Wogu: A quintessential lawyer, public servant
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart”. Those are the words of the 19th century American inspirational author, Helen Keller in one of her celebrated books – “The Story of my life”.
Keller waxed very philosophical in her thoughts and stressed that the best and most beautiful things are actually invisible, meaning that they are really inside of us and must be felt within.
It appears she had the erudite and renowned legal mind, Chief Emeka Wogu in mind. Wogu is indeed not bothered about the most beautiful things of this world, but how to make positive impact in the lives of the less-privileged and the have-nots.
That is why he still can’t consider himself a rich man after spending most of his adult life in public service and bowing out with his heads very high at the Federal ministry of Labour and Productivity in the immediate past government.
He believes so much in impacting lives.That is the reason he has been in the business of providing scholarship for the indigents and jobs for the unemployed over the years.
How was he able to manage his public service life without scandal? He said: “I come from a background of technocrats with pedigree of service, humility and fear of God. My father was the first black principal of the Adventist High School, Ihie at the age of 33.
From there, he married my mother and had me at 34. I understudied him in the areas of integrity, honour, discipline, humility and service to the nation.
I never saw him do something that was unwholesome, neither did I see any person around him do something that was unwholesome that people would now term corruption.”
Even though he served the nation at personal sacrifices to his law practice and businesses, he is still willing to occupy public office in future,whenever he is called upon. “Each time I go to public office and come back, some people used to tease me that I didn’t make money, but I used to tell them that I didn’t go there to make money”, he said.
He revolutionalised the ministries he oversaw such as the labour and productivity and that of Interior. He gave the country the first national policy on productivity, a policy on labour migration, child labour as well as the maritime labour convention among others.
In addition, he gave the guideline on contract staffing in the oil and gas sector, in order to stem the tide of unfair practices as well as fostering industrial harmony.
As a supervising minister for interior, he was able to set up within a short time passport centres in Canada, Atlanta, UK and Brazil as well as pushing for the arming of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) among other achievements.
Emeka Wogu is today the managing partner, Emeka Wogu & Co. with head office in Abuja. The firm, which began in Aba, Abia State, specialises in litigation and Arbitration, Commercial Law Practice such as Labour, employment, productivity, Oil and Gas, Banking, Revenue and Economy.
It also has expertise in Immigraion, Power sector, Legislative drafting, Privitisation, company law, liquidation, Merger and Aquisition, Family law, treaties, conventions and extraditions.
Others include environmental laws, Communications and Information Technology as well as Intellectual Properties. Wogu is among the very few, who have the dexterity to delve into three demanding vocations – Law, Business and Politics and make a success of all.
Interestingly, he equally has an eye on academics. Wogu at various times has been a guest-lecturer at the Nigerian Defence College (NDC), National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPPS), Kuru, University of Nigeria, and University of Ibadan (UI).
How did he come to study law? He said: “It wasn’t pre-planned. It was something that happened the way it did. Naturally, I come from a background with a pedigree of science.
My father had two degrees – one in Mathematics and one in Physics from the University of Edinburgh. My uncles veered off to Engineering, Medicine and different aspects of Sciences.
Initially, my late father wanted me to read Mathematics in the University. So at 15, I passed to go to the University to study Mathematics. And he had already planned that after four years, I would now go for another degree in Engineering.
But eventually, I got fascinated by law and rebelled against the family tradition for Sciences. And in my WAEC, I had a good blend of both Arts and Science subjects.
So I opted to study law. “I graduated at 21 from the then Imo University, now Abia State University. From there, I proceeded to law school. So by 1986, at 21, I had already become a lawyer.
When I finished from law school, I did my youth service in River State and passed out in 1988. By 1989, as a pupil lawyer, I got involved in politics and got elected as the assistant legal adviser of the then Liberal Convention Party that was seeking for registration in the then old Imo State.
Those parties were not registered, but then the military government decreed two parties into existence, one to the left, the other to the right.
They are the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC). I opted for the NRC. By 1991, I got elected as the first vice chairman of Aba South Local Government.”
