Saturday, 18 November 2017

POLITICS

Politics

Politics (120)

…I don’t begrudge anybody, says Ndume

 

The resumption of former Senate Leader, Mohammed Ali Ndume Wednesday after serving out 90 legislative days of suspension did not go without drama.

The drama played out when Ndume in his usual boisterous manner raised a Point Order apparently to announce his return to the chamber. 

It was obvious that senators were wondering what the Borno South lawmaker wanted to say so soon after he was left off the hook.

Ndume surprised everybody in the chamber when he recalled the sudden death of Senator Isiaka Adeleke (Osun West) whom he said sat behind him in the chamber.

Ndume who told his colleagues that he used to call Adeleke his “landlord” in the chamber prayed the Senate to observe a minute silence in honour of late senator.

Not done, Ndume also recalled the recently signed North East Development Commission Act.

The Bill that led to the Act, he said, was spearheaded by him and Senator Kabiru Gaya to address the humanitarian crisis created by the activities of Boko Haram in the North East geo-political zone.

He thanked his colleagues for ensuring speedy passage of the Bill and President Muhammadu Buhari for appreciating the necessity to sign the Bill into law in record time.

While Ndume was marshaling his points, Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West) was gesturing at the back ground to raise another point of order.

It was not clear what Melaye (Kogi West) wanted to say but Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who might have sensed trouble, did not recognise him.

When Ndume was done, Saraki simple ruled that “the points made by Ndume are noted” and quickly moved on to other legislative matters listed for the day.

At a press briefing, Ndume said that he went to court to challenge his suspension to seek clarification on the position of the law about the way and manner the Senate suspended him.

The lawmaker said that he did not go to court for any personal benefit but to seek clarification in the interest of democracy.

He insisted that there was nothing personal about his suspension neither is he holding anybody responsible for his suspension.

He also said that he went to court to test the law in defence of democracy and reiterated that he does not begrudge anybody over his suspension.

He noted that the court had since declared his suspension as illegal, null, void and of no effect.

Ndume who added that the Senate has signaled its intension to appeal the court ruling declared “we will watch how it goes.”

He said, “There was nothing about what happened. I did not see anything personal; I did not take anything personal. I don’t begrudge anybody but if there is anybody who took personal leave that to God.”

Posted On Wednesday, 15 November 2017 18:46 Written by

*We’re providing conducive environment for business

•Getting out of recession ‘not a fluke’

President Muhammadu Buhari is not adopting a quick fix approach to the economy, but initiating long-lasting policies, the Federal government has said.

Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed told reporters in Lagos at the weekend that the results of the economic policies of the government would soon begin to germinate in full measure.

The minister said: “This administration’s contract with Nigerians sits on a tripod— The fight against corruption, tackling insecurity and reviving the economy— even our worst critics acknowledge the progress we have made in fighting corruption and tackling insecurity.

“But one area in which they have consistently criticised us is the economy. Right from the inception of this Administration, we chose the path of seeking a lasting solution to the economic crisis plaguing the nation instead of engaging in a quick fix that may attract accolades but will not endure.

“We chose to be painstaking instead of engaging in palliatives.”

The minister added that the “well-thought-out policy, encapsulated in the Administration’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) is working and the results are beginning to show. In September we exited recession and returned to the path of growth, after five consecutive quarters of contraction. Taking Nigeria out of recession did not happen by accident. It was the culmination of months of hard work by the Administration and fidelity to its well-articulated economic policies.

“To show that taking Nigeria out of recession was not a fluke, less than two months after, the country has moved up 24 places, to 145th, in the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’ report. Not only that, for the first time the country is recognised as one of the top 10 most-improved economies in the world.”

Secretary of Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) Dr. Jumoke Oduwole said the Federal Government would build on the achievements recorded, especially the enhancement of a conducive environment for business operations.

She said the conducive atmosphere include guaranteed access to credit for Small Scale Businesses (SMEs), construction permits, ease of business registration, ease of tax payment, and promotion of transparency and efficiency in the business environment.

She said The PEBEC chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo took a significant step towards making it easier for micro, small and medium enterprises to business by approving a 60-day National Action Plan on the ease of doing business for ministries, departments and agencies responsible for their implementation.

The minister said the measure was taken because micro, small and medium scale businesses account for half of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (DGP), adding that they also employ over 80 per cent of the labour force.

Mohammed added: “We look up to these enterprises to provide endless possibilities for economic growth. If the MSMEs blossom, Nigeria’s economy will thrive. We even surpassed our target. We had hoped to move up to 20 places. We beat that by four more to move up to 24 places.”

To boost taxation, the minister said the administration launched the “Nigerian Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) to provide time-bound opportunity for tax payers to regularize their tax status and pay tax regularly.

He said if tax payers honestly declare previously undisclosed assets and income, they will benefit from forgiveness of overdue interest and penalties, and be insulated from criminal prosecution for tax offences.

