Tomi Akporoghene Wojuola
Throwback to our first encounter, it was one which had been evaded timelessly by fate or would I say luck? After missing ourselves on countless occasions, the message finally came in, “Tomi, I’m in Abuja, I hope you are too. If you are free, let’s see at my place tomorrow by 4pm.” My reply wasn’t what one would have expected, it was more of an Oliver Twists kind of reply, moreover, it wasn’t my fault either that we couldn’t meet last time I was in Delta.
“I’m not coming alone, I’m coming with friends who want to see you.” I wrote. Expecting the usual reply of the average Nigerian politician who would immediately formulate an excuse to avoid meeting ‘crowd’ I got much more than what I expected when he replied, “how many people are coming? Seems we are going to have a large dinner then. Looking forward to hosting you and your friends.”
Fast forward to the day, my friends, more excited than I was, were also more ready than I was. Boarding different vehicles to a ‘small house’ in the Maitama district of the federal capital territory with little or no security, I said to myself, “why have such money and still live in such a modest house? This has gone far beyond humility, this must have become a lifestyle”.
I had heard of his humility, which many had confirmed is second to none, but then, I didn’t expect it. His gates were opened, we walked through like royalties asking ourselves why the little or no protocol and then it dawned on us, our host operated an ‘open door policy,’ he never locks his gates!
Waiting for an aide to usher us into the main house, we were once again disappointed. A matured tall man in a simple blue top and black jeans with slippers on, smiled while opening the door, lo and behold, it was the Anioma Star Prince, Hon. Prince Ned Nwoko!!!
“Tomi!” he exclaimed, “I expected more of you guys. So this is you finally, please make sure you do feel at home” and he meant it! Accompanied by a mutual friend, Ayo, a deputy superintendent of police, we were welcomed by the aura of one who meant well for his people, a man who gave his all for more opportunities for the less privileged.
Too welcoming, he was. Too stiff, we were! Trying to break the ice, he cracked jokes, getting to know each and every one of my friends on an individual basis, expanding their intellectual interests, blossoming their ideas and broadening their horizons. This was a man who had just met them, taking interest in their problems, proffering solutions where he could. I saw in him, a leader to the youths, a mentor to the growing and a pathfinder to the lost. Immediately I knew, this was who was needed.
Dinner was served. Confused we were. Delicacies in all forms, mouth watering dishes in excess. What to pick first, what to eat with what, now posed a problem. As usual, the humble man in blue came to the rescue. “What would you prefer?” he asked while handing over the menu to his guests who sat like kings. Understanding as always, he gave his recommendations, and trusting his better judgment we opted for it. Personally serving his guests, he showed a rare form of service. “Don’t worry, sit down, I would bring it to you” he said as Naomi stood up to collect her meal. Astonished would be an understatement, we wondered which billionaire would be so busy, yet so accessible, so rich yet so humble, so intelligent, yet so understanding. And then I remembered, that was the Prince’s weakness, he just be couldn’t be like them, he just wasn’t our regular politician who always felt too big to serve.
After dinner we sat to discuss issues bothering the youths, and we listened and felt the emotional pains of a man who saw wrong, wants to correct but needs the opportunity to effect the change. “Our youths have been colonized mentally. They have taken your money and given you peanuts in return. They have used your money to buy influence and are colonizing you. When you have influence, there’s more ways of colonizing than occupying a territory. My ambition is not about the money, it’s about the passion for a people who should get better representation.”
And truly, it wasn’t about the money, just outside where parked cars worth the twelve years salary of even a looting Senator, yet these cars were bought with legitimate money. It left me with the question, why have all these and still want to go through the stress of making laws, why not enjoy the luxury you have earned? But then it dawned on me, it was the weakness of the Anioma Star Prince, he just couldn’t do without putting his people first.
After a long talk, it was time to go, walking us to the gate, he gave out his number to all, requesting that they call him whenever the need arises. I wandered in my thoughts again, when others hoard their contact information, here was a man dishing his out to all who cared to save it, and then I came to the conclusion, this was the exact weakness needed of a leader.
A weakness where he can’t shut his doors to youths, leaders or women either, a weakness where he sees his position as one of service and not to be served, a weakness where he cannot do without getting to know the individual problems of his constituents, the weakness of solving the problems of his constituency. Yes, his weaknesses is Anioma’s gain. Indeed, Ned is very much needed!