On Wednesday, 10th September, 1980, a male child was born to the family of Late Pa Appolos Abakwuo Odingwa and Mrs Juliana Appolos, of Olobawa kindred, Isiko Village, Obi Mgboko Mbu Autonomous Community, Obingwa Local Government Area, Abia State, Nigeria.
The child- Enyinnaya Emmanuel Appolos, is the 4th child in the family of 7 siblings- six men and one woman.
I grew up in Isiko. Isiko is a boundary village in Obingwa. Isiko, an agrarian village shares borders with the people of Nto Edino in Akwa Ibom State. It also shares boundaries with the people of the following Ngwa villages: Umuhuaba, Umuokahia, Umuanunu and Ekwereazu Ngwa villages. Major occupations of Isiko people is farming and trading. Isiko is largely a home of very courageous and fearless persons who have distinguished themselves in their various chosen careers, either as teachers, engineers, civil and public servants and of course, journalists, traders and farmers.
My father was a driver and a part-time subsistent farmer. During the Nigerian-Biafran war, he worked with Red Cross Society as a driver. He remained a driver until he was called to rest at the age of 81 in the year 2001. He lived in Port Harcourt, where he worked as a driver. He comes home every weekend to his wife and children. Despite that my father lived in the city, my siblings and I lived with our mother in the village, helping in the family subsistence farming, while we also go to school, primary and secondary, in Isiko and nearby villages.
Both my father and mother were born in polygamous homes in Isiko and Umuopra Egbelu villages. While My father was one of many children of a polygamist, Late Odingwa Isiguzo of Olobawa in Isiko, my mother is born the first child of late Pa Richard Ojinka Nwoko, another polygamist, and his wife Late Jenny Ojinka of Umuebere kindred, Umuopara Egbelu all of Obi Mgboko Mbu Community, Obingwa.
I attended Umuhuaba/Isiko Community Primary School, where I obtained my First School Leaving Certificate in 1993. For my secondary education, I attended Learners Institute of Business Studies, a privately owned commercial school, in Umuanunu village, near Isiko.
In 1997, While in Senior Class 5 (SS2), I took a personal decision to quit school. I took the decision when I discovered my school- Learners Institute of Business Studies, was not a government school.
By then, my friends in government secondary schools were preparing to write senior West African Examination Council (WAEC). My action was completely taken out of ignorance and lack of information because I didn’t know that I could register for WAEC in any government school, even while at the commercial school.
I am married to my wife. Ozioma Enyinnaya Appolos. I don’t believe in White wedding. So ozioma and I had our traditional marriage on 26th December, 2012. My wife and I have been married for 8 years by December 26th this year 2020.
My parents are Christians. As at the time I was born, they were members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and have remained till date. I was dedicated to God as a child three months after birth at the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Isiko. I was baptized as a member of the church at the age of 17, precisely in year 1997.
From childhood, I chose to be dedicated to things of God. I have been a chorister from childhood. I sang in children church choir, district youth choir and later district senior choir in Ekwereazu Ngwa District of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. When I later left Isiko for Port Harcourt to live with my father, he was worshiping at Mile One branch of the Seventh-day Adventist Church located at No 38 Nsukka Street, Mile One Diobu Port Harcourt. When I arrived Port Harcourt in January 1998, my father introduced me to Mr. Kingsely Okoro. Okoro was the church keyboardist and one of the choirmasters. He was also the leader of a singing group called The Harmonizers, in the church. My father told him to admit me as a member of the singing group and in the choir. I became a member of The Harmonizers and the Mile One Church choir also. I later joined the Port Harcourt District Choir. I also joined the Rivers Conference Choir. I remember when one of the past Presidents of the Seventh Day Adventist church, Pastor Jan Paulson visited Nigeria from America, I was a member of the Rivers Conference choir that came to Aba to welcome him. I have always been very active in the things of God in the church.
I also was a Literature Evangelist of the church. Literature Evangelist are those propagating the gospel of the second coming of Jesus Christ through selling/ sharing of literatures. Many of us who were Literature Evangelists then, are Pastors in Seventh-day Adventist Church today. One of them is Pastor Monday Onyekwere. At a point a lot of people thought I was going to become a pastor, including my mother.
Leaving Isiko for Port Harcourt
My decision to quit school at SS2 was received with cheers by my mother. Base on her level of civilization and exposure, She supported my decision and asked me to go and learn how to repair bicycle.
Her plans was for me to remain in the village with her as a bicycle repairer and a farmer. As far as my mother is concerned, the importance of education is nothing but to learn how to read, write and speak English. And by her assessment, I was qualified.
When my father heard of my decision to dump school, he frowned at it. He said, instead of staying in the village to become a bicycle repairer, that I would go with him to Port Harcourt, where he wanted to send me to a Government Craft Centre in Port Harcourt. His wish was for me to become a bricklayer.
I refused both offers from my parents, to be either a bicycle repairer or a bricklayer. I told them I wanted to be a driver.
My father didn’t buy the idea of me becoming a driver. By January 1998, he took me to Port Harcourt.
