Episode 1 – FINDING A NEW DREAM
In the early months of 2020, my wife and I planned to relocate from the Federal Capital Territory, back to our state of origin, Anambra. Our choice location was Awka, and we had a dream of buying a piece of land and building our own house later. We earlier desired a new car but, with slightly over three million naira in our account, our budget could satisfy just one; hence, buying a car became a foregone alternative. We found a realtor in Awka and inspected some landed properties for sale, but before we made up our mind, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Anambra State, and the government locked down the economy. Because we did not know how COVID-19 would change our world, we took a swift decision in March to fixed a million naira in a bank.
Before the lockdown, we had gotten an apartment in the state capital, Awka, and replaced a few furniture we sold before departing the Federal Capital Territory. Oyimoma, my son, was but 8 months, and for that reason, we observed the COVID 19 precaution of social distancing to the fullest. Initially, we thought the lockdown would be over in a few weeks, but as weeks turned into months, we became afraid that it would never end.
With no income for a full three month period – and the only resource available being what we kept for our dream property – we lived on the available. For 3 months, we were trapped in the house, and boredom found its way into our lives. I thought of the best way to get myself busy, and all I could think of was to learn something new; something challenging.
I am Ozii Baba Anieto, a storyteller. In 2017, I founded Ajambele: an African traditional storytelling platform with special interest in African folklore. While in Abuja, I hosted the first Ajambele event which attracted the amazing Ulonna Inyama, Dike Chukwumerije, Deji Ige, Brainbox, Omo Awe, Zainab Sule, Uncle Reg Ofordile and Dr Kate Maduekwe. That was on the 29th day of May, 2017. That was the day Ajambele was officially born. In 3 months from that date, I would create uncountable folktales and attracted thousands of people around Nigeria to the page dedicated to Ajambele. While Ajambele was climbing, I met Prince Arthur Eze in his house in Enugu. It wasn’t the first time of seeing him, but the first time I was introduced to him. What happened the day I met him in 2017, re-echoed this July. This I will tell in subsequent episode.
However, while I took pleasure in the leisure of telling those fables, I kept fantasizing of the effect of recreating those stories into animation. I attempted it, and as expected, didn’t go far. So, with COVID – 19 total lockdown, and a mind that was willing to dare, I reopened the animation chapter. I invested in the apparatus and got myself busy. By the first week of July, I have developed a script, learnt enough to develop an animation, and also have a moderate budget of three hundred thousand naira.
Trust money: once one have access to it, no amount is too big. In the first week of July, my account has been battered, and the only place I could get over a quarter of a million Naira would be from the fixed deposit. That was when the real fear of the unforeseen crept in. As a first-timer in a strange industry, the gamble of taking the risk stared directly to my face. The possibility of losing it was very high, and besides, the fixed amount was yet to mature. Nevertheless, I called my bank to know how to access the fund. The penalty was that I would lose a percentage of my interest. I was about to follow the instructions when my mother, as usual, offered a lamb for the sacrifice.
My younger brother, Nwannebuife Anieto, who is the director of Arthur Eze’s choir, would be at Prince Arthur Eze’s house in Ukpo. The billionaire, who loves hymns, wanted a live choir and my brother and his team were invited. So when my mother heard of the reassembling of the group, she asked my brother to accommodate me.
My reply to my mother was straight, I was not free. I had a jealous project that would not permit me such a pleasure. I could hear my mother’s agony as he scolded me.
‘What is wrong with you, Ozioma. You have not made a kobo this year. No matter the little you’ll get from there, it would provide succour. I had to beg your brother on your behalf. Just make out time and join them.’
Not to break the woman’s heart, I decided to show my face on that day. That was on the 7th of July, 2020: the day of the inauguration of the new Police Zone in Ukpo, I found myself among the Arthur Eze Choir.
It wasn’t my first time being his guest – for nearly a decade, I had been a regular guest. However, this trip, which I thought would last a day, lasted for 3 weeks. This trip became the longest time I spent with the billionaire and would reveal a part of Prince Arthur Eze the media is too quiet about. Without any special consideration, this trip to Ukpo would singlehandedly finance my Ajambele project.
Episode 2 – NEVER THE SAME AGAIN
I have been around Prince Arthur Eze for almost a decade. His house in Abuja was where I spent some Sundays. I know how open the big-hearted Prince was, but on this trip to his house in Anambra State, many things had changed. The gate of his house was tightly closed; the security at the gate insisted on the use of the nose mask. I would also meet someone inside the building that would dispense the hand sanitizer to every entrant.
