OIL DISCOVERY BROUGHT CURSES TO NIGERIA—Engr. Ukpere

Engr. Monday Mark Ukpere, is an international business man based in Germany, an indigene of Aliokpu Community in Ika South LGA of Delta State. His quest in bringing developmental training programmes to Ika land is based on his exposure and discoveries of various developmental programmes in the Western World; hence the need to create a platform that will encourage people to look for ways to build up careers that will give Ika indigenes and Nigerians the positive publicity that we have been asking for over the years. Engr. Monday Ukpere is a Public Health Consultant, a philanthropist and a goal getter, who delights in building people for a better future and sustainable development.
In this interview he granted Ika Weekly Newspaper reporter at his office in Agbor recently, he takes us through his experiences and sojourns in the business world within and outside the shores of Nigeria. He also outlines his plans of impacting positively on Ika people, through exploring various avenues to improve on the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for our teeming youths.
MAY WE MEET YOU SIR?
I am Engineer Monday Mark Ukpere
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD?
I was born in 1958, into the family of late Chief Chukwuekwu Ukpere of Agbor Kingdom, precisely from Aliokpu Village in Ika South LGA. My mother was late Mrs. Janet Ukpere, from Agbor-Nta Community also in Ika South LGA. I had my primary school at Local Authority Primary School, Aliokpu, from 1967 to 1972, from where I proceeded to Ika Grammar School, Boji-Boji Owa, 1972 to 1977. I had a stint of teaching from 1977 to 1979 at Odamgbugbu Primary School, Owa-Ofie, though the name of the school would have changed by now. I later proceeded to Auchi Polytechnic in 1979 and graduated in 1982 with a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Fine Arts. Subsequently after my National Youth Service Corps, at Ilorin, Kwara State, in 1983, I could not secure any good job after my youth service because I was not too satisfied with my certificate, although I made 3.6GPA, which was like First Class in the University; as a Fine Artist, I did not fit into the system, except I had to take up teaching as a profession and I didn’t want to be a teacher because I wouldn’t have had a future there. Then in Lagos, I did some business at the Sea port; I joined those that were into Clearing and Forwarding in 1985 to 1986. Then in the course of life I just thought I should be more professional, so I went into Printing and Advertising and became self employed. I started printing Calendars, designing personalized wall clocks for companies. Then the few companies in Lagos require handbills, anytime they see the samples of our products, they were amazed. Naturally, they will make orders. That was how I built up myself in the advertisement world but again, it became very competitive and I always want to back out from where there are clusters of interest.
I registered as a contractor with the Nigerian Ports Authority, NEPA and a host of other parastatals. There were some aspects of business world that I could not blend with, in the first place I don’t like to extend bribe to people and that is a platform where bribery is celebrated, so I moved out from there and started importing parts of vehicles from Germany. I started travelling to Germany in 1991 while I was based in Lagos and I am still there till date. So after a couple of importations, I started understanding the way of life of the Germans, that they are people who are so dedicated to whatever they are doing, they give every profession their best. Eventually, I discovered the use of a swing sewing machine which is the best for pest control equipment. In 1996, I visited the company that manufactures the machines in Germany and told them that I can market their products in Nigeria and they obliged me and made me their representative in Nigeria.
So, upon my return back to Nigeria, I started marketing swing sewing machine with Swingfog and Fotan which is a terminal sewing machine used for mosquitoes and pest control application; and having made some impact, I made some huge sales within a short time; they now requested that I be their sole representative in Nigeria and of course as the products was getting well known across the country, some other people came and started writing directly to the company in Germany that they also want to sell their products but of course because of the common understanding I had with them, they will always refer them to me in Nigeria, that was when I was able to establish my very good relationship with them and till today as we speak, my company is the sole representative of Swingtec GmbH of Germany; my company in Nigeria is U-Mond Limited, Lagos. Today, U-Mond Limited is a household name in pest control equipment and allied products, materials, sales and services. We import, we give warranty and we follow up with maintenance, we have majority of our client all over Nigeria; in fact, we have representatives virtually in the thirty six states of the federation. In fact, that is our core area and like I said earlier, I am always desirous to add value to what we have here. Our people are not too zealous to move forward.
