Godwin Maduka, Triple Professor of Medical Sciences and founder of Las Vegas pain institute and centre, one of the largest Private Medical Care Group, In Nevada United States Of America explained why he is venturing into Politics in Nigeria, as governorship aspirant, under PDP, in Anambra State. He spoke in an exclusive interview with two editors of Verbatim Magazine, Ugonna Anejionu and Bruno Okeke, in his country home at Umuchukwu, in Orumba south local government area of Anambra state. Excerpts:
Verbatim: Sir, the name Godwin Maduka has continued to ring bell across Nigeria and beyond. Could you tell us exactly who Dr Maduka is?
Maduka: Thank you so much. Well, I am simply Godwin Maduka. I am a medical practitioner based in the United States of America and the founder of Las Vegas pain institute and centre in the United States. I hail from Umuchukwu in Orumba south local government area of Anambra state. I am a catholic and happily married. That is just who I am.
Verbatim: How did you start your academic sojourn? It’s interesting that you now hold triple professorship titles in the medical sciences?
Maduka: Well, I had both my primary and secondary education in Anambra state before moving to the United States where I completed my graduate medical training at the prestigious Harvard school of medicine in anaesthesia, critical care and pain management in 1997. Prior to my Harvard residency, I had completed my internal medicine internship at the University of Tennessee School of medicine. I also completed a Doctor of Pharmacy degree at the Mercer University in Atlanta, Georgia in 1998. This was after obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry at Rust college, Holy springs, Mississippi in 1984.
Verbatim: Why do people call you “the lion of Africa”. Could you tell us how this name came about?
Maduka: I can’t just say, but I know fellow Africans in America reserved the title for me based on my accomplishments in America. They say my records and success in America have been too remarkable and outstanding and that they have not been surpassed by any African in America. Remember the Las Vegas pain institute and medical center has over 500 people from USA, Europe, Asia, Pacific Islands, Central and South America and also Africa in its employ. As a matter of fact, most people in America call my organization mini united nations. I think these were the reasons why that name “Lion of Africa” came to be.
Verbatim: Sir, you have been nominated for the Michael Okpara Prize, as “Philanthropist of the Millennium”. The organisers of the upcoming program, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Michael Okpara Foundation and Verbatim News Network Limited stated in a widely circulated statement that no one from available records have been so honored in Nigeria and Africa before. What do you think prompted this gesture of honour and recognition?
Maduka: I have written to thank Dr Michael Okpara Foundation and Verbatim News Network Limited, publishers of the investigative news magazine called Verbatim, for finding me worthy of the rare honour. It is a privilege to be associated with Rt. Hon. Dr. Michael Okpara, Premier of former Eastern Nigeria, who is no more now, but Okpara is alive in my mind and the mind of all progressive people of old Eastern Nigeria, on account of his wonder records in development and good governance. May His Soul continue to live and rest in the house of his creator, the Almighty God. I will have more to say on Okpara during the investiture program which I am told will take place soon.
Having said this much on Okpara, let me turn directly to your question. I think that the aspect of my life, having to do with a passion for philanthropy, and my commitment to bettering lives, was spotted by the Michael Okpara foundation and Verbatim magazine. Indeed, I have been involved in philanthropy for over 20 years now. I started building houses for widows and the poor with the little I had then. You should therefore agree with me that this and my other interventions are appreciated by all. I feel that was what attracted my nomination for the Michael Okpara Prize.
Verbatim: We have toured your community, Umuchukwu and have seen many landmark developmental projects that you solely funded. These projects run into several billions of naira from our estimate. What made you so passionate about developing your community?
Maduka: Honestly, development is the worst thing that can happen to any society. I have travelled far and near, have seen the beauty and benefits of development. That alone propelled me to strive to put my community on the path of development. Honestly, I must say being philanthropic makes me feel good. It makes me feel fulfilled as an individual and am happy God enabled me to leave the legacies you talked about for my people.
Verbatim: For the records, let us have detail of what you have done. I mean the list of the developmental projects in your community and in Anambra state at large?