My father lived in Diobu area of the Garden City. He lived at Nanka Waterside in Mile One Diobu Port Harcourt. The waterside area is usually the end of most streets in Diobu, houses there are usually batcher. Waterside is an abode largely for the poor and wretched.
When we arrived in Port Harcourt, my father said that I needed to know the town so he decided that I should be following him to work. He was then working as a driver with a Block Moulding Company in Mile 3 area of the town.
One afternoon, we were returning to office in Mile 3 from Ukwujiagu area, where we had gone to bring sharp sand for the block moulding firm, while in the truck, my father called and said to me; as my son, I will never deceive you, listen to me as your father. Becoming a professional driver like me will not take you to anywhere in life. I have been a driver all my life and I understand what it’s all about. You won’t be a driver like me. Instead, you will go and learn how to repair cars as a motor mechanic. Even if you decide to become a driver in the future, then you know you have something added to it.
Though my parents were stark illiterates, but they understand the power of communication. They also understand that every child has a right, that the parents should guide. My father, without making much argument, and without forcing it on me, got me to accept going into the mechanic garage as an apprentice.
A Failed Motor Mechanic Apprentice
By January 1999, after I had lived one year in Port Harcourt, my father said; you have stayed one year in town, by now you should know your way around town, so it’s time to face the reason you’re in Port Harcourt. Unknown to me that my father had made enquiries where I would be trained as a motor mechanic. He took me to Elechi Street in Diobu of Port Harcourt, and introduced one Mr. Stanley Okocha, also known as Amaco. Amaco was one of the best Mechanics in the area.
Fortunately for me, Amaco hails from Obingwa like me. He is from Akpaa Mbato community in Obingwa LGA. He took me more like his younger brother, though there were three of us, as apprentice with him; namely Chigozie, the most senior, followed by Okechukwu and myself the last apprentice.
By January 2000, after I had spent one year in Amaco’s mechanic workshop, I became uncomfortable with myself and was worried about my future in the mechanic business because we don’t repair what I called ‘flashy’ cars. The kind of cars that we repair were mostly taxis like: Datsun Sunny, Nissan, Opel, Toyota Corona, all those rickety old taxis you will see along Mile-one, Mile 2 especially those plying Iloabuchi road.
But on the streets of Port Harcourt, you see all kinds of flashy cars and jeeps (SUVs) so I decided to dump Amaco workshop and go elsewhere where I can learn how to repair flashy cars and SUVs. That led me to a place in D/Line area of Port Harcourt where I found a good mechanic workshop by the Railway. The Workshop is owned by one Mr. Edet. It was a very big workshop where big men and companies bring their cars for repairs.
So I went to make enquiries at Mr. Edet’s Mechanic workshop in D/Line without my father’s consent. When I came back and told my father that I don’t want to continue learning the work at Amaco’s place, I told him I’ve found a place in D/Line where I would prefer. I tried to convinced him that at Mr. Edet’s place they repair jeeps and modern cars. My father didn’t say anything.
Without consulting my dad, I went to Mr. Edet 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 (Forty thousand naira only). I went back to my father and told him. He said, Enyia, there is no point going there because I don’t have money. Mechanic is mechanic. Free from Amaco’s place first then you can go elsewhere, and work as a workman, they pay you and you learn more.
At that point I told him that I wanted to go to school, and was not interested in mechanic anymore. He reminded me that I left school in the village on my own decision.
Before then, I had an encounter in Amaco’s workshop with the landlady of the workshop. One day, there was no work in the workshop so I went under a parked car where we usually go to rest whenever there is no work in the shop. While lying under the parked car, I brought a pen and paper I had on me and began to write a letter to nobody. I didn’t know the landlady was observing me. I have been taught how to write official and unofficial letters at Learners Institute of Business Studies, Umuanunu.
As I was just practicing what I was taught in school. She asked me, who are you writing that letter to? I said nobody. I told her I was just practicing what I was taught in school, 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 then said to me: “you are wasting your time here, you better go to school.“ That was the only thing she said and walked away.
So when my father said there was no money for training at Edets place, I just told him it is school or nothing. That time the only certificate I have was my First School Leaving I obtained at Umuhuaba/Isiko community primary school.
I went to a friend of mine, Mr. Chinasa Ojum, he was my close friend in our singing group and choir in church. I told him of my predicament. He said, “the only thing you need to do now is to go to RivCAS”. I said what is RivCAS? He said , Rivers State College of Arts and Science, Rumuola. He said: “go there for remedial and preparatory studies, then you can write WAEC and get admission into the University.” I said, fine. That was how I went to RivCAS in 2000, with hope of writing necessary exams in year 2001.
My father’s death and obvious reality
By May 2001, while I was still at RivCAS, my father began to have health challenges. A chronic cough was troubling him. I was the only one with him in Port Harcourt. My father complained severely about the severe cough and his deteriorating health to me, and told me he would go back to the village, as his health failed him and he couldn’t drive again. He left Port Harcourt in May 2001, unfortunately died in June 2001 and was buried on August 9th 2001.
