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For Emmanuel Atuegbu, courage trumps adversity

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EMMANUEL Chukwujekwu Atuegbu, Chief Executive Officer, Gangana Global Resources, left Enugwu-Ukwu, his hometown for Lagos with a short and shirt to fend for himself. He never told his mother.

Being the only son, his mother would have objected to his leaving her sight at such a young age. As a child, growing up, young Chukwujekwu had no image of his father. The death of his father, the family’s breadwinner when Chukwujekwu was two years old, threw his world into the unknown.

His narrative has changed. Although he doesn’t wear the toga of affluence but he is  ‘blessed’ as he puts it. He delights in ameliorating the plights of those with low budget income with the resources at his disposal however little it could be. Having tested the rough side from a tender age and for long, he encourages people to be of help to others however little, as that could go a long way in changing other people’s narrative.

Chukwujekwu’s mother spent 20 years without conception. Her inability to conceive on time wedged friction between her and his father. His  father sought a male child that would  carry his name to the next generation as traditional Igbo custom suggests. The situation led the father to marrying a second wife. His stepmother did conceive and began to have children; all females. His mother did conceive and gave birth to a female, the second issue was a male, and it was him. He eventually, became the first male of the family and source of inspiration to others. For this reason and other experiences, he has always emphasised patience as an essential ingredient in life.

After the death of his father, his mother had to go to bushes to fetch fallen palm nuts to sell. Most times, he accompanied her on the strenuous journeys. Some other times, “we went far into the bush to cut elieli leaves used as vegetables to eat yam.

There were times we worked as hired labourers on people’s farms. Some other times, we served as helping hands to masons. We engaged in virtually every menial job we could find to survive. We lived typically in hardship.”

“While all these happened, I had wealthy cousins and relations and when they come home, especially during Christmas, I became an errand boy for butchering goats and other chores and after the usual merriment of eating and drinking, it ends there.

They never offered to help me out of my predicament. At a point I said, I have had enough of this because I needed something to do to be useful to myself and family. While this happened, we lived in a single room mud house. It’s the little that my mother and I got from the menial jobs that sustained us.”

Ogbuefi, as he’s fondly called,  attended Arinze Primary School, Enugwu-Ukwu, now called St. Theresa’s Primary School. Before he started secondary school, his mother shipped him to a distant relation from Ndiokpalaeze, Mr Pius Umeh, a secondary school teacher at Government Secondary School, Ajali, which means that he had to serve as domestic help, while Mr. Umeh trains him in school.

After a while, “he began to maltreat me, so I had to return home to Enugwu-Ukwu after a year at GSS, Ajali. Returning to my hometown, my mother enrolled me at Comprehensive High School, Nawfia and I had to repeat a class. My mother was able squeeze out some savings from the little job she did to send me to secondary school.

In my class, the man known today as Onwa Enugwu-Ukwu, Chukwudi Oguejiofor, who would later be of help to me in future, sat next to me, a well-known prominent person but humble and disciplined.”

“After my JSS 3, there was no money to further. I told my mother it would be better to find something to engage in. I stayed close to two years in my village without making headway and nobody to assist me. It was then that I met late Chief Fidelis Ugonabo, Agbalanze, Enugwu-Ukwu, who then was a Customs Officer. He came home one particular time and I explained my situation to him,” he said.

The quest to conquer poverty drove him to solicit Chief Ugonabo’s help to relocate to Lagos. Chief Ugonabo asked if he knew anyone in Lagos, “I replied that I didn’t but I will find my way in Lagos. He assured me that when he will be leaving for Lagos, he would inform me. You know something? I didn’t tell my mother the day I left for Lagos because as the only son, she would never have allowed me to embark on that journey.

When we got to Lagos, he asked where he would drop me. Perhaps, he thought of someone from my town, but I had another thing in mind. I knew of somebody years back who was like a brother to me from Igbo-Ukwu, known as Mr. Ezeh,but more known as Exems, an artist, may God bless him . I knew him back at Eddy Nawgu’s, Anioma Healing Centre. He took to me because I ran errands for him then. He gave me his Lagos address which I kept for that long period, without thought of ever going to Lagos someday. God bless him. Nobody knew about this until this moment of sharing this. That was how I began a new life in Lagos.”