Mohammed added: “As of 31st Oct. 2017, VAIDS has raked in over N200 million and 55 million US dollars. For eight consecutive months, headline inflation has been falling; the foreign exchange reserves are up to $34 billion, from $24 billion a year ago; oil production is at nearly 2 million barrels per day, a significant improvement from 2016 when it was mostly below a million; the value of the Naira in the parallel market has appreciated significantly in recent times against the US dollar, and that at about 1.8 billion dollars, the capital inflows in the second quarter of 2017 were almost double the $908 million in the first quarter.”

The minister said Nigerians will savour a new lease of life, owing to the on-going massive infrastructural development, especially roads, railways and power, adding that food prices tumble and more jobs will be created.

Hailing Nigerians for their patience and belief in the Buhari administration, Mohammed said: “Reviving the economy was never going to be an easy task. It was bound to bring some hardship to our people in the short term. Through it all, the good people of Nigeria have borne the pains with equanimity, based on their unshakable trust in the sincerity, capability and commitment of President Buhari. Now, the soothing balm is here.”

Oduwole reviewed the performance of the economy, based on the World Bank’s reforms in the critical areas of starting a business, dealing with construction permits, registering property, getting credit and paying taxes, stressing that Nigeria was on course.

She said: “In the area of company registration, the Corporate Affairs Commission has moved to offer online registration and introduced new features such as electronic stamping of registration documents. Thus, entrepreneurs have been able to register their businesses much faster, within 24-48 hours, thereby saving cost and time

“Getting construction permits and registering property in both Lagos and Kano States have become more transparent and easier for businesses with the online publication of all relevant regulations, fee schedules and pre-application requirements online.

 
Posted On Monday, 06 November 2017 02:05 Written by

Former Secretary General of the Common Wealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku has said that Nigeria will fare better if the on-going call to restructure the country into regions is adhered to.

Anyaoku gave this view yesterday, shortly after paying a courtesy visit to Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, at Government House, Benin City. He said that Nigeria’s economy was more viable and rate of development faster when it operated a regional system of government.

He described governor Obaseki as a visionary governor and Edo State is fortunate to have him. Responding, Obaseki said that given the cost of governance at the centre, restructuring is inevitable if Nigeria must make progress as a country.

He extolled the leadership quality of Chief Anyaoku, stressing that the former top scribe of the Commonwealth stands for good governance and part of the generation that did the nation proud while in office.

“He is an international personality who stands for good governance and diplomatic skills,” Obaseki said.

Posted On Saturday, 14 October 2017 14:00 Written by

In this interview with FEMI MAKINDE, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice in the Second Republic, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN), suggests that the structures bequeathed to Nigeria by the British colonialists must be altered before the nation can make progress

Nigeria is celebrating its 57th independence anniversary. Are you proud to be a Nigerian?

No, I am not. Nigeria should have done better than what we have now. We should have been the best country in Africa. Sometime ago, I went to a university in Cape Town to deliver a lecture, and after the lecture, I answered some questions. It’s a pity, Nigeria should have been like America, Canada or Australia, but we are not. I am not happy about that at all. 

Where exactly did Nigeria get it wrong?

One, the British emphasised their own economic interest. Two, our education was very good, and after independence, it continued to be good. But now, it has become a disaster. We also got it wrong in terms of leadership. Unfortunately, the bad ones have been the ones ruling for a long time, and that is another reason Nigeria has not developed the way it should (have) since independence.

Do you consider the amalgamation of the North and the South by the colonialists a blessing or curse?

A disaster! An absolute disaster! There was no need for it at all. Don’t forget that before that time, the North and the South were sovereign states. They had different governor generals. In 1900, they were two different nations. It was only in 1914 that the North and the South were merged purposely for ease of administration. What was managed was the economic interest of the North and the South. We borrowed a lot from Australia at the time. From then till now, it has been a new Nigeria of foreign economic interest and that is the truth.

Are you saying that Nigeria would have been better than it is now if the North and South weren’t amalgamated?

Nigeria would have been much better. The thinking of the North is quite different from that of the South. In any case, the thinking of the western Nigeria is different from the thinking of the eastern Nigeria. The marriage of the North and the South was of foreign economic interest. There was no need for it at all. In any case, we took no part in the marriage, it was a foreign marriage foisted on the people.

Do you think Nigeria still has reasons to celebrate at 57?

(There is) no need at all. What are we celebrating? We are celebrating a bad marriage; we are celebrating disaster. I am not happy about it.  I was very proud before independence that things would be better but things are very bad now. If you look at our children now, you will see that they travel abroad for education and they are doing very well. The best Nigerians are now abroad. You find them everywhere, in the US, UK, France, Switzerland and all over and they are doing well. They are not contributing to our own progress but are contributing to the progress of other foreign countries because they are not proud of their own country. That is the truth. Our best are trooping outside the country almost on daily basis.

You also played a role in the struggle for Nigeria’s independence. Do you regret it?

I don’t regret it. In any case, I was in politics before independence and I was also in politics after independence. What I regret are the consequences of independence because there was no need for military intervention. Since then, things have never been the same. In any case, the marriage of various ethnic groups by the colonialists has not worked, no matter how we try to distort things.

Ghana for instance was doing fine before the coup which spread to the whole of Africa and caused a mess since then. Even in South Africa, when the foreigners were ruling, it was very good but (since) the natives came, it is now bad. The economy is controlled by the foreigners and politics is controlled by the natives.

