Chief Patrick Osagie Eholor will be conferred with an Honorary Doctorate Degree by an American/Canadian-based University, The Rescue Mission Theological University on July 17, 2022.
Eholor, who is the global president of foremost human rights group, One Love Foundation, speaks about his journey through life, from birth, and how he has found his path to fulfilment in fighting for equal rights of all men.
Jungle-Journalist.Com captured this interview and brings it to you here. Excerpts:
There is a documentary done about me about four years ago, and it’s very detailed about me. But for the sake of this interview, let me share a little more about me. I was born on the 24th of December 1964, to the family of Chief Palmer Osagienwagbon Eholor, that is why I am usually addressed as Chief Patrick Osagie Eholor. God sent me to the world.
Growing up at Igbesanmwan Street was not easy. My father and mother were ordinary people who wanted to do what is right. They were not rich and struggled to travel to the north to buy onions and tomatoes that they traded in. Most of the time, they slept at the back of the truck for so many days before their transaction is completed.
But I was taught something from the beginning of my life-that honesty pays. I was taught to respect the rights of people, taught to love, and not hate.
But it was also very difficult for me as a child. My father had to ask me what to chose from the different privileges of life like education.
But I didn’t blame my parents for their poverty but I knew that if I remained poor, it was my fault. I started selling newspapers, started doing odd jobs, started seeking more knowledge because I knew that education would open my ways. I managed to go to primary school, I managed to attend secondary school, but worst of all, I couldn’t sit for exams because I didn’t have the money to pay for exams. It was very tough.
To make it worse, where I grew up, it was almost impossible for one to live up to 18 years because it was a crime infested area. There was brutality, drugs, so I had to fight all the way to survive. As I was selling my newspapers, I was also reading about people who were making a difference in the world, especially people like Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, then Nelson Mandela, Rose Parks.
Then I began to visit Anikulapo Kuti’s shrine, learning from him, then I sought to get political asylum in Canada.
Asylum seekers are supposed to be those who have been persecuted, but in my understanding, poverty is also a type of persecution and poor people can also seek asylum. The government does not recognize them, so I had no choice.
When I got to Canada, I had the opportunity to return to school as an adult. That was in April 1988.
Despite my father’s poverty, he was a poet, a modem school graduate, he was an artiste. He rolled with his friends and they went out together. But his best friend discriminated against him.
He was pained, but pain will not solve the problem. My dad had a black motorcycle they used to go out together with, but when his friend bought a white motorcycle, he staeted avoiding my dad.
My father didn’t buy a white cycle, but bought a mobilette. He then wrote on the mobilette – ‘Equal makes a good friend’, and that’s the origin of my philosophy, ‘Ultimate Equal’.
That was before Bob Marley and Peter Tosh played the song, Equal rights and justice. You cannot have peace without justice. So when anybody sees us, they call us ‘Owi Equal’, meaning, ‘Equal’ s child’. I have an elder brother who is in Montreal, Canada. They call him Equal Senior and call me Equal Junior. So when I got to Canada, I traveled to Atlanta Georgia, home of the civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr.
I was reading about him one day and I saw a big word, ‘ultimate’, and was anxious to know the meaning of the word. I knew that in Gulder’s advert, it’s called the ultimate, and I didn’t know its not part of the name. So when I saw it in that book, I knew it must have another meaning.
In his words, he said “the ultimate measure of a man is not his time or convenience, but a time of of challenge and controversy, that when you stand up at such a time, that is the ultimate measure of your character.
This is a man that has been rejected, but this is a man of zeal and confidence. When I came back to Nigeria, I went to register a business name with the CAC. I registered it ‘Ultimate Equal’. Then there were no telephones. I set up a telephone centre in Benin, and named it Ultimate Equal. The name was dmso big and so scary, so I went to reregjster it. This time, in order to stop scaring people, I registered Ultimate Equal Simplicity Limited. I had tattoos, so people naturally saw a scary figure in me.
That was how I became the Ultimate after beating my controversies and challenges.
I grew up in a society of crime, but stuck to my dad’s legacy of honesty and hard work.
You said your father was a chief. So why was he still struggling, because chiefs are supposed to be rich
Chiefs of those days were chiefs ọf integrity. It was not reserved for the most powerful or the richest. Most of all, our chieftaincies was hereditary, it does not go anywhere and belongs to the first son of the family always.
Most of today’s chiefs are unfortunately, thieves, no more chiefs. So my father as a chief,not a thief. He was a high class palace chief, and he as fairly comfortable.
We are the prime ministers of the Bini kingdom, the Uzamanighon. So because my father is late, my elder brother becomes the heir apparent of that chieftaincy.
