By Odita Sunday
As a visible player in the public space, the man; Dr. Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah (popularly known as ‘Ebubechukwu Uzo” among Anambrarians and indeed Igbo speaking of Nigeria may be described from different perspectives depending on where one stands, but one common denominator in his personality traits is the passion to render service to humanity in a manner that ultimately gives him some self satisfaction.
Many Nigerians have not forgotten in a hurry how his large heartedness and robust entrepreneurial acumen that underlines his expansion in the oil and gas downstream sector via his Capital Oil and Gas Company readily prompted him to come to the nation’s rescue when it mattered most. That was in 2015 when the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration was trapped in fuel scarcity precipitated by strike action few days to its handing over to Muhammadu Buhari who had just won the presidential election.
The strike was stoked by the non-payment of oil marketers by the federal government and the marketers in turn were owing petroleum tanker drivers. Initially, the strike affected few states and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory but as the May 29 handover date drew closer, the situation began to bite harder. Most Nigerians were made to pass through harrowing experiences as many had to spend nights and long hours at petrol stations in attempts to buy fuel. Those who could not go through that, abandoned their cars at home and some even took to trekking. Others avoided going out, preferring to suffer quietly at home.
The suffering and hardship that citizens were subjected to as a result of the scarcity of petrol, diesel, aviation fuel and kerosene had been much. Hospitals had been unable to function properly, laboratories were unable to carry out the much needed tests especially for emergency patients leaving such patients at the risk of dying.
Radio stations had been shut down, communication was also affected as telecommunications companies had announced an impending shut down while homes, offices and key facilities nationwide were experiencing blackouts. In some parts of the country, petrol was selling at an all-time high of N1,000 per litre. As many left their homes to be sleeping in fuel stations, they faced the possibility of robbery attacks and other attendant risks.
The then Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was locked in a bitter war of words with the oil marketers at this time. However, very much aware of the endless and untold hardship which Nigerians were going through, Ifeanyi Ubah driven by some Godly spirit was moved with compassion to withdraw himself and his company out of the strike by the fuel tankers and marketers. He saw the strike action as a ploy to inflict pain on Nigerian masses.
His company subsequently announced that its tank farm facility with a combined storage capacity of 190 million litres with the capacity to load over 13 million litres of product per day be immediately opened to start loading before the dawn of the next day. Capital Oil and Gas affirmed that it had storage of over 79 million litres of petrol as at the day of the strike. The company called on other petroleum marketers to follow suit and save the nation from an impending economic and social crisis. Dr. Ubah stressed the importance of sacrifice, especially as the nation was preparing to have a new government.
With some sense of patriotism and ability to discern, Ubah was quick to consider whatever sacrifice he could make as a service to the fatherland, given the circumstance at the time. “This is a period that requires patriotism and service to fatherland. Let us join hands to help our fellow citizens and save Nigeria. We also call on striking bodies to call off the strike action. Let us work together for the betterment of our people,” he was quoted as saying in some of the publications at the time.
This singular act doused the tension in the land and compelled the oil marketers association to immediately call off the strike. Although the scarcity did not fully abate, yet Ubah’s patriotic action created a better atmosphere for the then new government of Muhammadu Buhari to be sworn in. True to his promise, his company commenced distribution of over 13 million litres per day of petroleum products from its tank farm in Apapa, Lagos. This came to approximately 400 trucks of products per day.
In some places, Capital Oil reduced the pump price of petrol from N200 to N100 per litre in order to compel other marketers to follow suit. Nnewi and Onitsha in Anambra State as well as some other parts of the country were test cases for this patriotic intervention.
The national embarrassment that would have resulted from the visiting heads of state and delegation from across Africa and beyond noticing the fuel scarcity menace was well managed due to the patriotic intervention of a man who began with nothing but has been blessed by God through a dint of hard work and ingenuity to become one of the nation’s biggest oil and gas merchant.
The story of Ifeanyi Ubah is literarily a study in commitment to personal ideals, doggedness in pursuit of same and benevolence as key to greater achievements. He is certainly not an inheritor of any family estate that prides itself with fat bank accounts nor landed properties that can go for mouth watering offers, yet he sits on a business empire that is measured in the billionaires’ club, all courtesy of the grace of God and his refusal to be dwarfed by the circumstances of his relatively poor family background where good secondary education was absolutely not a right.
