BY SARAH IFIDON.
Barrister Monday Onyekachi Ubani is a man known for his integrity, empowerment for good governance, philanthropist works, activism, and his kind-heartedness. To him, human right comes first, his integrity is outstanding, and he banishes everything that contradicts what he knows for certain is right. His passion for justice is remarkable. He does not believe money gives a man the right to disrespect the other. He bares his soul in every case he handles, thereby making his clients believe in what he believes in “the Truth”. He has won several awards over the years and his significance in the society was given beamed upon by the ever watchful eyes of the Voice of Change Network International.
Speaking to the Media Officer of VOCNews International, Miss Sarah Ifidon, the legal luminary and philanthropist shares his journey in the path of philanthropy.
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Mr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani, I’m a legal practitioner. I’m a son of Abia State from Iguano local government area of Abia State. I’ve been living in Lagos for over twenty years. I came here in the year 1978. I did my Secondary School here and then went to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I did Political Science first for two years then started again from year one in the Law Faculty. I lost three solid years after studying Political science in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka Campus but then I moved over to Enugu Campus. I graduated with a second class upper in 1989 and was called to bar in 1990 and passed law school with second class upper again and went to Kano to do my National Youth Service and then came back to Lagos and then started my Service. I served in a law firm in Kano, K.C Ugboajah and Co and I also worked briefly at the chambers of Wole Olufon and co. In 1994, I started the law firm of Ubani and co. and I’ve been in legal practice at the management department of Ubani and co. till date. I have over ten lawyers in my firm, so many are here, with other supportive staff. I’m married and I have three boys and a girl. My first son is a law student, the second is also in the University as an Engineering student, and my third daughter is in Secondary School while my last son is in Primary School.
Given the numerous number of awards you’ve been given, can you talk about how you merited them?
I’ve been a human right activist, I’m also a philanthropist as you’ve rightly pointed out. I have a foundation, Ubani Foundation and then I’ve been fighting for the oppressed, and have been a voice for the voiceless. Gani Fawenhinmi and Femi Falana, are my mentors, I took after them in trying to advocate for a just society, a society where everyone would feel they belong, where people will not be deprived of their fundamental human right in any way. Over the years we’ve been doing that and of course if you’re doing something that is worthy of notice and people begin to appreciate you, you get rewarded. Hence the reason for these awards and more.
When was Ubani Foundation established?
The foundation was formally registered two years ago but has been running three years before that.
Your foundation has been identified as one with Integrity, what influenced your choice in its establishment?
I come from a very poor family, I would have been denied education if it wasn’t for God’s intervention. My father wanted me to be a mechanic, but I’m very passionate about education. It was God that actually changed things because I didn’t have any choice at that time, I could have been a mechanic. He even made plans for me to learn the trade, someone was sent to the village to go and bring my first school leaving certificate so that I could resume work on that Monday with the company that would have done the training. But fortunately for me the man could not get to Lagos on Sunday, the vehicle spoilt along the way, so he couldn’t get to Lagos. When he didn’t get to Lagos, I did not have the certificate I needed to go and resume the training on Monday. That’s how I missed learning how to be a mechanic. So, my father had to register me in a secondary school reluctantly. Now he’s enjoying the fruit of his labour.
What has been the biggest challenge of running a foundation of this magnitude?
The challenge in running Ubani Foundation is the issue of finance. The fact that most times I find it difficult begging people for money and given the respect a lot of people have, I don’t like begging for money. I’m also very careful because people also misuse the opportunity so I’m very careful asking for fund. I get a lot of request on a daily basis from people who want one thing or the other, but there is no money to attend to them. But we have millionaires and billionaires in the country, who ordinary should invest because most of them do not have the time to do the deed. I started my foundation on Star FM101.5. At the time, I used my birthday to get funds which I later disbursed to those in need. I try to empower people like giving twenty thousand to several persons every year who later invest the money into one business or the other. There are a lot of people who can testify to the fact that I’ve influenced or affected their lives one way or the other and they have been appreciative. So, the only challenge I have in running my foundation is finance. That’s the main thing because people who are ready to receive the funds are many. For example, we were able to help baby Sumayah, a girl that had a hole-in-the-heart, and she went for an operation and now she’s grown and growing. Money was raised through that radio platform and almost 2.4 million was raised by people. A lot has been done through that radio, we raise a lot of money and we distribute it openly and we give an account of how we raise and distribute it.
What is the major success story of your Foundation?
