Uche Onochie -Pastor Uche to members of House on the Rock- is a dyed-in-the-wool entrepreneur and a true believer in communal wealth. His favourite saying is probably “Wealth is perfected in a group.” Uche Onochie is the CEO of Madisson Energy, Founder and President of the Market-Place Apostles Empowerment Foundation [MPAEF], and Convener of the International Christian Business Exhibition & Conference [ICBEC]. The debonair and cordial gentleman who also serves as a Director of Trade Promotions/Events and Tourism in the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture [PHCCIMA], spoke extensively with Konnect Africa’s Editor about his life, work, Foundations, building wealth in Christendom and the 3rd annual ICBEC which is slated for the 28th -31st August, 2013. Lots of lessons in here folks; shine your eyes.
Ethnicity, Family Life and Education
I was born in 1970, and hail from Aniocha in Delta state but we grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. My memories of childhood, growing up and family was exciting and wonderful, lacking only in the Christian angle, so to speak. My parents are the most amazing people, and by God’s mercies, they are alive although they are getting on in age…my father is 88 years old and My mother is in her late 70’s. [AMAZING]
I attended many schools and I gained an MBA in 1998 from the University of Benin.
Education Then and Now
My opinion about our educational system is that it is deteriorating and it didn’t start today. Even when I was a student, there was already a rot in the system although it may not have been really pronounced back then. Lecturers are not improving themselves, students are well aware that they can handle their business one way or another, and things are generally not improving. In my opinion, schools should not be funded by the Government, but should have a President who sources for funds, brings in investors, and keeps our schools on par with their counterparts in others countries.
It was difficult and strenuous for me personally to get the job I wanted as a banker. I kept body and soul together with the support of my family and I undertook small jobs when I could. I wanted to be a banker for many years but that never materialized so I moved into the oil and gas industry, which was my only other choice of a career path. On the advice of a friend, I undertook a safety training and started off as a Safety Officer, with a job in an oil servicing company. People never knew I had a Master’s degree because Safety Officers where usually HND holders. Eventually, I went into Training and then Logistics which is what I ended up doing in my company, Madisson Energy; we do marine logistics, tracking, construction, and management consultancy.
Market-Place Apostles Empowerment Foundation [MPAEF]
This Foundation was founded in 2008 and is intended for Christians to come together and form a support group because I noticed that most of Christendom is lacking support in the market place. Wealth is perfected in a group, and if one is wealthy and others are not, then none is wealthy. The Christian body needs mentors and backing in the business place, and that is the origin and birth place of MPAEF.
Why aren’t Christians wealthy? This is a question that bugged me for many decades, as far back as when I attended Secondary School in the Northern Part of Nigeria. I almost got into trouble when I queried the then popular saying, “As poor as a church rat…” I wondered why it wasn’t as poor as a mosque rat or any other rat!!! [Hilarious laughter.]
This issue so occupied my mind and prayers, that I was inspired to found the MPAEF to address it; one Christian and city at a time. I am not a prosperity Preacher and I am against prosperity preaching but I believe in wealth for Christians for a purpose because in our generation, without money, we can do nothing! How can the gospel get to the ends of the earth if there is nobody/men with means to send the Preachers? We can’t all be pulpit Ministers, but in our business places we are called to be Pastors and Ministers. This office of mine is my pulpit, and I am the Pastor in my establishment. People ask “Where is God?” because we raise holy hands in church on Sunday, and on Monday, we are engaging in sharp practices in the business place.
You can’t serve God and mammon, and IT IS possible to serve God wholly and succeed in the business place. There is a lot of ignorance on how to maintain godly standards in the marketplace, but it is there in the bible for those who seek it. That is the message of the MPAEF. The God of Sunday is also the God of Monday, and Christians everywhere will do well to realize that. There is no secular or religious work; all can be done for the glory of God. I am a businessman, and I choose integrity over corruption; I will not seek the downfall of my competitor or engage in sharp practices to make a quick buck. We hope that leaders in Christendom awaken to this lacuna and support such initiatives.The MPAEF is funded by the voluntary donations of individuals who are cognizant of the vision and needs of the Foundation. Funding is a huge challenge, but by God’s Grace we will continue. We hold monthly business and empowerment conferences every 3rd Saturday of the month, and a monthly prayer vigil every 2nd Friday of each month.
Domino Reino Foundation [DRF]
This is a leadership training Foundation that is committed to raising Leaders for the future. We believe there’s a dearth of real Leaders, and we aim to build up a new crop of Leaders whose foundation will be based on biblical principles. Our leadership modules are derived from the scriptures, even though it is open for everyone, so we don’t go quoting scriptures. We aim to be a World- Class Training Institute, and currently offer awards to companies and individuals for excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility. We also have a Development and Empowerment Centre, and a Leadership Academy where we undertake corporate trainings; these are the departments of the Domino Reino Foundation.
