Dr. Godwin Maduka is a renowned medical doctor with specialty in anesthesiology. He is the founder of Las Vegas Pain Institute and Medical Centre in the United States, where he has received accolades for his expansive infrastructural and research work in medical science. Dr. Maduka is also an unrepentant philanthropist whose connection to the homeland is not lost. This has made him stretch personal resources to contribute to and develop his town, Umuchukwu, his state, Anambra State, and his nation, Nigeria, in order to create a conducive landscape for generations. On the occasion of his birthday, Dr. Maduka engaged the media as he reflects on his journey and his new found resoluteness on governance.
Can you give us insight into your background, what growing up was like?
I was born in 1959, before the civil war, I was a little boy during the war and it went a long way to shape me. If you survived the war, you will realize that fear, death, and uncertainty are no longer your enemies because we came face to face with them. After the war in 1970, I started primary one, I was around 11 years old, so you can see that the civil war robbed part of my childhood. We lived in the village so there were no social amenities; we grew up using the lantern to see and read. The saying that “a responsible child makes a responsible adult ” is true, you cannot allow a child to play too long, if you do, it will get ingrained in his head, and he will never know how to take responsibility. We were taught how to take responsibilities; we had to get firewood, we fetched water, went to the farm before and after school. We read with lantern and sometimes we hunted for bushmeat, and we were living with snakes and scorpions. The survival rate was low, so you saw young people dying of treatable ailments. We didn’t have modern medication and 75 per cent of adults in my community at that time were native doctors, including my father. We trekked to school because my town didn’t have a secondary school, except for a primary school, which I attended in my town. I continued with my secondary education at Nawfia Comprehensive School, which was too far, as a result, I had to come back to All Saints Grammar School, Umunze.
What would you say are the remarkable things about your upbringing that shaped your personality?
My father was one of the best native doctors around then, and people may not know that much of the drive to go into medicine, stemmed from watching my father’s prowess as a dibia. He never ventured into juju or witchcraft, but he cured malaria, infections, and several kinds of ailments. And these are the things we do today as medical doctors. We give people hope but the only time we don’t give them hope is when we know that the end is near, so we prepare them for their passage with a high level of consideration. I was close to my father, and I watched with keen interest all his ways, methods and realised that empathy was germaine for humanity. I think that shaped me a lot.
What is fascinating about your specialty, pain management, and how has medicine shaped your thoughts about life generally?
We have pain in the world today. Personally, as an anesthesiologist; I can relieve pain with surgical procedures, medicine, and by talking to my patients. It is a humane specialty. If you have never been in pain, you will not understand what people in pain go through. No matter how your partner loves you, they can never take away your pain. So that makes the sufferer a lonely person. I am well trained in it, and we are the pioneers of interventional pain management. We own six medical centres in the US, and in Las Vegas alone, I own more facilities in pro-health pain management than any other doctor. We are the largest in Nevada, and in terms of quality, we are still one of the best in the US, as well as the world.
June 21 was your birthday, if you look back at where you started and now, what comes to your mind?
Looking back, the journey, the sacrifices, it is amazing how a young village boy that was surrounded by hopelessness could attain this level of success; playing at a global stage. I am thankful and full of gratitude to God, but then I do not think we should rest on our oars, because so much hasn’t been done yet. It is not yet Uhuru. I believe so much in the power of hope. I think I work harder now than I worked about 20 years ago because so many still need to have access to medical care, so many need to receive qualitative education. As an African, a Nigerian in the Diaspora, I believe we should triple our efforts to bring our country and continent at par with what is obtainable globally.
We have witnessed all the works you did and the ones you are still doing in your town, Umuchukwu. What inspired you into philanthropy? How do you intend to extend this gesture to Anambra State?
I think watching my father, a great dibia then healing people and bringing relief to many, must have rubbed off on me. I guess I picked up that humane side of life from him because medicine, whether native or orthodox, is primarily a humanitarian job. Most times, my father gave people treatment without charging a dime. Secondly, my father was a philanthropist, I remember he built three houses in our compound, one for us; his immediate family, another for our wares and belongings, and the third for any relative or indigene of my community who visited Umuchukwu, but had no house of his own. Another remarkable event that instilled a kind heart in me, was how my brother sold off everything he had in his shop to raise about N5,000, which was the amount I needed to travel to the US at that time. I told God that if my brother gave me all he had, that I will never relent in my act of kindness to humanity. I will always give my all.
