Enyinnaya Appolos has served Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State in diverse capacities, and is adjudged today as a successful young member of the Abia State Government.
What most people do not realize is that Appolos climbed the ladder of success from the very bottom. He was a motor mechanic, okada rider, book seller and nesppaer vendor as he trekked the path. In this interview, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media tells his success story to Jungle Journalist Magazine. Excerpts:
You assumed a larger than life personality before the 2015 elections and during your service as the CPS to the governor. Who really is Enyinnaya Apollos?
My name is Enyinnaya Emmanuel Ogadimma. This is my name and I am from Isiko in Obingwa Local Government Area of Abia State. I am a journalist.
Before I became a journalist in 2007, I was in the village, I was a village boy. I was born in 1980, and from then I lived in the village till 1998, when I left Isiko for the first time and joined my father who was then living in Port Harcourt. I went to primary school l at Umuhuabi Isiko Community Primary School, I went to a commercial school that is today no more in existence. It was a private school, and I don’t even know if it was government approved as at then. The school was called Learners Institute of Business Studies, and it was there I had my secondary education. Around 1997, when my friends in government secondary schools were preparing to write WAEC, I discovered that in my school, we knew nothing about it. So I was not happy about it. I became ashamed and angry, but I didn’t know that I could register for WAEC in any government approved school. I didn’t know.
Choosing a profession
I then told my parents that I will no longer go to school, that was in 1997. My mother supported me, she said that the importance of education is to read, write and speak English, and all of these I already know.
She said I was hardworking, and should stay in the village, and do farming with her. She added that I could go and learn bicycle repair works so that if I repair bicycles, I will then do farming. I loved her advice but my father who was then in Port Harcourt had a different plan for me. He came home, and said, ok, can you follow me to Port Harcourt so that you can attend Government Craft Centre, so that you learn building. I asked him, what is building? He said those who build houses. I said no, I want to be a driver.
My father was a professional driver with the Red Cross during the Biafran War. He drove all his life until he died in 2000. The argument whether to learn bicycle repairs and farm in the village, or going to Port Harcourt to learn building was my mum on one side and my dad on the other.
My father then said, as my son, you won’t be a driver like me. He wanted me to do welding, I said no. If I must learn a trade, I will learn motor mechanic.
My parents were illiterates, stark illiterates, but they understood that you have a right. After our arguments, they allowed me to have my way and I went to Port Harcourt with my father. So in January 1998, I didn’t start learning the mechanic I came for. My father said that I can’t just come to the city and begin to work immediately and I should stay at home and get used to the city first. So I will stay in the house, and my father will go to work. We were living at Nanka Waterside, and they were using wood to build the houses. I had some other relatives also living there. I was the kid among them, and since they wanted me to know the city, I started following one of them who hawked clothes materials around Port Harcourt. He used to carry the clothes around and I would follow. From childhood, I had always been a great singer, and was part of the youth ministry in the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
My father introduced me to one Mr Kingsley Okoro in our church, the church organist at the church on Nsukka Street, Diobu Port Harcourt. The church had a singing group called ‘The Harmonizers”. When I came, they co-opted me and made me a member of the group, so I joined and also joined the choir at the church, and at the Port Harcourt district. I also later joined the Rivers Conference Choir. I remember when the general president of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Pastor James Paulson came to Aba. He visited Port Harcourt, and I was a member of the Rivers conference choir that came to sing at that conference. So I have always been very active in the things of God. It got to a point when a lot of people thought I was going to become a pastor, including my mother.
I also became a literature evangelist of the church-people who sell books. Adventist Church is a book church, we were those propagating the second coming of Christ through books. I later discovered that the profit was not much. All these happened between 1998 and early 1999.
How I became a motor mechanic
By January 1999, my father said ok, you have stayed one year in Port Harcourt. Come and start learning the mechanic you came for. He took me to Elechi Beach in Port Harcourt, and I joined one Ahamefula, known as Amaco as an apprentice mechanic. I moved there in 1999. By January 2000, having spent one year in Amaco’s workshop, I was already uncomfortable, because in that workshop, we didn’t repair what you may call flashy cars. The only kind of cars that come there were taxis- Datsun, Sunny, all those rickety taxis. But when you come to the streets of Port Harcourt, you see all kinds of flashy cars. That led me to a place in D/Line Port Harcourt by Railway.