There are lot of Nigerians overseas, but my challenges with most of them is what do these people learn from outside? What do they bring back home? Those in authority don’t seem to help matters anymore; rather, they prefer to own houses in Europe and all over the continents instead of developing our own local environment. The roads are bad; the children are not well educated as in some communities. One just wonders whether those who have been to secondary school were even qualified for primary school. So there are lots of these challenges and I thought that the leaders should pull the people along, we have to start from somewhere. Sometimes in 2014, I started a football academy which ran for a couple of years, I was not getting enough satisfaction in the management of the game, those that were interested in the management were just after their own pockets, despite the benefits derivable with the idea of a football academy, which most of them know so well. At this level now, we would have been thinking of signing our boys to foreign clubs but that dream was frustrated by greed and nonchalant attitudes, so I had to suspend it. I had twenty four players in the academy and the twenty four of them where on scholarships, I opened a bank account for the twenty four of them with Union Bank Plc and I was funding their accounts every month, like they were earning stipends but all that has been suspended temporarily. However, I hope to reopen the academy in the nearest future. The children have been calling me but I have always told them to be patient. I will get a new management then we begin to sign them on contract and see how we can help some of them play in the club sides overseas. That is the position with the football academy for now.
After a while, I thought we should not fizzle out from the scene, I now decided that an ICT centre can also give the people a kind of exposure that I desire to give to my people. If you ask me, I feel with the ICT knowledge, these children can go places. I mentioned my friend’s daughter; she is just fifteen years old and she came out third in the whole world, for the Microsoft World Development Competition. So for a girl from Nigeria, an indigene of Akwa-Ibom state to be third in the world, it is quite commendable. So these are the things that beat my imagination. Okay, where are we? Are we just passing the time or counting days? The boxing legend, Mohammed Ali used to say, “Don’t count the days; make the days count.” So at the end of the season you ask yourself, “what have been achieved?”
A child that has access to computer from Primary School will build up on it but some of our people were not privileged to use the computer even up to university. This is one of the things that I am looking at, it is not enough to make all the monies and you are celebrated. There is a saying that “your work can only be measured by the number of the people you affect their lives.” It is not all about driving exotic cars, and people are celebrating you, calling you names that will end one day. Imagine my father was so rich and when he was buried, none of his wealth and assets accompanied him to the grave, that is all; so the legacies you leave behind is what you are celebrated for. When my father was alive, he built this house at 9, Old Lagos/Asaba Road, Agbor. Those days, he was a very rich man, an illiterate who does not know how to read ABC. He was very hardworking during his days which earned him the “Chukwuekwu of Agbor” Kingdom. Anywhere he went to, he was highly respected, he was not greedy for wealth, he just had to work and encouraged his children. He didn’t go to school but he assured his children that any level they wanted to attain in their educational pursuit, he was ready to sponsor it. He sponsored his children and even relatives to the United States of America to any level of education, but never complained. So, when I look at his relationship with people, I feel elated; knowing that the only legacies that one leaves behind is the lives you have affected positively before you pass on and it is left for people to adopt what you left behind and say let me also help other people so that they can as well come up. I continue to give all the glory to God that when we are in a position to help people, we should help them achieve their destinies. Don’t discriminate; don’t imagine that this person is not from your side because in Lagos, over a hundred people have passed through my business line. I train people. What I discovered initially was that if I don’t have enough people in the field, I will not be able to sell my products; I do have patronage from Port Harcourt, Kano, Katsina, Benue, Markurdi, everywhere. Only recently also I have been asked to represent the Company in West Africa sub-region because some of those who were appointed to market the products couldn’t meet up with the standards of the company. So these are the things that bother my mind. I just thought that something should be done, let’s have the system going but it is now left for the individual to accept what is beneficial. According to Jackman “the poor people are the most difficult people to deal with, when you give them something, they will think it is a trap, when you invite them into a business, they will say they don’t have experience, when you say okay, I will help you, they will say they don’t have the time, that is why poor people are always constrained, they like gambling, playing naija bet, lotto, pools etc. That is the mindset of the poor people. So that is the area that we really want to work on, to change their mindset, so that they will not be thinking that because my father is poor, poverty is in the family line, even when their father is rich, they will get to a level when they cannot discover how their father became rich, they drop out, some, the day their father dies, all the properties are sold, they return to square one.
The major idea of setting up the ICT centre is to help develop talents to enable beneficiaries move on with life through sustainable development. However it goes, my sincere wish is that the commissioning of the ICT and skill development centre in Agbor, will be of immense benefit to the people of Ika land.
THE WORLD TODAY, LIKE YOU EARLIER SAID, IS GLOBALIZED, THROUGH THE INTRODUCTION OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY. IN COMPARING NIGERIA OF OLD IN THEIR ACCEPTANCE OF IT AND NOW, WHAT DO THINK WILL BE OUR ACHIEVEMENTS BETWEEN NOW AND NEXT TWO DECADES?