Before then, my elder brother, Chibuike Appolos, who was with us in Port Harcourt, has left to Bayelsa State and opened his Automobile Electrician workshop there. When he was leaving Port Harcourt, he left his motorcycle Rx125 (Okada) for me. Before leaving for Bayelsa, Chibuike had left my father’s one room batcher house in Nanka Waterside were all of us lived, and rented a room apartment at No. 80 Nanka Street. So I had two accommodations in Nanka, one room at No 80 and my father’s room at the Waterside.
A failed okada man
After the burial of my father, I returned to Port Harcourt alone to conclude my program at RivCAS. I was then living at No 80 Nanka. I will go to school with the Okada in the morning, and in the evening, around 4pm when the Rivers State Government Okada task-force must have closed, I will enter the road with the Okada to carry passengers to make money to pay my bills since I was alone then in Port Harcourt. That was how I survived in Port Harcourt after the death and burial of my father, and since I couldn’t come to the village to stay with my mother and to farm, I had to face the obvious reality.
First WAEC, first shocker
I completed my remedial studies at RivCAS by September 2001 and sat for WAEC external exams. The result was not good enough. The bad result I got didn’t deter me. Since i couldn’t go to school the year after the failed result, I remained in Port Harcourt and started hustling again to make ends meet and to prepare to go to school.
Unforgettable okada experience
After failed attempt to WAEC in 2001, I returned to Okada in January 2002. Then I had an unforgettable experience that made me quit Okada. I was on the move with my okada along Woji Road in GRA Port Harcourt, around a popular bar, called Chess Bar. An accident happened. A vehicle knocked down an okada man right in my front. While the okada man was lying in the pool of his own blood, crying for help, and the vehicle drove away, I tried chasing after the vehicle but it sped off, it joined Abacha road, connected Ikwere road and disappeared. That experience hit me so hard. And I said to myself; this could have been me. When I returned to the accident scene the Okada man had been taken away, and I saw his blood on the road. Immediately, I returned home and vowed never to ride okada again.
A successful newspaper vendor
When I got home after the unforgettable okada accident experience, I then ask myself what would I do again. I contemplated going back to Amaco mechanic place, but something in me refused. Going back to Isiko was never an option. Then I went to my uncle, Dee Elijah Ojinka, who is a newspaper distributor in Port Harcourt. After sharing my experience with him, he understood because he was also an Okada man at some point.
I told him I wanted to join him in newspaper distribution, and he said no problem. That was how i became a newspaper vendor. My uncle took me to one Mr. Ahmed and introduced me to him and begged him to give me newspapers to go and sell on the road. My uncle also took me to Woji Road in GRA by Everyday Supermarkets. That was where I sold newspapers as a vendor.
While selling newspaper, I registered for an evening private class to prepare for another WAEC exams. I also registered for the 2002 November/December WAEC. It was that year that NECO started external (November/December), I registered both exams. After selling newspapers from the morning to afternoon, in the evening I go for my preparatory studies for my exams. My NECO result came out first and I had four credits including Mathematics and English. It was only Government that I didn’t have a Credit. By 2003, I registered and wrote JAMB and applied for Mass Communications at University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I also wrote POLYJAMB, and applied for same course at Federal Polytechnic Oko, (Okoploy) Anambra State.
Back to school
With my NECO result, I wrote both JAMB and Poly-JAMB in 2003 with hope of going to school in 2004. POLYJAMB came out before UNIJAMB, I had a good score that could give me admission because all I wanted was to go to school and I don’t care whether it was university or polytechnic. When POLYJAMB came out, I completely forgot about the UNIJAMB and just pursued admission at Okoploy. By September 2003, I went to Oko, Anambra State for the first time.
First visit to ‘Aso Rock’
When I got to Oko Campus of the Polytechnic, and asked for where to process admissions, someone I met at the gate said, ‘go to Aso Rock’. Where is Aso Rock? I asked myself. Before then, I only know about the Aso Rock in Abuja, which I read as where the President lives. But then, I didn’t know that the administrative building of Oko Polytechnic is called ‘ASo Rock’. I went straight to the place called Aso Rock. I walked straight to the building and I met two ladies. My later enquiries about them made me understand they had finished their ND from the school and were doing one year IT in the school. The ladies I met looked very responsible. Their decent dressing told their story. One of them Margret, became my destiny helper as far as my getting admission in Oko polytechnic was concerned.
Margret told me that admissions have started for ND. When I told her I was coming from Port Harcourt and had no one, she offered to help me. She took me to the School Librarian then. When the Librarian saw my POLYJAMB result, he liked it and wrote a note for the HOD of Mass Communications, asking the HOD to consider me for admission’. But when he saw my O’leve result that I have four Credits in my NECO , he cancelled what he wrote and said, ‘go to Ufuma.’ I didn’t know what Ufuma was. I asked Margret, ‘what is Ufuma?’ She said its the pre-ND campus.
