Olisa Metuh At 50: I Grew Up Loving Awolowo And Zik
The National Publicity Secretary, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, turns 50 years old today. He told BRIDGET CHIEDU ONOCHIE that to thank God for his numerous blessings, he has decided to celebrate with the less privilege and the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
How do you feel turning 50?
For me, turning 50 is a question of numbers. I still feel the same way. I love the same people, like same kinds of things, enjoy the same kind of food, keep same friends and still enjoy watching football. So, it is a question of numbers. But turning 50 is significant because it means one should get some wisdom that he applies in handling the knowledge that he acquired. It means significantly that people expect you to be more matured, more decent and more civil in everything you do. For me, it means I am a year older. I am still the same person at 50.
What has life has taught you at 50?
Let me say that there was a time I never knew that there was a struggle in life – strife and envy, and that was just a few years ago. I have seen the other side of life in terms of challenges and struggles. At 50, life has taught me that so long as you have faith in God, you can surmount anything. When you have faith or hope in human beings, they will always disappoint you. Only God can change destiny. I do not look up to people to assist me. It is between God and I. Late at night and early in the morning, I make my covenant and I believe that whatever covenant you make with God and you offer sacrifice, God will always honour it.
Your ambition 20 years ago
I thought I was going to be a successful businessman. I thought I was going to be the best lawyer in this country, that I would be an expert in privatization practice. I thought I would be an expert in corporate law and would be quoted everywhere. That was my vision and that was where I was headed. I thought that in real estate development practice, people would know me, not only here but internationally. In that aspect, I have fallen short of it. But in terms of people reading about me, hearing some people abuse and say all kinds of things about me, well, I did not know I will get here. But I thank God for the privilege I have had to serve my party, be useful to my friends and make little contributions to the society. It has been a good experience and if I have to make a choice in going back, I will pray to God to allow me go through this experience again because I have enjoyed it. What I have done in politics is not about the winning, it is the game itself. I am in love with the game.
There is no regret because I believe in what I have done. I have been able to assist people to get into offices during the primaries and during the general elections and they served humanity and made worthy contributions to the people. I shared part of their success.
The other side of Olisa Metuh
Growing up, my father was a lawyer and my mother was a headmistress. I believe that I had some kind of privileges as a child. I went to a primary school where I was the only one that has footwear. My growing up was in two phases. When my mother was alive, we had a happy family in Abakaliki and I was very close to my mother being the first son, the third child and the only boy after five children. But when my mother died, growing up shifted to Enugu where my father’s younger sister became a surrogate mother to us. But my father still played his role. I have never seen a person who will pay attention to the needs of his children than his happiness. My father never remarried because he felt having a new wife would affect the love he had for his children. I learnt communal living growing up. Up till today, I love people coming around me. My growing up came with its challenges. When I lost my mother, I found it difficult being alone in secondary school because she died while I was in primary school. It affected me so much that I took many things for granted. My father once visited me in school and found me playing football. He took me to my hostel and found my things unkempt. He flogged me in front of the whole secondary school and in the next few months, I could not raise my voice anywhere because of that experience. But I never became untidy after that.
Finding time to relax
Work is relaxation for me. I leave my house in the morning and I don’t remember that I have to eat till late at night. Some times, when I travel, I will come in at about 6 am, go for a walk, come back about 8 am and I will dress up for work and stay there till about 11 pm. I find work relaxing because it is something I enjoy. There is an excitement you get from doing what you like. I like what I do and I relax with it. I have job satisfaction. For informal relaxation, I am addicted to football. Before now, I was a fan of Enugu Rangers. Now it is Arsenal and Ifeanyi Uba United. I travel to Nnewi most weekends just to watch Ifeanyi Uba United. I love music also. I play it loud and it inspires me. I like rap music and the new wave of Nigerian music.
Getting into politics
I am an accidental politician. I had actually believed that politicians were liars, indecent people and people who could not succeed in their chosen professions. As a lawyer and up to the time I got married, I would never sit down discussing politics. I used to think politicians were wayward people. But my impression has totally changed. The system has also changed. In the late 90s, people did not want to play politics but now, I find younger people saying they want to be politicians. I keep discouraging them, letting them know that politics is not a profession. You must have a second address. You must have a means of livelihood for you to be in politics. It is a wrong attitude for one to graduate from school and says he wants to be a politician. Look at those playing politics, two to three years that the light is out, you will not like what you see. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo taught us in 2001 to have a second address before joining politics. However, I have seen people who made sacrifice through politics. I have seen people who used their money to effect changes in their societies and people. I have seen people who have inspired a lot of people because they are in politics. All these have helped in changing my impression about politics.
Role models in Nigerian politics
I grew up loving Awolowo and Zik. Awolowo had passionate followers who believed in his ideals. I enjoyed Jim Nwobodo and Solomon Lar. In the new brand of politics, there are so many people I see that play good politics. For instance, I am impressed with Ghali Na’Abba. He made a mark by defining the position of speakership. I like Aminu Tambuwal. He created and enhanced the separation of powers. He defended the interest of legislators in the separation of powers. I like Godswill Akpabio and Sam Egwu for what they did in their states. Egwu turned Abakaliki around and people are proud to say they are from Abakaliki. That was the same thing Akpabio did to the psyche of his people. I like people who are greatly misunderstood like Emeka Ihedioha but they stand for principles. They will never lie because they want to impress you.
Relationship with Lai Mohammed
He has done well for himself and his political party. He has a passion for his job and I don’t have problems with him. We have exchanged banters but we are not enemies. It is just that he represents a brand of politics that is not very attractive to me.
Why did you choose to celebrate your birthday with the less privileged?
I never lost sight of where I am coming from and what God has done for me. In spite of the challenges I have heard, I ended up being the longest serving executive in the national executive committee of PDP since 1999. It is not because of my hard work or talent but by the grace of God. Then, people’s demands and requests have made me realize that a lot of people are suffering. For the less privileged, it is not easy. I have four children and one of them is from the Motherless Babies Home and she came at a time she was almost a teenager. God has used us to change her life but what about others who are left behind who have never had any opportunity to see a different kind of life? So, I feel that being close to them and showing them that they are loved keeps them going and gives them hope.