Born to the iamily of Chief and Lolo Hart Ohioma Nwokocha oi Umuchiawolamoke, Umuda-Ukorocha, lsingwu, Ohuhu, Umuahia, Sam was raised in the finest traditions of honour to God and service to humanity.
EDUCATION Sam had his early education in Sokoto State before enrolling for a Bachelor of Law (LLB) Degree at Abia State University, Uturu where he graduated as one of the best students in his set. He also attended the Nigerian Law School in Bwari, Abuja for his Barrister at Law (BL) Certificate. He is currently awaiting conferment of a Master of Laws (LLM) Degree in Environmental Law from the Abia State University.
Sam has also acquired numerous certifications and undergone a number of career and self- development training courses in Nigeria and all around the world. Some of the places he has obtained certifications include Lagos Business School, Oracle University, International Client Counseling Centre, Dublin, Ireland, African Leadership Centre, Paris, France, Centre for Leadership and Development, Dubai, UAE, New York Mentoring Institute, New York, USA, Bloxhub Summer School on Urban Resilience, Copenhagen, Denmark, Malmo University, Malmo, Sweden, Project Management Institute of America (PMP) among others.
Sam has virtually worked all his life! Even as a young boy, while his mates go to play football or watch movies after school, Sam was always looking for what to do. Sam has served as an apprentice in diverse fields including a mechanic workshop, a barbing salon, a photo studio, as a DJ, a Laundry and Dry-Cleaning Centre, a Business Centre, a Printing Press, a Pharmacy and other such places. Not because his parents lacked or that he needed to find work to pay his bills but because he has always had an enterprising and independent spirit and believes in earning his own money through honest work rather than depend on people for handouts.
From secondary School, Sam has not asked his parents for money as he always had enough from his diverse endeavours.ln 2003, Sam moved to Umuahia to answer a call to lend his services to his State. Within 2 weeks of arrival in Umuahia, without knowing anybody in Government prior to that time, he got a job at Government House, Umuahia working in the Office of the Chief Press Secretary to the then Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu. He will eventually serve as Personal Assistant and Special Assistant to the Governor in Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu’s administration.
When Chief T.A. Orji assumed duty as Governor of Abia State on May 29, 2007, Sam Hart was one of the first two appointments he made on the day of his inauguration. Sam served as Special Assistant to the Governor (Speechwriter), Chief Press Secretary, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor (Speechwriter), and Director of Protocol in the administration of Chief T.A. Or]i.
Upon inauguration of Dr, Okezie lkpeazu as Governor of Abia State, he also found Sam worthy to serve in his Government appointing him first as Senior Special Assistant and later, Special Adviser on Communications. Sam Hart is today the Director-General of the Abia State Marketing and Quality Management Agency under the Dr. Okezie lkpeazu administration.
FAMILY: Sam Hart is married to Chika Jennifer Hart and the marriage is blessed with 4 Children (3 Girls and a Boy)
Abia Today : What do you think is the vision behind the establishment of this unique agency ?
Sam: This Agency is the conceptualisation of the Governor. Even before he became Governor, he started championing the acceptance of made in Abia products, by leading by personal example – ensuring that every article of clothing that he has worn from that time he set out to run for Governor and throughout his Governorship tenure, until date, have all been exclusively Made in Aba, Made in Abia State. While he is leading the personal rebranding campaign, he knew that there was a need for the institutionalisation of this project and to this campaign, so that even when he leaves office, there will be something on ground to continue with the legacy. My mandate in this Agency is , first, to expand on the work that the Governor has already done in putting Abia products and producers on the world map, secondly, to set and enforce the quality of products that are made in Abia State and the quality of services offered and thirdly to find new markets for Abia products while expanding existing markets. If you followed the Made in Aba narrative, you’d ﬁnd that part of what has been a major challenge is quality of goods produced – What is their durability ? Can they compete against the best of other production centers of the world ? So Apart from marketing, we are also involved in quality management. These are the core mandates of this Agency and my vision is very clear; We are here to ensure that Abia State is the best. We do not just want to be number one in the alphabetical order of States. We want to be number 1 for quality and we want to be market leaders because we can only compete when what we are bringing to the market ls the best.
Abia Today: What are the empirical strategies you want to employ to ensure the actualization ot these lofty objectives?
