Kennedy Obinwanne is the Chief Executive Officer, Kendrill Limited and founder Kennedycare Foundation; a non-governmental organization committed to empowering the poor and the most disadvantaged in the society. His NGO has carried out humanitarian activities in various communities across the South-East. Some benefitting communities include, Amagu Amafor-Ugbawka in Nkanu East local government area of Enugu state, Special Education Centre for the blind, deaf and dumb at Oji-River local government area, vocational rehabilitation centre for the disabled in Emene, Enugu as well as Mgbabor Achara community in Ebonyi state, Obosima community in Ohaji, Imo state and Leru Village, Umenneochi LGA of Abia state.
In this encounter with City Post, the philanthropist speaks on his the activities of the NGO, challenges and successes so far recorded and plans for the future.
Kindly give us an insight into your background
My name is Kennedy Obinwanne, I am from Umuoji, in Anambra State, born and brought up in Lagos and became a business man after school.
During my time of being in businessman, I found out that with everything we have achieved, we need to give back, if not half, at least more than half back to the society and who are the society?, the less privileged in the society. We can’t give back to the rich and that is why I came up with this organization called Kennedycare foundation
Kennedy care foundation is all about touching lives, making impact in the lives of those who feel they can’t achieve it again; it is all about putting food on their table. It is also about skill acquisition, empowering them. It is also all about medications, touching their lives by meeting those who are sick and ensuring that they have something for those illnesses, medication, hospital bills. It is also all about education, bringing back the little kids who are on the street back to school.
Trying to pay their school fees, giving out scholarships to those who are qualified to have one. It is also all about sensitization about our environment. There are a lot of children who are schooling under trees; it is also about building schools for those little kids who feel they can’t get that comfort those in the cities are getting. It is also all about infrastructure, building shelter for those who still living under mud houses. Where we are in the 21st, they should living in block houses.
It is also about water, giving out water to the rural communities. A lot of rural communities don’t have borehole, drinking water. It is about giving out water to those ones. It is also about how to do sports. There are lot of less privileged that are good in sports but nobody to empower them. No body to put them through, no body to say, ok come, let me be your coach that will bring out that skill in you.
So Kennedy Care foundation is a very versatile organization that is looking out into things that have to do with the poor. Being poor is not only about food, it is not only about clothing. There are a lot of things the poor need to be happy and that are what we are trying to do in order to see that they are also happy. They feel neglected, they feel rejected, anytime we go to the villages to do our outreach, we see them. They feel bad. They feel the government has forgotten them, they feel their loved ones who are capable of putting smiles in their faces have also rejected them.
We are trying to see how we can put smiles in their faces and show them love and care.
Being and entrepreneur, give us insight into what you do, your business generally, outside the foundation.
I am into fashion. I have a fashion company where we train people how to sew. We also sew for individuals, companies or any other organization. I am into photography, event coverage; I am also into beauty- hair salon and make-up. I am also into car sales. So theses are where I get my money to touch the lives I have touched and hoping to touch more lives.
Are there any external funding? you know NGOs are supported in carrying some of its activities.
No for now, for the past two years that we have ran this NGO, nobody has supported us.
So how have you been able to sustain the NGO and you are even saying you have not fully started
From the money I get from my personal business, I make sure I bring out a quarter from it to put smiles into the lives of these young ones.
You talked about having trained a number of persons in fashion, photography, video editing. give us a breakdown of the numbers.
We have trained over a hundred people in fashion. Since we commenced over a hundred people have registered with us. We also trained up to six people in photography. We have equally trained close to twenty people for make-up, for hair-making, we have done close to 8 people.
Are these training cost-free?
They are not cost free. Like I said, that is where I get the money from. But it is not exact price they could get it outside. I subsidized it because of the NGO removing 50 % off; we could get something to throw back to the NGO.
What is your message to other business owners, people who have what it takes to support the less-privileged in the society?
My message to them is they please open an organization and reach out to the poor. Every day in Nigeria, the amount of poor people increases, because of the economy, because of what Nigerians are passing through. Poverty increases every day in Nigeria.
Is KennedyCare Foundation registered?
Yes. It is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission in November 2016 with registration number: 92190. We also got a certificate from EFCC, concerning the money laundering issue.
Cuts in- And that is because some NGOs are registered with ulterior motive of engaging in money laundering
Yes. I have been careful since I opened mine, because people call me and say they want to transfer money. I always tell them that if they transfer any money, I won’t give you one naira. If you like go and call all the hired killers in the world. I won’t give you any money, because that account is meant for the poor. This means whatever money that comes in there should be used for the upkeep of the poor. If you want a business account, go to the bank, open account and do that with them, not with me, because we have a legacy we are pursuing. We are looking forward to extend this NGO beyond Nigeria.
Can you give an assessment of how far you think the government has fared in ameliorating the challenges facing the society especially the less privileged; those who are not economically strong
What I will say about that is enough has not been given out to the poor in the grass root, not the city. The ones in the city are enjoying more benefits than the ones in the grassroots. With the jobs we have done, a lot of communities don’t have water, no basic health center; no basic infrastructure, schools are nothing to write home about. So a lot of them need that care. So for now there is a lot of loopholes in all the sectors that the people at the grassroots are passing through and government should come in. Individuals cannot do all because it’s a big job.
What do you in stock as you said you have not fully started all of your NGOs activities?
What we have in stock; for the past two years, we have been doing medications, feeding, clothing the poor, and counseling. So what we have now, we included child abuse programmes and domestic violence to our aim and obligations of the NGO; because we found out that a lot of children have been abused and they don’t have a voice to speak on their behalf, so we decided that we want to speak on their behalf. We want to take up their matters and hand it over to the necessary authorities, so that these perpetrators could pay for their acts. So we are coming up with child abused programs. We will be taking some matters to court to ensure that these children have justice, these widows have justice, and these widowers also have justice.