Born as the first son of seven children to Mr. & Mrs. Alphonsus Ubah in Otolo, one of the four quarters of Nnewi in Anambra State, Nigeria; Ubah due to the inability of his parents to cater for the educational and material needs of all their children at the same time, dropped out of Premier Academy, Lugbe, Abuja to learn trade at a young age.
It was very tough at the earliest time trying to find his bearing in a particular trading area that would guarantee him a smooth rise to prosperity. Incidentally, God in his infinite mercy favoured him such that many people keep wondering the magic behind his great achievement within a very young age. Little wonder why he is highly misunderstood in some quarters by people who try to make the name look controversial. In spite of whatever misgivings that come his way, Ubah keeps thanking God for His grace upon my life. He makes no pretences that acknowledge the fact that if someone who God has blessed forgets his people, God can take back the blessing.
Ifeanyi Ubah had seen poverty while growing up as the son of a teacher whose salary was barely enough to cater for the needs of the family, so he has always remained conscious of the fact that his joy as a successful business man will never be full until he has assisted those who are lacking the good things of life as he once experienced. It was his sad experience of deprivation of certain basic needs of life at very tender age that forced him to abandon his education to the great disappointment of his father who was emotionally weighed down by the steely- hearted decision of his first son to stray into business abandoning the pursuit of education even though the means of achieving some great feat in education was obviously lacking.
The young Uba proved his father wrong when at 19 he had become a millionaire not through scam of any sort nor ritual but through giant strides in those money spinning ventures, his peers would not have observed at that age. At 20 he became a dealer in liquid diamond at the Democratic Republic of Congo and at the time, he would take the risk of travelling all the way to South Africa to sell his products. In no distant time, he made it so big that he could afford to charter plane to ferret his products.
If there was one good decision he took out of personal conviction as against the advice of his parents, it was the issue of his marriage at the age of 21 after he had suffered a heart break from the woman he wanted to marry. Unknowingly to him, the disappointment was to pave way for another woman whom God had ordained to be his. Today, he does not have any regret sharing his life with her. At the time, he chose to marry the lady who is now mother of his five children, his parents had objected ostensibly on the ground of his relative young age.
They tried to discourage him, saying that he was still very young but as the man wearing the shoe and knowing where it pinches, he had his way as he knew that being a millionaire at his age was a quick invitation to all manner of free women. He never wanted such distraction and the alternative was early marriage.
For Ifeanyi Ubah, making people happy has become a passion as he lives his life daily attending to the needs of people. He once said in a media interview that “there is hardly any day of my life that I don’t attend to at least 10 people, ranging from my employees, to business partners, and aides among others. The fact that I can be a solution to someone’s problem gladdens my heart. Sometimes I stay without sleeping for three days. The grace of touching lives gives me extra joy. I also understand the ills of our society, as people tend to misuse opportunities. Thus I would want to work with the best brains, with people who have something to offer and not just people who want to live off me. I want to see how I can bring out the best in people who have something to offer, so as to make our society a better one.”
Currently, Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah is a Senator representing the people of Anambra State and Nigerians and like the humanist that he is, his foray into the murky waters of politics is not for want of greener pasture for further enrichment of himself but rather to have a wider platform of helping to uplift the life of his people. During his electioneering campaign under the platform of the relatively unknown Young Peoples Party (YPP), his mantra had resolved around youth and women empowerment, in addition to education and commerce. The Anambra of his dream is a state that would supersede the likes of Delta State in sporting activities that would be found in a game’s village currently under construction in his state.
As part of the project, he has this to say “we are building where people can have leisure and exercise themselves. We need to make the games village a world tourism center in Anambra State. We need to engage our people in sporting activities and also use it to help ourselves and bring dividends to the country. We want to celebrate Anambra State again the way it is done in Delta State. Anambra has been leading in sports and won’t stop. There is no construction company in this state that has the kind of equipment we have at the construction site of the games village. I never did any contract for anyone in my life. This is solely our company’s project. But I thank God I was able to move them to the state and they are giving us lots of value in terms of logistics. So, we are jumping and rolling. We can’t wait to have a games village. The storm will soon be over. The people that love football will live to enjoy it. We are building a 200 self-contained suit for our team. We are going to have over 200 players. Whatever you see in Europe would be replicated here. So much is ongoing, and I am sure we are going to achieve that.”
Odita Sunday wrote from Asaba