Rich mechanic or nothing!
There is one big mechanic workshop there owned by one Edet. They repaired those flashy and costly cars there. I came back and told my dad that I don’t want to learn work in Amaco’s place again, that I want to learn with Edet. Those jeeps, Honda Civic, modern cars, those were the kind of cars I wanted to repair. I just knew in my mind that the taxi we were repairing won’t help me in the future.
Without consulting my dad, I went to the man and told him I wanted to learn from him, and that I was already learning somewhere else and that I had spent one year there. He agreed and said I should go and bring my father, and come along with N40, 000. My father cannot afford N10, 000. That was in 2000. I went to my father and told him. He said, Enyia, there is no point in going there because I don’t have money. Mechanic is mechanic. Free from Amaco’s place then you can go elsewhere. I refused, and then told him that I wanted to go to school.
How a landlady rekindled my quest for education
Earlier, I had had an encounter in the workshop one day, the landlady of the yard came there one day. I was lying under a car absent-mindedly writing a letter to nobody. I didn’t know she was there, observing me. I have been taught how to write official and unofficial letters and I was just practising. She then asked me, who are you writing that letter to? I said I was just practising how to write official and unofficial letters. She asked me what an official letter is. I said it’s a letter with two addresses, while the unofficial letter is a letter with just one address.
She now said to me, ‘you are wasting your time here, you better go to school. That was the only thing she said. So when my father said there was no money for training at Edet’ s place, I just told him its school or nothing. That time I had no document. I met one of my friends, Mr Chinasa Ojum in the singing group and told him of my predicament. He said, the only thing you need to do now is to go to CAS. I said what’s CAS? He said , College of Arts and Science, and he said go there and do prelim. When you do your remedial studies, you can write WAEC and get admission. I said, fine. And I went to CAS. That was in 2000, and I lost my dad in June that year. I now came back to my dad and said that I was going to school. He won’t listen because it was something he could not imagine. My elder brother had left and moved to Bayelsa.
The illegal okada rider
He left his motorcycle behind, and when my father said that he can’t help me, which is the truth because he earned very little, I took my brother’s bike, RX 125 and would enter the road every evening when tax force had retired as an okada man. That was what I was doing when my father died.
Dad’s death, me, and my God
I was in College of Arts and Science when my father died. His death was a very eye-opening experience, in the sense that it taught me how to live life for myself, an independent life. His death strengthened me, and made me to begin struggling for myself. It made me to realize that truly, it’s now between me and my God, nobody else.
After dad’s burial, I returned to Port Harcourt and completed my programme. By September that year, I wrote WAEC, my first WAEC, external WAEC.
Luckily for me, before the death of my father, my brother had rented a house at No 8 Nanka Street, my father was living in Nanka Waterside, we were all living there.
First WAEC, first shocker
When my brother got that apartment, we all moved to that place. Mind you that my brother had moved to Bayelsa. I wrote that WAEC and made parallel F. The only subject I had C was Christian Religious Knowledge. That was my first attempt on WAEC. That didn’t deter me. So since I couldn’t go to school then, I returned to Port Harcourt and started hustling again.
I will never ride okada again
I began to do okada in the evenings and every Sunday. Then I had one remarkable experience in 2001. I was flying down with my okada along Woji Road in GRA Port Harcourt. There is a popular bar called Chess Bar. While I rode down, one vehicle just came out of the road, and knocked down the okada man right in my front. The experience hit me, ‘this could be me o’, I thought. I returned and said I will never ride okada again, assuming I was the one?
First peek into the media
Then I went to my uncle who distributed newspapers and told him of my experience, and told him I don’t want to do okada again. I told him I wanted to begin distributing newspapers, and he said no problem. That was how I became a newspaper vendor from year 2001. As a newspaper vendor, I registered a private class to prepare for another WAEC exams. I registered for NECO, and registered for WAEC. I went to Elele for the registration. While I sold newspapers, I was also studying for the exams. My NECO came out and I had five credits including Mathematics, English. It was only Government that I didn’t have a C. By 2003, I wrote JAMB to read Mass Communications at University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I also wrote POLYJAMB, and applied for same course in Okopoly.