Sam: One, we have a number of products here in Aba but market penetration and acceptability has been a little bit of a challenge. So we decided to compartmentalise and segment. We started with rice. Abia is a rice producing state but not many people know. So what we did was that we went to the rice mills and farmers and we knew that their challenge was of take and a larger market. So we decided that this agency was going to serve as an oﬁtaker, as an aggregator. As an oﬁ takers of produce, which we’ll now sell to the general public. That is how we started the marketing of the Abia rice (Osikapa Abia); and I’m proud to tell you that today, that we have distributed over five thousand (5000) bags of Abia rice and we have pending orders for another ﬁve thousand bags (5000). So in a month, we are going to be doing more than ten thousand bags of Abia rice. Today, the Abia Rice farmers are smiling to the banks. They are mostly rural women. They are all very excited. They are offering prayers for the Governor. The rice millers are overburdened. From sleeping all day, now they work twenty four hours and they need to employ more hands to help them. The farmers too now need to employ more hands to help them with the harvesting. There’s a full value chain. The huskers, the raw materials that come out of it. The poultry feed. A new industry has emerged out of this. We are value creators. We are also job creators because we know that by the time we oﬁ take the output of the producers and help them find the market, we are inadvertently increasing productivity and we are increasing ﬁnances in the pockets of the farmers. We are increasing labour and productivity because more people will need to be employed. Like I said, all our mills are running practically 24 hours now, so that they can be able to meet up with the very high demands. S0that’s just for rice. When we talk about Leather products, you know that the Governor has set up the Abia State Shoe Factory, otherwise known as the Enyimba Automated Shoe Factory. Our Agency was also very much involved in the process leading to the setting up of the factory. We are also talking to international investors and Local dealers to offtake the products from that shoe factory – we will help them to find markets, so they can build and sustain because most of their catchment people are still Abian and Shoes makers. Again, on Quality.we paid a visit to some hotels ieateries in Abia. We are not a punitive agency.. We certaily have the powers to shut down organizations that do not meet our standards but we believe that collaborative measures are better than punitive measures. So, what we do in this regard is more of sensitization. For instance, when we went to the eateries where some of the girls didn’t have their hair covered. We explained to them that that was not acceptable. We told them what they needed to do differently – cover your hair, so it doesn’t fall into the food. For the hotels, we let them know that it is compulsory to have CCTVs in hotels so that in the event of an incident, we’ll be able to track and check what really went on. We checked Fire Safety measures – are you able to curtail fire in the event of an emergency? Are there clearly written instructions on what guests should do, should there be afire outbreak? Do you have fire extinguishers? Fundamentally, we are not an agency that wants to go after people and punish them.
Abia Today: Do you really intend to stick to this focus?
Sam: Yes. My focus is service. Finding out what needs to be done and helping them do them. Not to show up and say “hey, you have contravened. We are shutting you down . No, because we know that such actions would lead to a backlash on the Governor and the backlash would bring resentment, polarity and may bring the Governor a bad name and we are not interested in doing that.
Abia Today: How do you take these artisans away from the manual, antiquated methods of doing things and training them to become more technology driven and innovative?
