Ladies and gentlemen the story you are about to read now is an insight or what I may call a peep into my life. The journey of a thousand miles they say begins with a single step in the right direction. According to the Holy Bible in Psalm 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Today, I decided to share how favor and grace found me. Let me start by saying a big thank you to my late dad Chief Anthony Lazarus Merenwanne Ukazu for laying a solid foundation for me and my siblings in the land of opportunitiy called America and precisely in the Big Apple (New York); the Nigerian Lawyers Association in New York which provided the right avenue and platform for me to network with the High and mighty in the society like Chief Dele Momodu; Mr. Oliver Mbamara the Administrative Law Judge of New York who was my first mentor who encouraged me to join the Nigerian Lawyers Association and contest for the Office of Public Relations Officer in the Association; and Ms. Nnenna Onua Esq. who was the president who not only believed me but gave me the free hand to run the Office of the Public Relations Officer for the Nigerian Lawyers Association. But my greatest appreciation goes to God almighty who made everything come true by showering with me grace because despite all these factors playing a significant role, if God hasn’t willed it to happen they won’t happen. Isn’t it also true that opportunity meet prepared minds? God in his infinite mercy went before me to prepare me for this journey.
Now to the meat of the day. I joined the Nigerian Lawyers Association in 2011 as a student when I was in New York Law School studying Taxation Law (LLM) as a graduate program. I didn’t know anything about the association except that it’s an association of Nigerian lawyers in the New York working for the progress of Nigerians in the area of advancement of the Legal profession. In 2012 we were having an election for new officers. I thought about contesting for an office even though I didn’t know the requirement and expectations for one to be an executive officer for the noble association. I just have that confidence that there’s no harm in trying. I said to myself you have occupied many leadership positions during your undergraduate days in College and in your community, why don’t you give it a try? With that feeling of confidence, I felt I had what it takes to serve as the Secretary of the noble Association not knowing the expectations and benchmark is kind of hard. However, despite all these thoughts in my mind, I still gave it a shot, but I quickly got a call from one of the Executive officer to ascertain my intentions in addition to knowing more about me. I confirmed my intentions to run for the office of the Secretary for the association, but she convinced me to try the Public Relations Officer which is still open since another candidate who has indicated interest had better chances than me. I said to myself, well not a problem provided I’m will be on the ballot paper(smiles). I quickly accepted and did the needful by applying since I met the eligibility requirements. Lesson learned, always take the risk because you just never know and sometimes, you don’t have to have it together before you embark on a journey. Moral: Believe in yourself.
Fast forward to the election day. Nobody contested against me and all the candidates. We literally won opposed. The interesting part of the election was that, there were many qualified lawyers in the association but for reasons best known to them, they refused to contest for any position. It’s kind of weird I must say. I later learned of eminent lawyers in the association when I assumed office and started to interface with members only to find out they had different understandings and reservations. My first tenure came with mixed feelings because I was learning on the job. Everything seems rosy except for some lapses on my part when it comes to writing and correspondence. The then president and secretary didn’t have sufficient patience to take me along even though they tried. The president took it upon herself to do the job of Public Relations Officer since according to her and the Vice-president my writing skills. No doubt, my writing skills were below expectation because they had to edit everything I wrote. I guess they felt it’s better to do the work when matters of urgency were needed. The tenure ended with mixed feelings on the part of the executive and the general members. But I will say, the administration did a great job in the history of the association and deserves some commendation especially on the part of the president who I will call a bulldozer on account of her strength and hard work.
After my first tenure, it was time for a new administration. Election was up and this time around nobody offered himself/herself to run for office. The outgoing president had to talk to different individuals to run for office. Though she didn’t talk to me, I offered myself to run for the Office of the Public Relations Officer and as fate will have it again nobody contested against me and officers who had the intent to contest. We won unopposed. As is expected in any association or government that elects a new set of officers, we set out our blueprint for the association. One of our programs was to organize an event which was centered on media. We were looking for credible speakers and panelist or the event. One of the officers mentioned Dele Momodu and I stated, that will a tall order considering his pedigree and busy schedule. Again, I said, there’s no harm in trying considering the fact a friend has informed me earlier in the year how Dele Momodu supported his literary work in Nigeria. He specifically stated that Dele Momodu was the person that assisted him t to meet the then Governor of Rivers State Rotimi Amaechi. My president Ms. Nnenna Onua told me “Henry you are the Public Relations Officer for the association, do all you can to get us Dele Momodu”. I quickly sprang into action and thought of how best to reach him. I went to Facebook on May 28, 2013 at precisely 3:54pm and sent him a quick message and he responded “How are you sir? Please send me your number”. I quickly did the needful and he touched base with me. I didn’t really believe my eyes. Smiles were all over my face. I remembered telling him Sir, why don’t you allow one of your Aides to speak to me? He stated “that’s what everyone says… He said, if I delegate the call to someone else, won’t you have a hard time believing I delegated the call? I said yes. Well, we had a blissful conversation. It was then I realized he writes for Thisday Newspaper which was owned by Nduka Obaigbena. Every week I started reading his pendulum article and till date, I have never missed a single article. Each time he writes I normally read and reach out to him on Facebook to commend him for an objective and incisive article. He will always thank me graciously for being so kind. Lesson learned: Study the works of great men.
