Chika Nwokedi: From the valley to the mountain top

High Chief Dr. Chika C. Nwokedi is a personification of the traditional rags-to-riches story of a majority of Igbos who did not have the benefit of education, but worked their way through a labyrinth of obstacles, difficulties and challenges to attain the greatest socio-economic heights in the society. You are familiar with stories of Igbos without formal education who virtually hitched rides from their rural setting in the South East to Lagos, Nigeria’s melting pot and land of opportunities in search of the proverbial Golden Fleece, who spent years squeezing water out of stones to survive until luck smiled on them. Nwokoedi is one of them.

Following the death of his father while he was quite young and with moderate education, Nwokedi took a step of faith in leaving his sleepy village of Obodo Ukwu, in Ideato North Local Government Area of Imo State in 1992 to jump on the bandwagon of Igbos coming to Lagos in search of opportunities, not quite sure of what he was coming to do, but determined to find his bearing, all the same. He had heard of Lagos and the success stories of brethren who regularly visited home from the nation’s commercial capital, and wanted to be part of the story.

He landed at the popular Ladipo motor spare parts market where he hustled for five years, sleeping on bare floor in a shop for that number of years. Surviving in the highly competitive spare parts market where grit, physical energy and ability to argue are essential requirements for success was not made any better by the fact that Nwokedi stammers. But he participated fully in the daily fights, knowing that his life depended on it.

Signs of success began to manifest for Nwokedi when, at 25, he emerged Chairman of the Ladipo Market Traders Association by popular demand. He won the admiration of his colleagues for his honesty and loathsomeness of any form of dishonesty and insincerity which many in his line of business are associated with. His assumption of positions of leadership was a rapid one, as he soon defeated older and richer traders in a keenly contested election to become Chairman of the Ladipo Auto Central Executive Committee. The poor boy from Obodo Ukwu had not only become a big man, financially speaking, he had become a force to reckon with politically, within the context of market traders association politics.

Today, through the cliché of dint of hard work, the man who took a step into the unknown 30 years ago is wealthy, by any standard, sitting at the apex of a thriving, multibillion naira organization known as Chipresido Merchandise Property Limited as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer.

Success measured through philanthropy:

Success, for Nwokedi, is not measured in terms of the number of houses that stand to his name, or the number of cars in his fleet. He considers success from the perspective of the number of people he has assisted to stand on their feet, economically and socially. Over the years, he has demonstrated firm belief in the true admonition that you rise by lifting others. He has practically lifted many others who were in the same situation in which he was many years ago. And today, there are words of praise and prayers for him wherever he turns.

He conceived the idea of setting up a philanthropic organization to assist the needy, and with the support of four others, he established the Ndi Igbo Buru Otu Association of Nigeria, for the sole objective of helping Igbos in need. He is the President General of the association that serves as an umbrella covering members against any form of adversity, including offering material and moral assistance to them. The association has acquired a large expanse of land in Lagos to serve as its estate where members buy property at subsidized rate. It has also offered assistance to the poor, including widows and orphans outside the association.

In his personal capacity, Nwokedi has offered a helping hand to many people back home in Obodo Ukwu, in many ways. He has built five houses of three-bedroom bungalow each for five families. He has also extended the gesture to families outside his home town, in addition to empowering more than 100 people who lost their means of livelihoods, with motorcycles and cash gifts of between N100,000 and N200,000 to start a new life.

“I have been a helping hand to Ndigbo generally, no matter the place you come from, he says, of his passion for supporting his kinsmen and women. “As far as you are an Igbo, whenever they call upon me for any assistance, whether money, I render, as far as you are not a criminal; you are not a 419; you are not an occultic man; you are not doing anything against the law. Whenever you call me, I will answer you.”

Nwokedi’s philanthropy goes beyond tribe, ethnicity or language. It recognizes human beings. If what you are doing is good, it is not by my strength, I will render it, no matter the tribe you come from, not only Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba, he says. “After all I am paying school fees for some Yoruba children in this Lagos; they are not Igbo, they are Yorubas. So, either Igbo or Yoruba or Hausa, all of us are one, one blood. As far as our blood is red, nobody has the blood of yellow or white, so we are one. I believe in one unity and I believe in one love; that is what the Bible says.

Relationship with the Police:

Nwokedi’s relationship with the Police, which he considers as something special, has a history that involves the brutality that is often associated with the law enforcement agency. It is a relationship that was founded in the constant harassment and brutality he suffered in the hands of the Police which, ironically, paved way for the robust relationship he enjoys today with the agency.

Some people are wondering why I love the police so much. There are good eggs in police, there are bad eggs, he says. “When I came to Lagos in 1992, I landed in Ladipo, and I started motor spare parts. By then there was no Tokunbo. We used to travel to Onitsha to bring the spare parts to Lagos. And sometimes the police would stop me on the road and arrest me and say I went and butchered somebody’s motor. They would detain me for four days, three days and take money from me.” 