The marriage in Africa has been bad.  Colonialism has not worked well in Africa. The Americans had to fight, when the capital was in New York, to drive away the British. It was a bloody war and it was supported by the French. But look at things now, America is the best country in the world and China is next to them. India is also moving at an incredibly good speed. They manufacture aeroplanes, cars and all sorts of good things but Nigeria has not been able to get close to that. Our marriage by the colonialists has been very bad.

Do you support some groups like IPOB agitating to break away to form Biafra?

I don’t believe in Biafra but the truth is that the marriage (of the North and South) has not worked well at all. What is the common denominator between the North and the South? What is the economic denominator between the Yoruba and the Igbo? The people of the Niger Delta are not happy. They believe that if they control their oil, they would have been better off. The consequence of colonialism in Africa is the worst in the world. The colonialists have gone away, yet they still hold our economy, no matter how they try to deceive us and distort the facts. I practice law in a number of West African countries. I go to The Gambia to practise law. I go to Dakar, Senegal to play golf. I go to Ghana and Cameroon. When I go through (countries) like that, I just laugh and say Africa, what have you done wrong? Why is it that America, which fought a bloody war with the British to gain independence, is doing so well and we are doing badly? I don’t see how that can be corrected unless things are properly made.

How do you think it can be corrected?

(Through) Separation!

Are you saying each region should go their separate ways?

Yes. No matter how much we deceive ourselves, the western Nigeria was doing very well before and after independence. But since independence, it has been either a bad marriage or military coup. That is not the way to run a country. Britain is not run like that. America is not run like that. Likewise France.

Are you saying Nigeria would have been better if it fought for independence like the US fought the British?

We fought. There was a very big fight and I doff my hat to Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Anthony Enahoro, Chief Akintola (Williams), Aminu Kano, Dr. Michael Opara and others. But the truth is that up till today, no matter how much we lie to ourselves, when it comes to our economy, when America got her independence, they took over control with their hands. There was already a (United States) government in New York, but they moved it to Washington. When America was fighting Britain for independence, France helped them to fight Britain and Britain was driven away. At that time, some people were in the House of Commons in London and at the same time, they were in the parliament in New York; that was ridiculous. Sometimes, it would take six months to travel from London to New York. When it comes to colonialism, Britain has been the worst in the world; they like to lick other people and that is why India had to fight a lot of wars to get independence.

Thanks to the Labour Party. When the Labour Party came to power, it set India free immediately and the gentleman who was just a councillor in London became foreign minister in India and you see great men leading them. Once the arithmetic is wrong, and that was what happened to Nigeria, the mathematics of policy is very wrong. As long as that mathematics is wrong, we cannot get anything right.

Have your contributions to nation building affected your personal life in any way?

My contribution was not as free as that of other great leaders in the country, but I okayed my role and I have no regret about it. My children went to University of London, (University of) Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard and other universities in the world and they did extremely well. Some of them had first class in London, also in Harvard. I am very proud of that. Later I had the privilege of serving in Geneva, at the United Nations, and I served for five or six years. I was very proud (of that). When there was problem in Nigeria, I moved to London and continued my legal practice here.

What kind of problem?

There were lot of coups. The military were taking over power at will. That was the problem. One military ruler went to the University of Ibadan and asked the students there to contribute to the economy of the country. What is the economic strength of students? What money have they got? When those who don’t know are governing those who know, the consequences are poverty and lack of development. That is what we are having till today. Before independence, I went to St. Peter’s School at Aremo, Ibadan, which was one of the best schools in the country. From Standard IV, I went to Oduduwa College and I took my Senior Cambridge and had Grade 1. I had no regrets at the time but what I regret is the way Nigeria is structured, the way Nigeria is led, the way Nigeria is being governed and the way the economy is structured. If you look at the entire world, the countries with the worst set of economic structures are in Africa. People who control the economies of African countries are mostly foreigners. The real power lies in the hands of those who control the economy.

Which of the heroes of Nigerian nationalism do you miss most and why?

Oh, they are many. The best of them was Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe followed by Awolowo, S.L Akintola, Anthony Enahoro, Dr. Opara, Aminu Kano and several others. We produced excellent leaders. They were great leaders. If the economy of Nigerians is in the hands of Nigerians, as the political structures, the story would have been different. That is the truth. Things would have been completely different if Nigerians were the ones controlling nation’s economy. What we got wrong was the structure the British gave us which we have refused to alter ourselves. After independence, India altered everything to suit their own purpose and the country is now one of the best in the world. China which was in abject poverty has become the second best country in the world. That’s amazing and everybody is proud of that. Look at China, USA, Russia and others. I doff my hat to them. They are very great but it is not the same with Nigeria.

Can you draw any parallel between the struggle for independence and the calls for restructuring now?

People calling for restructuring now are partly right and partly wrong. The struggle for independence was natural. After the two major world wars, colonialism became irrelevant and the people who fought the wars made sure that colonialism was abolished. And that was why we had our independence. I had a privilege of going with (Tafawa) Balewa in 1960 to the United Nations in New York to be a member of the family of nations. But we have political independence on paper; do we have other things in our hands? Your guess is as good as mine on that.