Maduka: Honestly, we have, by the special grace of God almighty, been able to put some things on ground for the people of Umuchukwu and the state in general. For instance, we have built bridges, especially the one in Ogbunka, which is a neighboring town. I was able to extend a road that takes my people to Abia state and also have linked it to another road that leads to Enugu state. I am very involved in anything concerning my faith. In this regard, I have been able to get deeply involved with some churches in Abia state and my community, Orumba. Remember we are on the border town of Anambra and Abia. I must say that people within these areas have in one way or the other benefitted from one or two things we have been able to do. I have been sponsoring the academics of a lot of people some of whom I have sent overseas for greener pasture. Most of these beneficiaries are not from my town but from other towns. These, of course, is courtesy of my foundation, The Godwin Maduka foundation. On the other hand, let me also tell you that we extend most of the things we do here to the border towns from other states like Abia where I helped them construct a building for the Reverend Father. Also, I donated handsomely to the people of Ihitte to help them build a place of assembly for the community which is their town hall. I was also able to do some work for the St Monica church in Ogbunka. Outside these, I built a 17 storey Ultra-modern medical research centre in my village, Umuchukwu. This building is the first and the tallest building in Africa. I built a divisional police headquarters in my community and handed it over to the federal government and also a Civil Defence building in my community which I also handed over to the federal government.
I also built an office for the federal Special anti-robbery squad, SARS, built and fully furnished the Saint Jude’s Catholic Church Umuchukwu and also the six storey Trinitas international hospital in my community Umuchukwu which I built and equipped. I also built a police barracks in Umuchukwu, built an officers mess and also has a large expanse of land reserved for a police college in Umuchukwu. I built, furnished and handed over an ultra-modern high court in Umuchukwu to the Anambra state judiciary, and also built, furnished and handed over a magistrate court to the Anambra state judiciary.
Outside these, I built and fully furnished an ultra-modern judges’ quarters which I handed over to the Anambra state judiciary as well and also the St. Paul’s Anglican church parsonage which I handed over to the Anglican communion in my state. I built the Umuchukwu civic center, and the Umuchukwu town square. I built a forty flat building for tenants and non-indigenes living in Umuchukwu and also some very magnificent buildings for loved ones in my community.
These are outside the long roads that we have constructed in this town with asphalt and also the community school Umuchukwu which I built and donated to the Anambra state government. Outside these, I also built about 200 units of bungalows for some indigents in my community and beyond to ease their hardship and suffering. Let me tell you that many people come to me for help almost all the time and I find it an honor to oblige them. I do not even worry about where the funds will come from because I know from experience that God will continue to open doors for me as I do these things.
Remember, I promised my father at his grave side that I will make his name known all over the world. At that time, I did not know how I was going to achieve that but I was determined to. I am just excited God enabled me to fulfill that dream.
Verbatim: Like many families in Igbo land, we understand that yours was not a wealthy family from the beginning. How was growing up like, for you, in rural Umuchukwu?
Maduka: You are right in a way. But I will say, not withstanding, that we were happy, but in retrospect, it was a very hard life as we used to carry very heavy loads on our heads and trek about 10 kilometers to sell palm oil. Remember we used to climb the palm tree, harvest the fruits and the oil from the fruits which is called palm oil. We then put the oil in a metal container that was called ‘tin’ then. This tin weighs about 40 to 50 kg. We then carry the tins on our heads as there
were no mobility to neighbouring communities to sell and return. As a matter of fact when I was driving back from Ekwulobia today, the memories of how I, as very small boy trekked on that road to Umuchukwu with heavy weights on my head made me to smile. That was child labour to some extent but we never saw it that way and we saw nothing wrong in that.
We still played in the moon when it came out and we still enjoyed doing our chores no matter how difficult they were. Of course they were part of our lives. So growing up was very beautiful for me though it was hard. Looking at it now, I see it as hell. Imagine working in the farms and cutting palm trees to get money to go to school. I remember that I was too small to hold the machete with one hand to cut palm trees so I was rather holding the machete with two hands which was very risky as one is supposed to use the spare hand for stability on the tree. In this scenario, the slightest mistake can make one lose balance and fall from the tree. That was why I fell eight times from palm trees then, and why I didn’t die after all the falls has remained a mystery to me till now. Let me say that some of the trees I fell from were as high as 50 to 60 feet high. This has made me believe that am a child of destiny.
Honestly, the hardship we saw also stunted my growth. I am supposed to be at least 6 feet four inches tall but I am about 5 feet 9 inches because of the weight we carried that caused us spinal compression. I say I should have been 6 feet 4 inches tall because my kids are all above 6 feet so there is no way I should not have been close to their heights genetically speaking. But then we had loving parents. However, that is exactly why I want to change the narratives for our youths. I do not want them to be subjected to the type of suffering we went through and I will not want them to worry about where food is going to come from. I am very committed to doing this and I am sure I will do it.
Verbatim: Outside these that you mentioned, are there other menial jobs that you were engaged in, on account of ravaging poverty that time?