The Eziuche Ubani Twist
I didn’t know about any course in life. All I knew was that there were doctors and lawyers and engineers. I had this mindset that lawyers are never going to make heaven, because I grew up from the Adventist background and was influenced by the things we heard in the village.
Then there is this man in my village, Eziuche Ubani who was already a successful journalist. I now said that whatever made Dee Eziuche successful is what I will do. They said he is a journalist, and that if I want to become a journalist, then I must study Mass Communications. I was already selling newspapers, and was already in the circle of Mass Communications as a circulator of the mass media.
WAEC came out 2002, and I wrote to get admission in 2004. So POLYJAMB came out before UNIJAMB, and I had four Cs, and needed five to gain admission. When POLYJAMB came out, I completely forgot about the UNIJAMB and just pursued it. I didn’t need to wait for Nsukka. By September 2003, I went to Oko, Anambra State for the first time.
My first visit to ‘Aso Rock’
When I got there and asked for where to process my admissions, they said, ‘go to Aso Rock’. Where is Aso Rock? Is it not Abuja?, I wondered. I didn’t know that was the admin block. I now went straight to the place called Aso Rock. I walked straight to the building and I met two ladies. They were doing one year IT (Industrial Training) in the school. They told me that admissions have started for ND. They took me to the Librarian. When he saw my POLYJAMB result, he liked it and now wrote to HOD of Mass Communications, ‘consider the applicant for admission’. I remember that was what he wrote. But when he saw four Cs in my O Level, he cancelled what he wrote and said, ‘go to Ufuma. I didn’t know what it was. I asked one of the ladies, ‘what is Ufuma?’ She said its the pre-ND campus. I said I will go and she said it was late to go then. She took me to one brother’s house and I slept there for the night.
I went to Ufuma, processed admissions, and joined them for lectures. That was the beginning of my journey into the media world.
After that exercise, I returned to Port Harcourt, and prepared myself. Then I told my brothers I was leaving for school. That was how I returned to Oko.
So I did one year pre-ND in Library and Information Science because there was no pre – ND for Mass Communication. I spent that one year just to remedy one C missing from my O’level.
By the time my results came out, I was already qualified. I didn’t write JAMB, and I didn’t know that 80 percent of those who were at Ufuma had gone for JAMB that year. I didn’t know. No one told me and I was relying on the fact that I was coming to Oko from there to study Mass Communication.
Another step towards El Dorado
When we were finally done at Ufuma by 2004, we all came to Oko. They said they were taking JAMB first, and would take 100 admissions into ND 1. I saw that majority of us there were coming for JAMB. My name was not in first and second batch but I was lucky that in the third batch, my name came out.
Before admission, I was so sure of admissions that I went and rented a house.
I heard that people were paying so much to get that admission. The truth was that there was even no money for me to pay if I had to pay.
Aluta from Day 1
After I had waited this long, I went to my Literature teacher Mr Umeobi and told him my name was not there. He said he could not help me and told me to go to Deputy Rector’s office.
I went there with a protest letter. Imagine me writing a protest letter that I have not been admitted after I made my result from Ufuma.
When I got there, he almost intimidated me by sounding aggressive. I stood my ground and explained to him my predicament. He looked at my file, and took my documents and put inside one file.
When the third list came out and my name wasn’t there, I rushed to him again. He then said it was a fake list. It was the list manufactured by those who were paid money to. He was the one who told me it was a fraudulent list and was not from the rector.
He opened that same file and showed me my name. So when the list came, I had my name on the list.
The weekly hustle for school fees
From the stories I have told you, you will see that it will be a difficult thing for me to succeed. There was this elder in our church, Elder Christian Elemile. I ran to him in Port Harcourt and pleaded with him. My elder brother, Mr Chibuike Appolos had raised some money for me.
