The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Enugu State, Chief Uche Nnaji (Nwakaibie), is an Enugu “boy” through and through. There is nothing about the challenges and development trajectories of Enugu state that he is not familiar with since he started his life in the coal city state.
Chief Nnaji was born into the family of Chief & Mrs. Obed Nnaji of Akpugo Nkanu West LGA of Enugu State. He is the first of four children. All his educational pursuits were in Enugu State.
He attended Santa Maria Primary School, Enugu (now Ziks Avenue Primary School), St Patrick’s College, Emene, Enugu, and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka Campus. This background earned him the label of an unadulterated “Enugu Boy”.
Nwakaibie lost his father in 1978. His father’s sudden demise left his mother as the family’s bread winner, a responsibility she lived up to by all standards. She managed her late husband’s estate excellently and ensured that all her children received a unique upbringing and sound education.
Uche’s early exposure to the business world greatly benefited from his mother’s enduring value for resource management with integrity and hardwork – traits which became manifest during his service as a Youth Corper at NASCO and Jos International Brewery, all in Plateau State. Both organisations expanded his outlook and further equipped him with good business practices and general procurement skills. Towards the second half of his Youth Service, his mother gave him N10,000.00 to persuade him to settle down for paid employment upon completing his service year. At that time, N10,000.00 could conveniently
fetch him a Peugeot 504 car, rent a 3-bedroom flat and keep him reasonably comfortable for quite a while in paid employment.
Nwakaibie, however, had other intentions. As soon as he got the N10,000.00 he ventured into business. He first got a return ticket to London for N400.00, went and procured CLAFORAN INJECTION in vials, notably with other pain relievers. All were eventually sold at good profit to Orthopedic Hospital, Enugu, under the late Dr. Jacob Igwe, then CMD, and late Mr. Chukwueke, Chief Pharmacist, at the time.
This very successful start in business encouraged him to continue in private enterprise.
Nwakaibie consequently delved deeper into the importation and procurement of various items, including pharmaceuticals, medical devices, motor spare parts, and other equipment.
This business took him to many countries, including the UK, Germany, Taiwan, India, and Hong Kong. He traded vigorously on these items and, within a short time, became quite successful, securing huge contracts, and transited from importing items through air-cargo to large consignments through shipment by sea.
One of the significant contracts that defined his status as a successful entrepreneur was the procurement, installation, and commissioning of all specialized hospital-grade sanitary wares and plumbing materials for the then NEW UNTH, ITUKU/OZALLA. He participated actively in the hospital equipment procurement and installation contracts. He still maintains a good presence there. His involvement in hospital and medical procurement and installation at a young age put him in a vantage entrepreneurship position. He benefited from several
interactions with much older senior executives and imbibed the virtues of patience and humility; and later learned that he was the youngest and the first African to procure a CT scan from PHILIPS MEDICAL, Hamburg, Germany office in mid-1980s for Nigeria.
With these accomplishments, the young Uche Nnaji (Nwakaibie) was lured into politics and took particular interest in assisting the marginalized category who lacked the financial resources to actively participate in the political process. He funded many of them to achieve
their political ambitions.
During the UNCP/GDM/DPN political days, Uche led his senatorial zone to ensure that Chief Jim Nwobodo handed a heavy defeat to Senator Ken Nnamani against the instructions of the then Military Administrator of Enugu State. The loss of Ken Nnamani of UNCP in the first senatorial election of Enugu East earned him the first baptism of political imprisonment. Nwakaibie spent about four months in detention for what they termed ‘derailing’ the Abacha transition program and sponsoring anti-government candidates in Enugu State.
He regained freedom from political detention when General Abacha died, and the Head of State who succeeded him, General Abdulsalam Abubakar, released all political detainees. At the advent of party politics in 1998, Nwakaibie played major role in the formation of PDP in Enugu State.
He was to run in the senatorial election of Enugu East Senatorial Zone under PDP but the then National Secretary of the Party, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, replaced his name with that of Senator Ken Nnamani, who decamped to PDP from APP. Piqued by the unfairness, he moved to the Alliance for Democracy (AD), 72 hours before the election and still won 65 Wards out of 66 wards against Senator Ken Nnamani, the PDP candidate.
Nwakaibie’s accomplishments in politics during this time include:
• Won election as Senator, Enugu East Senatorial Zone 1999 (unconditionally relinquished seat to HE Chief Jim Nwobodo).
• Foundation Member–PDP, South East Zone, 1998.
• Convener–PDPEnugu State, 1998.
• Caucus Member- PDPEnugu State, 1998.
• Member–PDPNational Finance Committee & Poverty Alleviation, 1998.
• Member–PPAC Sub Committee on Rural Development, 1999.
• Caucus member UNCP, Enugu State, 1996–1998.
• Financier–UNCPEnugu East Senatorial Zone, 1996-1998.
He also served in the following public positions:
• Member–Board of Directors Federal Capital Development Authority [FCDA].
• Chairman–Finance and General Purpose Committee FCDA.
• Member–Establishment Committee FCDA.
In time, his desire for entrepreneurship and human capital development in the economic sector was rekindled and Chief Nnaji returned to his business in year 2000. He became more involved in the health-care sector of the economy. He engaged extensively in business transactions with federal/state institutions in areas of procurement, installation, commissioning and maintenance of high-resolution health-care equipment and machinery, including specialized cancer diagnostic/handling equipment.
In addition, his business group also runs equipment maintenance agreement for cancer in several University Teaching Hospitals in Nigeria, including UNTH Enugu, KDTH Ebonyi State, AKTH Kano, and UDTH Sokoto. Also, his group executed multiple contracts in Borno, Gombe, Plateau, Taraba, and Bauchi States. These included supply of medical equipment, health-care devices, and hospital furniture for the hospitals and health centers. Similarly, the group constructed
120/100-bedded hospitals and their referral centers of 200-bedded hospitals in each Senatorial Zone of the State.
These ground breaking investments were all commissioned by the then President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR. Also, his company executed several road and drainage construction contracts for
Federal/State governments, commissioned by President Mohammadu Buhari. He is also involved in the oil and gas industry and participated, in conjunction with other foreign and local partners, in seeking investments in several exploration and production opportunities in
Nigeria, Chad, and Niger; and further involved in real estate business and develops luxury apartments for high-net-worth individuals, companies, and diplomats in Abuja and Lagos. In conjunction with his foreign partners, a leading finance and investment entity in the Middle
East and other regions, he has supported some businesses in start-ups and expansion projects. Under the partnership, he hopes to turn Enugu State into an industrial hub and human capital development.
In the spirit of “AKULUOUNO”, Nwakaibie is currently building an integrated industrial complex in his hometown, Akpugo, Nkanu West LGA of Enugu State. The goal is to contribute, substantially, in spurring primary economic activities and addressing the menace of high unemployment in Enugu State.
The industrial complex, on completion, will host:
• Rice Mill with production capacity of 300 tons per hour.
• Bag manufacturing factory with production capacity of 41,000bags per 10hours work-shift.
• 6-Colour retro-graphic printing factory (prime technology).
The industrial complex is about 80% completed and will start operations Q2 2023.
Chief Uche Nnaji never fails to attribute his modest accomplishments to the grace and mercies of God Almighty.
Nwakaibie is blessed with a lovely wife and children.