By Doris Obinna
The position of American civil rights activist, Martin Luther King, Jr that the measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge clearly defined Chief James Chijioke Ume, who has made a mark, quietly, in ensuring that others find comfort, convenience and overcome the vicissitude of life. Young, enterprising and compassionate, Ume, the Publisher of TheWhistler.ng and Chairman, Unubiko Foundation, has touched the lives of the less privileged without making noise. He has perfected the act of giving to become one of the shining and inspirational lights in humanitarian spaces in Nigeria.
Born to Abam parents in Abia State, Ume was educated at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, where he earned BSc in Accountancy. He also holds a BSc, Business Management, United Kingdom and currently pursuing an MSc in Communication Management at a United States university.
Ume is a testament of grace, diligence, seizing opportunity as it comes which saw his meteoric transition from core editorial department to management in the print media and now media and management consultancy.
He cut his teeth in journalism in 2006 when he was employed as a Trainee Reporter by the late Sam Nda-Isaiah, publisher of the Leadership Newspapers, Abuja, where he rose to become Regional Editor, South South/South East, Regional Manager of the same bureau, News Editor, Leadership Newspapers, Abuja, Features Editor, and Politics Editor. He was later moved to become, first, General Manager, Business Development and later General Manager, Leadership Newspapers.
Ume left the Leadership Group to float Channels Koos Media Consults Ltd in 2013 and went on to begin Nigeria’s fastest growing online newspaper, www.thewhistler.ng with over 40 competitively paid staff. That same year, the organisation hosted a training programme for media officers of federal government agencies in New York, Dallas, USA and Canada (April 2013 – November 2013). As his way of giving back to the society and aware of the teething pain of lack, this budding media consultant set up the Unubiko Foundation to reach out and give hope to the needy. In this, he has made giving a culture and this he has demonstrated without boundaries.
As a true “village boy,” Ume’s humanitarian feat is legendary as all the 27 Abam villages bear imprimatur of his benevolence and charity. Last month, he handed over a Customary Court he rebuilt at the cost of over N150million.
He also handed over the Presbyterian Church he rebuilt, a women development centre, and Ovukwu-Abam Secondary School, Atan-Abam, which he rebuilt, valued at N500million. Ume has empowered hundreds of widows, awarded no fewer than 200 scholarships for students in Arochukwu Local Government Area, paid WAEC fees for all students in Atan-Abam in 2020, and donated 100 brand new laptops to trainees in digital economy. He has also provided transformers to aid rural electrification, financed 44 boreholes for the 27 villages that make up Abam, among other philanthropic projects
In 2020, at the peak of COVID-19, Ume distributed PPEs to all the communities in Abam, Arochukwu LGA of Abia State, donated PPEs to Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Umuahia, donated books worth over N6 million to the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) National Secretariat as well as the Abia and Abuja Councils, paid medical bills for the indigent running into hundreds, and sponsored several journalism capacity building trainings.
As a result of his immense contributions to Abia State and community development efforts, Ume was singled out for commendation by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in a personally signed letter. This was followed by his installation as “Ike Abam’’ by the 27 autonomous communities in early 2021.
Happily married to Ngozi, a pharmacist, and blessed with 3 children, Ume has become a pillar of support to the less privileged. For this, he is The Sun Humanitarian Service Icon Award winner for 2022.