PRINCE ARTHUR EZE: THE MAKING OF A QUINTESSENTIAL BUSINESSMAN AND PHILANTROPIST
By Gozie Irogboli
On Saturday the 28th day of September, 2019 Ndi-Igbo are expected to gathered in their numbers in Umuahia to honour some of their illustrious sons on the occasion of Michael Okpara Leadership Lecture and one of those slated for award in the Business and Human Management category is Prince Arthur Eze. No doubt it is an honor well-deserved and I feel compelled to join many others to pay tribute to this quintessential philanthropist because of my belief in the power philanthropy as not just a religious duty but also a veritable socio-economic tool for touching lives and promoting peace in the society. One thing I have learnt about public affairs commentary over the years is that it is not just about criticism. An essential component of it also include acknowledging good gestures and acts that uplift humanity and commending public-spirited individuals whose contributions have made positive impact in the society so as to encourage others to do that which is right and just. And one of those individuals in the present day Nigeria who have made uncommon impact on the development of the society is Prince Arthur Eze who through his investments and philanthropy has affected many lives in a peculiar kind of ways.
Prince Arthur Eze was born to the royal family of Ukpo Kingdom in Anambra State Nigeria. He is the founder and chairman of Atlas Oranto Petroleum an indigenous oil exploration and production company; one of Africa’s largest privately owned exploration and production companies with many subsidiaries and investment across the continent. By training, he is an engineer having trained in Chemical and Mechanical engineering in California State University Long Beach. In the area of business, Prince Arthur Eze is versatile, bullish and astute with investments across sectors and spatial boundaries. He is an iconic business mogul whose contribution to oil and gas development in Africa where his company owns 22 oil and gas licenses in 11 jurisdictions is phenomenal. He is alive to his corporate social responsibility as he has consistently influenced his business environment in addition to supporting and empowering many start-ups.
But beyond his business acumen and ingenuity, he is a philanthropist per excellence who has sublimely indulged in acts of generosity, philanthropy, charity and humanitarian service. His ethical principles seem to revolve around giving. He is a quintessential humanist who has made philanthropy an inseparable part of his life. Thus, he is unarguably adjudged the biggest philanthropist in the country. A man with a large heart; a heart of gold, who believes that the real wealth is that which is shared and giving is the whole essence of living. His belief seems to be in sync with the religious injunction that the wealth and power one wields is in trust for the whole society. So, apart from the numerous individuals who troop to his residence on regular basis for help, there are institutions, and communities far and near that have benefited from his largesse.
In his native Ukpo community, he has donated to the elderly people, spent millions to modernize the local market and constructed road networks linking the neighbouring communities. He donated Five million Naira to the Association of People Living with Sickle Cell Disorder (APLSCD) for the construction of sickle cell clinic in his home town. In 2015, he donated twenty million Naira to a church in Abagana, a neighbouring town for the purchase of musical instrument and for renovation works in the church. He donated a whooping sum of $500,000 to Nwafor Orizu College of Education, Nsugbe to support the construction of students’ hostel and school feeding programme for indigent students of the school. At Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, he built a medical research unit in the medical school. In Ebonyi State, he has constructed roads and bridges to help the state infrastructural facelift.
In fact, his philanthropic gestures know no ethnic, religious or national boundaries. As is typical of an Igbo man that he is, Prince Arthur Eze believes that the whole world is his oyster. He has business interests across the globe and as his business is spread so his philanthropy in keeping with his corporate social responsibilities. In 2013, Prince Arthur Eze donated $6.3 million in aid of flood victims in Nigeria and in the build up to the FIFA World Cup in Russia 2018, he donated twenty-five million Naira to the NFF. Again in 2013, he doled out $12 million for the construction of St. Stephen’s Anglican Deanery and Youth Development Center in Otuoke, Bayelsa State, Nigeria. At a fundraising ceremony in Abuja in aid of victims of Boko-Haram insurgency in North East, he donated the sum of $800,000. And in faraway Sudan, Prince Arthur Eze donated $800,000 for the constructing of two primary schools in two different communities in central South Sudan.
As a firm believer in people, I share his business philosophy of investing in people and his political philosophy of empowering people. He is a man of many parts. Apart from being a businessman and philanthropist, he is also a consummate politician. But, his foray into politics is obviously not to seek elective position or for personal enrichment but to groom future leaders and empower his people as he is the greatest sponsor and financier of political office seekers in his native Anambra State where he is regarded as a king-maker. Indeed his sojourn into politics was essentially to empower the people. Outside politics, he has done more than political office holders in empowering his people.
Thus, in recognition of his invaluable contribution to humanity, he has received many awards from across the globe. Ozoigbondu—meaning one who saves the lives of Ndi-Igbo—as he is fondly called by his admirers obviously in recognition of his live-saving support to the people especially the poor and the Igbo youths some of whom he has lifted from misery, poverty and deprivation and made active and vibrant members of the society through his generosity.
In Ebonyi State Nigeria where his philanthropic gesture is felt in the provision of social infrastructure, the state governor appointed him the Chancellor of the state-owned university and named a major road in the state capital in his honour while the state Council of traditional rulers conferred a befitting chieftaincy title on him. In November 2011, the Federal Government of Nigeria conferred on him the national award of Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) in recognition of his enormous contributions to the development of the country. In 2018, he received the prestigious Zik Prize in leadership in the business category. Also, he received African Value Award conferred on him by the Value Re-orientation and Development Initiative Africa (VARDI AFRICA) in 2018.
By orientation, vocation and philosophy, Prince Arthur Eze may be seen as a humanist and an internationalist not limited by cultural or spatial boundaries. Perhaps, it is in recognition of this that the Enugu City Centre Rotary District 9142 in 2015 named him: Outstanding Citizen of the World.
Clearly, his ethical disposition to charity is worthy of emulation. In this part of the world where many accumulate wealth for personal aggrandizement, it in inspiring to see the likes of Prince Arthur Eze who sees his wealth as something he is holding in trust for the society. As a keen believer in equity, justice and empowerment, he believes that empowering people will reduce social vices and engender the much desired peace in our society. To him, philanthropy is a virtue that should be imbibed by all. Those who know him at close range testify that he is an unassuming personage and a good mixer who can hobnob with the high and mighty as well as the lowly. A background in royalty did not alter his humble disposition rather it reinforced his belief that part of royalty and nobility is service to the people.
Indeed, we need more of the likes of Prince Arthur Eze in Nigeria to help confront the scourge of poverty ravaging the land and bring succor to the less privileged. Nigeria environment is ravaged by absolute poverty. There is anger and frustration in the land occasioned by lack and deprivation. The weak and the vulnerable need support. The youth need empowerment and tutelage. There is need to build capacity and groom future leaders. Those with ideas need sponsorship and motivation. In this regard, I enjoin our billionaires in Nigeria to emulate the lofty examples of Prince Arthur Eze by extending helping hands to lift up the less privileged so that the country will be safe for all.
By Gozie Irogboli
An economist and public policy analyst