Mr. Joseph Acha, an indigene of Ime-Obi, Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State, is a German based businessman and Agriculturist. He is an accomplished gentleman, a goal getter and a strong advocate of equity, fair play and justice.
In this personality of the week interview which Mr. Acha granted Ika Weekly Reporters recently at his Agbor-Obi residence, he shared his experiences about his childhood, education, sojourn abroad and his desire for an Ika South person to be given the slot for the Ika Federal Constituency, Federal House of Representative election in the spirit of oneness and brotherhood.
I am Mr. Joseph Acha
Tell us about your childhood
I was born on 27th February 1964. I am an Ime-Obi man. My childhood was spent in Lagos and Benin. My dad, Mr. Nathaniel Acha, from Ime-Obi and my mother Mrs. Maria Ehima Acha from Alisimie are both late.
What was your father’s occupation?
My father was an Engineer, he was the one who installed the first pumping machine in the filling station by Baleke road Junction, the first in this environment; during the years of the civil war. His work took him round the country, he worked in Kano, Kaduna, Lagos, e.t.c. He was with the WIN, an International Company, a British firm that was in charge of pumping machines. In those days they had very many branches in Nigeria. He was lucky to have escaped during the civil war; twice at Onitsha and Benin. After the civil war, he was stationed in Benin, where I grew up.
Was he into other occupations?
He was a clergy man, he was a Senior Apostle of the External Sacred Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church, while he was still working as an engineer. When he retired in 1975, he came back to Agbor and concentrated in doing God’s work.
What was your mother’s occupation?
My mother was a wonderful woman, she was a trader, sold “Ogbolor and Egusi”. Before the civil war, she traded at Utulu market, Onitsha and later at the New Benin market.
Which schools did you attend?
I attended Payen Primary School, Benin city and finished in 1975 and in 1976, I gained admission to Mater-Dei College, Ashaka where I graduated in 1982. Thereafter, I went to the College of Agriculture Anwai, Asaba. I did my Higher National Diploma (HND) at Michael Okpara College of Agriculture, Umuagwor in Imo State, where I graduated in 1989. I did my National Youth Service Corps in 1991 at Anambra State, within Ogidi Local Government Area. During my service year, I taught at Eze-Owerri Girls Secondary School, after which I traveled oversea in 1992.
Actually during my school days I only spend my holidays in Agbor because of the social amenities that we had in Agbor then; we had flowing pipe borne water, and constant electricity supply. Agbor could compete favourably with Benin, in the seventies, and that endeared me to Agbor because my household chore as a kid was to provide water for the family. We had a tap in Benin and most of the time the taps did not flow. Sometimes I had to wake up very early in the morning to go and fetch water before going to school. But in Agbor in my grandparent’s house, we had three taps, so those things endeared me to Agbor. I am very disappointed that what was possible in Agbor in the seventies is no longer possible today, it’s a terrible blow.
Mr. Acha, what made you leave Nigeria in 1992?
It was a trend then in Benin. Most of my friends went abroad. I also had the intention of furthering my education there. Let me point out that while I was in Nigeria before travelling abroad, I was already into farming because I read Agriculture, I already had a four-hectare farm at Iriakor in Etsako, Edo State, where I cultivate cassava.
While Abroad, did you venture into farming?
Unfortunately, when I landed in Germany I was faced with some challenges; especially the language. This took me several years to adjust, but today, I can say that I have adjusted perfectly well.
Can you speak the language?
Of course, if you live in a country for twenty six years, it will be out of place if you cannot speak the language. I can speak, read and write the German language.
Do you have any farm in Germany?
No, I don’t have a farm in Germany, I have farm lands at Agbor, here in Nigeria.
So, what do you do in Germany?
I am a businessman in Germany, I own and run a transportation firm.
So, we have Mr. Acha, a businessman in Germany and a farmer in Nigeria?
Farming is business and farming is one of the best businesses one can ever think of. I have a tractor for mechanized farming; but the only problem we have is that it is difficult to do business in Nigeria, when you are not fully based here.
You spoke of poor state of governance in Nigeria as against what was obtainable in the seventies. Don’t you think that the country lacked capable leaders with those who would have made a difference fleeing the country?
If I knew what I know now, I wouldn’t have left the country, the idea of leaving the country is no other than brain drain. Soon, those fleeing the country become trapped overseas, because when they now have kids, it becomes difficult for them to leave their kids and come back; even at old age when they are itching to come back, they can’t do that. Apart from that, for you to come back, you must have something on ground and we have a negative culture that makes it virtually impossible for people to come back. When they try to build houses where they can retire to, suddenly the system gulps up the resources. They will also try building businesses that they can come back to, but the system, and the family gulp it up. I spent several years trying to build a haulage firm, but it never worked, I am into logistics and transportation in Germany. I made plans to replicate such an issue here in combination with farming; anyway, it is also complementary because when you farm, you need transportation to move your produce.