What are your views on the issue of true federalism?

Talking of true federalism or bad federalism is nonsense. What you really need are good leaders in the country and not the third-rate people who have been ruling at local government, state or at national level. In many parts of Africa, you see Rubin’s leaders, leading the countries and as long as you have those rubbish people as leaders, there can’t be any progress.  As long as you have those who should at best be messengers leading, there can’t be any progress.

How do you think Nigeria can get rid of these bad leaders?

I will not answer that question the way you want me to answer it but let us pray to God.

Which system of government do you consider good for Nigeria, presidential or parliamentary?

I prefer the presidential system of government. The presidential system is very good because to be president, you have to campaign all over the country and the people must accept you and vote for you. But in the parliamentary system, all you need to do is win an election in a small constituency and then you will say you would rule the country. That is nonsense and when you do that, it doesn’t really work. That is why Americans took presidential system of government. The same thing goes for China, France and Russia. The British system, their evolution and development is quite different from ours. Britain lives on colonialism. Without colonialism, Britain would never be what it is.

Is presidential system of government not more expensive than parliamentary?

Presidential system of government is not expensive but those running it are the ones making it expensive. They are making it expensive through greed. When they make laws, it is as if they will be in power forever. That is one of the reasons. They should have the aim of being in power for a number of years and leave the place for others to go there. Look at The Gambia. When the small boy, the (former) head of state, wanted to remain in power forever, other countries in West Africa asked him to leave, and when he did not want to go, they threatened him with military action and he ran away.

Some people are advocating a part-time legislature in a bid to cut governing costs. Do you support this?

That is rubbish. If you are in parliament (legislature), you should be able to do your work well. Also, if you are a minister, it is a full-time job.

Do you agree that the salaries and other emoluments of our legislators are outrageous?

Their payments are a disaster. When I entered into the parliament, I was earning £800 a year. When I became minister, I was earning £3,000 a year; that was a lot of money in those days. But today, people want to go into politics and become billionaires overnight. That should not be allowed and if you replace them with the military, that is even worse.

How do you think Nigeria can tackle corruption?

Corruption has to do with leadership and the problem is that those who are ignorant come to power through the military, which is the launching pad for corruption. But if you have the right people contesting elections and staying there for a number of years prescribed by the constitution, like you have in America, there won’t be problems like we are having in Nigeria now.

Are you saying Nigerians should no longer vote for former military men?

They should not. Nigerians used public funds to buy guns and boots for them and those ones should stay out of politics. But some of them are retiring from military and joining politics. I don’t agree with what they are doing. What we have is a military government masquerading as civilian government. That is rubbish.

But what did you do differently in the second republic from what is happening now?

We had a presidential system of government under (Alhaji Shehu) Shagari and it was very good. When Shagari came in for the second term, they used military coup to drive him away, and from then till today, no matter what name you call it, it is still military rule (that has been) masquerading as civilian government(s).

Do you foresee a military coup?

No. I don’t even want them to come back. If they come back, it will only get worse. The consequences of their coming back will be terrible. The richest people in the country today are military men and those who had relationship one way or the other with them. I don’t want to say anything further on that but everybody knows.

How has Nigeria fared since the return to democracy in 1999?

It is 50:50. It is not too bad and it is not good but it could be better.

What do you think we can do as a nation to make the country better?

One, there should be no more military incursion into power again. Two, we should have the best brains in politics. Not messengers or thugs becoming governors and pretending to be governors and wanting power for themselves forever.

How can Nigeria achieve progress?

The best thing is not to follow the British structure. Also, the economy should be run by Nigerians and not foreigners. If you don’t do that, you know the consequences. Do you see the economy of America being run by foreigners? Do you see the economy of Britain run by foreigners? That is what I mean. But if you look at our economic structure now, it is not in our hands. It is being run by foreigners and everybody knows the truth.

How will you rate the performance of President Buhari since 2015?

Your guess is as good as mine. I should have preferred that (since) Buhari has got what he wanted, he should go and rest while others who are real politicians should come to power. But people don’t listen to the truth; they want half-truth and half falsehood.

What is your response to those in support of his return in 2019?

I just laugh at that. If he does that, it will be a big joke.

Are you saying he will not win?

I don’t know but it is going to be a very big joke.

What did you mean when you say Nigerians should go their separate ways?

The West should go their way likewise the East and let the Northerners decide what they want.

Is it through dialogue or by what means?

It should be through dialogue. I don’t believe in military coup; it has never worked anywhere and it can’t work in this country.

You were a minister of education in the first republic. What do you think Nigeria can do to revamp the education sector?

First, the universities should be adequately funded. I don’t see the best university in Nigeria today like we used to. Secondary schools have also collapsed. When I was doing Senior Cambridge, many of us came out with Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3. And when I finished, I was given a scholarship to study in England and come back to teach. I accepted the letter but I didn’t accept the scholarship because my parents could afford to send me to England.

Can Nigeria learn anything from the report of the 2014 National Conference organised by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan?