Maduka: Sure. We were all farmers. See, once you get to age six, you are either in the farm or babysitting somebody. Honestly, one of the most tragic experiences I had then when my younger sister who was two people behind me fell off from my hand and hit her head on concrete. I kind of kept it from my parents until the child later died and someone told my parents. This has always bothered me till today. Then in a family of many children, the babysitters had to come from among the elder siblings. May the soul of my sister rest in peace. On the other hand, you had to wake up by 6am to go to the farm and either make the mounds
or clear the bush for cultivation. Also then, I remember everyone was into goat rearing and had a goat stead or barn. So it is either you were at the farm or you were attending to the goats till about 7am when you will march to the stream to fetch water. By the time you got home, your mother would have kept a meal of roasted yam and oil, or corn or swallow for you as breakfast and you run off to school. After school you are expected to go back to the farm and put in another one hour after which you rest a bit and go to your books. I remember vividly that I studied with lanterns or the local light source made with the waste of palm oil that were put on sticks. Then I remember one of my uncles telling my parents that it was not right for me to study with that because of eye damage so they got me a torch and a lantern. Sunday then was the only resting day and by Monday, you continue the routine. That was how we operated then. Looking back at that kind of life, I only appreciate God for his kindness and goodness upon me and I have taken it upon myself to better the lives of our people in every possible way. Thank God I am achieving this feat.
Verbatim: You are now a reputed billionaire. What magic and strategies did you employ to break away from poverty?
Maduka: Nothing else. You see I studied a lot and got so many degrees and I put all of them in use and it helped my career as a pain doctor. I am still using my chemistry degree, my pharmacy degree, medicine degree, anaesthesiology degree, and also my ensisiology and pain management which encompasses surgery as well. Again, remember I trained in Harvard medical school, which is one of the best universities in the world. This also helped me in no mean measure to shape my career and make it viable. These helped me to have a thriving career with safety margin above that of others. Honestly, we are good that I can’t remember anyone that came to us without getting relieved. Some acute cases were cured here in our center and some were maintained better than they would have, if they had not been brought to us.
Verbatim: You are a catholic I guess?
Maduka: Yes I am.
Verbatim: What is your position in the family?
Maduka: My parents had nine children and I am the fourth.
Verbatim: Sir, you are not just a reference point but also a case study. What advice do you wish to give the Nigerian youths who see you as a mentor and role model?
Maduka: Well, you see, I think I am in a better position to advise them because I think they did not go through half of the things that I as a person went through and I hope they don’t. There was not this high rate of unemployment of the youths then because the youths then were willing to go to the farm. We never really cared about going to learn carpentry, mason and other vocations and handiwork. However, I always tell the youths to switch if what they are doing is not favouring them. They need to be encouraged to expand their horizon and also learn to make whatever they are doing to be attractive and profitable.
Verbatim: What will you say if you are asked to say something about Anambra state politics and governance?
Maduka: Let me tell you about governance. Well I will never criticize anybody in government but our system must change. There must be accountability and transparency. We can’t give someone the state to manage and allow them to run the state solo with their personal knowledge. In the society we live in, most people in government don’t even ask for advice from people that know more than they do. My take on this is that our leaders should learn to take advice and should also surround themselves with people that are more knowledgeable in all areas. Nothing about governance is personal. It is not right to make your brother the commissioner of health when he is not a medical doctor. Doing this is just setting the state and its progress back. No leader should mortgage his state or the people he is ruling.
Verbatim: How do you score the present and past administrations in Anambra?
Maduka: I won’t want to score anyone yet but can be able to score and rate my predecessors if I get elected as the governor as I would have known the secrets and workings of the office. At the moment, I don’t think I can and will not pull anyone down because I am not there yet.
Verbatim: Do you think Anambra state has been effectively steered to greatness?
Maduka? I don’t think so at all. I think we need to refine our system. We do not have to leave the state in the hands of one man alone. We should put it into policy that he has to be advised and those advisers will not be chosen by the governor himself. We should be able to get a group of very sound minds from all sectors to help the governor. I rather will not criticize anyone now but I will only criticize our practice of electing a governor and then allowing him to manage the state as he wants. That indifference is what I want to criticize here. We should be
made to realize that we are partners in the entire process and we should also be made to be so concerned about the governance of our state.
Verbatim: Sir, you have all the qualities of a good leader and you talk with so much passion about the development of your state Anambra. Beyond this, your achievements and philanthropy appears to be unrivalled. Has there been any call on you to come and govern your state?