You built the tallest hospital in Africa which you envisioned to equip with state-of-the-art facilities in your town; Umuchukwu. What motivated you to conceptualize that kind of structure for your town?
I have lived in America for a long time, I have seen and experienced how the developed world functions. As a black man, I am always driven to replicate what I have seen and experienced here in the US. The 17-storey hospital in my home town; Umuchukwu, is beyond a physical structure, it is a functional replication. It is a symbol of hope, the power of possibilities. Just like the statue of liberty in America symbolizes freedom. It is an indication that if we put our minds and commit our resources in the building of our motherland, there is no limit to what we can achieve. All things are possible.
What is your perception of Nigerian democracy and June 12 and how do you think we can improve our democracy for the good of the greater majority?
Let me say that our democracy is still nascent and growing. If you compare Nigeria with a country like the US where I reside, you will realize that we are still in infancy, America’s democracy is about 300 years old. Therefore, our democratic journey is still a process, there are so many learning curves. I see democracy as the journey of an entrepreneur…a lot of ups and downs, today you are moving forward, the next day you dive. However, it is still not an excuse for underperformance. We can do better. Coming to the June 12 incident, it is one of the potholes in our journey to nationhood. It is imperative that we learn from it and do better going forward. But then, beyond June 12, the Niger Delta issues, the Biafra agitation, the farmer-herder crisis in the Middle Belt, restructuring, and so on, are all questions begging for answers. With all these agitations, people are saying they are marginalized, we should be able to listen to these voices and summon the courage, and the political will to solve these problems. This will go a long way in helping us build a great nation of our dream.
We have seen cases where philanthropists fail in leadership positions, is there any connection at all between philanthropy and leadership?
What we see most times in this clime is what I call political philanthropy; when elections are getting closer, people begin to share rice and garri. I think we sometimes mistake politicians with philanthropists. We should be able to look at the pedigree of some people who parade as philanthropists. For example, in my case, I have been giving back to my people for over 20 years now. It is a passion, it’s purely a commitment; I never had it in mind that I was going to be a politician. If in my dream, an angel had appeared to me and told me I will be aspiring to be a governor in my state, I would have doubted the message of the angel. This is because it was never in my plan . If you see an individual distribute rice, share tricycles, and in the next two-three years shows interest in any political position, he was never a philanthropist. But then, philanthropy is somehow connected to quality leadership, in the sense that a good leader must have compassion, a charitable heart. However , leadership goes beyond philanthropy, it is about experience, pedigree, sound education, vision, accountability, good judgment, and integrity.
Why do you want to contest for the governorship position in Anambra State?
Let me tell you something, I have never nursed any political ambition at all in my life. I have always wanted to retire a very fulfilled medical doctor. Something happened to me when I first came to Nigeria from the US, I had started working by then, so when I came to Umuchukwu, things were so bad. It was all about poverty, despair, and underdevelopment. I was so sad about that visit and I promised myself that I won’t allow the village where I grew up to remain the same. It was out of “positive anger” that I decided to build a semblance of an American city. So if you go to Umuchukwu today, you’ll see that that “anger” has paid off. I’m worried and sad again, not against anybody, but sad about poverty and underdevelopment. I have clarity of vision of the kind of urban development, I want to turn Anambra State into. Anambra people are very special people, we are like the heart of Igbo land, and when things are not going very well here, there’s the possibility that other places in Igbo land will be affected. We need the best man for the job now. To be frank, the next couple of years won’t be so easy in Nigeria, so we need leaders who can think outside the box in their effort to provide solutions. I tell people always that people who approach leadership with that kind of angry disposition are always the best. Prof Dora Akunyili (God bless her soul) lost her sister as a result of fake drugs, and when she was made the DG of NAFDAC, she fought the circulation of fake drugs with such a ferocious determination. I call it “positive anger,” the kind of anger that gives you the motivation to go the whole hog, not the one that encourages a person to harm, malign people for selfish reasons. It is not the kind of energy that pushes you towards brigandage or any dastardly acts. It should be a motivation to create new developmental imprints while consolidating and building upon the efforts of the former governors, as well as the current governor of Anambra State.
People believe that instead of contesting for the governorship position in Anambra State, you should be thinking of how to actualize the Igbo presidency project considering the fact that you are a highly successful professional in the Diaspora, to them being a governor will not add anything to your profile rather it will be a minus?