What will you say propelled you most in doing your kind of business?
Well, the two jobs that I have engaged myself in are noble jobs and they are very important in the service industry. Whoever you are, you have to eat and when your stomach is filled, you think less of negative actions. They are businesses that are not tied around a corrupt system, so they are businesses, which when well planned, one will benefit richly.
What is your take on industrialization, taking into cognizance the call for all to go back to agriculture?
A nation that is not industrialized will never have respect in the league of nations, the people will remain very poor, living below the minimum living standard. Industry is the main thing, when a nation is industrialized, people are engaged fully and positively. When you have an industry, you will see to it that it is working. So a nation that is not striving to have her country industrialized will always experience hunger, poverty and the health system will be in danger. So industry is very important in boosting the economy of any country. Laws that will make industries to strive must be put in place. There must be an enabling environment; the laws and the willingness to enforce the laws, and most importantly is electricity. No country will ever thrive without electricity because the cost of powering a generator will definitely run it down. You will never make profit if you power an industry on generators. Your products will be too expensive to compete favourably which makes it to difficult for you to perform efficiently in the international trading system. This is where our politicians should be held responsible. It behooves on the youths to know exactly what their position is in all these, and fight for a positive change. They should not rely on politicians. politicians will definitely do nothing to change it except the common man agitates. I am not saying that the common man should go violent, but the common man must speak out, resist the negative activities of politicians as there will be no way out if they don’t.
What is your view on the issue of diversifying the Nigeria’s economy to Agricultural sector?
Agriculture is a very good sector, there are nations that live on agriculture, even the European Nations, Holland for example, is not as big as one fourth of Nigeria or one region of Nigeria, but they thrive on agriculture. Nigeria for example should get to a stage where the citizens should be able to feed themselves and not only that, Nigeria should even be able to feed Africa. I laugh when people look at farming as an occupation for failures or never-do-well. That is sheer stupidity. Howbeit, we should leave the subsistence farming method, where our parents had to go to the farms to show their strength, but at the end of the day, will not be able to feed themselves.
I am fully convinced that agriculture is the way out, which is why I am setting up a cassava processing plant in Agbor. All things being equal, by the end of this year 2018, it will be ready for take off. The structure has been built, engineers have been commissioned to build the machines, they are just waiting for the total completion of the structure that will house it.
How many persons do you intend to employ for that project?
Well, we shall see what number of persons it will take, that will depend on the source of raw materials that we will get, at least we must be thinking of not less than twenty persons, of course that will depend on the value chain.
Are you a politician?
I have good interest in politics. I have realized that if we want development, politics should not be left in the hands of compromised individuals. I am doing all I can to see that our people are well represented, the right caliber of individuals are placed in positions of authority. Politics is not about some set of persons to enjoy the dividends of democracy, it is for the common man who has no voice.
Would you say the needs of the citizenry have been met ever since the country started practicing democracy?
No, the needs of the citizens have not been met. I know of a man in a church praying for thirteen years for his pension but was never paid. What kind of a system is that? It’s a total failure; a lot has to be done. The right thing has to be done.
How do we correct the anomalies?
We should act first by raising our voices to make them know that what they are doing today has nothing to do with proper representation, and then we have to see to it that the right individuals are the ones that are given chances to represent us.
Apart from our leaders whom we know has failed us, what do you think the masses can do to help in restructuring the system without going into politics?
The masses have to make the politicians know that what they are doing is very wrong, but again the masses have to be enlightened and they have to be told the truth and that is where journalists come in. I have engaged myself in such discussions over the years and what I hear from journalists is that they don’t want to get killed by politicians when they say the truth, but what profession do you engage in that does is not hazardous? All professions have hazards, policemen, farmers like myself, all face hazards.
You see sir, the duties of a journalist among other things, has to do with the enlightenment of the people but take a look at Nigeria, over seventy percent cannot read, so how will they get this information from journalists?
Well, the statistics you’ve just given now is like a shock to me, if you have said thirty percent I would have been able to stomach it, but to tell me over seventy percent of citizens of this nation don’t know how to read or write, it shows that the politicians are total failures. First of all, I want to tell you that education must be made compulsory, affordable and enforced; in the sense that a child who has attained the age of entering primary school and is not registered in any school, the parents of that child should be brought to book by the government because such parents are exposing their children to hazards.
Also, the school system must be operated on the basis of merit because. It is not possible for someone to spend ten or twelve years in a system and learn nothing.
When journalists write about people, they will definitely listen. Journalists are the conscience of any community. It doesn’t matter who you are. When they become silent, the leaders will continue their evil mal-administration.
Mr. Acha, which party do you belong to? Because recently we saw you carrying out some comprehensive advocacy of an aspirant.