As usual, the crowd littered at his gate. Among the mixed crowd were the great and the lowly. I noticed, on the pavement before the gate, a boy – not more than fourteen years old – whose left leg was threatened by elephantiasis. He laid on the floor and used the lap of a frail-looking woman for a pillow. Both were haggardly dressed and obviously in need of urgent assistance. A political organization that wore branded shirts stood out clearly from the rest of the people. Also, I saw, in front of the gate, a blind man with two little below-ten-years-old boys, they hovered around begging from the crowd.
My secondary school classmate was in the group. We had not seen for ages: he was now an executive member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Anambra State chapter, and they had a proposal for Prince Arthur Eze. The Hausa community in Anambra State were there; all wishing they could win the attention of the Prince. Like a market – as usual – there was a cluster at his gate.
That sight was not alien. For the decade I knew Prince Arthur Eze the only alien thing was privacy. I have never in this whole ten years met his gate barren of people that needed to be helped. Again, I have never seen any other gate in my life that is constantly (from January to December) littered with humans.
But like I said earlier, it seemed COVID-19 altered things a little. The dignitaries that attended the inauguration unlike before would not be entertained in his house but at the Palace. I knew it would be a tough day for the campers. The man of the house was conscious of the pandemic. If he wouldn’t allow the dignitaries into his house, I wondered what the fate of these people would be. Had it not been for the pandemic, most of them definitely would not leave that gate the same. Many prayers would be answered and fundamental problems, solved. That has ever been the fate of people that met Prince Arthur Eze.
Specifically, I felt sorry for the boy with the elephantiasis of the leg. If not for the pandemic, he stood a chance of getting instant help from the philanthropist, but now, the fear of Coronavirus might deny him of meeting his helper. That was what I thought, but how wrong was I?
The choir was my Open Sesame. The main sitting room would be ours to occupy, and the hymns would fill every vacuum in the building.
In every sense of the word, Prince Arthur is a wealthy man. His walls were beautified with different pictures he took with the presidents and world most powerful men on this planet. Almost every President of Nigeria has been a guest to this mansion. There are always a feast, merriment and cheerful hymns in that edifice. But most importantly, there are always uncountable people with different challenges whose problems are solved once they crossed that gate.
Arthur Eze is the Chief Executive of Oranto Petroleum and Atlas Petroleum International: a company that represents Nigeria’s largest privately-held exploration and production group. It has footprints across the African continent includes 22 oil and gas licenses. Nonetheless, affluence and a big showy lifestyle are a negligible component of his personality.
If the truth is not a tool we use selfishly, many of the people that write against Prince Arthur would have been singing a different song. As it stands today, no organization or individual has given more to Ndi Anambra than Prince Arthur Eze. This he does every passing day without inviting either the press or a record keeper. With undiluted facts, I will write with dates what I witnessed.
To Prince Arthur, being wealthy is all about the impact of the wealth on the people and society. He adopted, as a pledge, the saying that when one is gone to the land beyond, everything acquired on earth would remain on earth. This mind-set has sculpted him into a compulsive giver.
On that inauguration day, I didn’t leave the house till After-Five-O’clock. Prince Arthur Eze was with the choir for an hour or two; he sang and danced and read some verses from the hymn book.
When it was time to go, as I walked into the veranda, I saw something that halted me. On the chair outside the veranda, where the billionaire normally sat whenever his friends visited, were a frail woman and a boy with the elephantiasis of the leg.
I exhaled loudly; if money was all that’s needed, then this little innocent soul would be saved. Passing through that gate for uncountable people is a prayer answered. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to hear the woman’s story. I sat next to her, expressed my sympathy and asked her about the boy.
And this is a mother’s tale.
Episode 3 – A MOTHER’S STORY
I sat next to the woman, and behind us were Mr Innocent, a staff of Prince Arthur Eze, and some policemen that came with the Assistant Inspector General of the Police. The woman looked too young to be the mother of the boy, but she was. It took a while to get her talking; when she started, she couldn’t control the emotions.
Before her son’s issue started two years ago, her husband drove Keke: a commercial tricycle, and she owned a grocery store. This son of hers was a junior student in a secondary school. The elephantiasis started like an ordinary swell which the couple thought would disappear as it came, but it got bigger by day. This gave the mother a disturbing concern, and she took counsel from the patent medicine vendors.
Week after week, the swelling got worse. Her friends suggested that she took her son to the traditional doctors, and a traditional medical centre in Enugu was recommended. Every week, this woman took the boy to the centre; nothing positive happened. Every trip reflected on her store, and as weeks turned to months, her store became a ghost of what it used to be. It got to the extent that the couple started borrowing to save the life of their boy. Be it as it may, the odds kept winning as her son’s leg worsened.