The confab report should be implemented. I had the privilege of moving the final adoption of the report because I was part of the conference. The government should implement the report; to ignore it is to ignore the best thing for Nigeria. Former President Jonathan did well and I doff my hat to him.

Is it advisable that Nigeria should amend the 1999 constitution or drop it totally?

We should drop the 1999 constitution totally. I want to see western Nigeria as a sovereign state. Let the North be different and let the East be different. That is the way God created us; any other marriage is rubbish.

Posted On Sunday, 01 October 2017 13:03 Written by

Renowned banker and politician, Dr. Alex Otti, speaks to TOFARATI IGE, about his banking and political career

Why did you leave banking for politics?

There comes a time when one looks beyond one’s personal comfort and interest in taking decisions. For me, that time was in 2014. I had spent over 25 years in the banking industry rising from a graduate trainee in 1988 when I finished from the university, to become CEO in 2011, after serving a six- year tenure as Executive Director in First Bank of Nigeria. I may not have completed my tenure as CEO of Diamond Bank, but I had achieved most of what my team and I set out to do in the bank in a shorter time than we set for it. Meanwhile, I come from a state where things were going bad owing to inept and incompetent leadership. I thought it was a good time to go and serve a lot more people than I was serving in the bank.

I was not interested in politics ordinarily, even though like it is said, man is a political animal. So, I always find it difficult to refer to myself as a politician. I do, however, know that the kind of changes that I wanted to make in the society can only be achieved in politics.

I have always been involved in what you call politics from my younger days and even in school, having been part of student union activities. I am also familiar with the words of Plato, which says, “One of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

Was vying for the governorship of Abia State your first taste of politics?

I will say yes, if what one did in school is relevant to your question. Otherwise, this was my first attempt in the larger society.

Why did you choose to start at governorship level and not the Senate or perhaps the House of Representatives?

Governorship was where I thought I would make my greatest impact. Like I had said earlier, mine was not driven by the need to hold an office but to deliver service to my people. Legislative functions, even though important was not going to cut it for me. Again, I was gainfully engaged and was really not looking for a career in politics. Mine was more of an intervention than anything else.

What were some of the profound lessons you learnt in politics?

Many lessons that can take up the entire paper. I will highlight a few of them. The first is that people are more discerning than governments give them credit. In spite of the propaganda of the government of the day, when people want change, they want change. I was the subject of all sorts of propaganda, prejudices and blackmail, but the people still voted massively for me even though the mandate was stolen. The second one is that many people who call themselves career politicians are actually jobless and many of them are anything but honest. Again, the real power is in the hands of the people, not necessarily those that parade themselves as leaders. It was shocking to see that people can tell the kind of barefaced lies that you will never imagine. It still happens till today. You owe someone five months’ salaries and you take a space in the media and swear you are up-to-date in salary payments. Finally, treachery is fair game in politics.

How did you make the transition from banking to politics?

Those who call themselves politicians do not possess anything that a professional does not have. It is on the other hand more difficult for them to transit to professionalism. As one who had always related with people, it was not that difficult. I had a clear message for the people which the people bought into and followed.

Do you regret quitting Diamond Bank for politics?

If I had any regrets, it would be that I should have done this earlier. I completed my assignment in the bank before leaving. I remain proud of the modest achievements my team and I made in the bank. I am glad that I have led the way for a lot of young people to follow. Many people who had avoided politics like a plague told me that they were encouraged by what I did and would participate in the next election. That is how changes happen. Someone must make the required sacrifice for change to happen. It is impossible to make omelettes without breaking eggs.

Did losing at the poll come as a blow?

First of all, I did not lose at the poll. I won overwhelmingly to the extent that my opponents who were in power then had to manufacture figures to counter their defeat. The records are there to show. Rather than dealing me a blow, I was very proud of my team for their efforts and for dealing a seating government a big blow and forcing them into desperation. You will recall that the Court of Appeal revalidated our victory based on valid votes cast in that election. The Supreme Court reversed it based on technicalities and not facts of the election. Like we have said earlier, we have since moved on.

Were you not bothered about committing so much money into your political campaign even when you weren’t sure of victory?

Everything is about planning. I had a clear plan of what was needed to be spent and where the funds were going to come from. So, there was no anxiety. Besides, I had a lot of support from friends and Abia people who wanted change in the state. Everything in life is a risk, including the risk of going to bed and not waking up. If you get worried about that risk, you may decide not go to bed to mitigate that risk. Avoiding risks is more dangerous than managing them. Once you get involved in a venture, the chances that it would not work are always there. So, we factored in the risk of not winning and even the risk of winning and it being stolen like it happened in this case.

Were you born with a silver spoon?

Wooden spoon you mean? Not at all. I was born into a modest but contented family. There were many of us and the resources were very lean. It was management all the way. My dad would always give us what he thought was enough to sustain us in school while our mum would, out of her meagre resources, augment. Our dad must not know that our mum was augmenting otherwise; he would reduce what he would give us. In spite of apparent lack, there was dignity and happiness.

Growing up, did you have any vices that usually got you into trouble?