Incidentally, when late Sani Abacha took over power in 1993 and sacked all civil structures, he returned to law practice and private business. Yet he was not tired of politics.
As an intern, he cut his legal teeth in the chambers of Adonai, Udogu & Co. in Aba. He also had a brief stint in Max Ubani & Co. also in Aba. Recalling his first court experience, he said: “I went to court and intended to show that I was a lawyer.
I didn’t have butterflies in my stomach. I knew that I needed to prepare very well, so I rehearsed what I would say. It appeared before a very difficult judge, but I created great impression on him.”
According to his, the likes of Chief FRA Williams, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, J.O.K. Ajayi, late attorney general of the federation, Clement Akpamgbo, Chike Ofodile, late senator Jaja Wachukwu inspired him. “Wachukwu mentored me in various areas apart from law.
There were quite a lot of brilliant lawyers in the East of the South of Nigeria, who made great impact”, he said. Wogu was born in January 29, 1965.
He graduated from Imo State University, now Abia State University, Uturu in 1986. He attended the Nigerian Law School in 1987 and was thereafter called to the Nigerian Bar.
He also holds a Masters Degree in Public Administration MPA, Master of Science M.Sc, (Public Policy Analysis), and is currently a doctoral student of the Political Science Department of the Univeristy of Nigeria, Nsukka.
He is a member of the Nigerian Bar Association, International Bar Association, and is a Paul Hariss Fellow, and also a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management.
He also has a certificate in Benchmarking in Emerging Markets. He was appointed Honourable minister of Labour and Productivity from April 2010 to October 2014, when he resigned from cabinet to vie for the governorship of his state.
During that period, he was the supervising Minister of Interior and Chairman National Directorte of Employment (NDE). As a minister, he also served in the Economic Management Team, Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage, Security Challenges in the North East Zone, Ad – hoc Committee on Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and Infrastructural Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Negotiating Team on Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited Arbitration, Cabinet Committee to review and address the outstanding labour issues of payment of pension and gratuity to staff of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), Technical Committee on the Special Committee on the National Mass Transit Development, White Paper Committee on the report of the Presidential Committee on the Restructuring and Rationalization of Government Parastatals, Commissions, and Agencies.
Prior to being appointed Minister, he was a Federal Commissioner in the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) for a period of ten years (2000 – 2010).
While in RMAFC, he chaired several committees including Oil and Gas, Legal Services, Remuneration and Monetization.
He was also a member of the Committee for the Diversification of the Economy, Finance and General Purpose, Solid Mineral Development, Revenue Allocation, Tenders Board, Non – Oil and Royalties as well as Fiscal Efficiency.
He also represented the RMAFC in the Ernest Shonekan Presidential Committee on the Harmonisation of Salaries in the Public Sector.
He has also represented Nigeria at some international fora, including leading the Nigerian delegation four times to the International Labour Organisation Convention in Geneva.
He also represented Nigeria at the degate of the United National Global Compact Leaders Summit June, 2010, with the theme: “Building a New Era of Sustainability”, anchored by Prof. Jeffrey Sachs in New York.
He also prepared Nigeria’s Global pact Country Scan Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP 1 & 11), an ILO employment strategy to mitigate the impact of the global economic and financial crisis on working families. He also served in other numerous committees. He holds the Nigerian national honour of Commander Order of the Niger (CON).
He holds traditional titles from Abia, his home state as Nwadiala Aba L’Ohazu and Onwa Aba Ngwa. He also holds traditional titles from Gusau and Calabar.
Nwadiala as he is fondly called at home advised young lawyers to inculcate the virtues of hardwork and patience. “In law practice, there is no short cut to money or becoming SAN. Everything is predicated on hardwork, patient, perseverance and blessings from almighty God”, he stated.
Wogu likes cycling, walking, reading, playing golf, riding powerbikes and driving. He enjoys rice, beans and egusi soup with akpuruakpu mgbam and achara (roughages). He is married to Oyabebefa Anita Wogu and the marrige is blessed with four children.