Funding is basically the most pervasive problem in starting a business. Borrowing seems to be inevitable. I was blessed to be able to borrow from my family at the initial stage, but a debt is a debt, and has to be repaid. Subsequently, more funds are required because the business has to grow and expand and the terms for loans from banks are stringent and unfriendly because it seems the banks have not realized that economies are grown by SMES, who eventually graduate to Large Scale companies. The alternative is to source for investors who will help you take your business to the next level, because you can’t keep running back to family every other time. You need strategic alliances to take you to the next level. To survive in business, one must ensure that there is service delivery, innovation and integrity. The Blue Ocean Strategy is also a sure way to stay in business – Innovate, go in, go fast, take a large chunk of the market, and make your profit before competitors and imitators hit the scene, because they will.
Ripe for Entrepreneurship?
There’s no clear-cut formula to know when you are ripe to become an entrepreneur, and one thing I tell people is that “not everyone will run their own business.” You have to be careful before you launch in because it is a rough terrain. Lives and families are dependent on you and whether you make a profit or not, salaries are expected at the end of the month. You envy a business man, and the business man envies you, the employee. Doing business in Nigeria even aggravates the situation because everybody seems to want to cheat you, and even your staff wants to take from you. I always advice people to work for someone else and understudy them before striking out on their own. I understudied a Pharmacist who was so versatile, I knew there was a lot I could learn from him. There is never a right time, but please get all the experience you possibly can, because once you launch in, you may not be able to retrace your steps especially if you are past a certain age.
On Motivational Speaking; What Makes You Stand out?
I speak from the heart. I speak about issues I have dealt with and experienced. I speak on issues that have bothered me, and as it happens, when you grapple with an issue long enough, you become an expert at it. I am passionate about these issues, so I speak with authority. I don’t delve into myriad subjects just because people expect me too.
The International Christian Business Exhibition & Conference [ICBEC]
The idea was borne from attending Offshore West Africa and Nigerian Oil and Gas etc. It was founded on the platform of the MPAEF. I believe I was opportuned to attend these international conferences in preparation for the International Christian Business Exhibition & Conference. ICBEC is an annual world-class standard conference that can compare favourably with any of the above mentioned. The only difference is that we don’t yet have corporate sponsors like they do but God will help us. It’s getting bigger and this year we have exhibitionists from as far as the United States who are coming as delegates. ICBEC is intended to be a catalyst to Christian businesses; to help them locate and make the connections that matter.
Itinerary for ICBEC 2013
ICBEC is in its 3rd year, and it is getting bigger as I mentioned earlier. This year, our Speakers are coming in from all over Nigeria; Pastor Poju Oyemade, Convener of The Platform, Pastor Ituah Ighodalo, President of PHCCIMA, Engr. Emeka Unachukwu, Dr. Tammy Danagogo, Hon. Commissioner for Urban Development and Physical Planning, Sir Godfrey Ohuabunwa, GMD Multimesh Communications Group, Rev. Mossy Madugba, International Coordinator of the Ministers Prayer Network and other seasoned Christian business men. The conferences are free.
This is not a Christian only affair, I must add. ICBEC is the bridge that connects the Christian Business Community with the world and encompasses businesses everywhere. This edition is holding on the 28th – 31st of August in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. It is funded by sponsorships, donations and booth rentals.
Maintaining Christian Principles in the Market Place
It is practicable but it is better in a group because you know that if you have a support group it is easier to take a stand and refuse to compromise in the marketplace. Like I stated earlier, wealth is perfected in a group. That is why we cannot over emphasize the need for a support group or groups in Christendom.
Make out time for God and every other thing will fall into place; it’s a tried and trusted formula! If you create time for God, He will order your steps. He has helped me raise a family [ I have 3 sons and a beautiful wife], be a Pastor and an Entrepreneur.
President for a Day
As much as I can, I would love to instill a sense of dignity and positive pride in Nigerians.
It is not easy but it can be done. Seeing the work of your hand prosper is like a natural high. You don’t need to do drugs; just work hard and you will be high all the time! (More Laughter)
What it is, and should be lived free from anxiety. As the Bible says, “Be not anxious about anything but in everything, with prayer and supplication make your requests known to God…” I used to worry for Africa, but God has taught me to let go and let Him.
Inspire an African Youth with one Sentence…
God sets the time and seasons for everything.
For more information on ICBEC 2013, call 07067424191, 08035344260 and 08186690235. Visit market-placeapostles.org, like the Facebook Page and keep updated- www.facebook.com/icbec, follow on twitter @icbec2013 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org/ email@example.com