We left the Librarian’s office and Margret said, will you go to Ufuma? I said yes I will go. She said it was late to go then. She took me to her lodge and begged one male student, she called Zimuzo, to allow me sleep in his house and she told my story of admission to him. Zimuzo pitied me and told me to be strong. I slept in Zimuzo’s house for the night.
The next day, Margret took me to the Chaplin of Chapel of Transfiguration in Okopoly and introduced me to him and shared my experience with him. He asked if I am a born again, without knowing much about me, Margret said yes and told him it was important I go to Ufuma to process my Pre-ND admissions, and joined them for lectures.
Luckily for me, the Chaplin was going to the Ufuma Campus that day, so I joined him. I will never forget deplorable condition of Oko -Ufuma road then, before Governor Chris Ngige fixed it. When we got there he helped me a great deal in processing my admission. Then I realized I was late because lectures have started and students were in school. 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 went to Oko.
So I did one year pre-ND in Library and Information Science because there was no pre – ND for Mass Communication at Ufuma campus. By the time my results came out, I was already qualified to read Mass Communication. After the pre-ND studies, I was admitted to read Mass Communication and graduated in 2006, and I became a holder of the National Diploma certificate in Mass Communication.
Funding my education
From the stories so far, it was clear that funding was going to be a major issue for my education. But God was ever ready to help a needy like me. God provided destiny helpers. But my two elder brothers did their very best. My mother and sister Made sure I never lacked garri and other food stuffs she could provide from Isiko. There was an elder in our church in Mile one, Elder Christian Elemele, he also helped me.
Weekly hustling for school fees
I never relied only on the support of my elder brothers and those who offered to help me. So I continued my business as a newspaper vendor in Port Harcourt, even as a Mass Communication undergraduate at Okoploy. Every Friday, I returned to Port Harcourt from Oko, after church on Saturday, I sold newspapers on Sunday, and return to school in Oko on Monday. All throughout my ND days, I traveled every weekend to Port Harcourt to sell newspapers.
As a newspaper vendor, I make more money selling papers on Sunday than any other day of the week. You know why? On Sundays, offices are shut down. Those who do newspaper supplies to offices don’t do supply, and everybody come to the streets to buy newspapers from vendors.
For that reason, I missed all my lectures every Monday at school, because I will leave Port Harcourt every Monday morning for Aba to enter vehicle at Ngwa Road, either Adam and Eve Motors, or Jenco transport going to Ekwulobia. By the time I get to school, of course Monday lectures would have been over. So I only go to lectures Tuesday to Friday and after lectures on Friday in the afternoon, I will travel to Port Harcourt for ‘business’.
In all of these, God was there for me at all times. And I had great determination to do my best. Though 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 left for Lagos for my one year industrial attachment. A lot of my friends applied to do the one year IT in banks. The banks were paying well and the money was important. But I refused to do mine in bank and insisted I will do mine in a newspaper house. I arrived Lagos on Monday January 22nd 2007, not knowing anyone personally, in any newspaper house in Lagos. The only contact I had were phone numbers of some columnists I saw on some newspaper back-page. Some of the columnists usually write their phone numbers on their columns. That was how I got the phone number of Mr. Sam Omatseye of the Nation Newspaper. When I arrived Lagos, I called him and told him I wanted to do my one year IT with The Nation Newspaper, and he gave me appointment to see him in his office on Wednesday 24th January 2007, at 27b Fatai Atere way, Matori Lagos. That was the address he gave me and I found the place through Ladipo.
When I got to his office he interviewed me and asked what beat I would like to cover, I said Politics. He later took me to The Nation’s newsroom and introduced me to the Group Political Editor, Mr. Gabriel Akinadewo. Mr Omatseye said to Mr. Akinadewo, “Mr. Politics editor, this man here will stay with us for one year. He is coming from the Federal Polytechnic Oko, he has interest in political reporting.” That was my ‘initiation’ into a national newspaper newsroom. Though I had my 4 month IT with The Tide Newspaper, a Rivers State Government owned platform in Port Harcourt, but coming to The Nation Newspaper’s newsroom was a dream come through.
Immediately Mr. Akinadewo gave me assignment to cover a protest rally by members of National Conscience Party (NCP) at INEC office in Yaba, that was at the buildup of the 2007 general election. So I was lucky to have come into the newsroom as a political reporter in an election year, that helped me a great deal in shaping my reportorial and journalism career. The period was also helpful economically.
By December 2007, when I was about concluding my one year IT, My Boss, the Group politics editor, Mr. Akinadewo told me that I’ve done well as an IT reporter and he encouraged me to either continue if I don’t wish to return to Oko for my HND. He told me that a new newspaper was coming up in 2008, and said if I am interested, I should join him because he was going to be part of the new platform. I agreed, because I was already contemplating- who is going to help me if I return for HND. Wondering if I was going to continue going to Port Harcourt to sell papers every Friday to sustain myself and rely on others to pay my bills in school. So I decided to go with my boss.