You mentioned an iconic figure in Nigerian history, Fela. Do you think Fela lived a life worthy of emulation?
Fela was a true African, he as true, natural and had no fake in him at all. He was a true ambassador of this country. Yes, there might be stigmatisation, but the same people that tell you that smoking weed is bad are the same people who have turned it into a multi billion dollar industry.
Because Fela smoked weed, people thought he didn’t know what he was doing, but he was an icon that Nigeria lost. If you also talk about his polygamy, he had his reasons. One thing that God never condemned it in the bible.
I honestly think that Fela was a brain that we lost. Fela didn’t wear agbada but wore pants. He didn’t steal your money because he had no agabda to hide it in. Those who steal our money wear agbada and suits. That’s why Fela called them animals in human skin. Pat Utomi said yesterday, ‘I know them, they are my friends, they are cowards’.
So how did you eventually break even in life?
I told you from the beginning that I used to sell newspapers, I had a grandmother. It was about honesty, sincerity, perseverance and hustle. I told myself that I am going to hustle, or die trying because I hated poverty. I used to sell kerosine for my mother, along with my siblings. When I sold kerosine, I would sing with it. I sang with mine and was never ashamed. When we go home, my other siblings would return with their products but I have sold mine, and my grandmother would ask, is it not the same route you passed with Patrick? How come he is the only one selling?
I had the conviction that if you do what is right, you will get it right. That is the path I took to break away from poverty.
You have become a big fish, fighting against injustice in Nigeria. What would you say to the younger generation in choosing their path as you have done?
I have to tell them to take back their country, because it wasn’t like this when I was growing up. The temptation towards quick wealth wasn’t as high as it is now. There was a song I know in the 70s that says don’t blame the youths.
You must teach them the right path to make it in life. Singapore used to be corrupt until there arose a leader who took Singapore from the doldrums and led them into prosperity and honest living.
Malaysia took its palm seedlings from. Nigeria and with those seedlings, the country has become number one in palm exports.
In the last, parents used to sit with their children and discuss in the night before bed. But today, parents don’t interact with children, children don’t interact with parents. Families don’t come together anymore. Your telephone becomes your family.
So, we must interact with them, we must not continue to comdem them. We must encourage them to do good and not condmem them and call them names. And it’s not all the youths that are into evil and yahoo. There are very many honest youths out there who want to focus and do what is right, so we must give them orientation.
I cannot get everybody to be like me, because my life is different, my life is unique, but I also hope that they will copy somethings from my life, because its not perfect also.
Our youths must shun crime, they must shun corruption, and stop calling people ‘Honourable’ when there is nothing honourable about them. They should stop addressing governors as ‘your Excellency’ when there is nothing excellent about them. I have said that many times, if you address people by their true colours, we will bring about the change we need.
What makes Nigerian narrative the way it is is status. Everything is about status. Until we know that every man is equal, things will never change. Nobody has blue blood. If anybody disrespect you, you find a way to tell him to stop it. It might interest you to know that I was among those who brought the Freedom of Information Act to bear today in Nigeria, because I like freedom.
Back then, I got a mandamus to compel President Yaradua that every government contract, every institution that’s not doing well, we must use the FOI Act to ask them questions and regulate their performances. That’s what I call democracy. That’s what I call, fighting for the interest of public good.
I have been doing public interest for more than 25 years. People took me as a joke and wondered how far I would go, but I have been there. In life, belief and persistence is the key.
You just said everyone has red blood, no one has blue blood…
Yes, some Kings tell you they have blue blood, but when you cut them, it’s the same red blood that flows out. The mind is the ultimate conception. Let me also tell you that you either live free or die. You cannot improve yourself by being afraid. He who fears suffers because fear doesn’t exist.
How would you describe your movement for a better Nigeria with me like Pat Utomi?
Utomi is a great man, and I have read a lot about him. There is one other person you didn’t mention his name, Tony Akeni. He is one of my richest friends, because contentment is wealth. Tony has to work to share flyers. Tony would struggle to get things done for the people because he believes that if he continues to do it right, one day, the answers would come. He told me yesterday that 50 years ago, he joined a union in school to change the narrative, and since then, he has been doing what he is doing.
He also challenged us to check, that he has never had any contract from the Federal Government. You can also check mine, I have never had any contract from FG too. When people are detenrind to make a change, they don’t compromise. So he is one of this who have never compromised in the struggle, and Akeni has also never compromised. And me, I also haven’t compromised. So I was glad to associate myself with the likes of Pat Utomi. I was told 24 hours before the event and I had to fly from lagos to be there. So I am proud to associate with Pat Utomi and Tony Akeni in that event.