It is the story of Sumayah, and we were able to have a successful surgery. She has started school. It got to the level that MTN noticed and they partnered with Praiz and they raised 10 million naira for her operation. So, to me, that’s our success story and it was very touching. The way people responded was amazing, people began by giving as low as 500 naira and then it rose to over 2 million. I still have the ambition of raising 10 million naira on the radio one day. The last one was up to 700 thousand naira raised on the radio for Josephine Ugwu, the cleaner who found a large sum of money at the airport and returned it. Now she works at FAN, this February also, the SUN Newspaper will give her an award as a woman of integrity, the face of Nigeria but I’m looking forward to her being given a National award. In fact, in her state, a street was named after her and even offered her a job appointment but I believe she prefers the federal government’s appointment. She became an instant star, many radio stations and religious groups invited her, and even the last Governor of Lagos State invited her and shook her hand and also recommended that she be given something. Now if you google her name you will find her, in which case, if she had taken the money and not reported it, she would not be known this way. I believe she is making an arrangement to go back to school. So, there are many things and with God using me as an instrument, I promoted her.
I understand you were the former Nigerian Bar Association president of Ikeja branch, how was that like for you?
It was the most interesting time for me, as you know, this is an issue of service. It was the first time I served in such capacity as the chairman. My tenure, 2012-2014, was one of the most successful one. I believe I left a very remarkable achievement in the Bar. We were able to raise a lot of money, we did a lot of projects and really changed the face of the Bar. We attracted attention, excitement and made people get interested in the Bar activities, it was a very successful tenure.
What drives your passion for justice?
I’ve seen the rights of people who are voiceless, who do not have money, being oppressed. And the fact that they don’t have any money or any voice, makes me get interested in them. They should have someone interested in them, someone that will represent and speak on their behalf. So my interest in justice is making sure that those who ordinarily may be denied justice should be given justice irrespective of their financial status. I’ve discovered that the higher you are in society, the bigger, the richer you are, you tend to get respect, honour and glory. But the moment you are poor and you don’t have money, you don’t get that respect. So, for such people who are denied their right because of their status are the kind of people I want to give justice to. So that’s what drives my passion for justice, to make sure there is equality irrespective of the status. They are both human beings created by God, so why should he big man be respected and the poor man isn’t. The fact that he has no money is of no consequence, he should be heard. So that is what drives my passion, to ensure a sense of justice, equality and balance.
What plans do you have for the next 5 years?
I need so much money to uplift people’s lives, I don’t want people to call me for help and I would say I can’t afford it. There is so much joy in a situation where I have enough funds. I’m even planning to launch a book that collates all my speeches, seminars and all sorts, and then I’ll call people for the launching of the book and then formally launch my Foundation.
How do you spend your leisure time?
The leisure time I have is to go on the internet to source for information. I read a lot because I need to have knowledge. I do a paper review every morning in RadioContinental 102.3FM, every 7-8 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to review headlines. I talk about National issues, politics, the Economy, Health issues, Entertainment, Sport, ever issue that makes the headline and qualifies for us to discuss. I voluntarily sacrifice myself to educate Nigeria because a lot of people lack education, they need education and orientation, especially in our morality, ethics and ethos. I take out time to do this and a lot of people are getting educated and there are people on different social platforms who appreciate what I’m doing. I also do a programme on Saturdays by 3pm on the same radio station, it is called “Know your legal right”. And another television station has offered me the opportunity to do a television version of the programme. There are so many opportunities and invitations but time is the problem because I must also have time for my practice, my family and also time to rest. Sometimes, all these invitations tells on my health but I in all these God has been faithful and I owe all the gratitude to him for giving me good health and for promising to keep me alive for a long time to reap the fruit of my labour. I want to live long and in prosperity in good health.
What would you say distinguishes you from all other philanthropists?
I’m born again and that distinguishes me from all others, I accepted Christ a long time ago as my Lord and personal saviour and so in knowing Him, I am covered. The greatest wisdom you can ever have is God and the bible says that those that know Him, he will make them to be wiser and He would keep them under His bosom and when I love God, there is nobody I’m afraid of. So, that alone distinguishes me.
Who is your favourite author?
Most books I read are political or autobiographies, how great men were born and raised. But I like Chinua Achebe’s books, you know he’s a storyteller, I like the way he writes in a simple manner that one would understand. I like Nigerian authors, Nigerian books, especially political books, so I like discussing politics.