By 2008, Mr. Gabriel left The Nation and moved to Nigerian Compass Newspaper. That was how i also moved to Compass, and became gainfully employed for the first time as a journalist as a political reporter. Because I always loved journalism, because I was looking up to Eziuche Ubani and because I have a boss in Mr. Gabriel and later Mr. Dotun Oladipo, who gave me rooms to explore, and become a successful journalist, like them, I didn’t see any distraction, and didn’t see any danger ahead. All I saw was success ahead. And God crowned my efforts.
By 2010, I officially moved to Abuja Bureau of the Nigerian Compass. While in Abuja, I covered the judiciary beat and later posted to the National Assembly. Working as a journalist in Abuja opened my eyes and also opened doors for me.
By 2011, 2012, when Nigerian Compass became unstable, I left the platform and joined The Union. The Union was also a new platform. In my life as a journalist, I have always had the opportunity of been a pioneer staff, except for when I did my One year IT in The Nation. When I joined Compass, it was a virgin platform. When I joined The Union, it was a fresh platform.
Copying Eziuche Ubani
I didn’t know anything about journalism or mass communication until I became a newspaper vendor. But I know there is someone in my village who was a newspaper writer, he is a journalist and writes for a newspaper in Lagos, he is Mr. Eziuche Ubani. By then, Eziuche had worked with several Newspapers in Lagos and was then Special Adviser on Media to Rt. Hon. Ghali Umar Na’Abba, the Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2003. When Eziuche didn’t win election to represent Ob1ingwa/Ugwunagbo/Osisioma Federal Constituency in 2003, and his boss also didn’t return to the House, Eziuche returned to Thisday Newspaper newsroom as Editor-at-Large, and he began to write the famous EziucheUbani on Friday Thisday back page column. He later won election in 2007 to represent Obingwa/Ugwunagbo/Osisioma Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. He spent two terms of 8 years from 2007 to 2015.
Mr. Eziuche Ubani is a successful and fearless journalist. And as a newspaper vendor I enjoyed reading him and also selling his products. So he influenced my choice of career in going into journalism. So I became a journalist because there was an Eziuche Ubani from Isiko that is successful in journalism.
Amb Raph Uwaechue, a destiny helper
My financial breakthrough came with my meeting late Amb. Raph Uwaechue. As a journalist, I have serious interest in anything that concerns Ndigbo and our people. This made me to be close to Ohaneze Ndigbo and it’s politics from the days of late Dr Dozie Ikedife as President-General.
The turning point in my life as a journalist, financially, was in 2010 when I encountered Amb Raph Uwaechue. In 2010, the Late Uwaechue was the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
One evening, in 2010, Dr Ikedife, who had handed over to Amb. Uwaechue called me on phone and complained about certain decisions of the Uwaechue leadership in the Pan Igbo Socio-cultural organization, about the 2011 presidential elections in Nigeria. Dr Ikedife, who was on his way to the United Kingdom when he called me, wanted me to publish what he said. I accepted to publish him, and told him that I will publish his side of the story, not until I’ve heard from Amb uwaechue. He said ok, and gave me Amb. Uwaechue’s phone number. Immediately I called Amb. Uwaechue to get his reaction to what his predecessor said about his decision in Ohanaeze.
Amb Uwaechue said to me. I don’t know you and I can’t talk to you on phone. If you want to get my side of what Ikedife said, you must come to the African House in Ogwashi Ukwu in Delta State.
I have not been to Ogwashi before then, and the story before me was a good developing story I must follow up to get the details, and if I must get the details, I must get to Ogwashi because Amb. Uwaechue wouldn’t talk to me on phone. I called my Editor, Mr. Gabriel, who was the Weekend Editor in charge of the two weekend titles of the NIGERIAN Compass, and told him about the situation. He said, Appolos, that is a good crossfire story. Go to Ogwashi Ukwu immediately and get Uwaechue’s interview and write a crossfire story, with interview for the Saturday Compass.
I left Lagos for Ogwashi Ukwu on a Wednesday and arrived Asaba the Delta State Capital, where l met Amb. Uwaechue’s contact person who was already waiting for me. He drove me to African House, private residence of the late Ambassador, in Ogwashi. By the time i was done with the interview with the Ohanaeze PG, it was about 7pm. He wanted me to spend the night in the African House, but I refused. He then ask his driver to take me to a hotel in Asaba.
It was a no-holds-barred and revealing interview with the late diplomat, who was also the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the “Know Africa” books, a three-volume book that was published in French and English. He was also the publisher of “Africa Who’s Who” and “Makers of Modern Africa.”
After the interview, I called LAGOS to brief my editor how it all went. And gave him bullet points in the interview. He ordered me to get the interview ready and sent to him before 8am Thursday.
The chilling hotel room in the Asaba was all I needed to transcribe the interview and get the exclusive story ready for the weekend edition of Nigerian Compass Newspaper. Before 2am, the interview was done and dusted and sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, my editor’s email.
I had a brief sleep and left the hotel room for the motor park and boarded the first bus going to LAGOS. Before noon, I was already at the compass office, located at Isheri area of Ogun state near LAGOS, to join the production of the weekend paper. The Ikedife-Uwaechue crossfire was the big story for the Saturday compass that weekend.
