By Chinelo Obogu
Businessman and industrialist, Tochukwu Kpajie is the Chief Executive of STK Industries and a native of Ukeh town in Anambra State. He speaks on the projects that he has spearheaded in his community, from reconstruction of Community Secondary School, Uke to the rehabilitation of drainages and link roads. Despite not being interested in politics, Kpajie said his philanthropy is borne out of the need to see others happy and not for selfish reasons. He speaks on this and other issues.
It has been reputed that you have carried out so many life-enhancing projects for your community. What’s your motivation?
I come from a poor Christian family, but my upbringing plays a major role in everything I do in life. I have seen the pains of poverty and lack; all the lows and highs of life challenges. I also understand that God blesses and lifts people in order to bless others. That’s the reason why I choose to work for my people.
My decision to renovate Uke Girls’ Secondary School, which is now called Community Secondary School, Uke was taken after I had run into my niece who ought to be in school, but was not. When I inquired, she told me that it was raining and that whenever it rained they would not go to school because the roofs of their classrooms leaked.
There and then, I decided to visit the school to see things for myself. I was left speechless because it wasn’t only the classrooms, but even the Principal’s office, the staff room and other facilities were completely flooded with rain. The entire premises was so dilapidated that it was obvious that no serious academic work would be holding there, let alone examinations particularly during the rainy season.
I spent N10 million to tackle the situation and brought back normal teaching and learning. Suffice it to say that it wasn’t all rosy because when we commenced, hoodlums carted away our building materials repeatedly -cement, blocks, doors, windows, planks, etc. At a stage we resorted to parking them in private homes nearby. But the homes were not spared. They quickly asked us to remove the items for the sake of their lives. I was given a letter of commendation by the Anambra State Government and that made our late former traditional ruler, Igwe Ezeanyanwu Godfrey Nwabufo Ezeude, know me.
Thereafter, the electricity issue came up and Uke community was without light for a long time due to indebtedness. When it was brought to my notice, I cleared the backlog and electricity has been restored in the community till date.
Then came this recent construction and asphalting of the road. My parent’s home is far from this road, and it’s the only major access road, linking Uke villages and adjoining communities, including Ogidi, Abatete, Ideani, Umuoji. The access road had become completely impassable. Putting heads together with the likes of Prof. Nnamdi Ikwuegbu and Bon Onwubualili, we decided to do drainage on the road. We had imagined it would stop the flooding but it could not, so, we had to tar the road. Onwubualili relocated to Uke from his Enugu base in the last eighteen months to supervise the work.
I am most satisfied and happy when the people are happy. I was happy at the joy exhibited by the people as they used the road and I wish to do it again whenever the opportunity arises. I urge other richly endowed sons and daughters of Uke to come forward and play some positive roles because life is no just about what one has, but how well it is used to do good. Today we have need for more roads, hospitals, school buildings etc.
Did any issues come up during the reconstruction of the road?
Unfortunately after doing the gutters, the flooding didn’t abate because we discovered that the road remained lower than the level of the gutters. And to be able to take the floods off we must have to fill up the road with laterite. After achieving that we just couldn’t let go. We went straight into completing the work by tarring the road. I’m so happy with those that handled the project including Cosmas Okeke who handled the construction and Onwubualili who sacrificed his time at no cost to supervise and see that the project was completed well.
Then came a new challenge and subterfuge of who the road would be named after. I offered for it to be named after our late traditional ruler, Igwe Godfrey Nwabufo Chikeluba Ezeude. But it was like some persons in leadership position in Uke today perhaps for whatever personal reasons, do not want Igwe Ezeude’s name to be ever mentioned or remembered in the history or any aspect of the community. It was such that I requested to name the newly completed road which incidentally took off from Ezeude’s palace after him, the town union leadership unknown to me, quickly decided to name the road differently after me. They were reportedly fast in dispatching someone to the Council Headquarters to register it immediately. When I heard it, I reached out to Igwe Charles Agbala and the President General, Chuks Igboanua and thanked them immensely for wanting the road named after me. However I pleaded with them to respect my wish of naming it after late Igwe Ezeude.
Do you have any political ambitions?
No and it is to avoid such insinuations that I always stay away from politicians. I am not even a member of any of the political party. I have never been and would never be. Because of my very quiet lifestyle and apolitical disposition, I’m attracted to people easily both in Uke and outside, that is why I navigate all the crisis undercurrent in Uke without entanglement. But am confident it will all fizzle out soon. Many are already following my footsteps.
How were you able to cope during the lockdown?
The Corona-virus induced nationwide lockdown came so suddenly and unexpectedly. It handicapped many communities including Uke, that’s why I ordered large quantity of rice, noodles, sugar, salt, etc that were distributed to the community folks to help cushion the hardship.
It was same for the Christmas and New Year festivities. I made provisions for bags of rice and other items to ensure that every Uke resident had a joyful Yuletide. The cost was huge, but it’s cheering and throws light in my heart to put happiness in homes.
I have it as a top priority to empower youths. But land has remained my challenge. I just recently secured a sizable piece of land to build a factory to enable me provide jobs for our people. Another piece of land we secured was discovered to be in dispute. But I’m hopeful that all the issues would soon be cleared for us to move in and get the industry operational. I’m not happy seeing some of our young people idle. They need to be doing something to contribute to nation building.
Advice to the state and local governments
There is no doubt they are doing their best but I urge them to look inwards especially the roads and other things like electricity and water, so as to make every part of the state more accessible and habitable. There are many people and communities that can produce different items from any remote location if electricity, roads and water are provided. Our industrialists, investors should also come in too.
How I was made a ‘Colonel’
I was selected made a Lieutenant by the Nigerian Legion after a painstaking and strenuous screening process in addition to a six months intensive military training. Thereafter, I was accorded all matching benefits apart from salary. Ever since, I have rehabilitated many of the ex-soldiers and retired ones. I have assisted the Legion with yearly subventions of about N5 million in the last five years. I gave them a Toyota Hilux pickup and am planning to do more soon. I gave out items worth millions of naira last Christmas to the State Legion. I have represented the organisation at most key military and national assignments. These were what they considered and promoted me to a Colonel.
Where would you like to see Uke in ten years time?
It’s my prayer and to see many positive changes in 10 years from now. For more of our patriots to start coming out doing their best for the community and also attract whatever they can for general development. That’s why I preach peace, unity and cohesion wherever I go. We need to see things improve fast.