Good, every individual has interest in politics, it may not be very active, but every individual that is interested in the welfare and well being of his/her community will have interest in politics. I happen to be the President of Deltans in Germany for almost seventeen years, which is to let you know that I am actually not a man that tends towards being myopic in view. The recent event and the fillers that I get both in Nigeria and abroad is that there is a negative current that is blowing in Ika land. I also participate in Ika Union over there, there is no division in Ika Union in Germany, we are Ika indigenes, it doesn’t matter where you come from, even some Yoruba guys who like what we do, attend our meetings. But now we have a unique situation here. The Ika Federal Constituency is made up of two local government areas; Ika South and Ika North East LGAs, and there is a working understanding that both local governments share who goes after the other. A promise in this direction was made by the governor and the governor has reaped the benefit of the same promise. It is therefore a big betrayal for the governor to renege on that same promise which he made to Ika South in an edifice that bears the name of the entire Ika nation; the Ika National Hall. His statement was very open, there are audios of it, and there are videos of it. My question is: what is the Dein of Agbor Kingdom and the Obi of Owa saying about this issue?
The issues of the House of Representative election, Ika Federal Constituency, these two kings are the paramount kings in Ika nation, though they are not the only kings in Ika land, but they are the highly respected kings. Now, the citizens of these two kingdoms are at logger heads. There is an undercurrent of betrayal and if the rumours are anything to go by, it is going to be terrible. This issue should not be taken lightly, I am calling on the two monarchs to come up and make it clear that equality and justice should not be jeopardized. Before I end this statement, I read in the newspapers that Ogwa Ika will soon be hosted and Mr. Larry Onyeche is making a public statement that Agbor is prepared to host the Ogwa Ika, for what? Are you going to host people that are not united? What is the essence of that? It makes no sense when the people at the top are partying while the common men, the Lilliputians are about to get at one another’s throat, the eleven monarchs of the various clans in Ika land should make a statement that they are going to abide by equity, justice and fairness based on the House of Representative slot.
Sir, you know that one of the rules and regulations of traditional rulers in Delta State is not get themselves involved in politics. Are they not supposed to be neutral on this issue?
Of course, the traditional fathers are not supposed to get themselves involve in politics, but again the people in question are their children, will they say because they don’t want to be seen as politicians and so allow bad blood to reign among their people? No, they must take actions that will lead to peace, peace is priceless and you don’t expect peace when some persons feel betrayed.
Are you a Christian?
I am not only a Christian, I am a senior Apostle of the Eternal Sacred Order of Cherubim and Seraphim Church. Presently I am the Provincial Secretary of the German Special Assembly of Cherubim and Seraphim Church in Germany.
Are you married?
I am married with the best woman on earth. My wife’s name is Mrs. Joy Acha, and as her name connotes, that woman is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
She is an Agbor woman, paternally from Oki, while maternally from Alisime. The marriage is blessed with six beautiful children.
What is your perception about life generally?
Well, the best thing on earth actually is to have peace. People run after wealth, but wealth is not happiness, wealth does not bring happiness at all; and one must strive to do the right thing at every point in time, you must live with the golden rule of doing to others what you will like others to do unto you, of course that is not to say that people should not be ambitious. Kids should be trained to be ambitious but not to look for corrupt ways or short cuts to achieve their ambitions.
What are your likes and dislikes?
Well, some of my dislikes are cheating and betrayal, which is why you see me fuming when injustice begins to prevail. I am an easy going man, like I earlier mentioned, I am a devout Christian and I live with the Christian rules. Do the right thing, you don’t need to cheat any person. I cherish honesty, hardwork, and other good virtues.
Do you have any best and worst moments?
There is no particular moment that I will classify as my worst moment and I still can’t find a particular moment that I will classify as my best moment.
The issue is this, I have a lot of good moments; once I am with my family, it is a continuous fulfilled moment.
What is your best Ika delicacy?
Ofe-Ujuju, I can eat the ujuju soup with anything; be it garri, pounded yam, fufu, e.t.c
What legacies are you hoping to leave behind?
The main legacy a man should strive to leave behind it to give his children quality education, so that your kids can fend for themselves, and that is what I am striving to do.
Do you have any role model, if yes, who are they?
To tell you the truth, my role model happens to be my father.
My father left this world in peace; he was at peace with everyone that knew him. He was at peace with God, like I said, he was a clergyman and that is the major reason why I am also doing all I can to relocate back to Nigeria, so that when I am totally back, I will concentrate in trying to live the same kind of life my father lived.
Which Organization do you belong to both in your church and the larger society?
I am the President of Delta Association in Germany. In the church, I am in the king Solomon’s band and a senior Apostle in the church. I participate in virtually every activity that is carried out in the church. I am a member of All Farmers Association, Ika South Chapter, a member of Onyero Co-operative Union and Ikekeze Union.
