Ikenna Nweke hit global fame after he found and returned a wallet containing large sum of money and other valuables. He melted hearts all over the world when people learned that he rejected the mandatory ten percent given to someone who found and returned lost money, a practice in Japan.
As world leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, celebrate Nweke, the PhD student in Japan has even bigger dreams. When asked by ONITSHAGRA.COM what the world should expect from him in the nearest future, he says:
“The impact the INFO Club [his NGO] will make in Nigeria is better imagined. We will expand to all the 36 states of the federation by the end of this year. We will also operate in all the tertiary institutions in Nigeria by the end of 2022, and then move to other African countries, and even beyond. I will continue my service to my country and to humanity. I hope to win the Nobel Prize in Peace.”
From his response above, it’s clear that Ikenna Nweke is out to dominate. Here is his diverse interview with ONITSHAGRA.COM
Kindly introduce yourself to Nigerians.
I am Ikenna Steve Nweke, a native of Amauzari in Isi-ala Mbano LGA in Imo State. I am a PhD student and a teaching assistant at the University of Tsukuba. I am a Rebrand Nigeria Ambassador, and the Founder of the INFO Club Nigeria.
You became a global icon for your display of rare integrity. An act that did not only catapult you to global limelight – and turned you into a celebrity in Japan – but also caught the attention of the Nigerian President. Please share with us the story behind this noble act of yours.
Thank you so much. It was an incident that happened on the 19th of June, 2020, here in Japan. I was coming back from the office when I saw the huge purse which contained huge sum of money, a credit card and other valuables. I quickly took it to the police station. I was offered 10% of the money which is the practice in Japan, but I rejected that too. My conviction is that the owner should get everything intact, and that there should not be any reward for such acts. Astonished by that, I got a letter from the police, commending me, a meeting with the owner of the money where he appreciated me was held. They were all surprised because of my nationality. I also got commendations from President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian Embassy in Japan, the Japanese Embassy in Nigeria, prominent Nigerians, religious and traditional leaders, and ordinary citizens. I was also interviewed by local and international media organizations. A documentary about my life was done by the Asahi TV, one of the leading TV stations in Japan.
We can’t help wondering if you got blamed by some people who thought you should not have returned the wallet…
A lot of people actually did. Some Nigerians abused me for returning the money. In fact, one said that I was going to die as a poor man for missing an opportunity God gave me.
Let us talk about your NGO. Tell us about INFO CLUB.
The INFO Club Nigeria is a non-political, non-religious, and non-ethnic club. Its mission is to encourage young Nigerians to embrace integrity and selflessness. It’s focuses on mentoring young people, redirecting their focus from seeing fraudsters and yahoo boys as people to emulate, to well-meaning Nigerians who are doing amazing things. We have chapters in about 14 states of the country: Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Abia, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Kaduna, Ekiti, Plateau, Imo, Delta, etc. We also operate in many higher institutions in Nigeria. We are also in Osun and Rivers.
Is it partly funded by any government?
It is completely self-funded. Every financial responsibility is on me. All the seminars and events we have organized were financed by me. All the Ambassadors work as volunteers. The volunteers, apart from organizing events and seminars for students, also visit schools where they engage the students. They also engage in community services too.
Have you tried reaching out to governments or corporate organizations for support?
I have written to the National Orientation Agency, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and several others, but none has even responded to my mail. Only the Ugwumba Leadership Foundation has reached out to us, although not in terms of financial support.
Let us talk a little about you. Tell us about your background.
I was born into a family of seven children, then mom and dad. My father was a truck-pusher who died when I was 12. My mother was a road-side yam seller. I also hawked mineral and plastic bags at Ochanja market and main market, all in Onitsha. In 2013, I got the Global 30 Scholarship which was sponsored by the Japanese government. I got my bachelors and master’s degrees from the university of Tsukuba, where I am currently doing my PhD.
Are you married?
Yes, with four children. My wife is from Isu, in Ohaozara LGA of Ebonyi State.
How long have you been living in Japan?
For seven years.
How often do you visit Nigeria?
Not quite often, because of my research.
Can you still speak Igbo language?
I was interviewed by BBC Igbo.
What of Japanese language?
Yes, but not perfectly. Limited fluency.
What are your hobbies?
I play soccer, and I love hiking.
Which are your favourite football teams?
Barcelona and Enyimba.
Between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, who’s the G.O.A.T?
Of course, Messi!
He is from another planet. He is a great dribbler, a great playmaker, an incredible goal scorer. Winning the Ballon d’or a record six times is neither here nor there.
Do you enjoy music?
Who are your favorite musicians?
Michael Jackson, Lucky Dube, Michael W. Smith, Chika Okpala, Celestine Okwu, Nelly Uchendu, and Frank Edward.
Do you patronize Nigerian movies?
Tell us about your favorite Nigerian actors.
Charles Inojie, Late Sam Loco Efe, Genevieve Nnaji, Charles Awurum, and others. But Charles Inojie makes my day.
Do you have favorite food?
Yes, Akpu (fufu) and Oha soup.
Do you get fufu and oha in Japan?
Only garri, but we get dried oha at rather expensive price.
Who are your mentors?
Yes, Professor Gilbert Nathan Quimpo, late Matthew Apeh, and my late father. My role models are Dora Akunyili, Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh, and Barak Obama.
What should the world expect from Ikenna Nweke in the nearest future?
The impact the INFO Club will make in Nigeria is better imagined. We will expand to all the 36 states of the federation by the end of this year. We will also operate in all the tertiary institutions in Nigeria by the end of 2022, and then move to other African countries, and even beyond. I will continue my service to my country and to humanity. I hope to win the Nobel Prize in Peace.
What is your advice to Nigeria considering the state of the nation right now?
The country is going through a lot right now, but let’s keep hope alive. There’s light at the end of the tunnel
Your message to the Nigerian youths.
The destiny of the country is in the hands of the youths. They should learn from the mistakes of the elders in other not to repeat them.
Do you have any intention of relocating back to Nigeria?
Yes, I have a duty to contribute to nation building. I don’t know when my return will be, but it’s an inevitable.
Do you have interest in politics?
If I am called to serve my country in any capacity, I will gladly do that.
Thank you for speaking to onitshagra.com.
Thank you so much