his business beyond the present state in the near future. “In the next five years, I hope to have employed more people and expanded this business. I plan to have gone international as we have a number of international partners, all this, I can only achieve by the grace of God,” he submits.