First, I must say I am a Nationalist; a deep rooted believer in the ‘wazobia’ spirit. I don’t care if my proverbial missing rib is found in the swamps of the Niger-Delta, or the dusty plains of Maiduguri.
But I confess I did feel a twinge of tribalism that the historic winner of the MTN sponsored Who Wants to Be a Millionaire television programme, Chimuanya Ufodike, is an Igbo man; a native of Nnewi at that!
Nnewi, the Taiwan of Africa! The commercial nerve centre of Nigeria’s motorcycle industry boasts an unenviable reputation of recording one of the highest illiteracy levels in Igboland.
Mr Ufodike, whose cute VW Passat bears customized licence plates that proudly declares him as an Nnewi son, was quick to rise to the disagree with this notion in the three-hour-long interview (more like banter) I had with him.
“Those rumours are unfounded,” he said a wee bit heatedly, betraying a slight chink in his otherwise unruffled demeanour. “Where is the first senate president from? My father was the second professor of Kinesiology in Africa. There are so many professors, and professionals in Nnewi. All members of my extended family are graduates and professionals in their respective careers.”
“I admit that Nnewi people are prone to excel in commerce, but that shouldn’t be a reason to forego education,” he added.
Coming days after this year’s World Literacy Day celebrations, and reports in NEXT that an estimated 30% of Nigerians are illiterate, Mr Ufodike’s exploits signal a rallying call to our millions of uneducated youth.
The master degree holder, who almost didn’t go to university, proves a role model to Nigerian youth on the values of education, even if self inflicted.
“It’s not just the inside the box kind of thing, you’ve got to also think outside the box,” he said. “I read a lot, especially those kinds of books that people don’t like reading.”
As I reluctantly extricated myself from his captivating presence, I made a mental note to dig out that dog-eared copy of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment that I had abandoned half read last year.
I also want to be a millionaire. Those naira notes don’t care if you are Igbo, or Yoruba, or Hausa; it flows into your pockets as a result of what your brain has ingested and recycled.