By Jerry Aguigbo
Chief Nicholas Njoku, Eziokwu bu Ndu 1 of Abazu, a rare gem in the true sense of the word, an Icon, a versatile Mogul and a father figure, encapsulated in one.
This philanthropist, a hotelier and the CEO NICO SUITES & Hotel spoke with Todaynews Editor, Jerry Aguigbo in his office at the hotel in Ejigbo- Lagos recently.
Coming with this exquisitely carved Chieftaincy title from his home town of Abazu in Ikeduru L.G.A of Imo state, Chief Nicholas Njoku was tasked to explain the significance of his title.
To him, ” it is actually a very strong title, it was not bestowed on me by man, God brought it and the Community said it was my title, so I took it.”
Asked if this Chieftaincy title has affected him in anyway, Chief Njoku said it has not been easy but “when you stand by the name by living up to the true meaning of it, it will be easy. This is God like, because it actually means truth is life, so you can understand the analogy. God is truth and God is life.
So I have always tried to maintain the name by standing on the part of truth,” he explained.
The title also connotes someone with strong personality and Chief Nicholas Njoku is living up to it. As he affirms to having a strong personality.In his words, “yes, I have a strong character or personality as the title demands, God has given me this title according to my personality and character.”
When asked if having such overwhelming principled and strong personality has sometimes made some people to misunderstand him or misjudge some of his actions. He says, “yes, it’s difficult sometimes, because what people don’t understand they call derogatory names, what they know, they destroy. Sometimes because of my faith and the fear of God, there are things people expect from me as a human being but because of God I am not able to do them, that sometimes is offensive in some way to some people. So when you are following the Lord’s Command and his ways, your way must be different, some people will understand you, while others won’t,” he said.
Asked if his background may have influenced his personality mold in anyway, Chief Njoku says much is traceable to his upbringing as a child. Narrating he said, “I came from a good Christian home, we were very poor financially but very rich in terms of God’s spiritual activities. My Father was a fully dedicated servant of God, his name was changed from Anthony to Pope and to Zachariah in my place. He was rechristened Pope and Zachariah because you hardly heard anything apart from God and Jesus from him, he grew and died at the ripe old age of 97years. While I was growing up, I never ever saw my Father participate in any other ceremonies outside Church events in the Community.
That’s the type of influence my father had on all of us,(his children),” he narrated.
Continuing the insight into his family background he said, “we are six men who are alive today and three Ladies from our parents and we were all brought up the God fearing way.
So the rich vein of principle is from my Dad particularly, my mother was also there, she never supported anything evil or outside the norm, no matter how you begged her, she will definitely report you to my father for double punishment, after she had dealt with you severely.
So we were always afraid of crime.”
As noted, the title “Eziokwu bu ndu” carries a lot of weight and respect for anyone it’s bestowed upon and Chief Nicholas Njoku having been considered for this exquisite royalty must be well thought of, he explained that this was consequent uponn his life style.
According to him, ” no matter what you do in the Community or elsewhere, people are watching you. No matter how you look at the man they call a drunkard in the street, he is watching you. The Okada rider, the bus driver and the truck pusher, they are all seeing you. In my Community I am well respected by the grace of God, all is God’s grace. I’m a Youth leader and the President General, home and abroad presently. So the title is also pushing a lot of pressure on me, it hasn’t been easy but because of my antecedents, I’m doing pretty good,” he stated.
Tracing his entrant into the hotel business, Chief Njoku said his entry into hospitality was not really planned. ” I never thought I was going to be a hotelier, I had actually been a trader in the true sense of it, right from Rivers State where I started. I was a trader, I sold motor spare parts and I was even fixing the cars myself. I sold and did the engineering work but at a stage, because of family pressure I had to quit and diverted to other businesses.”
Todaynews asked, Chief Nicholas Njoku, the Chairman/ CEO NICO SUITES & HOTEL how it all fell into pleasant lines for him.
“I came to Lagos over 23 years ago and started managing some small businesses before traveling to Burkina Faso, I also went to Ghana, Togo, those early 1999-2000, I traded in Clothing and Jewelry up till 2001, when I established a boutique at Okota. I also had a hairdressing/ barbing saloon and a business centre. I had a place I used to do one minute passport, I also had a call center as mobile phones were very new at that time, these were the things, I engaged myself in every business that was available. I started going to Asia, Singapore, Cambodia, Malaysia, Dubai, China and Carter, amongst others; where I bought goods (hand carry) before I expanded to containerized cargoes. I later switched over to importing electronics, I was fully into importation of electronics: Deep freezers, Fridge, Gaz Cookers, TV Sets and others, before I decided to switch over to Hotel business which gave birth to NICO SUITES & HOTEL,” he informed.
As a very versatile business Mogul, with a plethora of experience cutting across different ganre of business, it would be foolhardy for one to expect a rollercoaster sequence of events, which culminated to this success story and Todaynews sought to know from the horse’s mouth.
Releiving his extraordinary experience, Chief Njoku says, “the journey of life is not always easy, it has been tough but as a person, I don’t regard any situation as tough. Initially when I came to Lagos, I slept in uncompleted buildings. Yes, that maybe regarded as tough but having been accustomed to adjusting myself to any given situation, nothing is so tough to me because in every situation, God is either saying something or has something to say, so I always want to be patient to know what God is saying about where I have found myself. What he wants me to learn or what he wants to show me. So I don’t see any situation as tough, this does not mean I don’t have challenges that people wondered how I managed to get out of but I view these as institutions that God wants me to go through to learn from, before promoting me to another Class. He wants me to pass my papers forward to know if I merit being promoted or not, that’s how I view these challenges. I embrace every situation, like I always say, it is handling poverty with wisdom. This made me to be content with whatever I have, believing that tomorrow is always bigger and better than today. So if I have a problem with someone, I go home and ask God why he allowed it to happen, sometimes God uses it to prevent something calamitous from happening to us, maybe a business venture which may have resulted in a huge loss, so I see these things in the light of God.”