Except you start a race, you will never think of ending it. I just believe that there is willingness, the individuals are willing to learn but the environment is hostile, I know there are a lot of our boys that are computer literate, smart phone users, they abuse the use because if the knowledge of Information Technology that everybody has, is put into good use, they wouldn’t be where we are today; young boys are thinking of hacking, we want to defraud other people through internet but the good intentions of the inventors is to globalize transactions and, information. We have to really wake up, our leaders are interested in funding their personal interest, they carry our money and keep them in foreign countries which the countries in turn use to develop their economies, but we don’t have the money here to develop our economy. So capital flight and corruption has gotten us stranded. Why are we making so much budget, yet we are not getting the money to spend?
SIR, YOU ARE WIDELY TRAVELLED, ONE CAN ALSO CLASSIFY YOU BOTH AS A NIGERIAN AT HOME AND IN THE DIASPORA; HAVING TASTED BOTH SIDES OF THE COIN. WE ARE AWARE THAT MAJORITY OF NIGERIANS ABROAD ARE WELL ESTABLISHED IN THEIR VARIOUS ENDEAVORS; HOW DO YOU THINK THEY CAN MAKE THEIR POSITIVE CONTRIBUTIONS IN DEVELOPING NIGERIA, TO THE STANDARD OF THE COUNTRIES THEY RESIDE IN OVERSEAS?
You know when people are misinformed, and the Nigeria environment is very hostile; when you invite some of them and tell them to come and invest at home, they will tell you No, they will be kidnapped, you can give people business they will dupe you, armed robbers will snatch your car, because as a Nigeria as a matter of fact I am more comfortable outside Nigeria than here, because the system works over there unlike here. Your taste there is determined by how much money you have, the vehicle you drive oversea is determined by how much money you have knowing full well that you must pay tax on the vehicle.
Some schools of thought are of the opinion that the Nigerian Government should be involved in industrialization in order to rejuvenate the economy of the country, taking into cognizance of the early seventies where regions had comparative cost advantage which was largely based on the goods and services within the regions. Sir, what is your take on the issue?
Well, I think the discovery of Oil rather than bringing blessings to Nigeria had brought curses to this nation. The average Nigerian does not discuss or eye any aspect of the economy, except oil and unfortunately some states or countries that have oil have been able to put their revenue into good use, they developed their countries with oil money; but here in Nigeria, we have destroyed the Nation with Oil revenue. We celebrate those who are stealing the money and everybody wants to be an oil and gas business man or woman because they know that it is quick money, you get an allocation and you sell it.
SIR, HOW CAN YOU ASSESS THE ADMINISTRATION OF GOVERNOR IFEANYI OKOWA OF DELTA STATE AND THAT OF PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL?
Well if you ask me about Leadership in Nigeria, you will discover that immediately somebody gets into leadership authority, he becomes an emperor. They dictate the pace of what is to be done; they misuse the resources of the state. Well, I don’t know much about the governor of Delta State; I am told he is trying, working hard, but again my only fear is that they get themselves exposed to all these political pirates, the ones I call sycophants. At the federal level, our President Muhammadu Buhari, has been sick and it is not a crime to be sick, I am sure he has a very good intention, but again these sycophants, the hyenas and wolves in the corridors of power will not allow him to work because some people think this is their own time to make money, to steal money. The man is sick, but the economy is also bad and he also needs to give approval to legislative documents.
ARE YOU MARRIED?
Yes, I am Married
TO WHO?
To, Pastor (Mrs.) Joy Ukpere
WHICH CHURCH DO YOU ATTEND?
I attend Redeemed Christian Church of God
WHAT IS YOUR PERCEPTION ABOUT LIFE?
Well, life is a transition, you move from the day you were born, to the day that you are going to die, and the very interesting thing about life is that except you have the fear of God you will continue to live in the fear of man. For when you have the fear of God, there is nothing that man can do to you; because the bible says, that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, and the wise man does not fear man, because at any particular time they have the knowledge of how to associate with man. You know what to say and what not to say, you know how not to hurt people, you know how not to be angry, but to love; that is what humanity is all about.
SIR, DO YOU HAVE ROLE MODELS, AND IF YES WHO ARE THEY?
Well, my role models are those who exhibit the fear of God in anything they do. They have humanity in their heart. There are many people, who are into philanthropic services based on what they are benefiting from the people, but the true philanthropist is the person that is not hoping to benefit anything from the people and yet he is doing something for them. My role model is Jesus Christ.
SIR, WHICH ORGANIZATION DO YOU BELONG TO, BOTH IN THE CHURCH AND OUTSIDE THE CHURCH?
None, I usually don’t have time to join any organization, though, I was a member of Rotary International in Lagos but because of time constraint, I couldn’t cope. In the church I am an ordained deacon. I am the chairman of the Men’s Fellowship and we use that platform to help members.
WHAT LEGACIES ARE YOU LEAVING BEHIND FOR HUMANITY?