Monday after the interview was published, Amb. Uwaechue called me and invited me back to the African House in Ogwashi Ukwu. That second visit to African House become the turning point in my life and my career, as Uwaechue engaged me as his personal media consultant. He paid me the kind of money I have never seen in my life before. From that point, my life changed financially. I worked with him until he handed over to his successor, Chief Gary Enwo-Igariwey as Ohanaeze PG.
I bought my first car in my life while working for Uwaechue. I bought the land I build my house in Isiko while working for Uwaechue. I relocated to Abuja from Lagos and paid for an apartment in Abuja while working for Uwaechue.
May the souls of both leaders of Ndigbo, Uwaechue and Ikedife, who I enjoyed very cordial relationship with, until they both were called to rest, Rest In Peace.
Alabo Mujahid Dokubo-Asari on my case
My relationship with Alabo Mujahid Dokubo-Asari is over a decade now. As controversial as Dokubo-Asari is, he is one of the nicest persons I have ever met. The day I was given appointment to meet him somewhere in Lagos, over a decade ago, during the Late Musa Yar’Adua presidency, I prepared to meet a ‘monster’, and ‘drug addict’. But the reverse was the case, as i met a good man. A father of many children, a husband of good wives, an Islamic leader, a social crusader, a freedom fighter, a historian and a helper of the poor, needy and downtrodden.
At the mention of Dokubo-Asari’s name, different things come to different minds. He means different things to different people. He is a devout Muslim. does not drink alcohol and does not smoke. If he ever did that must have been before we met.
I have never been to that part of LAGOS before, and I went alone with direction and was communicating with Dokubo-Asari until I got to him. We ate together, then he told me a long story about himself and the struggle for freedom which he is so passionate about. After spending about 4 hours with him, without any formal form of interview, I left him. Before leaving, he told me he was wanted by the government and that he was leaving the country that evening and promised to call me when he gets to his new destination.
When he got to his new destination, like he promised, he called me. And then ask me to publish part of the things he told me in Lagos. From his new destination, he offered me a job as his media assistant, I rejected and told him I will prefer to be a friend who will always be there for him. He liked that.
When he relocated to Benin Republic, he invited me to know his new ‘home’. He introduced me to every member of his family. His wives and children. When I wanted to marry in 2012, December 26th, he told me he won’t be able to join me in Aba, but he gave me huge amount of money that was enough for my marriage. When I buried my grandmother in December 2017, Dokubo-Asari came in person to support me. He is a senior friend, a big brother, and dependable ally.
The Prophesy of Rt. Uzo Azubuike
I started hearing of Barrister Uzo Azubuike in his days at the Abia State House of Assembly, when he represented Aba Central State Constituency, during which he became the Deputy Speaker at some point in the life of the Abia State House of Assembly.
Hon. Azubuike and I worked more closely when he was elected to represent Aba North/Aba South Federal Constituency at the House of Representative, Abuja in 2011.
Though he didn’t employed me as a political aide, but he got me engaged in most of his political events at the National Assembly and here in the state. I was practically his media consultant. He ensured I was part of every trip of the House of Representative Committee on Public Petitions which he was chairman of the committee.
At some point in 2013, when he indicated interest in the 2015 governorship in Abia, he told me about it and carried along in some of his activities for the project.
One weekend in January 2014, he asked me to join him to Lagos as part of his consultations for the 2015 project. We arrived Lagos on a Friday, and he went straight to a meeting somewhere in Ikeja part of Lagos and ask me to wait for him at Ibris Hotel, Toyin Street, Ikeja, where has paid for two accommodations on for himself and myself.
While in Lagos, Hon. Azubuike asked me to call Mr. Raymond Aliga, who I had introduced to him in Abuja the previous year-2013, and get an appointment for them to see again after they first met in 2013. Mr. Aliga gave us appointment for Saturday morning at Raddison Blu hotel at Victoria Island Lagos.
On our way to keep Aliga’s appointment Saturday morning, we were on 3rd Mainland Bridge when Hon. Azubuike answered a call, and told me afterwords that immediately after the meeting with Aliga, that I will return to Abuja while he goes to Umuahia. After our meeting with Aliga, we returned to Ikeja checked out of the hotel and headed for the Airport while I returned to Abuja, Azubuike went to Umuahia.
Immediately I arrived Abuja, Aliga called me to confirm if it was true that Azubuike has pullout of the 2015 governorship, which was why he came to see him in Lagos. Obviously I was not in any position to confirm that to Aliga. I ask him to give me time to get to Azubuike, who was already in Umuahia for another important meeting and get back to him.
When I called Hon. Azubuike to ask him about developments in Umuahia, he told me there was a development, and promised to give me details when he return to Abuja on Monday.
Monday afternoon Hon. Azubuike called to inform he was coming and requested that I meet him at his office at the National Assembly. Later Monday evening we met at his office. In clear terms Hon. Azubuike told me who will be the next governor of Abia in 2015. The first question he asked me was: “Do you know Dr Okezie Ikpeazu?” I said yes, he was the 2011 Campaign Director for Rt. Hon. Eziuche Ubani, who is my elder brother. Then Hon. Azubuike told me that Dr Ikpeazu will be the next governor of Abia State.