The Hospitality industry found itself at the receiving end, with a huge onslaught by the COVID-19 Pandemic which resulted to a lockdown and thereafter, the crowd restriction which further plundered the hotel business.
Chief Nicholas Njoku gives incisive details into how his empire, NICO SUITES & HOTEL survived and surmounted this big hurdle.
Yes, like I said, it’s a part of the good life you lived, your antecedents will always determine how far you will go. It was so tough during the lockdown but I must tell you that somehow we operated skelletally, my good relationship with the people and government officials who were visiting the hotel to patronize us helped in no small measure. I took a decision then, that whatever I made during this period would be given back to the people at the end of the day. I gave out cash, food stuffs like Rice, Yams, Noddles, anything we could buy at that point in time, was given to those who needed them.They thronged my house and my people and I handed these items, God saw us through,” he said.
As a philanthropist, giving is not a hobby to Chief Njoku, it’s a way of life. This Icon has been described by people as a passionate giver, corroborating this line of thought he says, “I’m a giver, giving is a part of me. That’s why Nollywood found it worth while to honour me with an Award of Service to Humanity. One of the things that give me joy is giving and it’s not for anything, not for accolades, not for people to praise me to high heavens, I do it as God wants it. God said we should love our neighbors like ourself, our neighbors can be from any tribe or Creed. They can be Muslims , Christians or pegans but he said we should love them all. So I do these things according to his commandments and you cannot quantify the joy of giving.
I received so many visitors because of these activities during the lockdown, even the Local government Chairman came over to encourage us.
It’s something I have been known for and I had some peace of mind because my people back in my home town also know me with it and they only called me to say, ” Chief, we hear you have extended that thing you have been giving to us to Yoruba people, it’s good but don’t forget to bring our own to us.”
Chief Nicholas Njoku has been also been described as a bridge builder, he is not only well respected in his home town but his influence transcends boundaries. He is vey well regarded in his Community at Ejigbo-Lagos State.
Speaking about this aura of influence, he says, “yes, many may love you because you give out but you must also respect yourself, as it’s said, respect is reciprocal. So I always respect myself no matter how small you are, I feel we are equal in the sight of God, so I may be far from touch but I’m a good listener. No matter how stupid you think a person is, I listen, everyone is my friend, I want to hear everyone’s problem, some problems can be solved by a simple advise that can change lives, some other times, it’s just through your contact, that problem will be solved. So I will listen and see if it’s what I can do, if not, I’ll simply tell you I cannot, I am always willing and ready to help,” he explained.
On his political ambition, if any and if he has had any thought of going into politics, or bidding his time. Chief Njoku gave an emphatic answer, as he told us, “I am not interested but I have been approached severally by many people, even in Ejigbo here but I am not interested in such things, it doesn’t tickle my fancy. I don’t like Nigerian politicians, they are liars, they deceive the people and based on my personality and title, I cannot join them. They are betrayals, I have always told them that they are courting trouble by inviting me because I will not accept to collude with them against the people, there will be trouble because I will change everything, so long as you are going the wrong way, you cannot have my consent, no matter who you are and your position, so it’s better I stay by the side.
That’s why I don’t like politicians, they are lairs, cheats, they don’t stand by their words, they make promises they cannot keep, they take (appropriate) monies meant for the public, sorry, I can’t join them,” he blasted.
The family institution is also very influential if one must be successful in whatever endeavor one engages himself. Chief Nicholas Njoku explains how he been able to manage this sacred institution alongside his businesses.
To him, ” everything is by the grace of God, I have four boys and two girls. Three are now in higher institutions.
One of the biggest challenge is building a family, like I told you, I used to travel a lot and when my wife came into my house on December 6, 2001 which coincidentally was my birthday, from that day I promised I wasn’t going to stay for more than 30 days anytime I traveled. I must tell you that it’s been 20years since we got married and I have maintained my word, I have not stayed 31 days outside from then, till now.”
When asked to give reasons for taking such decision, he said, “my reason is that I want my wife to always see me so I can train her my own way, so also, she can learn me, while I learn her and to also train the children my own way.
Since I opened this hotel 7 years ago, I have only slept in it 7 times, 4 times with my wife and children, when it was newly built; the other 3 times was when we traveled and I came back alone to take some money from the hotel and stayed back because I didn’t want to go home knowing full well that I was going to stay home alone. I have never been in this hotel till 10pm before, unlike most of my friends who stay late nights in their hotels.
Reason is, my children must see me before they sleep and they must also see me when they wake in the morning before I go to work. So that has been my pattern of life, when I was into importation I always got to my house on or before 7pm, no matter the market, I always deligatted my staff to handle it.
My family is very important to me because if I don’t train them, I will be the one to get the backlash in future. They will give you high blood pressure, you’ll get jittery when calls come into your phones. I have given my family 90 percent of my time to ensure we all grow together. So we have been very United so far but you tomorrow is bigger than today, nobody knows what it will offer him but for today, I have one of the best families,” he asserted.