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Festus Uzoma Mbisiogu is the CEO of Blue Diamond Company, entrepreneur, activist, and philanthropist. In this interview with Yetunde Oladeinde, he goes down memory lane to talk about early life, coming from a very poor background, coping with so many challenges at the beginning, his turning point, his survival strategies on the international scene, and turning 50 this month.

You have your footprints in different parts of the world. What inspired this?

The atrocities being committed by most of our people in China are bad. As a Nigerian, you are not allowed to stay with your family in China. They can’t give you a resident visa with your family in China. It’s too difficult and they started that about two or three years ago. So, for the past 15 years, I have been the only one that is allowed to own a visa in my company. If my wife wants to join me, she has to become the CEO of that company, I would become second my children are not allowed. Most Nigerians in China are not living a good life. There are places where you cannot live.

What I did was call a press conference during one of my visits to Nigeria to announce to the Nigerian government what Nigerians are going through in China. In the process, Okonjo Iweala read about it in 2015, then Jonathan was about to come to China. It was his last trip to China with Okonjo Iweala and Peter Obi was also there. Why must the Nigerian government have only an Embassy in Beijing, there is a Trade Mission in Shanghai where you have about ten thousand Nigerians. There are no Consulate activities and that is why we are being humiliated.

When they came, they now approved the consulate office in Gansu, China. I am vocal, but most Nigerians there cannot talk probably because they don’t want to be deported. But I have a clean heart; I am not into illicit trade. It is only when you are afraid of the business that you are doing that you can hide. So, I said let me be like Moses in China to voice out what Nigerians are going through.

Why the choice of China?


 I have an NGO. What prompted the NGO is that in one of our meetings, there was this Carton Trade Fair in China from the 15th of April to and 30th of October. It comes up twice every year. Here captains of industry and high-level government officials from all over the world attend this fair. It is one of the biggest, all over the world. There they put on the billboard, China feeds the world. 80 percent of what Africa consumes is from China. All we buy from Dubai is made in China. So, when I relocated to China, I was telling the Nigerian government that Nigeria could do better if we have a steady power supply. So, during one of those carton fairs that I attended with Nigerian government officials, I saw that most of them refused to attend the heavy-duty machinery section.

They believed that there was no power in Nigeria to power this machinery. I started discussing with them, that we cannot afford to stand aloof and allow the country to go down. So, I told myself, if I cannot talk to Goodluck one on one, let me go back to the country and form a platform where I can voice out my thoughts. So, that was what triggered me. There are a lot of opportunities in China. Research has shown that if you have 10 families, 8 out of that number will be in manufacturing. They have that conducive environment and you can stay in your room, start joining wires together and start exporting to the whole world. Even what America exports are from China. The only difference is that they would ask if you want European, African, or Nigerian standards. I must confess that my stay in China helped me to achieve what I have achieved today. As a businessman, you go there to make a profit but I told them, that I am not just in China to make money. I went there to extract those good things and bring them back. I also decided to establish my factory in Imo state and President Jonathan was kind enough to send Gov Orthom, when he was Minister of Trade and Investment to commission it. It is one of the biggest manufacturing outfits in Owerri, Shanghai Engineering works at Obumeri.


What does it feel like at 50?

I am super excited. I am excited because each time I look back to what I have passed through in life; I cannot believe that I can be alive today. There was a time when I was admitted to the hospital, from a private hospital to LUTH. And in all these hospitals, I was taken to the emergency ward. That was the year 2006 and I felt that I had concluded and the Lord was about to take me. The doctors tried and I was subjected to all kinds of tests. They couldn’t even find out what was happening to me. I am happy that the Lord saved me from that sickness. That was 7 years ago and I am still alive today. I know some of my friends that have one illness or another and they are no longer alive. In fact, one died last two weeks and the wake-up would take place tomorrow.


Let’s count or talk about your many blessing

There are so many. I am from a poor family, the poorest family from Umuchime, Ideato south LG. When I left the village for Lagos, they had 4 rooms. Of those 4 rooms, my mum managed to borrow money from the group she belongs to put up the two rooms. My mum and dad shared one room, and then four of us shared another room. Each time, I traveled to the village, I lived in that house. Now, the lord was so kind to me that the same guy born in those 4 rooms now has so much. Mr. Sunday brought me to Lagos and handed me over to the late Josiah Okenonu. I stayed with him and served him for 7 years and he was so happy.  When he was about to settle me, he called the whole kindred in the village. They asked me to kneel down before the elders and rained blessings on me. He killed a cow to celebrate freedom; he also enumerated the blessings acquired through me.

What kind of business was he into?

We were into trading at Tejuosho market. His wife gave my mum 2 0r 3 wrappers and told her, you have a very good son. The man gave me only N50,000. I started with N50,000 at Tejuosho market. When I came to Lagos, I decided within myself that if I must survive, I must have stringent policies guiding me. To the glory of God, I joined Catholic Charismatic Renewal at Saint Dominic church. There are what is called Life is Peace Seminars and I did this in 1971. I now became very close to God and that shaped my life. Going to clubs, and drinking was not attractive to me. The only thing my boss would see me doing after work was domestic chores. I would carry the dustbin from 92 Ojuelegba Road to the lagoon every other night. Then I was subjected to cleaning the house on a daily basis. I used the mop to clean the 3-bedroom flat and I was comfortable with that, not knowing that they were training me. Then some people noticed that the life that I lived was exceptional and they began to identify with me. Some started to give me goods on credit and some raised money for me. There is this guy called Christopher Ngoju Newman from the same Saint Dominic church. When I was having problems with my business, I decided to travel to Dubai in search of greener pastures. The first place I went to was Antigua and it cost me about 3000 dollars. Then, I went to Dubai, and instead of 50 or 100 dollars, they charged me 1000 dollars and also gave me a fake visa. At the point of entry in Dubai, they deported me. I came back and struggled again to go. I met one Alhaji; he gave me a fake passport. I went to Dubai again and I was deported. All the money I made from the trade within 6 months vanished in a twinkle of an eye. I did not give up, my mum being a resilient woman invited me to Delta and my parents invited me to their farm, brought out tubers of yams, and asked me to go and sell them. We realized N30, 000 and they gave it to me. My mum advised me to go to Onitsha or Port to start afresh because I had incurred debts in Lagos.


Let’s talk about your life as a philanthropist.

It’s in three parts. The first is sharing of bags of rice. My late mum because we live in Oturu in Delta, where they cultivate yam. Once she is coming back home for Easter or Christmas, she uses the lorry known as 911 to charter food. The villagers would troop out and she would share things cultivated on the farm with the people. I copied this from her. Also, I visited a reverend father, Father Angel in the CIC parish in Ideato South. After my meeting with the Rev. Father, I stepped down and saw two or three women raining curses on the reverend Father, they were so angry with him. I asked what was going on, and he took me away from the scene and informed me that the one bag of rice he shared at two cups each did not go around and they were angry. That touched me and that was around 2008 or 2009. From that point, I decided to share 100 to 300 bags of rice every year. It was a great inspiration and I have not failed since I started. They gave me 200 widows and I have been reaching out to them. It is a covenant between God and me.


Source: The Nation

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