To the glory of God, I just wish that people can be able to key into the idea that I propounded. Legacy, is selfless service, I talked of the football academy to encourage people to come up, because football is one of the lucrative business today, the highest paid sport all over the world.
WHAT ARE YOUR LIKES AND DISLIKES?
I like people who are humane, and who think of other people, because the reason God created us is to be our brothers keepers, to love one another and to assist the less privileged ones in the society. I dislike anger, cheating, dishonesty, people who disassociate themselves from the common people; when they are in position of authority every other person is looked down upon.
AS A BUSINESSMAN, IMAGINE THE ECONOMY OF NIGERIA TRANSACTING INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS, HOW WOULD YOU IN YOUR OWN VIEW COMPARE INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TRANSACTION IN THE PAST AND PRESENT ECONOMIC RECESSION?
It has been a vicious cycle, before now, though depending on the value of our local currency, business was quite interesting, initially, I was traveling to Germany twice a month but at times once a month, sometimes bi-monthly; but now when I cost the price of flight ticket, I feel it is much better to call my company to freight the goods down. It is a very bad situation, it is causing us so much distractions. We cannot order for goods like before, we have limited stock now and the purchasing power is not readily available; the current situation of the economy is not too pleasant to talk about.
SO, WHAT MEASURES DO YOU THINK CAN BE USED TO CURTAIL THE SITUATION?
Yes, like they said, the recession will soon be over, we also want the value of the Naira to appreciate; because when you tell a potential client that this is the cost of our equipment, they will exclaim that it is too high. I don’t fix prices; the prices are determined by the exchange rates.
ARE YOU A POLITICIAN?
No.
HOW DO YOU RELAX?
I relax by doing exercise, I play soccer, in the office I have very large area where every Saturday morning, I do some jogging and play soccer with friends.
DO YOU HAVE ANY BEST AND WORST MOMENTS?
My best moments are when things are working out well, when I am able to meet my needs and the needs of other people that are coming to me for assistance. While my worst moment is when business is dull and you are unable to assist those who come to you for assistance.
HOW HAVE YOU CONTRIBUTED TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF IKA LAND AND ALIOKPU COMMUNITY IN PARTICULAR?
When you develop somebody, you expect that such person also will contribute in helping others. I believe strongly that, that is how the chain of progress is developed. We had the football academy; we have the Ihu-Iyase Computer Training and Skill Development Centre now. I hope that people will take the advantage of being involved with the project to develop themselves.
DO YOU HAVE AWARDS?
Yes, I had an award from the church in 2010, when we had discipleship examination, where I emerged the first in my Province; I also got an international award from Swingtech as a public health consultant. I have done so much that often times they make references to my ideas; on what I think the human environment should look like.
IS LIFE A DO OR DIE AFFAIR?
No, it is not a thing that you will kill yourself over. It’s just live and let live.
WHICH IS YOUR BEST IKA DELICACY?
Pounded yam with Ofe-Ujuju and snail
DO YOU HAVE ANY WORD FOR THE NIGERIAN YOUTH?
Yes, I always encourage our young ones. They should try to be professionals in area that add value to human life, because there is always market. As long as there are human beings on earth, there are services that are needed in this world; because if you look at the western world they are aware of the end time, they know that the world will come to an end one day but they did not fold their hands and say let us wait till the world will end, that is why they are doing exploits. They are discovering new areas, planning and inventing things that are unimaginable. But here, we are not contributing anything to civilization but we are buying so much, we have the money but we cannot develop; rather we prefer to import than to export. We really do have a problem and the problem of the black man is the black man himself, because we are not adventurous.
ON A FINAL NOTE, WHAT IS YOUR GENERAL ADVICE TO NIGERIANS?
Well, we have to grow up, we can’t remain toddlers, we have to show some signs of improvement that we are learning and coping. The only thing that is bothering me in Agbor is the number of motorcycles in the street, Ninety percent of the motorcycles are made in china from the eighties till date, and they can produce something at the least cost because they know that there is market for such products. As a matter of fact, Agbor is not too small to have a metro line here; a type of city train that can take people from Ogan in Edo state through the expressway connect to rail way link to Umunede, follow the Old road and the new express road will be decongested; there will be less accidents, people will not be stranded. If a governor can say during my tenure this is the only thing I can achieve, people will appreciate him and say when such a person was a governor, and this is what he did for us. So leaders should introduce a technology that will involve our people and make them to learn to grow. So let the leaders call our children to order, try to encourage them.
Imagine, the mindset of a typical Ika youth that wants to travel to Libya, the risk is very high while the journey is not worth it. They should learn a viable trade in vocational enterprise and build up their knowledge, even if they went to school.

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