Prophetically, Azubuike said to me: “Appo, whosever that will be governor in Abia in 2015 will know you. The person will know you as one of those who work for him, or as one you work against him.”
After the meeting with Hon. Azubuike, i then called Aliga to deliver the message from Azubuike.
At first, Aliga doubted me. He said: “How can Dr Ikpeazu become Governor? Does Uzo (Azubuike) know what he is talking about?”
Later, Chief Aliga called me the next day-Tuesday, to confirm that Hon. Azubuike was right. In fact Aliga told me to come pick him at the airport in Abuja on Wednesday that he was coming to Abuja with Dr Ikpeazu.
Wednesday, I drove to the airport in Abuja, picked Chief Aliga and he then told me that Dr Ikpeazu was on his way from Abia. We went to a hotel somewhere in Life Camp area of Abuja where I met a team led by late Chief Chijioke Nwakodo. The rest is now history.
By February 2014, I officially resigned from The Union Newspaper to join Dr Okezie Ikpeazu in his governorship ambition. It was a hard decision I had to take. God guided me and saw me through.
When I told Mr. Emma Agu, the Editor-in-Chief of The Union Newspaper that I was resigning to join Dr. Ikpeazu, he said to me; “Appolos, in all my years as a journalist, I’ve not heard of any Dr Okezie Ikpeazu in Abia or Igbo politics. Why do you want to risk your job for his political aspirations. What makes you think he will win?”
I replied him and said: “Sir, this is not about Dr Ikpeazu. It is about Ukwa-Ngwa people. I am an Ukwa-Ngwa son, and I know that this is our time to produce governor of Abia State. If we fail to be governor in Abia by 2015, we would never be again. He may not be known, but he will be governor because our people will support him to be.”
At this point Mr. Agu said: “Appolos you have my support. This your man will be governor. Give me your resignation letter, I will keep it with me. If your man didn’t win the ticket of the party, come back and take your job, but if he wins the ticket that means he will win the election, I can the submit your letter of resignation. Meanwhile, go I will pay you salary for up till March, even though you will not be working, but that how best we can support. Make sure you send his reports for us to publish for him.” And I left The Union Newspapers to join the Dr Okezie Ikpeazu campaign team.
Becoming a part of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu Governorship Team
When I joined Dr Ikpeazu in February 2014, he was the Deputy General Manager of the Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (asepa) in charge of Aba. Dr Ikpeazu by then, was not known to the national media, it became my duty as his Media Assistant/Personal Assistant yo project him.
My core duty was to sale and promote what Dr. Ikpeazu was doing at ASEPA to the media in Nigeria and beyond, using my social media platforms and my contact in various newsrooms across Nigeria. Dr Ikpeazu is a good product, very easy to market, so marketing him, his ideas and what he stands for, going into the 2015 election, drawing strength from what he was doing at ASEPA, was not a hard job for me.
With the special grace of God and mandate of Abia people, Dr Ikpeazu became the 4th democratically elected Governor of Abia State in 2015, and was sworn in on May 29th, 2015, as the first Ukwa-Ngwa man to be Governor in Abia.
I was officially appointed as the first Personal Assistant (PA) to the Governor from May 2015 to June 2016. One year after, I was appointed the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, from 13 June, 2016 to 28th May 2019. After the 2019 election, I was appointed the Special Adviser on Media to the Governor. And the prophecy of Hon. Uzo Azubuike, that whosoever that will be governor in Abia in 2015 will know me, became a reality.
In what may be considered as the Governor Okezie Ikpeazu kitchen cabinet, I am most likely the only one that have held three different offices by the special grace of God, and benevolence of the Governor. I remain grateful to him for the trust and opportunity to serve.
It is instructive that I say it here that I was the very first aide of Okezie Ikpeazu, as far as his governorship project is concerned. And I must give thanks to 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.
Let me at this juncture, specifically appreciate and thank my Boss, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, for the trust he has towards me. Just like my former bosses in the newsroom who gave me the opportunity to proof myself, Governor Ikpeazu has given me more opportunities to prove myself. I will remain indebted to him. All my appointments came from him, despite all forms of political intrigues and betrayals from some close friends, who for reasons best known to them, ganged up against me, Governor Ikpeazu remembered where he met me and where I started with him.
From my appointment as the first Personal Aide (PA) to the Governor, to my appointment as Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the Governor, and my appointment as Special Adviser on Media to the Governor, he (Governor Ikpeazu) alone made it possible.
I pray God Almighty for wisdom and understanding, in the nearest future, to write in more details my experiences and encounters during my service in Abia State under Governor Okezie Ikpeazu.
Time and chance
Meeting and working briefly with Amb. Raph Uwaechue was an opportunity that came my way, and I made good use of it, for my economic gains and advancement, without compromising my job as a journalist working with the Nigerian Compass Newspaper.
