Posted by News Express | 30 March 2016 | 7,543 times
The name, Dr. Godwin Maduka, a.k.a Lion of Africa, may not ring a bell in Nigeria since he is neither a politician, musician nor film star. But, he is a philanthropist per excellence. To the people of Umuchukwu town, formerly known as Nkelehi, in Orumba South Local Government Area of Anambra State, he is like the God, in human form. In this interview with Snr. Correspondent PAMELA EBOH, the United States-based medical practitioner gave an insight into his world of philanthropy, among other issues. Excerpts:
News Express: For someone in the medical field, you have done massively well in the area of philanthropy beyond the level that is normally seen anywhere in this country. What is the driving force?
Dr. Godwin Maduka: It came out of necessity. There was so much void. Even before I left for the United States people were having a lot of hard time, especially in the area of basic amenities and government influence was almost nil here so. So, coming back home after some years, I had to do what I had to do to help my people. Don’t forget, I was once one of them and whatever they are experiencing now, I have experienced way back then before going to the US. I think anybody would have done same . . . It’s almost like being taken to a concentration camp or a place of hardship, and you have the opportunity to escape or you are given opportunity of change, then you will definitely want to change others. That is simply the foundation of the philanthropy.
Are you fulfilled doing that?
Well, it goes without saying. It’s done, but we put a cap on it.
At this juncture, can you now beat your chest and say: yes, I have done something?
I know I have done something, but there are still a lot more to be done. I don’t think anyone can ever be done except you have unlimited funds. Philanthropy is driven by passion and I will say I’m done when the basic things that human beings need to survive, at least around this area, have been taken care of. If I stop right now, I’m OK too, but as far as there is still someone who can go without eating in this town or somewhere, then I can’t stop. My kind of philanthropy is not always physical; it also deals with mental investment: educating people on the new ways of life, also trying to expose people to different ways of thinking that will end up helping them in taking care of themselves better. That’s also part of what I do. You know, you can give somebody a fish to eat for a day but, if you teach him how to fish, it’s for a life time. It’s not all about the monetary value of things that I do.
What are the challenges you have faced in the course of your charity work?
Well, as you can see, we Africans are still struggling to understand the new ways of the world. This is still the continent or country that had difficulties embracing religion before, whether Islam or Christianity. In Igbo land, there is a saying: “Igbo don’t have a king. That is to say, sometimes, we do not have a culture of applauding somebody when he or she is doing good; rather, we employ the tear-him-down attitude. Applauding whatever good somebody else is doing is more ideal because you are not there to do it. But here, the contrary is the case, especially in Igbo land. We tend to tear down our great men and women or people with great ideas. Everybody wants to be a leader; nobody wants to be a follower. So, when you see some monumental philanthropy, as some people put it, of course, that would incite some criticisms and envy. But if you are really a good philanthropist, you try to knock that off and move on.
Usually, when someone comes out in a community or place to render help, there is a tendency that some people, especially the youths and the relatives become lazy, because in their mind someone is picking up the bill for them. Do you have such scenario playing out?
Of course! And sometimes it is heart-breaking to see that. But that’s part of the negative side of philanthropy. But another point is that when you give someone today and you don’t give tomorrow, you become a forgotten piece. We do have people like that, but we also have some people who will go to the grave thanking you for surviving with the little you gave them. We have also have people who become very independent with this sense of entitlement. We also have some element of sycophancy too. I do know that majority of people in this town are very happy and also struggling to get there with the one I have given them or the one they have acquired themselves. But to answer your question, I know we do have a minority that can fit into that category.
Some people go into philanthropy to be noticed for a target goal while others go into it for the sole aim of helping those in need. Which area is yours tilting?
Oh! It was simply borne out of suffering. I didn’t go into philanthropy work to be noticed by anybody or for any other thing of any sort. I went into charity work because I tasted poverty and I know the pungent taste. I wanted people to have the opportunity of tasting the other side of life, that’s the essence.
Is your philanthropy a childhood dream or a chance thing?
Like I told you before: If you have been through hard life, whether as a child or an adult, it’s almost like someone who will go and pick groundnuts and go sell in the market or picking corns, carrying it on your head to the market to sell just to survive. Then an opportunity comes calling, and you remember your colleagues way back in that market; you remember your room-mate; people that were in the same category as you were. You see people don’t just get up and say: I want to do philanthropy work. But, if you can see yourself in somebody else and you know that you have been there and at that time you didn’t like the picture, then you will want to render help, so that nobody else will have to go through that.
What was your childhood like?