Sam: This is something we grappled with for quite some time. They already had their methods; methods that they had used over a long period of time. Its like ending a dry stick- you know how it goes l So it’s been a tough one but again, we don‘t see insurmountable challenges. We see speed bumps and we roll over them and continue. Kudos to the State Governor. The first thing he did was to give them confidence by wearing their products proudly and and writing actually on the sleeves ‘Proudly made in Aba. So it gave them conﬁdence that it a Chief Executive of a State can be proud to wear their products and clothing then it means that it’s not that bad. We were able to start that campaign by an attitudinal reorientation. ” Guys. You cannot finish making a fantastically beautiful shoe and then you give the credit to one man in Japan or Italy, who does not know about you”. We kept saying to them, “Take ownership of your craft. Take ownership of the ingenuity of your product. It is beautiful. Be proud to put your name on it.” Then, we incorporated political and social influencers. We got the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo and the then Senate President, Bukola Saraki. We got some entertainment influencers too, to help us and sign unto the campaign Uche Jumbo, Chinedu lkedieze, Kanu Nwankwo all, who are all from Abia. They were able to say, “We are proudly made in Aba. We proudly wear made in Aba. This is what we own and this is what we promote”. That started shitting the narrative and then, the big one – Aba stated featuring in big international events. We started getting these creative Aba designers and producers to big national and international events. They started hopping on planes every now and then to go to display their products. We had a Made in Aba show in Abuja and it was filled with the diplomatic community. That tell you that there’s been an international hunger for Aba made products. Ambassadors and diplomatic officials from different 3 embassies filled the venue of our made in Aba fashion show in Aba. & Then we took it to New York. We had the same thing and it was fantastic. Today, I can tell you that there’s no conversation about Fashion and leather and garments that can be held today without Aba being invited. The lntra- African Trade Exhibition in Cairo, Egypt that was organised by the African Export/Import Bank, sponsored four fashion producers from Aba, on an all-expense paid trip to the event. Zenith Bank’s just concluded ‘Styled By Zenith‘, had 24 designers from in Aba in attendance. Again, all expenses paid. Then the Creative Director ofthe House of Dior, one of the biggest fashion houses in the world , was in Lagos, on the invitation of Chimamanda Adichie – they are personal friends – to talk to our fashion producers in Nigeria and they sent invitations to Aba to be in attendance. Again, all expense paid and some of our people went from Aba to Lagos to go and be a part of that. You are also aware that the Governor sent thirty of our shoe producers to China, to go and learn modern, automated methods of production. So it’s an integrated process. First, we started with an attitudinal reorientation. Then automation. Then we let them know that there are better ways of doing business. We took them to Brazil and Turkey too and so they began to understand that nails and hammers were no longer in vogue. One cannot aspire to do better, unless you show that person that a better way exists. There are people that believe that the way they do things is the only way that the thing can be done. They’ll tell you that they’ve been doing this for twenty years. You may have been doing this for twenty years but it’s wrong. So, it‘s nothing to boast about. We had to change their orientation to show them how production works in this day and age. Today, these machines are right there in Aba and the market is abuzz. it’s is no longer abstract. Beautifully, it shortens production time and increases productivity. Instead of manually cutting your leather, you can bring them to the factory and they are done in no time.
Abia Today : But some Artisans have expressed tears that this drive towards automation will put them out of business. What’s your reaction to that ?
We are going to ensure that every product from Abia State, meets the highest -§ ‘ quality standard going forward. ‘ __ r ‘ We are not punitive. We are not combative. We are not coming to make trouble. We are coming to work with you.
Sam: Yes, people have expressed the fear that this will put them out of business and I say, this will bring and has brought the ease of doing business to all leather and footwear makers in Aba. This will motivate our creative brethren in their field, to upscale their game. Aba being Aba, will replicate those shoe machineries soon. Another gain from this efﬁort is technology transfer. Soon we will be making these machines too. So it’s an end to end strategy.
Abia Today: Do you have any deﬁnite plan to make sure that this huge emerging market keys into this new digital revolution?
Sam: Sure. We are very l.T saavy. in Aba, we have an Innovation Growth Hub where young people are doing amazing things in technology. Even in-house here in our Agency, we are working with a design team to build an E- Commerce platform for the work that we do. We also have a Head of E-Marketing. We also have a Head of l.T and both of them are working together and collaborating. They are working on our websites, uploading on our social media handles; they are doing E-marketing to be able to push these things further and l totally agree with you. E- Marketing is the way to go. With the click of a button, you can access anything you need. We are working on this and by January we will launch our E-marketing platform to Abians. The focus is all year round sales. You order and you get anything you need delivered right to your doorsteps.
Abia Today: What’s your message to Abians?
Sam: DearAbians, I want to thank you for the tremendous support you have shown to this Agency since we came onboard. We have shown you products you didn’t know existed and we assure you that whatever product made in Abia, we’ll find it and we will promote it the world. Whatever service is rendered in Abia will be promoted too. Finally, we are going to ensure that every product from Abia State, meets the highest quality standard going forward. We are not punitive. We are not combative. We are not coming to make trouble. We are coming to work with you. So we ask for your support and cooperation. When we come to you, work with us so that Abia shall be great again. we are going to ensure that every product from Abia State, meets the highest quality standard going forward. We are not punitive. We are not combative. We are not coming to make trouble. We are coming to > work with you.