I was a very good child and didn’t have such vices.

What is that one unique/quirky thing about you?

Simple; uncomplicated, straightforward; what you see is what you get.

Who were some of your friends and contemporaries?

A lot of them. However, in the university, two of them that stand out are Rotimi Amaechi and Nyesom Wike. While Amaechi was one year ahead of me, I was a year ahead of Wike. So I’m literally caught in the middle. I’m sure you don’t envy me. They both remain my friends.

Considering that they are your friends, have you tried to broker peace between Rotimi Amaechi and Nyesom Wike?

 That is work in progress.

You studied Economics at the University of Port Harcourt; had you at that time began to eye a career in banking?

Banking was obviously one of the options given what I read. But I was also open to other things.

Graduating with a first-class degree is a rare feat. How did you achieve it?

I must first of all, attribute that feat to God. It was not my feat at all because I cannot say that I worked harder than others nor was I more brilliant than others. The thing about first-class degree is that you must be consistent both in character and in learning. If you miss it at the initial stage, it would be difficult to correct later.

One must have thought having graduated with a first-class degree, you would have pursued a career in the academics. Was it something you considered?

I not only considered it, I was given the opportunity by my alma mater after graduation. I turned it down because I thought I needed a job that would pay well at that time so I could support my parents with my seven younger ones, being the first born.

Can you recollect your experiences on your first job upon graduation?

There are many of them. One that stuck is my experience with the personal computer. I had not seen one before. It was my first day at work. My boss then, Mr. Kole Olowofoyeku, handed me a handwritten document and wanted me to produce it on the PC and return to him in five minutes. I had no idea how to turn on the PC not to talk of using it to produce a document. Well, I had to enlist the help of one my more experienced colleagues then, to get the job done. The second one was the kind of training that one had in the bank. Hard work was natural in the bank and I can still remember that on a couple of occasions we could not close from work until the next morning. You would just go home in the morning to freshen up and come back to work.

Did it in any way impact your career afterwards?

Yes. One is that it helped prepare me for surprises. The second is that hard work has become second nature to me.

Who are your role models?

My two role models are no more. They were my dad who passed on in 1994 and my teacher, Prof. Claude Ake, who departed in 1996.

What particular event shaped your life?

I am not sure there is one particular event but a complex set of events which includes the circumstances of my upbringing, education and work.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt in life?

I have learnt so many things that it would be difficult to isolate one as the most important. One of them may just be the one my late mother used to teach. She used to say that you cannot lose anything by working hard, rather, that you had all to gain. That was her way of imbibing the culture of hard work in all of us. The other one is that excellence will always dwarf mediocrity.

While in school, you served as the editor of some publications; did you at any point consider a career in journalism?

Not really. It was just an interest that I had and that is why I still write up till this moment. I maintain a fortnightly column in Thisday and I am completing my second book.

You took a course at Harvard University; how exactly did that impact on your business and professional acumen?

Harvard was one of the most important places that I trained. Interestingly, the course prepared me for the CEO role and exposed me to a lot of new things. The nine-week Advance Management Programme was a life-changing one which I will recommend to anyone who has the opportunity.

What would you regard as the highlights of your banking career?

From 1996 when I joined UBA, I had been part of a transformation team. I guess the successes we recorded must have made First Bank to headhunt me where I also joined a transformation team. The subsequent results by the team must also have informed that call by KPMG in 2010 that led to my resumption as MD/CEO of Diamond Bank. Again in Diamond Bank, it was also transformation all the way which yielded many positive changes. I must say I was very lucky to have assembled an excellent team who worked tirelessly to change the bank. The results came quickly. The bank grew rapidly by assets, profitability and efficiency ratios. It wore a new look as we rebranded the bank, relocated a lot that were not properly located and opened several new branches. It became a preferred place to work as our compensation package became one of the best in the industry. We established a presence in the UK and expanded to more African countries. The Central Bank of Nigeria recognised us as one of the eight “Systemically Important Banks” in the country. This recognition simply meant that because of the size of the bank, it became “too big to fail”. Our information technology systems were upgraded to become one of the most efficient in the country. We rolled out several platforms for service including our agency banking and financial inclusion products. We made the environment such that people were looking forward to coming to the bank and staff loved their jobs.

What were your toughest moments as a banker?

Interestingly, the highpoint of my career as a CEO was also the toughest moment. If I managed to find four hours of sleep in a day, that was a great day. I was everywhere and was involved in everything, juggling them for balance. I was always thinking about the next thing to do to achieve the targets that we had set for ourselves as a team. Thank God, they all paid off.

What professional and personal qualities helped you rise to the pinnacle of your banking career?

Again, I must say that at the centre of it all is God. I believe He enabled me to be focused on what is important. As a leader, you must devote a lot of attention to assembling your team and guiding them. An institution cannot be better than its people. If you want the best institution, you must have the best people. I had a knack for attracting and retaining the best people. I also lead from the front and not the rear. I would not ask you to do what I cannot do. There are very many others that I may not be able to list here.

What were some of the challenges you faced as the CEO of Diamond Bank?