My childhood was beautiful; there wasn’t much. We were working in the farm, fetching water from the stream and going to school. It was towards the end of my secondary school days when my father died that I started experiencing some hardship. My elementary and pre-elementary school days were excellent. I had young parents. My father was a native doctor who was giving herbal drugs to people. That is, alternative medicine, while my mother was a farmer. So we had bounty at that point. I think we were one of those in this area that could boast of a zinc roof over their house. At one point, we had three houses: one was mostly a kitchen, then one housed all of us, the children and our father; and then one was given out to the young men in our village so that when they come home from abroad, they will have a place to stay. Most of the hardship I experienced was during my time in high school and that was after the death of my father. A lot of other people experienced the same hardship. When you have one of your parents no longer existing, the income becomes very meagre, and you struggle to even finish school.
Umuchukwu (God’s children) used to be a very backward town, known for its idol worship and involvement in charm. How do you feel about the Umuchukwu of today?
I feel really good because darkness has given way for light to shine and raise the town to the top echelon. The incoming of light to Umuchukwu, through the denunciation of idol worship, has opened doors to a lot of good things in the town. People are progressing better and there are a whole lot of testimonies to that. I am really happy that I took part in the transformation of the Umuchukwu of today.
You have three doctorate degrees from Harvard to your kitty and, according to an old school mate you were not just brilliant but hard working. Will you say that what your achievements have been purely through hard work or Providence?
Both! You know, academic intelligence is a gift. Some have the gift of singing and all of us can’t be good musicians. We also have some mathematicians . . . Academic intelligence is a gift and sometimes it is hereditary. As early as my first grade, I always came first in my class, all the way to the end and that way I knew I had a gift. But I always say this: a very responsible child makes a responsible adult. You don’t have to wait until your child is 20 years old before you start teaching him the ways of the adult. You can still let them play as a child, but every once in a while introduce some adult conversation into their life. Some of us had brief childhood and after that we became men even before we finished our childhood age, based on circumstances . . . We had to struggle; we had to survive; we started thinking like adults. So, by the time we got to adulthood, it became a second nature. I believe that my childhood struggles, troubles in terms of surviving made it easy for me to struggle hard in US. It makes you hardened; you become more focused; you become unbending because you just have to do what you have to do. While others are sleeping or enjoying, you have your eye on the ball. You can have intelligence, but what about if you have no persistence and endurance, coupled with faith? You see, as a physician, faith does wonders. I believe my God wants me to do this . . . then, why not? You move on and you keep telling yourself: I can do this, I can do this and before you know it, you do it.
What is your passion in life?
Well, philanthropy is one big part of it. My passion has always been doing things that most people don’t expect me to do, whether in the area of philanthropy or area of education. I was brought up a Catholic so I enjoy gospel music a lot; it’s a passion for me. I can actually get into it. It lifts me up and encourages my faith. I have passion for Christianity and I equally do for other religions too, because as an adult and a professor, I have come to realise that there is no way almost two to three billion or more that are not Christians are going to go to hell. I don’t believe that. To me God can answer prayers through different religions because there is beauty in all of it. I do have that passion where I think about Hindu, Buddha, the Moslem. The ones I couldn’t understand are the agnostics and atheists. The quest for the knowledge of existence is a passion, too. The mystery of life is a passion for me. At some point one has to question some of these: our mere existence, its origin, because looking at human beings, you know we are an art work that can be designed: you draw something, put a head to it, mouth to eat, eyes to see, then you encase a brain and then you have a heart that pumps. Have you taken breath every second of one’s life? Spirits don’t need to breathe or drink. Maybe, they drink over there, I don’t know. I don’t want to delve so much into that, but the quest for the mere existence of humanity is a passion. Looking at human beings and wondering what they are thinking, are they feeling the same way you feel? Do they really think the same way you think? I do wonder sometimes: what is encased in that body and what makes people behave the way they do? Are we all actually the same? Why do some people make irrational comments? Is there something lacking in their make-up? Why do people kill? Is there some inhibition-deficit in them? So, the quest for knowledge of different things is my passion.
Passion changes too, though. When I was younger, my passion was just reading and passing my exams so I could make my parents proud and boldly say dad, I am first again in my class. It was an obsession, but it was a passion too. Then, you get to the point where you have doctorate degrees from Harvard, the number one university in the world, and come out from there successfully with distinction. Then passion changes to philanthropy, family and children. Passion does change, it’s not static, it is dynamic. At this point to me, philanthropy is driving even my career. I had to curb different ways of working hard, having a successful practice to be able to have enough rest after my expenses; because you can’t take everything you have and go and invest in philanthropy. If you want to have philanthropy of one naira, you have to try to work as much as ten naira, so that at the end of the day, you may be left with one naira you may not need, and then you invest in humanity. Some people enjoy putting money in the bank, I enjoy seeing structures; I enjoy promoting ideas; I enjoy seeing my mentees excelling. Some of them are building homes now, having wives and kids out of the benefits of the philanthropy work I did. I remember some people have come to me to say that they benefited from my philanthropy work in the past without my even knowing that I actually paid their school fees. However, passion cannot just be one thing, people have many passions.