This mother moved from one traditional medical centre to another; sought advice from friends and neighbours. A friend insinuated that her son’s ailment might not be ordinary: it could be that the boy stepped on a charm. While the husband did not agree, the woman was bent on saving his son’s life; hence, she started hopping from one prayer house to another. By this time, the leg was becoming as heavy as a trunk of a tree.
Within a year, the woman lost her store, and yet, her son didn’t get any better. Her other children started hawking wares to sustain their family and sometimes, this sick boy solicited publicly for alms. Things couldn’t get any worse, but there was no sign that she would find a respite. This continued until this February when a relative suggested she visited the hospital. Being open to the recommendation – yet, afraid that she of her financial status – she took her son to a Teaching Hospital.
After the first examination, a series of tests were prescribed, and all came at a fee. Poor mother, she fought hard enough to raise the fund but could not. In total disarray and still considering the next step to take, the Coronavirus pandemic hit the nation. The system became frozen, and in the lockdown, she watched as her son withered.
How she raised the money, she did not tell me, but when she returned to the Hospital in June, the tests were conducted, and the doctor proclaimed she came a little too late. The infection has spread throughout the boy’s leg and presently was threatening his genitals. If nothing was done urgently, and the scrotum got contaminated, it would be fatal. This urgent intervention would cost this lady a whopping six hundred and eighty thousand Naira.
Where would she start? Could anyone lend such an amount to this lowly woman? The new knowledge that the infection would consume her son placed her in constant fear.
Then in July, she heard that Prince Arthur Eze was in town, and decided to try her luck. She took with her the infected son. However, the crowd at the gate was something to worry about. At that gate, the hope of meeting the Prince started fading away. In deep frustration, she took her son to a corner and buried her thought in her despair. However, she forgot that one should not write off a day before dusk.
She was on the pavement when the billionaire’s convoy came to view. The convoy stopped very close to the mother and son, but her boy could not move before the crowd clouded the car. When the mighty gate was opened, and the compound swallowed the convoy, what was left of the woman’s hope disappeared.
‘I was thinking of how to go home with my son when this brother walked to me.’ She pointed at Mr Innocent who was talking with the police. ‘He asked if I and my son were together, and I answered: yes.’
She paused, stared at me for a couple of seconds before muttering: ‘He told me that Prince Arthur Eze wanted to see us.’
Episode 4 – NONE WAS LEFT BEHIND
Humans will always be humans. What happened two days ago reminded me of what no one should forget about human beings.
Two days ago, I wrote about Prince Arthur Eze, and a friend commented a mocker. The funny part of the drama was that this particular friend – without rendering any exclusive service – has cumulatively gotten nothing less than a million naira from Prince Arthur Eze. I have heard this friend sing the praises of Prince Arthur; there were days the crumbs from the Prince’s table sustained this young man. But we are warriors behind our smartphones. It is not a crime to bite the fingers that give us bread.
From the government house of Awka to the River Niger’s bank of Onitsha, no ground in Anambra State is untouched by the philanthropy of Prince Arthur Eze. Even within his three weeks stay in Ukpo – on the first Sunday, he did that which is peculiar to him.
It was the Thanksgiving service for the successful opening of the Zone 13 of the Nigerian Police Service in St Mary’s Anglican Church, Ukpo, Anambra State. In that 9 o’clock service were the traditional rulers of different communities in Anambra state, the members of Nigerian Police, friends of Prince Arthur Eze and a special guest, a Priest from the Catholic Church.
On that Sunday, there was a public feast in every church in Ukpo. Prince Arthur did not end at that, he made sure that every individual – from a day old baby to the man of the house – that attended the Sunday service both in Anglican and Catholic church went home with a sum of ten thousand Naira.
That wasn’t my first time of witnessing that.
In 2018, Prince Arthur Eze worshipped in All Saints’ Cathedral Onitsha: the largest gathering of the Anglican Communion in the east of the Niger. Wasn’t over a hundred million donated to the church on that Sunday? And every single individual in that church service – from the ignorant sucker to the nursing mother – got the sum of ten thousand Naira.
On my Facebook friend’s list are some of the Priests of All Saints’ Cathedral, and I didn’t say this happened a long time ago.
Immanuel Anglican Church, Umunnachi, my native mother church, is presently under construction. The first launching that kicked off the reconstruction of that church had Prince Arthur Eze as a special guest. In the congregation on that day were the wife of my younger cousin and her five kids. Prince Arthur did not just give fifty million Naira to my native church, none in my town that was present in the church left without a sum of ten thousand Naira.