I must say that I was very lucky with my board. I had a very experienced and supportive board so that helped to reduce the pressure. The major challenge beyond the ones I had mentioned earlier was how to deal with the transformation given serious regulatory headwinds. The effect of the global economic crises of 2008/2009 was still being felt in the bank when we came on board. We had to clean up the books of the bank by writing off some toxic assets but we also maintained a minimum capital adequacy ratio as prescribed by CBN. Because the bank was in a transformation mode, additional capital could not easily be raised, otherwise, you would destroy value for shareholders and sell cheap. We, however, found our way round it by raising what is called tier 2 capital. It was not until when we stabilised the bank in 2014 that we went to the market to raise capital by way of a rights issue which was very successful as it was fully subscribed.

What professional/personal goals have you yet to accomplish?

I always set new goals when I accomplish set goals. Right now, my goal is to impact many more people than I had done in the past and the best way to do this is through public service. You can only do so much as a player in the private sector.

In the course of your career, you worked in oil & gas and energy business; in what ways do you think money from the oil industry can be used to ensure meaningful lives for the general populace?

 The major problem we have is government. We run a very large and expensive government that we end up using over 70 per cent of the annual budget to pay salaries. That leaves us with less than 30 per cent for the rest of the people. Meanwhile oil accounts for over 90 per cent of our foreign exchange earnings and more than 70 per cent of our revenues. I believe we must do something about reducing the size of government for the populace to enjoy meaningful development. Some call it restructuring. Whatever name you want to call it, we must discuss how to spend more on infrastructure and social amenities than we are currently doing.

You are on the board of some Nigerian universities, how can the educational sector be revamped?

We need to start from the most rudimentary level. Primary education by law is under the local governments. We all know that most states do not allow the local governments to function. So, funding is a challenge at that and other levels and unfortunately, that is the foundation. Once the foundation is faulty, what can anyone do? We also need to pay attention to the quality, number, compensation and welfare of teachers. Then we must ensure that merit is the basis of everything in the educational sector, be it admission or recruitment of teaching and non teaching staff. We must also pay attention to the curricular. What are we teaching our students? The world has moved. In the world of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, our teachers cannot continue to teach nonsense, apologies to Fela.

What personal qualities have helped you to stand out?

I can only guess. I believe the fear of God is number one. People say I am committed and dedicated. They also say I work very hard and that I am always focused on what is important. Of course, those people may be wrong.

What legacy would you like to leave behind?

I always like to leave a place better than I met it. That is one of the major reasons I went to contest elections in the first place.

Apart from banking and politics, what other activities do you engage in?

I read and write. That takes a lot of my time. I also love the hospitality business. This is out of my passion to serve. So I do get involved in a hospitality business my wife and I set up. I am also involved in a small real estate business.

How often do you get to spend time with your family?

If you asked this question when I was in the bank, the answer would have been different. Right now, I do spend a lot of time with my family and it feels very good to be able to do those things that I was unable to do in the last quarter of a century.

How did you meet your wife?

My wife and I met in 1991 and got married in 1993. I moved into the neighbourhood a year earlier and ran into her where I had gone to pick up my clothes from the nearby drycleaner which was next to her house. We got talking and like they say, the rest became history. She has been very supportive particularly filling in for me when I was virtually an absentee father and husband owing to my schedules. She was the pillar of the campaign and was at the forefront organising women and youth. She has always been there for me and I thank God for blessing me with such a wonderful wife.

What lessons have you learnt in marriage?

Marriage is a great teacher. One of the lessons it teaches you is patience. Because the two of you are coming from different backgrounds, you must be tolerant of each other and also forgiving of each other’s shortcomings. You must also be considerate of your partner in every decision you make. Marriage compels accountability and responsibility. As a single person you could do anything you want without answering to anybody, but the moment you get married, that must change otherwise, the marriage may be in danger.

What romantic things do you say and do to her?

I am not sure I do a lot of romantic things, but I am confident she understands.

How do you unwind?

I unwind by listening to music. I love music. My reading acts as form of relaxation for me, particularly when it is not serious stuff. I use the gym every other day and hang out occasionally with friends. I used to play squash a lot until a few years ago when my wife took me off it, insisting that it was too high impact. I still do quite some travelling.

What kind of music do you listen to?

I listen to all sorts of music. I like Nigerian music and have supported and continue to support it. I also like Jazz and other soft music.

What kind of attire are you most comfortable in?

It depends on the occasion and the mood. I wear whatever works for the occasion. These days, I tend to wear traditional attires a lot. I guess having worn suit and tie for such a long time, I consider less formal wears, a welcome relief.

What advice can you give to young people as regards business?

The first thing is that they should aim to identify a need or gap and think of filling it. That is the fundamental principle for the success of a business. I see a lot of people start from what they want to do. You may do what you want to do but there may not be a market for it. So you must start from the market. A lot of businesses have failed because the business owner did not know how to separate the business from himself. You must understand that the money for the business is not for you. You should pay yourself salaries just like any other worker and let the business run as a business. Then you must continue to reinvent the business. How can you simplify processes? Are there better and more cost-effective and efficient ways to deliver the service? You must also rein in your cost otherwise; you may soon go out of business. Have your eye on technology and ensure that technological disruptions do not send you out of business. Think of our oil and gas today and how electric cars would send a lot of people out of business between 2025 and 2040. That is a perfect example. As it is, some businesses and countries may just be caught napping in spite of the warning signals that had been there in the last few years.