You have legal representation; you have lawyers, other NGO’s like WACOL, NAPTIP**
WE are trying by January to partner with them; but we are trying to get our own body stand, but we have our own lawyers, but by January we start partnering with them.
It appears that people from your state, do more than others from other states of the south-east in contributing to the society, helping people, building human capital. Is there any special trait in an Anambra man?
I think the Anambrarians are industrious. I think most of them have visions on what they want and what they are pursing. I think it is an inborn thing to them. They want to be leaders anywhere they are, they want to show what they have in stock. So, I think that is a natural thing among the Anambrarians.
Nigerian youth appear to be so frustrated and most recently many of them are venturing into quick ways of making money. They felt people like you who are on top may have done something. Not just hardwork..
Kendril Limited started 2003. So it is 15 years. As am speaking to you, I don’t have a house of my own; I have not built one because it’s not easy, business is not easy. So I don’t know where they get their information from. I think it has to do with what they want to be and quick ways of getting money is not the way out, because there is always a repercussion towards it. It has to do with hardworking. Basically, you must have focus. What do you want to do with your life in the next five years, after five years what do you want to do in the next ten years? Life comes in batches and stages, so they should sit down and say ok between now and the next five years I want to start a business, and if the business is not growing, they should pray over it. I didn’t start this cause I want it, I lived overseas for eight years before I came back and opened this, so it is not a one day thing. From birth I had passion for fashion, great passion for Fashion, so I followed my passion. So the issue there is that a lot of youth today don’t follow their passion. They are following another person’s passion. Oh he did it and he made it, I think I can make it. No it’s wrong, you cannot make it
Every man has a destiny. Your destiny might be selling of groundnut; and you make it through selling of groundnut. Another person may try selling groundnut and may become bankrupt. Because that is not his destiny. So it has to do with they going back to the drawing board, pray, ask God what do you want me to be. And also following their passion. Also, parents should stop forcing children to become what they don’t want to be. Because most times, it goes back to be parents forcing them to be doctors, engineers, reverend fathers.
Have you sat down and ask yourself, and ask God, is this what this boy should be, is this what this lady should be? So, at the end of the day, they force them into those courses and professions and they come out zero. Ask the child, what do you want to be? How do you want your life to be? You as a parent is to support, not to dictate. When you dictate, it does not work. Because when they grow up and they are not following their passion, they don’t achieve anything and that’s the problem we have in Nigeria ,a lot of parents have pushed their children to read courses more of what the child doesn’t want to read , and after four or five years the child cannot defend the course because that’s not his passion.
The business environment appears to be harsh. It is pretty difficult for entrepreneurs to venture into business. What do you think government should do to encourage SMEs in the country?
What government should do is to create a fair environment for investors. That is what government should do. Every investor has a capital base at hand in coming to Nigeria. For example, if an investor has 200 million to invest in Nigeria and he comes and you show him an acre of land and you tell him to pay 100 million the investor will run away. Because when he pays the 100 million the remaining money will not be enough to cover up for the investment he wants to do. But if government can give out the land to genuine investors, and ask them to pay tax every year; for example, if they give them an acre or two acres of land and they generate tax of #500,000 from the investor apart from the revenue the investor will pay ,now the investor invest his money in Nigeria ,create job for the youth, if government could follow this pattern, I bet you in one year we will have over 200 investors in Nigeria, and if 200 investors come into Nigeria and create jobs of 1000 jobs each, how many jobs have been created? 2 million. Unemployment will go down drastically. We have Toyota, Honda, VM , we are supposed to have their plants in Nigeria because we are the highest buyers of their goods all over the world. So, if all this companies have their plants in Nigeria and government gives them lands for free, employment will come up. Phones like Samsung, Iphone, Tecno, if government gives all these people land for free and ask them to have their plants in Nigeria, unemployment will go down with over 80%. Overnight, Nigeria will have employment over 4 to 5 million. But when these conditions are not there for the investors, they won’t come. And the tax is high in Nigeria. They should make the tax fair for investors, fair businessmen and women because when you put the tax on me, I put it back on the people. When you tax me 1000 on something I should pay 200, I will also put it on the commodities and the people out there will pay it. So it also goes back to the society. Government is not helping by bringing the tax high, if you bring the tax high, every businessman will turn it back to the society
That brings us to the issue of multiple taxation, how could entrepreneurs in such condition?
We are not surviving. Like me, I pay Enugu North, Ministry of Commerce, and ESWAMA, so at the end of the year you are paying close to #100,000 for revenue, so how are you going to make it? One you are discouraging other people who want to do a similar business because when you tell them they will be like ah I don’t think I can do this type of business.
Are you talking about tax harmonization?
Yes. They should have one body where you go and pay. If it is #20,000, to cover every other thing. Not paying to different type of people, it doesn’t work. They should have one body everybody pay to and it covers you, you have your receipt. It covers you for any revenue at all, that’s what government should do.
Finally, we are coming into an election year, 2019 is just by the corner, what is your perspective on what politicians, voters alike should do to ensure; free and credible elections?
For the elections, my advice to politicians is go to the grassroots, do NGO job for those poor people because they will vote for you. Don’t share money in the city to a man that will not reach out to them in that community. Go by yourself as a campaign man, a governor or as senator, you want the vote from them? Then you should be able to reach out to them one on one. Reach out to tell with medications, food, materials, clothing; don’t share the money but share the goods, when you do this, there is 80% guarantee that on that day they will vote for you and when they vote for you don’t stop reaching out to them . So, campaigning by giving out money is not the best campaign, the best campaign is reaching out to the people with substance. When you win the vote, you continue doing what you did from the start.