My cousin’s house got sixty thousand Naira because Prince Arthur visited.
Prince Arthur Eze is not from my town, we are entirely another community. But who in Umunnachi could join the chorus of ‘What has Arthur Eze done in Anambra State?’ The civic centre that is presently enjoyed by the whole town would never forget that Prince Arthur Eze is the highest donor to that bride of the town. Again, the proposed library in Nagbana Umunnachi got millions of naira from this philanthropist.
He didn’t build a company in Umunnachi, he didn’t employ a thousand youths. However, Immanuel Anglican Church runs a nursery and primary school; the civic centre is where all the townsmen gather to discuss the progress of my town; the proposed library named after Mokwugwo Okoye is one project I pray would be completed soon. In all aforementioned, Prince Arthur gave mightily.
He didn’t build a company in my town, he invested in the faith organization, school, and library. He didn’t employ a thousand youths from my little town, he made sure we had a place where we deliberate on our progress.
I used three examples above for the following reasons: all are recent events, I was there in Ukpo and Onitsha, Umunnachi is my native town. I was the Master of the Ceremony the day Prince Arthur visited the Library site.
The first was Ukpo because my story is about what happened in this July. The second is Onitsha: this is the most important city in Anambra State and the land of my cradle. The third is Umunnachi, my native land.
Over a thousand friends on my list are from Onitsha and Umunnachi, and all I reported are less than three years old.
However, humans will always be humans. In this our time, to take a man’s reputation to the cleaners is one of the easiest things you could do. Find five people that have smartphones, keep them busy on writing over and again something emotional about a man. In less than two weeks of consistent writing, the target would be as worthless as a rag in a refuse dump.
Just a month ago, a reputable group nominate Mrs Ebelechukwu Obiano, the wife of the Governor of Anambra State, for an award. When they posted the nomination on a WhatsApp group, we the members of the group demanded evidence that Mrs Obiano’s nomination was not biased. This put the coordinator in a tight corner, and he shared with us their findings.
Episode 5 – NOTHING IS HIDDEN
My friend runs an organization that recognizes exceptional individuals in Anambra State. Among those recognized were great great teachers, researchers, historians, and Anambra indigenes that are on top of their careers. There was a time this organization flashed its light to the humanitarians in the state and I was among the reviewers. They did a wonderful work with their selections; however, conspicuously topping the list was Mrs Ebelechukwu Obiano, the wife of the State Governor. While we reviewed the list, her candidacy – mainly because of her position in the state – posed an obtrusion.
We argued that though not a constituted position, the office of the first lady cannot be divorced from the office of the governor. Therefore, rewarding a sitting First Lady in the category of philanthropism was as good as thanking an employee for paying his staff. That was a general opinion but the decision-makers in the organization wouldn’t back down. They made excuses for the First Lady. They established that she wasn’t a public officer, and our concern surrounding her position as the First Lady was emotional. They had seen what she accomplished: lives her organization touched.
With a plain mind, I pointed out that since she did the work with her allocation from the state government, her works should fit best into the civic responsibility than into the humanitarian category. The Director of the Organization cleared the air.
‘Mrs Ebelechukwu Obiano’ – as the Director of the Organization made us understand – ‘doesn’t depend on the public fund. We investigated that. She has been a humanitarian before her husband got to the lofty height, and presently, she identifies challenges within the state, assesses it, and reaches out to the private citizens of Anambra to raise the fund. Prince Arthur Eze is a major funder of the organization. It will be a great injustice if we omit the First Lady’s name.’
The director didn’t call a second name, he mentioned only one. (All the reviewers are my friends on Facebook. All of us are still alive till today, and possibly have some of our chats on this issue.) With all due respect, I find it so disturbing that the First Lady’s worshipers sing her praises in a breath, and in the same breath castigate her benefactor. None found it contradictory that rotten tomatoes can make a good stew.
Some years ago, I saw an online journal published by the Global Institute for Research and Education. The thesis was on Private Sector Partnership in the Development of Universities In Economically Challenged Context. For two major reasons, I saved the journal on my Google drive.
Firstly, the journal focused on Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka: my alma mater, and secondly, there was a name that appeared multiple times for his contribution to the development of my alma mater. That name that appeared more than once in that journal was Prince Engr. Arthur Eze.
The journal, which I would share with whoever that wants it, recorded that apart from Prince Arthur Eze’s contribution to the transportation of students, he built the main water project of Nnamdi Azikiwe University. He didn’t stop at that, Engr Arthur Eze singlehandedly funded the construction of Two Deep Giant GroundWater Boreholes for potable water supplies to the university.