But that was only the beginning of what would become a life of constant harassment and extortion by the police for doing nothing other than operating his legitimate business. It became a weekly affair. And again, where we were sleeping then in Ladipo, I slept in the shop for more than five years, no house. I slept outside my shop and we were about five or six in one shop. We rented counters then; a counter was about N200 and you pay one year. So sometimes, every Friday, police would come and raid us and take us to the station. They would come with the SO and some team, then on Sunday they would collect N200 or N150 from us (you know how much it was by then), and they would release us.”

It got to a stage Nwokedi decided he could no longer live with predictable and often harassment.  “They did that many times, he recalled. “So, one day, I had the courage and I said ‘let me go and meet that DPO and tell him what is happening, that I don’t know why his people are treating us as if we are criminals.’”

He met the DPO, not quite sure if it was the right thing to do, as the move could backfire and spell doom for him. So, I met the DPO, and I said ‘I am Chika Nwokedi, I came to this Lagos to hustle and I have shop. Please can you send somebody to come and know my shop and anything about me’? He said ‘what happened?’ I said ‘because I have slept inside this your cell for more than seven times; they normally come and pick us every Friday and on Sunday morning they would take money from us and release us.

The DPO had cause to leave the Police station to spend the weekend of that week with his family, leaving an SO to take charge of the station. The SO decided to keep watch to see if the harassment Nwokedi complained about would be carried out that weekend. Surprisingly, the same thing occurred. And they still came that same Friday, he recalled. So, when the man came out, he said ‘what?’ That was the day I knew police could also enter cell. The man detained them. It was war. And then the man took me as his son. He gave me his card and wrote at the back: ‘this is my son, whatever happen, contact me’. So since then, it made me to love the police, and since then, I started helping the police.”

Nwokedi’s robust relationship with the police has yielded positive results in many ways. He has made more material and moral contributions to the police to enhance the work of the agency perhaps more than many organizations have done. He has renovated many police stations, including the defunct SARS office in Lagos, as well as other parts of Nigeria; refurbished over 20 police vehicles in various divisions; provided over 5,000 security flash lights worth more than N1million which were distributed to officers in the 36 states of the federation and supplied over 1,000 rechargeable power banks and light sockets to assist police officers perform their duties, especially in the night. He has also given the police revolving lights for escort vehicles, as well as sirens.

He has used is closeness to the police to ensure no innocent person goes through the same ordeal he went through in the hands of the agency. I don’t want people to pass through what I passed through, Nwokedi said. “I am not a criminal, but I entered cell more than seven times doing nothing. That is why, when you have a genuine case Ira will make call. I have friends; they will investigate and act, I don’t care if you are Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba.” 

Nwokedi’s closeness to the police has made people to label him a police informant. Some people say I am a police informant because I am very close to the police, and I say what made me to be close to the police is best known to me and now I am saying it for the first time. I have never revealed it before on what made me to love the police, he said.

Awards and recognitions:

Success has its rewards, especially if that success is reflected in the impact it has on the lives of others. Nwokedi has received awards and recognitions from far and near, not just for the success he has recorded in life, but for the impact it has brought to bear on the lives of a great number of people. He acknowledges this himself in form of an analogy.

I have received so many awards, he admits. Like I said, when people ask me what the secret of the awards is, I said when someone has a very good apple, or sweet mango, and sows it, that mango will grow for 10 to 15 years, and it begins to bear fruit. That fruit will bring more than 1000 mangos, and it will be like that every year. I said, what I sowed for a long time is what I am reaping now. So, people should not be envious; and when you are doing good people know. So, my advice to Nigerians is that they should leave evil and turn to God, they should change their character. Whatever you are doing in this world and your hands are clean, the almighty God must surely bless you. Nigeria is good, it is those that are inside that are spoiling Nigeria. And they should remember we are one Nigeria, one blood.”

Nwokedi has over 623 awards and 13 titles in his bag, but the one he holds dear to his heart is the title of Okpoko 1 of Obodo Ukwu, given to him by his people at home.

He describes his wife, Pastor (Mrs.) Tessy Chika Nwokedi, Pastor in charge of Grace and Mercy Restoration Ministry (Arena of Holy Ghost), Ijedodo, Ijegun Lagos, in superlative terms: She is a virtuous woman. My wife is a nice woman and for her to stay with me when I had nothing, and her father is rich, she doesnt feel pompous as somebody whose father has money. You would not know she is my wife unless somebody tells you she is my wife. So, because of her character, my wife is receiving awards. She has received five or six awards and yet you won’t know, from my town, from Umuada, among others.”

Chief Nwokedi who was the SDP governorship candidate in Imo State in the 2019 general elections will be crowned as Ezendigbo of Ikotun Ijegun/Ijeododo land in Lagos on Saturday, March 19, 2022.