Maduka: Yes there has been calls especially from the youths to contest. However, I want to make it categorically clear that I was not interested in politics and probably not even interested now, but then I have never failed to grant the request of my people. That is just what I considered. I am contesting to be the face of change in Anambra. For your information, I am not just running but I am running to win so I can be able to put in place all that I have seen in the civilized world and also replicate all I did in Umuchukwu all over Anambra state. I tell you, other states will emulate from Anambra and the country will be developed the more. I will assemble a good team to run the state with me and I will promote the participation of the people in government like it is done in America, Britain and other developed societies. Checks and balances will be put in place to guide our government so that we will not derail and I am sure we will take Anambra to the next level.
Verbatim: What political party do you wish to contest from sir?
Maduka: Well I am a card carrying member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP and I am running from that party.
Verbatim: There is very popular belief in Anambra that you are the man to beat at the elections. Is this true?
Maduka: Whoever said that must have talked based on what I have been able to do for my people. I was once told that I have done what some governors couldn’t do. To me, coming to be a governor is just to continue from where I have stopped so far. You see, I have a ten point agenda and I am happy to announce that I have already touched all of them. Starting from health, I have built hospitals, health centers and also the seventeen floor medical research center which is not limited to Anambra state and Nigeria only but for the whole of Africa. That project I must tell you cannot be funded by some state governors and it took me over 20 years to get it to where it is today.
I am proud I have promoted our judicial system by building a federal high court and also a magistrate court which I donated to the state judiciary, I have contributed in securing my community by building a divisional police headquarters, as well as an office for the SARS and the Civil defense corps. They call me an ecumenical minister because I have built places of worship for both the Catholic and Anglican churches so that people can have a place to worship their God and also deepen their faith. In the area of transportation, I have been able to construct many standard roads and bridges for ease of movement of the people of my community and Anambra in general. This is also geared towards boosting both intra and inters state relationship and also commerce.
In the area of education, I have been able to give scholarships to our children in primary and secondary schools and also to those in various universities. Remarkably, we have sponsored most of them to universities abroad and most of them today have qualified to become lawyers, doctors, engineers and others. This is in addition to both primary and secondary schools that I have built in my community. In the area of governance, especially at the community or grass root levels, we have been able to establish monarchs and also provide them with very befitting homes to function from. Coming to social welfare, we have loan schemes for people to utilize for agricultural purposes and also trade. This is outside our other modes of supporting individuals to establish their businesses. In the area of information technology, IT, we have been able to set up standard internet cafes to educate both the young and old. I believe we will be able to build our own brand of computers and telephones someday. That is a dream I am chasing with vigor.
Coming to youth and women empowerment, we have been able to build factories and have also made agriculture lucrative. This is outside our commitment to training a lot of them in vocations to make them gainfully employed. These are the things that I have been able to do for my people in Umuchukwu. Now imagine how Anambra state will be when I replicate these things in the entire state as I have done in Umuchukwu. Now talking about transportation, I will make a sea port in Anambra a top priority if elected. Listen, the nautical miles between our rivers in Anambra and the Atlantic Ocean is not too much. This can be done. The federal government if it can’t carry this project can give us the permission to seek help outside on agreement and I have the contacts to achieve this. Coming back to infrastructure, we will channel the flood ravaging our riverine communities, to where they should be and then build nice resorts and site-seeing edifices for tourism. People will be coming from far and near on daily basis to see this
wonders and this can generate a lot of revenue for the government. The world is changing and we have to move with the trend.
On medical tourism, we have prepared the grounds for people to stop going to India and other foreign countries for treatment. They should rather come here to Anambra. What does it take, have an enabling environment, equip your hospitals and hire sound doctors. These I have done as an individual. On the other hand I want to give our youths solar energy trainings as solar power is becoming a trend now. This, am sure is another step to gainfully empower them. Coming back to your question, I think the person that said I am the most formidable candidate must have drawn his strength from all I have been able to put on ground in Umuchukwu, Anambra state and also some neighbouring states to Anambra.
Verbatim: Could you tell us how your support base is at the moment? Do you think you have the support of the Anambra people stakeholders?
Maduka: Oh sure I do. I think many more people have started to join my teeming supporters after they have listened to me talk and also after observing all that I have been able to do here. See, you have to be clear on what you want to do for the people and there must be proof that you can do all you promised. So I have the grassroots on my side and then talking about stakeholders, I won’t want to work with anyone that will give conditions to support me. However, I have some stakeholders that believe in us and also in what we can do. So we are safe and comfortable as regards support. No issues there at all.
Verbatim: Sir, growing up as a young man, there must have been a mentor and role model in your life. Could you name this person that inspired you to greatness?