This March, I attended the Doctoral Convocation Ceremony of my friends in Nnamdi Azikiwe and was so proud that the major entrance to the only Federal Institution in Anambra State is now Prince Engr Arthur Eze Way.
The joke is that some of the youths of Anambra state would prefer a hundred of thousand Naira pure water company to a multimillion Naira investment in a University water scheme. They would cheer Prince Arthur Eze if he gives out Keke for hire purchase but would not care how his freewill donation to the transport system of a University made learning easier.
Anambra youths are gradually losing the self-reliance value they are known for. Out there in the street are young people that could not own their shortcomings. While some ndi Anambra are waiting for Engineer Arthur Eze to build companies, they became blind to thousands of companies he builds every day.
Let me start with the story of the director of one of the fastest-growing Magazine in Anambra state.
EPISODE 6 – You can never know how good a man is until he is dead.
But woe be unto me if I wait till a good man is gone before wasting unnecessary eulogies.
There is an Igbo saying that goes like this:
Ndu Dike di adiro obodo mma,
Mana gbue dike, gbue dike,
Ubochi ogu achoba dike.
(The community never celebrates a warrior. Every member wants him dead. But on the battle day, they all look unto the warrior.)
Let me make something clear: if any information I have shared in the past few days are false, or if I claim to personally witness a story I made up, or if I am not convinced within me that a good man’s name is being dragged in the mud, let it be unto me a curse. However, if what I shared are nothing but the TRUTH, and I witnessed all I claimed to witness, and I believe that a good man’s name is being dragged, let the curse be upon any man or woman that maliciously or ignorantly attack this truth.
Many people think that Prince Arthur Eze knows me in person, hence, his goodwill towards me. Some of you still remember the video that captured myself dancing with Ozo-Igbo-Ndu. Let me make it clear: Prince Arthur Eze doesn’t know I exist. He neither has my phone number nor do I have his. I visited his house for the past ten years as a member of the choir. However, no individual has supported my work more than a man that doesn’t know me personally.
Something happened on Sunday, the 19th of July 2020 in Prince Arthur Eze’s house. I was with the choir when a crew from Explorer Magazine paid him a courtesy visit. The C.E.O of the magazine, Tobenna Obiano, is my good friend, and I had no prior knowledge of their visit. I joined the embassy that met Prince Arthur Eze, and that was my second time of meeting Prince Arthur Eze one-on-one in my lifetime – the first was in 2017.
When we met him in his sitting room, his staff, Arinze, was nearby to introduce us.
‘This is Anieto’s elder brother,’ that was how Arinze introduced me. My younger brother that leads the choir is known in the house as Anieto.
‘Elder brother,’ Prince Arthur exclaimed. ‘You don’t look like his elder. You don’t look bulky like him. I know your parents.’
He was still talking when Arinze cut in: ‘You have met him some years ago. You gifted him five hundred thousand naira.’
He smiled, took another glance at me, and said: ‘That is not what I will remember.’
He turned to the C.E.O of Explorer Magazine and told him that he looked familiar. Tobe introduced himself and retold his encounter with Prince Arthur Eze in faraway Europe.
Tobenna was brief with his story. It happened that he wanted to return to Nigeria but could not purchase his airfare. Fortune smiled at him when he accidentally met Prince Arthur Eze. That meeting solved the problem of this young man. Prince Arthur Eze, he confessed, made him Five thousand pounds richer.
To this story, Prince Arthur laughed softly as he shook his head. He has also forgotten. Because he doesn’t give with a mindset of receiving any favour, he saw someone who he believed needed the five thousand pounds, and he didn’t hold back. That same young man, today, has a company and employers.
Someone commented his disappointment that I focused on writing about Arthur Eze; however if I fail to share my own side of the story now that the media war is unleashed against one of the best humans alive, how would I appease my conscience?
I started Ajambele in 2017, I applied for Tony Elumelu Foundation Fund and was not shortlisted. That 2017, Prince Arthur Eze extended his large hand without expecting anything from me. He did that without knowing who I was.
If men are true to themselves, if we analyze what happens around us with a clear mind, the people of South East – Anambra State in particular – should know that no Foundation or Government program has provided more capital that could fund a start-up for the youths of Anambra State than Prince Arthur Eze. I, not even being close to him, can count on this platform more than fifty young people that has gotten over a million naira from Prince Arthur Eze. People he doesn’t personally know.
In all his imperfections, Prince Arthur Eze has been an answer to numerous prayers. Adaobi Okoye, a music teacher in a secondary school, shared with me her post-COVID-19 story. With her permission, I will share the story with you.
To Be Continued
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