That same year, my immediate younger brother got admission in University of Uyo, and the attention of the entire family was on him. It was from him that the family wanted to start training people in school. We were six boys in the family. Elemile gave me N10, 000 in 2004 and I was able to pay some fees with what both of them gave me. I then came to the reality and every Friday, I traveled to Port Harcourt, worshiped on Saturday and sold newspapers every Sunday.
All throughout my ND days, I traveled every weekend to Port Harcourt to sell papers.
As a newspaper vendor, you make more money on Sunday than any other day of the week. You know why? On Sundays, offices are shut down. Those who do supply to offices don’t do and everybody comes to the streets to buy papers. There are also a lot of people, and I stay in GRA where the rich people live.
For that reason, I miss my classes every Monday because I will leave Port Harcourt on Monday morning, enter vehicle at Ngwa Road, Adam and Eve or Jenco going to Ekwulobia. By the time I get there, of course Monday lectures are over. So I will start on Tuesday till Friday and after lecture in the afternoon, I will travel.
But one thing stood out for me in all of these-my resoluteness to succeed and my strong belief in God to help me. I saw my father as my only helper until he died and I realized that I had no one else but God.
From industrial attachment to full-fledged reporter
By 2006, I was done with my OND, and I now headed for my one year industrial attachment. I did that at Nation Newspapers. I didn’t know I was doing well until my editor, Mr Gabriel Akinadewo, the political editor told me that I was doing well. He told me that a new newspaper was coming up in 2008, when I was supposed to return to school. He said if I like, I should join him. I agreed, because I was already contemplating- who is going to help me? Am I going to continue going to Port Harcourt to sell papers? I was not able to save money because I was told they don’t pay IT students in the Nation, and I accepted.
I was covering politics and it was a political era and I was going from one press conference to another.
But I later discovered that they were paying IT students money. He now pushed for me and they started paying me from September.
By 2008, Mr Gabriel left Nation and moved to Compass Newspaper. That was how I moved to Compass. That was how I was gainfully employed for the first time as a journalist. There, I was a political reporter. Because I always loved journalism, because I was looking up to Eziuche Ubani who by my own standard was a very successful journalist, I didn’t see any distraction, and didn’t see any danger ahead.
Two steps to Okezie Ikpeazu
By 2010, I officially moved to Abuja, and by 2011, 12, when Compass was unstable, I left Compass and joined a new paper coming on, The Union. In my life as a journalist, I have never worked in an established platform. I have always been a pioneer staff, except for when I did my IT in The Nation. When I joined Compass, it was a virgin platform. When I joined Union, it was a fresh platform too.
The dying media industry
But the sad thing about the whole story is that both of these platforms have stopped publishing now, and this is an aspect I don’t feel happy about. Compass was the first newspaper that bought cars for line editors, editors, and all of that, with good salary, yet it’s gone. I joined Union, another newspaper that paid so well. Today, that paper is not publishing. But I left Union and Compass before each stopped publishing. I didn’t die with any of them.
First step into political journalism
By February 2014, I officially resigned from Union to join Dr Okezie Ikpeazu in his governorship ambition. It was a hard decision I had to take, and I needed three people to consult- myself, my wife and my editor-in-chief, Mr Emma Agu. He gave me all the support and told me that if Dr Ikpeazu didn’t get the ticket, come back and take your job. Luckily, we got the ticket, the rest is history.
Serving my dear governor and my lovely Abia State
When we came to power in 2015, I was the PA and media assistant to the governorship candidate, so when we won election, I also didn’t aspire for any office. I have never asked for any office in my life. All the offices I have held just came to me. I moved from PA to governorship candidate, PA to governor elect, and PA to governor. I did that for one year and was appointed Chief Press Secretary, on 13th June 2016.
I was Chief Press Secretary until May 29, 2019. Then after swearing in, I was appointed Special Adviser Media.
In the Okezie Ikpeazu kitchen cabinet, I have been the only one that held three offices. others have been very relevant and retained their offices where they have been. I was the very first aide of Okezie Ikpeazu, I came before every other person. I must give thanks to the glory of God and appreciate my principal for finding me worthy to enjoy the privilege he has given me to work with him up till this very moment.