Maduka: Well there is no other person other than my late younger brother. He is still my role model for what he did for me, the Maduka family and Umuchukwu as a community. I finished secondary school here in Nigeria, wrote Jamb and got admission to study medicine in the University of Port Harcourt but there was no money to go to school with. This was in 1981. Then in 1982, I got a scholarship to study medicine in RUST College in the United States of America. In as much as it was a scholarship, I was still required to make some payments for basic travel allowance, BTA and others amounting to about 5000 Naira. I went from place to place trying to raise the money without success, so I was forced to go to my brother who was a panel beater and also a roadside graphic artist in Abuja. Actually I was on my way to go see a cousin who was with the Nigerian Air force in
Kaduna to see if I could get some money from him. I merely stopped over to see my brother and tell him what was going on. You can now imagine my shock when he told me that he had 5, 200 Naira and that he will give me 5000 Naira and keep the remaining 200 Naira. I remember he told me that all of us cannot go to school so he had to learn a trade to be able to help the others go to school. I was so touched. Then I went to Kaduna and my cousin gave me 600 Naira. Then I went to Kafanchan where one of my uncles, now late, gave me 2000 Naira. With these funds I was set to go to America and here we are today. To me, these people that sacrificed out of sheer love to make sure I went to America are my heroes.
Again, I have some heroes during my training. I mean some of the professors that took special interest in seeing me excel in America are also my heroes. Because of them, I later became a professor of anaesthesiology, professor of pain management and also a professor of surgery. Just because of their interest in me. On the hand, Prince Arthur Eze is a role model too because he is always ready and moved to help people to survive and he has helped a lot of people. See, he does not have to be doing what he is doing but he is still doing it, giving out millions of dollars to charity and all of that. He is a friend and a role model. Nnamdi Azikiwe who has almost the same pedigree with me as regards studying in America is also a role model. He realized some things needed to be changed and moved towards changing them. He is a role model. Believe it or not, Tafawa Balewa is also my role model because of the roles he played in helping us secure our independence in 1960 alongside Azikiwe and the rest. Abiola was also a role model because of his philanthropy and then Dr Michael Okpara is also another role model. He was a man that was ahead of his time. His regime as the premier of the old eastern region has remained the best and this was why I was so happy to be honoured by his foundation.
Verbatim: Do you have any chieftaincy titles?
Maduka: Well, you know in Igbo land that no matter how hard you may want to avoid it, you will still receive them so long as you merit it. I found out that it is a cultural thing and it isn’t about wealth most times but based on legacies left. In my own case, I will say my achievements and the things I have done for my people, by the grace of God attracted so many titles to me. In my neighbourhood, Orumba, the monarchs gathered and conferred on me the title of Oke Osisi Orumba, that is, the Iroko of Orumba. On other hand, Africans in diaspora call me the Lion of Africa. Also, I was conferred with the Ijere Ndigbo title. When I asked for the definition of the title, they told me that there is no Igbo man that has done
half of what I have done for humanity. They say they will stop using the title on me when they find a man that will break my records adding that I am the pride of the Igbos as a person in philanthropy, education, representation empowerment and others. Someone told me someday that some Igbos have also done so well but emphasized that I am so exceptional. However, the title that was most celebrated is the Oke Osisi Orumba because the entire 24 communities in Orumba came together with their leaders and monarchs to confer on me the title and bestowed on my wife another title as the woman of exceptional beauty in Igbo land. I am also called the Ochiri Ozuo, (he that trains all) but the one that was very elaborately celebrated formally is the Oke Osisi Orumba.
Verbatim: Finally, what message do you have for the people of Anambra.
Maduka: Very simple. The time for change has come and I am the face of the change. All Anambrarians should stay away from things that are wrong. We should not take money from people to vote for them because we will be mortgaging the future of both the state and our children if we do that. All hands must be on deck to achieve a greater Anambra and also bring it to the enviable position that it occupied when it was called the light of the nation. Remember, Anambra state produced the first billionaire in not just Nigeria but West Africa in the person of Sir Louis Ojukwu, we produced the first president of Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and we produced the first Vice President of Nigeria, Alex Ekwueme, as well as the first senate president of Nigeria, Nwafor Orizu. You can see that Anambra is known for greatness and I will not be happy if we again hand over the reins of power to a mediocre that will set us back especially in this digital age. I have answered the call of the youths and our parents and I am eager to serve and make a change which is what I love doing. I will not disappoint or fail them in anyway. I want to replicate what I have done so far in Umuchukwu in the entire state to the envy of other states in Nigeria. The days of mediocrity in government is gone in Anambra. I am out to serve and I encourage my people of Anambra to send me. They will never regret it.