Besides your ingenious charity work in your community and environs, do you also get involved in philanthropic work in the US?
Yes, I do a lot of philanthropy work in the US, mostly in the church. It’s not something a Christian will come out and say, but I do it to fan my faith. Other ones are help here and there, people that are struck by natural disaster. I don’t want to sound like I am boasting though but if that will make somebody realise that people can actually get involved, that’s not bad. There are some other philanthropy we do that never get announced; like helping a total stranger that need help, helping families in need; there are some of them that one may not remember. True philanthropy does not have border, if it does, it is politics, that’s it. It’s no longer philanthropy at that point, it is called politics.
Where do you hope to see Umuchukwu in the next five years?
I am praying to God to see Umuchukwu town more than where they are now. Most of what I do, though God takes control, that’s where my faith comes in. I will like to see a major university here; I will like to see some kind of factory or some kind of establishments that will get people gainfully employed. I would like state, federal or international presence here because, after all Umuchukwu, right now, have everything an urban city has. We are very well-protected by security in terms of SARS, Police, Civil Defence and army still patrol here. We have motorable roads, good source of water: you don’t have to dig long here to get a borehole and, it’s still practically a city with fresh air because of the vegetation. We don’t have much pollution yet, and also as you know, we have the tallest building in the whole of the South-Eastern Nigeria, 15-storey high and 17-decking tall. So, I think five years from now, of course, it can’t go down, it has to go up from what is on ground.
What is the idea behind the tall building?
The idea is to attract some major companies, international, federal or state presence here. Eventually, it has to happen.
Is your family involved in the philanthropy work you are doing in any way?
Sure, it is a family affair. My youngest brother, Barrister Kenneth Maduka took charge of close to 70 or 80 per cent of all the buildings in this town, including my home here. He was able to hire some good architects and builders and was also able to manage some constructions. He has actually made me very proud. And he does it without complaints. He is always happy to do those things. Some of the philanthropic work, he actually looked them up and brought them forward. I have a beautiful family that even if we don’t have our own private rooms or sharing one building, we will still build for the widows. Two of my late brothers were also involved in building for widows and people with no income. Those ones alive are all involved in doing all these things. So, it’s a family passion.
With a doctorate in pharmacy, do you have a drug manufacturing company?
I think that would be in future and that would be here. You see, I read both medicine and pharmacy to a doctorate degree and I am interested in the area of pharmacognism, which is the study of plant for medicine. My parents did a lot of that: where they got roots and herbs and were able to extract the medicine for different diseases. For now, no, I don’t manufacture drugs for medicinal purposes. But eventually, with so many fake drugs in Nigeria, I think it’s something I have at the back of my mind to do. If you take some of these medicines and put it in the analyser, you will find out that there’s no active ingredient in them. You are just taking sugar pills.
Yes. We call it sugar pill when you don’t have any active ingredient there. I don’t know if that still exists with the NAFDAC check. But I have seen that before. I do know that now if you are caught selling such here, you will be in trouble so, I’m not sure that still exists.
Do you have any ambition of getting into politics?
Everybody keeps asking me that. Politics is not my ambition. Do you know why people get into politics?
Some people go into politics to make a change in peoples’ lives. You don’t have to have a lot of money to go in there too, but there are some people with a whole lot of money that go there not to make money again. I give high five to those people that go into politics to change lives. In my own case, it is the mutest thing in my thought and in my mind. I’m so busy, still practicing actively, running so many businesses and also helping in philanthropy. So, what time is left for politics? Nigerian politics is not perfected though but, hopefully, in future it will be perfected. We still don’t trust each other in politics; we cannot disagree to agree or agree to disagree, and sometimes it is met with difficulties.
With the level of your accomplishment here in Umuchukwu, how would you react if your people approach you to be their traditional ruler?
I think the best way to answer your question is . . . Hmm . . . I don’t think that’s one of my passions. Not with all the ideas I have garnered over the years with three doctorate degrees and controlling . . . Today we held an election. And you know, in the past, the position of the president-general was rotational from village to village for a period of three years. That’s old fashion. We live in a democratic age. We don’t want to make a mistake so I had to educate the people about democracy. They know it already, but we had to enforce it. So, today, for the first time they were able to elect a new president-general of the town by popular vote.
•Photo shows Dr. Godwin Maduka, a.k.a Lion of Africa.
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