By Ebuka Onyekwelu
Throughout Chief Willie Obiano’s two terms of eight years as Anambra State governor, the most consistent name associated with getting things done in that administration is Uzuegbuna Okagbue. As the Chief of Protocol and Deputy Chief of Staff to the then Governor, Uzu’s reputation and style was distinct. Yet, he was rarely seen and never heard. Notwithstanding, Uzuegbuna Okagbue is someone whose name communicates diligence and perspicacity, which clearly suggests that he came prepared. He must have passed through what Malcolm Gladwell described as the “Hamburg experience” or the “ten thousand hour rule.” Certainly, Uzu did not stumble into the man he has become. So, the constant question is; who is Uzu Okagbue, aside from his known family pedigree and stint in government?
Uzu Okagbue was born on October 1, 1977, to the family of Chief Chike Okagbue, foremost and reputable businessman, from Mgbuke village in Umunnachi, Dunukofia Local Government Area, Anambra State. He attended early school in Onitsha, where his parents lived. He also attended Dennis Memorial Grammar School – DMGS, in Onitsha where he was awarded a certificate of a good dengramite, which is a symbol of good learning and good character, given only to a handful of students in the prestigious DMGS. During his primary and secondary school days in Onitsha, he personally demanded to be taken to, and back from school, in a spacious vehicle, so as to enable him give other kids who were his friends, ride to their homes. To this his special request, his father obliged. As a kid, Uzu always had a genuine concern for others and he was always willing to serve others. From this backdrop, at onset, it was obvious that Uzu’s journey gravitates around becoming a particular kind of man, who lives by service to others and by his deep convictions. At every stage of his life from then, Uzu formed into the prime, astute and judicious professional that has made it very easy for him to be distinctive, anywhere.
After his Diploma in Law at the University of Abuja, his many attempts to study Law did not materialize, which forced his father to secure a foreign admission for him to study law outside Nigeria, but he turned that down. His father then encouraged him to proceed with going to study Political Science which admission he always gained, especially because, he can always go back to study law. This was how Uzu proceeded to study Political Science at the University of Abuja, where he gave an excellent account of his studentship in learning and character. But just a few months to his final year exam, he lost his father Chief Chike Okagbue. This incident tasked the young Uzu even more, such that he expanded his then thriving small scale business as a student and began to master the art of multiplying money through investments. Over the years, the contacts he built from his days as a student running small scale business while in school endured. From that experience, he moved into real estate, distribution of petroleum products, forex, and many other businesses including heavy investments in the stock market. He also has a restaurant chain which he develops and sells. But the restaurant in Awka, Anambra State, serves a much different purpose. The Awka restaurant has the most stunning and choicest ambiance for a restaurant in Awka, which speaks to his love for quality and excellence. Although for Uzu, the restaurant ultimately serves as an opportunity for the over fifty employees to add value and remain employed, rather than a means of money making.
As a youth corps member who served in Fidelity Bank Abuja, the bank had to break their own rule of not retaining corps members because of Uzuegbuna’s outstanding performance in the bank. So he was retained as a full staff of Fidelity Bank, Abuja. In the bank where he worked for almost a decade, Uzu Okagbue’s recognition by the leadership hierarchy of the bank was speedy and remarkable. For at least two times, he received excellence awards. While in the bank, he increased his stake in the real estate business across Abuja and beyond. He also increased his portfolio in many profitable stocks and shares in reputable organizations. In the real estate business, he partnered with ASO Savings and Loans mortgage bank. In fact, it was this business relationship that enabled Uzu access facility with the mortgage bank to build his first residential house in Abuja. Yet, outside his personal success in career as a banker and in business owing to his thriving businesses, Uzu was more. In one of my conversations with a former colleague of his at the bank, she told me how Uzu showed an uncommon commitment to the welfare of his colleagues. “He introduced visits to female colleagues who put to bed. On his own, he used part of his salary to buy gifts and food items with which some of us visited colleagues of ours who put to bed,” she said. Through this pure act of love and dedication to service of others while in the bank with his personal money, not long afterwards, it became a part of the bank branch’s system.
Married for about sixteen years to his sweetheart from the university days, Uzu Okagbue is blessed with children. Uzu has one of the most beautiful relationships with his spouse, a woman whom he has known for twenty five years now. Anyone who knows Uzu knows his deep commitment to his dear wife and family.
In philanthropy, Uzu Okagbue sees helping the less privileged as a direct work of God that must be done with utmost dignity and not be a subject of any form of political stunt. Therefore, he neither publishes nor discusses his charity works which cover hospital bills both within and outside Nigeria for delicate medical procedures, substantial assistance to motherless babies’ homes, training through school, house for the homeless and social justice. His chieftaincy title of “Ochualili umuogbenye” which can be translated to mean “fortress of the less privileged”, was bestowed on him in acknowledgement of his vast philanthropy.
In Umunnachi, Uzu Okagbue is a reputable and highly revered community leader who has resolved countless family crises for so many families in Umunnachi. Also, he played a major role in resolving the land dispute between Ogidi and Umunnachi, which lasted for nearly one hundred years.
Therefore, it is clear that at 46 years, there is no one else Uzuegbuna Okagbue would rather be if not to continue to be Uzu; a man that despite his privileged background, rolled up his sleeves and went to work. One man committed to looking out for his friends at an early age as a primary school pupil. Uzu will continue to exude excellence and commitment to serve with love, and to impact through a personal dedication to values and things that matter.