Our friendship continues to grow in a cordial manner every week. Despite giving him my number, he will occasionally ask for my number each time he travels. I received calls from him in London, Austrailia, Ghana, Portugal, Dubai etc. I always felt uneasy each time he asks for my number because it seems to have become a pattern. One day, I said to him, Sir, how about saving my number on your phone to ease you the stress of reaching out to me, he replied, he travels a lot and as such he carries several phones depending on the network carrier of each country. One fateful, he sent me a text message around 2:00am in the morning inquiring if I was awake, and as God may have it I was awake to reply him. He quickly called me and we chatted for about 3Ominutes. I asked why he had to text before calling, he replied, that’s how MKO Abiola normally reaches out to him before he calls him just to know if he’s awake. Thank God I was awake to reply him. On several occasions, he will call during unholy hours of the night and each time he called me, I was awake to pick his call and his first response will be “Henry the great how are you? I will be wondering why he keeps calling me Henry the great. I said to myself if only he knows I was merely a night security guard supporting my family while going to school. He will always ask me why, I’m up at that unholy hour of the night and I will always respond, “I’m at work”.Another lesson learned: God has a way of blessing you when you with opportunities which disguise themselves as the hardship of life
One fateful day, he called me and told me he”ll be visiting New York and he will like to see me. I quickly prepared for the august meeting. He arrived in NY and gave me his details. I was running late for the appointment and had to call my younger brother who quickly honored my call and arrived with his car and together we drove to his hotel in Waldorf Astoria which was one of the biggest hotel at that time. In fact, that was the hotel President Barack Obama normally lodge each time he attends the United Nations General Assembly meeting. We had a blissful conversation for about an hour. You won’t imagine the ecstasy in my heart. After our meeting, we took pictures and gave him a ride to the airport and he was eternally grateful for the kind gesture. On our way to the airport, he shared humbling stories with us with the lifestyle of the high and mighty in Nigeria, America and the world in general.
After our live meeting, our friendship took to a different shape as we engaged in deeper communication and friendship. He will often tell me I’m not only a friend to him but a dear brother. I was opportuned to listen to High profile communications in addition to attending high profile meetings with him on his behalf. I remembered receiving an award on his behalf in United Nations and also representing him at the book launch of the Former Minister of Aviation Kema Chikwe. I also remembered meeting the publisher of Thisday Newspaper Nduka Obaigena, the Central Bank Governor of Nigeria Godwin Emeifiele and other High Profile Nigerians in the Presidency during the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan and the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Chief Dele Momodu loves hard work. He will always say, according to MKO Abiola, ” hard work is prayer in action. He’s always amazed how I combine my school, social activities, networking, blogging and work together. I told him I’m not in anyway close to his busy lifestyle. Due to my love for writing, I had the inspiration to publish a book. I immediately embarked on the task. I will occasionally update him on my progress each time we touch base together and he will bless and encourage me to continue the good work. When I finished writing my book Design Your Destiny- Actualizing Your Birthright To Success, I reached out to him to write the Foreword to my book and he was gracious enough to accept my request. After the publication, I told him I will like to give a copy of the book to Aliko Dangote, Mike Adenuga, Folurnsho Alakija and Tony Elumelu because I mentioned them in my book. He said, he will assist me but I should pray deeply about it. He quickly ordered some copies of my book on Amazon and promised to give each of them a copy of my book.
As it is expected of anyone who unveils a new brand, I decided to market my book to the world and he was kind enough to assist me in marketing my book to his large network. When I decided to travel to Nigeria, I informed me, he told me, he will like to host me whenever I’m around for achieving a great feat he has so much desired to achieve. He was kind enough to travel to Nigeria to host me in the Presidential suite in Eko Hotel in Lagos. After our sumptuous breakfast, we went to his suite to have a conversation as we normally do. I told him of my plans to see Aliko Dangote, Tony Elumelu, Mike Adenuga and Folurusho Alakija, he asked me if I’m organizing an event for my book, I told him no, he responded, it will be hard to see those great people especially the Spirit of Africa Mike Adenuga. After our conversation, I told him I had to catch up with another appointment. He said I should give him a minute to attend to a guest. After the meeting, he called and gave folded my palm with some money. I thanked him so much. I was so surprised because I wasn’t expecting any financial favor from him
It’s worthy to note that Chief Dele Momodu has supported me in many ways both financially and otherwise. On my arrival to the United States due to the brotherhood we share together, my spirit touched me and he reached out to me to know how I was faring. I informed him of my challenges and he was kind enough to give me $600 hundred which was equivalent to N250,000 naira. Despite all the favors I have received from him none touched me the most than the kind of cordial relationship we share together and the information and knowledge he shared with me. He’s such a humble man with a kind heart to empower humanity. He’s a patriotic citizen of Nigeria and ambassador of goodwill.
Friends, I can go on and on about this great man, but as the sage will say, a word is enough for the wise. I will conclude by saying, having great people in your life is priceless. The information you and knowledge you will gain is priceless, however, you should be prepared to do the work, but they will assist in facilitating the process for you.
Daddy as you celebrate your 58th celebration today, I pray our gracious God blesses the works of your hands in addition to granting you long life and prosperity in all you do Amen. Remain blessed. From your son and mentee Henry Anyaehiechukwu Ukazu.