Do you have any Award?
I do not have any specific award and I don’t actually crave for any award. Those who know me draw inspiration from my way of life, my pursuit of honesty and justice, which is enough for me.
How do you relax after a hard days job?
Once I step into my house and I am with my family, I feel totally relaxed. I am not pressured, I don’t have unnecessary tension, I must not drink twelve bottles of beer to relax, of course I socialize and I work hard, but the works that I engage myself in are things that I also enjoy, so when I am working I am relaxed, because I do what I love, I don’t have tensions.
Personally, how have you helped in contributing to the development of your community and Ika land in general?
My contribution to the development of Ika land is what I am engaged in, in trying to see that Ika land becomes industrialized, to see that the right individuals are given the opportunity to serve, to see that no section of the Ika citizens from both local government area is marginalized and of course, I am engaged in trying to see that people are engaged in meaningful jobs, and I have been doing that since 1996, that is by setting up businesses in Ika land. I know the importance of getting my people engaged, that is why despite the set backs, I am always here in Agbor trying to set up one business or the other and giving assistance to people when I come.
Mr. Acha, in your assessment, how will you rate the administration of his Excellency Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, the Governor of Delta State?
Well, I am a critical man, that is, I am someone who engages in constructive criticism. I don’t allow myself to be swayed by popular comments, when those comments are not genuine. But, of course, if I see that the positions are shifting and that somebody is performing, it will be wrong for me to say that such a person is not performing, because that becomes a lie.
I will say that since February 2018, there have been some constructions of roads across Ika South. The governor is on the move, but he can do really better. There are other places that require his attention. For instance, my street, Obuseh Avenue, Agbor Obi, Vehicles cannot ply there. A lot still has to be done in the health sector. There is a shortage of manpower at the Central Hospital, Agbor. I will prefer a hospital where you will have capable hands, with doctors working round the clock. I can tell you about a woman who had an accident and when the woman was taken to the hospital, there was just one doctor on duty. Can you imagine a hospital that takes care of not only people from Ika land but people from Edo state as well, having just one doctor on duty? Are you telling me that no value is being placed on human lives? On that aspect I am not impressed, and I think the governor is in a position to do more, and he should do more, even if it entails him going out of the state to get doctors, our people’s lives are priceless and must be attended to.
There are other amenities like the pipe borne water that I have mentioned before. Our people should not die of diseases because they are poor. Social welfare system should be instituted, and the up-grading of our academic institutions should be taking care of as well. There should be quality services which must be monitored, for example, let’s take the College of Education Agbor that by now should have attained the status of an Education University, which will of course encourage people to come into this community to develop the community if upgraded. What about the medical school? If we have a medical school here, the State School of Nursing can be up graded to a federal school, which will now attract a University Teaching Hospital. We already have structures that can accommodate such innovations, we only need to build on them. The governor can do more on these aspects. But of course I wish the governor further success, I wish that he keeps his promise to Ika South people.
You are aware of the mass Exodus of our youths, who end up dying in the Mediterranean Sea, because of their quest for greener pasture in foreign countries, what is your advice to such youths?
My advice since in the Nineties remains the same; get yourself gainfully engaged in Nigeria. Like I said, if I knew what I know now I would not have travelled out. It was a trend when I travelled and since I went, I have been struggling; you will not remain a youth forever, you will grow old, like I told you I am the president of Deltans in Germany and I know a good number of aged men and women who are longing to relocate to Nigeria, but they are not able because the Nigerian system has made it impossible for them.
You have been making your mark, you are there, and still come home, you have some investments here, why can’t others do same by coming to make their own positive contribution in helping to revamp the Nigerian Economy to suit the ones overseas?
Thank you for that observation. Well, I told you that I do not want to compare myself with other persons. I have a unique setting based on the fact that I had a role model in the person of my father, I actively observed his last days and they were beautiful, that made me right from day one to plan my last days to be in that form, but this is not the same with a lot of them. I have my family down here, those who have their wives and their kids over there, how are they going to do it? These are the things that do not come to the minds of young men when they are running away from the country, until they become trapped and of course when they come back empty handed, the society that they are coming back into, look at them as failures, and who wants to be looked down as failures? So, it is still the reception that they will get from the society that is a big barrier.
Mr. Acha, your final words to Ika people and Deltans in general
Yes, as regards the unity of a community, it is of paramount importance, which should be placed above every other considerations, When our community becomes rot of peace, then we will know the importance of peace.
The words and the promises of Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, the Governor of Delta State, which are well meaning words should be kept. There should be equity and justice, the Ika South man should be allowed to represent us in the House of Representative, Ika Federal Constituency in 2019, for the sake of peace and stronger unity; and we in turn should also assist the Governor, with the mind that he will look into the grey areas affecting the common man, to create a better life for all.