Before taking him to Exems’s place, Mr. Ugonabo had taken him to a cousin of his in Surulere, who told him in Chief Ugonabo’s presence that he had provision for him. Chief Ugonabo asked if the man was actually his cousin as “that my cousin refused to come downstairs to attend to us. The Bible was right in Jeremiah 17:5, “cursed is the man who trusts in a man,” that has been one of my guiding principles. Chief. Ugonabo asked me what I intended doing. I told him not to bother. I asked him to drive me to Adetola Street in Surulere before driving to his place at Isolo. Mr. Exems was excited to see me and accommodated me in his room and parlour apartment.”

At Exems’s place, he helped with domestic chores until he became a conductor. At a point, he started visiting Chief. Ugonabo at Isolo. Before then, he had been visiting some people from his hometown who resided in different parts of Lagos for help. It was an experience he hardly forgets. “Some don’t even want to see my face. It was in one of those periods that I met Chief Patrick Okoye, who told me at my free time to come to his car dealing showroom, known as Disney Automobile. Eventually, I shifted my base from Exems’s place to his place at Festac Town. That was how I eventually got into automobile dealership.”

Chief Okoye besides auto business, was into major real estate with chains of other companies. After staying with Chief Okoye for some time, he began to give him cars to sell. “Thus was my core tutelage or apprenticeship if you put it that way. He did that because he found out that I was honest with him but some times, I had issues with him because I refused to compromise in certain areas. On one occasion, he asked me to get out of his office and I responded,” I have told you the truth.”

“After a week or two, he recalled me. If you ask Chief Patrick Okoye, he will attest to this. We were about 16 people that learned the trade under him but it was only me that refused to compromise. Others would go behind me to smear my person, some even asked him to sack me. He would even tell me those that spoke against me but I never bothered myself with confronting those people. I did business under him for 10 years, and never had financial issues with every business I did for him. Sell a car, return the principal, whatever you get after that is yours. It was from there that I did little savings that I started my business.”

Due to his honesty and sincerity, Chief Okoye decided that he handles his real estate business in Abuja. “That reminds me of Mark 13:13 that says ‘he who stands firm to the end will be saved. For you to know the level of trust he had in me, the first challenge I had when I went to manage his business for him was when I traveled to Abuja with N10 million  cash with me.

The flight encountered storms that I thought the plane would crash. The first property we handled in Abuja was sold for N200 million to NEPA, that security came after Chief Okoye. He was charged for money laundering but no case was found against him as his business was genuine. Returning to Lagos, he never wanted to settle me financially. I left him since my destiny was not tied to him.

I had to start from the scratch. My situation caught the attention of Chief Okoye. Besides, Chief Tony Okeke and Sir Okey Ezeibe, Philip Okoye, Ugochukwu Okonkwo,  came to my rescue to get back to business. That was how I went full time into auto dealership which gave birth to Dangana Motors.”

As my business grew without announcement, I suffered huge loss. National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, (NDLEA) boss, Maj Gen Ishaya  Bamaiyi, shut our businesses claiming that vehicle dealers were into drugs which was not true.

Then, the main spot for vehicle dealers in Lagos was Maza Maza. That affected most dealers that many did not recover from the huge loss involving hundreds of millions of naira. By God’s grace, I was able to bounce back into business, diversifying into real estate and other businesses”.

His first involvement in politics was in 2014. He was asked to help mobilise support for Governor Willie Obiano, then APGA gubernatorial candidate and his running mate, Dr. Nkem Okeke. The candidates had visited major markets in Lagos soliciting support before coming to Berger.

“Governor Obiano was overwhelmed with the wonderful reception that he told me that I should ensure to coordinate our people to come home that if he win,s he will give us a slot in Awka for auto business. The first time I met Gov Obiano at Berger, I knew that he was going to be credible with governance in Anambra State.

I must tell you the truth, I’m impressed with the security architecture of the state. I can’t forget how terrible the security situation was those days in the state, it was terrible, though some people may not appreciate it. Coming home those days, I knew how I felt throughout my stay.

That gave room for investors to into the state. Our governor is doing well. He has taken agriculture to enviable heights. Our youth should take advantage of that. I’m already taking interest in that.”

He advised young people going into business above all to embrace God, citing Psalm 121, saying help comes from God and not in human, “Any human helping you does that only when God moves or touches that person to assist you. If you stand on the truth, it may take time but it will surely prevail.

He is married to Cecelia Atuegbu, (Obidie), who he referred to as insatiable jewel, “I can’t forget her sacrifice as young married couple but one stands out. She had to leave Lagos for Enugwu-ukwu to take care of my late mother who suffered stroke for 14 years. A task she combined with child bearing. She is a blessing to me.”  They are married with six children.

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