Prince Ned Nwoko was until now, only known as a politician and a former member of the House of Representatives. Today, he is spearheading a continental campaign to eradicate malaria in Africa through his Prince Ned Nwoko Foundation (PNNF). In this interview with BODE GBADEBO and CHRISTIANA NWAOGU, the philanthropist reveals some personal things about himself that may not be known before now, among other issues.
Despite your wealth you don’t appear to have a glamorous lifestyle. Why is that?
I am just who I am. We all have our lifestyle, it’s my lifestyle. It is good that I am described by others because technically, I can’t describe myself. I didn’t choose to live outside the radar as you said, it’s just my lifestyle. Some people are generally quiet and focused on some things. It’s not my lifestyle to attend parties. I am not the owambe type, it’s not my lifestyle to show things to the public. I just do what I do because I have this desire in me to make a difference, to make an impact on the lives of the masses. When you look at the Bills I sponsored when I was in the National Assembly or look at the Paris Club refunds or look at the tourism that we are dealing with or look at the university I am building in Delta State, it’s all about the people, it’s all about the masses. That’s the way I am living my life.
Are you aware that Nigerians are already wowed by your quest to eradicate malaria in the whole of Africa?
What is important is that we do what we are planning to do. We need everybody and it’s good that people are aware of what is happening. We need awareness to the level where everybody keys into it. Everybody is a stakeholder in the project. What we would need, as time goes on is for the federal government of Nigeria to make some pronouncements on this and I know they will. For example, the federal government will make pronouncement on the days that will be allocated for cleanup exercises. They will dedicate few days for fumigation in homes and environments. They will also announce the days that there will be aerial fumigation across the country. Remember that this is not just about Nigeria, we are going to repeat these exercises in other countries and when we are done, hopefully, malaria and mosquitoes will be a thing of the past in Africa. I just have the confidence that this will be achieved.
What are the strategies you have mapped out to make sure that the project is sustained?
It will be sustained because the first part of this project, which is important to me, is the research for a vaccine and that I am finding. So, nothing is going to affect it. And I am not funding one university, I am doing it in five universities across Africa. So, they have their work cut out for them and they must deliver. When I met some of them, they said ‘oh we would have done it before but there was no funding’ and now that I am paying attention to it and I am funding it, there won’t be any excuse. That is just one area that I know that it will work – the vaccine. Ultimately, what we need is to get the vaccines. Vaccine is very cheap, if there is vaccine today, the cost of vaccine is going to be less than N10,000 for each person as opposed to somebody who is paying N50,000 to be treated in a year for malaria and even if vaccine cannot last for a lifetime, we are sure that if we have a good vaccine, it can last for years, five years or so.
You seem to have so much confidence on the malaria vaccine research. Is there any monitoring mechanism in place to ensure that your foundation gets value for money?
Yes! We have a committee of professors; they are research experts. They are setting up the template for those who will access the funds. We are not going to give money to any university without setting out some kind of benchmark that will make them qualify first to access the money, which will also include supervision and monitoring. So, it will be done properly. It’s not a government project, if you have a government project, you can worry about that. This is Ned Nwoko Foundation project.
You are known to engage in large scale philanthropy. What is your driving force?
It’s humanity. You just can’t be comfortable when people around you are not. You just have to help others. You just have to provide lifelines for others as much as you can. It is as simple as that.
What would say is the most difficult task you have ever handled in life?
Everything one does is difficult but you must operate to succeed. The most difficult one is being in politics because of a lot of things – insincerity, backbiting, corruption and dishonesty. At a point, I came to a conclusion that politics is not for honest people but you don’t give up because my idea of politics was learnt from my years in the United Kingdom where we were told that politics is a process where you use available means to cater for the interests of the masses. What it means is that if government has one trillion naira or dollars, it should be channeled to areas where people need things to be done whether health, education, infrastructure or any other thing. Nigeria is such a different country; here we do things differently. We have had enough resources in Nigeria to change Nigeria, the oil boom. Even up till now, we still have enough to change Nigeria for the better where poverty will be eradicated, where an average Nigerian can afford anything he or she desires.
What are your clothes and other accessory brands?
I don’t care about such things. I don’t wear wrist watch, I don’t even own one wrist watch. Many people have given me gifts of watches and I returned them. Wrist watch was invented because people needed to know their time but now you have the time on your mobile phone, you have a clock in your house, clock is everywhere, so why wear a wrist watch? I don’t wear chains or necklaces. I don’t have brands. So, my life is simple. I don’t even eat meat or chicken for 24 years now. I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t smoke. I just try to be as simple as I can.
What kind of music do you listen to?
Any music that is playing but many years ago I used to like traditional and classical music. I support the creative arts industry.
Where is your favourite tourist destination in Nigeria and abroad?
I love my village. I have a place designated as tourism location there. So, when I am there, I am happy. I love nature, I am a conservationist, I love good places where there is nature anywhere in the world.
What is your definition of success?
When you achieve what you set out to achieve, then you have succeeded. When you do those good things you set out to do, you have succeeded. It could be your education, it could be in helping others, or helping the country, whatever it is.
What do you eat?
I just told you that I don’t eat meat and chicken. I eat sea food sometimes and vegetables and salads.
What are your favourite colours?
I don’t have any particular colour but I will not wear a lousy colour.
Tell us about your family?
I am happily married with wives and everybody is together and we are all happy including beautiful kids. When you marry, you have kids and after that, what else do you want? We thank God for our lives.
Do you have the intention of staging a comeback to politics in the future?
I don’t know because the work I am doing now is a big one. So, let’s see what will happen in the next few years.
How do you relax?
I swim, every Sunday whenever I am around and I like teaching people how to swim. So far, I have taught about 900 people to swim