Also, meeting and working with Governor Okezie Ikpeazu gave me an unimaginable opportunity. Working with Governor Ikpeazu opened a lot of doors for me. I met people and become close to those I would never have met all my life. Some of those opportunities came with economic benefits.
Deuteronomy 2:7 (NLT): “For the LORD your God has blessed you in everything you have done. He has watched your every step through this great wilderness. During these FORTY years, the LORD your God has been with you, and you have lacked nothing.”’
Also, from the Bible book of Zechariah 4:6; 7 & 10 (NLT), it says: “ This is what the LORD says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him! And when Zerubbabel sets the final stone of the Temple in place, the people will shout: ‘May God bless it! May God bless it! Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”
The belief that everyone in and around the corridors power, who builds a house or buys a car has stolen government money is very erroneous. There are genuine guys who make good use of opportunities to meet their needs.
The truth is; wisdom is the principal thing. Like the Bible admonished, in all your getting, get wisdom and apply it, It will help you a great deal. Don’t forget where you are coming from, remember always your class.
Don’t be carried away by the appurtenances of the moment. Be watchful and careful of sweet-offers and sycophants. Their mission is to derail you and blame when the moment is gone. Make good and legitimate use of the moment. Integrity remains the watchword. Just like the moment can give unlimited opportunities, it can as well ruin. See your exist as you enter. Owe your loyalty first, to your conscience, do that which is right whether it is in your interest or not and speak truth to power even at the risk of the moment. Run away from the gossip around and about power corridors. Open your ears to hear a lot, but speak less.
Identify single story tellers, ensure you hear from the other side and verify their stories before you take any action. Be prepared to be a victim of betrayal and blackmail, especially from those you have given access to you.
Fundamentally, I have achieved, by the special grace of God, what looks very impossible for people from a very poor background like me, to achieve, in the past 15 years of my 40 years of my stay here. God looked beyond my poor family background, my poor academic credentials, my infallibilities and bestow His riches, blessings and unmerited grace upon me. Only God, and God alone can do for me, what He has done. Tehillah!
Significantly, I have come to appreciate that the movement to the top, is not an elevator movement. Whosoever wishes to get to the top in life, should prefer the staircase or the step. When you use the staircase, you mark your step, appreciate every effort made in getting to the next step. When you finally arrive at the top, you will come to appreciate the entire movement.
Truly, I have come to see nothing in life. I have also come to terms with the obvious that, the best for me is to hold fast to God and true friendship. Indeed, things of this life are gradually becoming useless and meaningless to me.
I will be an ingrate if I fail to mention, and appreciate those God has used to help me thus far.
To my departed friends, who are not alive today to celebrate with me, I will not forget your great support and push. The likes of Prince Longinus Orjiako, Chief Chukwuemeka Azikiwe (Owelle 11), Dr Dozie Ikedife, and Amb. Raph Uwaechue, God who called you to rest, will give me the power to hold onto what we shared together.
My Special appreciation goes to Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Senator Chris Ngige, Emeka Etiaba SAN, Chief Abu Inu Umoru, Elder Christian Elemele, Hon. Aniekan Umanah, Mr. Gabriel Akinadewo, Mr. Dotun Oladipo, Mr. Emma Agu, Mr. Obi Azuru, Chief Ikpeoha Nwamuo, Rt. Hon. Uzo Azubuike, Dr. ACB Agbazuere, Mr. Sam Omatseye, Alhaji Shetima Yerima, Mr. Friday Oloko, Chief Chekwas Okorie, Senator Nimi Amange, Senator Ali Ndume, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, Sir Ndubuisi Nwobu, Hon. Uko Nkole, Mrs. Constance Egbue, Mr. Benjamin Obioha and lots more.
To my dear wife, Ozioma, to the good and sweet memories of my late father, to my mother and my siblings, Mr. Okwudiri Appolos, Mr. Chibuike Appolos, Mrs Chinenye Maxwell (née Appolos) Me. Obioma Appolos, Mr. Onyedikachi Appolos and Mr. Osinachi Appolos. I forever appreciate you all.
Permit me to quote the lyrics of a two stanza of old hymn I’ve sang many times in church.
“I don’t know about tomorrow
I just live from day to day
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to gray
I don’t worry o’er the future
For I know what Jesus said
And today I’ll walk beside Him
For He knows what is ahead
“Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand
I don’t know about tomorrow
It may bring me poverty
But the one who feeds the sparrow
Is the one who stands by me
And the path that be my portion
May be through the flame or flood
But His presence goes before me
And I’m covered with His blood”
When I looked around me and see all that has happened in this 40 years of my life on earth, I lack words to express my joy and explain my gratitude.
In these 40 years, I have not slept in any hospital on admission. In these 40 years, I have not been detained in a police or any other security custody for any offense. In these 40 years, I have not visited an native doctors for any reason.
So God has kept me healthy and strong, with blessings, favors, and promotions that come from Him and Him alone. I can’t thank Him enough for His goodness and mercies upon my life.
As it is recorded in the Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (NLT): “That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.
God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.”
Thank you and happy 40th birthday to me!