Public service is like community service; no one should be big enough to serve his people. That’s why you can see the likes of (Dr Ngozi) Okonjo-Iweala leave the comfort of her world bank job to come down to Nigeria and help fix the economy. I have seen a director at IMF; a Vice President at African Development Bank, being summoned by the people to serve his community as a traditional ruler, and he obliged. Therefore, I will never be ashamed to serve my people as a governor, I will rather be ashamed if I fail when the responsibility is given to me. Excelling in the job of a governor should be a stepping stone for a higher office. Friedrich Nietzsche said,”…he who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.”
People complain that you’re coming from the Diaspora and may not have a full grasp on the terrain, what are you bringing to the table?
Living in the US has exposed me to global best practices. I know how to manage institutions, human resources, creativity, and innovations, I possess the know-how of wealth creation. In a nutshell, I will bring immense capacity to governance. People shout about living in the Diaspora as if it is a crime to do so, but it’s not. Living in the Diaspora should be an advantage because you have been exposed to how things are done right, and you will like to replicate that in your environment. For instance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is from the Diaspora and she did well as the finance minister. Mr. Peter Obi also came from the Diaspora and he did well as a governor. Leadership is not about location, where you have been or not. Leadership and governance have a universal language, if you are doing well, you are doing well, but if you are not doing well, you are not doing well. Nevertheless, somebody could be living in the US and be so connected to his root, and another person may be living in Onitsha and be so alien to his roots.
People believe that your philanthropy focused more only on your town, Umuchukwu, how will you allay the fears that if you become a governor, you will not focus development in your in your town only?
Yes, we indeed started from Umuchukwu, but then we have also done so much more beyond my community. We have contributed to a project in Ihite, we have done a road project in Owerri Ezukala and Ogbunka. We have gone as far as Mbano in Imo State and Nneato at Abia to execute projects. In Umunze, we have contributed to a project and in the next couple of years, we’ll begin to develop a housing scheme to help reduce the housing deficiencies in that area. We have supported various dioceses both Anglican and Catholic, in Anambra. We shared palliatives to all the 182 communities in Anambra, and all the Bishops; both Anglican and Catholic, during the COVID-19 total lockdown in Nigeria. Furthermore, those who have benefited from our healthcare intervention scheme at Annunciation Hospital Enugu are Anambrarians across board. Our educational scholarship fund caters to many Nigerians all over the world. If you have been attentive in the course of this interview you will realize I have a global perspective. I am committed to the course of the black man. I always contribute to helping the black race find its place in the world stage.
What is your opinion about the zoning of governorship position in Anambra state?
When there are unanimous agreements by stakeholders, zoning can be a good policy, because it ensures equity and gives all and sundry a sense of belonging, but it doesn’t mean competence should be sacrificed on the altar of zoning. I am not just coming out from the angle of people from Anambra South Senatorial Zone, but also on capacity. When you talk about zoning, we are there, if you talk about competence we are there as well.
What do you consider to be your comparative advantage over other aspirants?
I am not a trial and error aspirant. I am not coming to learn on the job, I am well prepared and I have a very clear vision of what I want to do in Anambra State. Umuchukwu is a perfect test run of what we want to do on a larger scale in Anambra; it is a progressive experiment. The other day, I was reading an article from someone who came to Umuchukwu to understudy the things we have done. He said that Umuchukwu is simply a replica of the Sustainable Development Goals. What more is governance if not Healthcare, Justice delivery system, Security, Housing, Education, Ease of doing business, and other little but outstanding innovations.
Political parties sponsor candidates for elections, under which platform do you intend to contest the forthcoming election?
I am a member of the PDP, but the most important thing now is to drive our message to the people. In a democracy, power resides with the people. Party is just a vehicle through which people get to power. Whatever symbol that your party displays, once the people accept your message, you are good to go.
As a medical doctor, what prompted you to build a law court in your community?
Law is the foundation of every society, a building block of every other area of human endeavour. Law is what controls the animalistic nature of man. Without the law, we will be back to the Hobbesian state of nature; it will be man eat man or survival of the fittest. I recall how my people travel as far as Ekwuluobia, Onitsha, and Awka in search of justice. Most times, when the poor and downtrodden calculate the cost implication of getting justice, they will naturally want to leave their fate in the hands of God.
What is your concept of justice delivery?
Justice should not be cash and carry, justice should not be delayed, because justice delayed is justice denied. I am an advocate of an independent judiciary because that will give the bench the freedom to deliver justice without interference or external pressure. Justice shouldn’t be shaken by the status of the accused or the defendant. It should, in the same way, serve the rich and the poor.