IFEANYI UBAH: How I became a millionaire at 19
This piece offers a rare insight into the life of the Chairman, Capital Oil & Gas Ltd, Chief Ifeanyi Ubah. It presents the restlessness and vision of someone, who early considered his humble background as a box that should not determine how far he would go in life. In discussing the big moments leading to his prominence in the society, Uba believes certain defining decisions he made along the line could be useful for anyone.
I am from a humble background. It was very tough but God in his infinite mercy favoured me and it has been great so far. Sometimes, Ifeanyi Uba is highly misunderstood and people try to make the name look controversial. I thank God for his grace upon my life and I know that the blessings of God will get back to humanity. If someone who God has blessed forgets his people, God can take back the blessing. I am the son of a teacher. I was doing very well when I was growing up but at a point, I looked at my parents and I advised myself that I have to be more useful.
At the age of 17, I was already struggling to see how I can put food on the table. It is very important for people to aspire to be great in life but while aspiring to be great, they must have the fear of God. I am the first son of my parents, I have three elder sisters. I have always been known as someone who stands for the truth. When I was growing up, there was a day my mother was at loggerheads with my grandmother over who should harvest our breadfruit in the village, knowing very well that my grandmother had always been the one who harvested it and shared with others, my mother felt it was time for the harvesting responsibility to be passed on to her. To her surprise, I stood on the side of my grandmother and she was very embittered. She even labelled me a traitor. I explained to her that my grandmother played a very important role in the family, because without her, neither my father nor she would have been born into the Ubah family. That was how the responsibility of harvesting the fruit remained with her.
Disappointed and downcast
When I was young, I played a great deal of football as a goalkeeper both at school and in my community. On one occasion, I sneaked away from the house to play football at the camp. My parents began to search for me at home. When they did not see me, my father headed to the coach’s house where he found me. He angrily asked me if I could not stay at home and help with the chores. At the time, football was not as profitable and fashionable as it is now. My father angrily asked what I wanted to do. He asked if I wanted to go to school, learn a trade or play football. I told him that I preferred business. He was disappointed and downcast. He asked me if I expected him to tell his colleagues that a teacher’s son wants to become a street hawker. I told him not to worry that I would make him proud. Even though I could hustle to earn money independently, I just couldn’t see myself allowing my father to go through the stress of paying the school fees of my elder sisters, my younger ones and myself from his meagre salary. I took a decision so that we would not, in the end, go into farming to sustain our family. I felt it was time for me to step out and assist my parents.
I struggled hard. I left Nigeria at 19 and I became a millionaire when I bought my first car. At 20 , I became a dealer in liquid diamond at the Democratic Republic of Congo. At the time, I would go all the way to South Africa to sell my products. I made it so big that I started to charter an airplane. Along the way, I was heartbroken by the woman I wanted to marry, this made me angry and as God would have it, at 21, I met my wife and the same day I met her, I proposed to her. I told my parents that I wanted to get married.
Rich single man
They tried to discourage me, saying that I was still very young and that marriage should not be my priority. I explained to them the problems of being a rich single man and living in the DRC, with the associated dangers of loose women frolicking around me. In those days, DRC was known for Beer, Music and Women, BMW. With my explanation, they had no choice but to respect my decision to get married, to avoid me being distracted. Marriage was the only option to help me concentrate and focus. In all, I did not have the opportunity to enjoy the days of my youth as most people did. However, I don’t regret that, since God blessed me with a wonderful partner who has always been there for me, without whom I would not have achieved all that I have today. I don’t seek to have the whole world and lose my soul.
A solution to someone’s problems
For me, seeing people happy makes me happy. There is hardly any day of my life that I don’t attend to at least 10 people, ranging from my employees, to business partners, and aides among others. The fact that I can be a solution to someone’s problem gladdens my heart. Sometimes I stay without sleeping for three days. The grace of touching lives gives me extra joy. I also understand the ills of our society, as people tend to misuse opportunities. Thus I would want to work with the best brains, with people who have something to offer and not just people who want to live off me. I want to see how I can bring out the best in people who have something to offer, so as to make our society a better one. In the last 25 years of my life, I have lived the life of giving. It is a pity that in the world we live in today, people don’t understand what it means to take on a challenge.
Contract for anyone
I don’t see what one would be expecting from a game’s village we are building than where people can have leisure and exercise themselves. We need to make the games village a world tourism center in Anambra State. We need to engage our people in sporting activities and also use it to help ourselves and bring dividends to the country. We want to celebrate Anambra State again the way it is done in Delta State. Anambra has been leading in sports and won’t stop. There is no construction company in this state that has the kind of equipment we have at the construction site of the games village. I never did any contract for anyone in my life. This is solely our company’s project. But I thank God I was able to move them to the state and they are giving us lots of value in terms of logistics. So, we are jumping and rolling. We can’t wait to have a games village. The storm will soon be over. The people that love football will live to enjoy it. We are building a 200 self-contained suit for our team. We are going to have over 200 players. Whatever you see in Europe would be replicated here. So much is ongoing, and I am sure we are going to achieve that.
My political value is not only known in Anambra State but across the country. Our major task now is to take the YPP to other states in the South-East zone and beyond. I have fought for the interest of the Igbo all over the country. I have given so much to All Progressives Grand Allinace ,APGA, in the past including making sure that the party continues to exist. I want to represent the people of Anambra South in the Senate and I believe we will actualise it by the grace of God.
Youth and women empowerment, education and commerce remain my major areas of focus.