You survived an assassination attempt. Looking back now, would you still want to remain in politics and probably contest the governorship again?

The assassins and their sponsors were just wasting their time because they do not know God. I strongly believe that nothing can touch me except if God allows it. And if He allows it, then it is time. That is why He removed me from that house before the attackers came. Like I had said, we are all in politics one way or the other, so the question of remaining in politics does not arise. As 2019 approaches, I will make consultations and at the appropriate time, I shall make my decision about contesting, public.

What keeps you busy these days?

I am now unemployed like some people have reported in the papers. I find that I am still busy, even if not as busy as when I was in the bank. I set up a financial and investment services company in addition to all the other businesses I had itemised earlier. We are happy that we are able to create jobs. We have about 170 people in our pay roll who work in the hospitality, real estate, technology/communications and financial advisory parts of our business. I oversee the holding company with offices in different parts of the country.

PUNCH

Posted On Sunday, 20 August 2017 12:14 Written by

The President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has urged newly qualified doctors who are posted to rural communities to undertake their housemanship not to see it as a form of punishment.

According to President Akufo-Addo, “the early Ghanaian doctors of legend, the pioneers who built the medical profession, such as Charles Easmon, Silas Dodoo, Cornelius Quarcoopome and Felix Konotey-Ahulu, amongst others, on their return home from qualifying in England, went to work in the rural areas with relish and enthusiasm, at a time when our country was less developed and with fewer infrastructure.”

The President added that “the missionary and sacrificial aspect of this noble profession, young doctors, must not be lost on you.”

President Akufo-Addo made this known on Saturday, 12th August, 2017, when he delivered a speech at the 50th congregation and 5th oath taking and induction ceremony of the School of Medical Sciences of the University of Cape Coast.

With Ghana’s doctor-population ratio being approximately one doctor to eight thousand patients, President Akufo-Addo noted that this ratio is even more lopsided in the rural and deprived communities of the country.

“I do not put all the blame on our medical doctors’ unwillingness to work in these communities. If we have good road network, and good schools are available around the country and not only in the urban centres, if we have electricity supply in all communities, we would not have to be asking, indeed, insisting that our young doctors go to work in the rural communities,” he said.

Once these conditions are in place, President Akufo-Addo acknowledged that doctors would, then, find well-developed rural communities, which may be more attractive settings to bring up their young families.
The President was, however, pleased with the programme instituted by the School of Medical Sciences, under which medical students of the University spend six weeks each year in rural communities in the Central and Eastern Regions.

“This is aimed at giving them strong community orientation, and also increasing their awareness of the interrelationship between lifestyle and health. I hope and pray that this enables them to build lifelong and healthy appreciation of the situations in our rural communities, which would stay with them long after they have qualified,” he noted.

As the nation trains more doctors to solve the shortage of doctors, President Akufo-Addo noted that more must be done to keep them in the country, and not lose them to the advanced economies of this world.

“We will only retain our trained doctors and other professionals, when agriculture and industry are thriving, when we have better roads, better communications, better schools, better housing, reliable and cheaper power supply, and better drainage.

On my part, I am determined to work to help ensure that these improvements we all want in our lives become reality. Until that is done, we have to equip those currently in training and the fresh doctors to do a little more out of the ordinary to bring relief to the present situation,” he added.

President Akufo-Addo urged the young doctors to feel privileged to work amidst the mysteries of life, as well as gain the trust of patients and treat each one with dignity. He also admonished them to listen and give respect all their colleagues in the healthcare chain – technicians, nurses, clerks, cleaners, et al.

“You will be surrounded by death, but please remain human and do not lose your emotions. People will die, but many will be healed, complications will occur, but make sure you remain true to science, the truth and reason. And in doing so, never lose your faith in God. I have no doubt you will continue to discover, as all the great scientists have, the presence of the Omnipotent One in the ordering of the Universe,” he said.

The President continued, “Let your Hippocratic Oath be your guide and guard in the discharge of your duties. Your joy and fulfillment should lie in the well-being of your patients.”

Posted On Sunday, 13 August 2017 22:28 Written by
 

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is already the world’s oldest living head of state. The 93-year-old says he is fit enough to run for re-election next year, and has batted away whispers about who he will choose to follow him when he inevitably succumbs.

But as the increasingly frail leader shuttles back and forth to Singapore for medical treatment, the call for him to name a replacement has grown louder. The most recent -- and loudest -- voice to call for a successor is also the most unexpected: his own wife.

Grace Mugabe, 52, raised the delicate issue at this week’s gathering of the women’s league of the ruling ZANU-PF party, to applause and cheering from the crowd.

“I know president says ‘no no no, I don’t want to impose any candidate,’” she said. “But I’ve always argued with him, that ‘you have the role, you have the right to be part of that process. Because we respect you.’ His word will be final. Mark my words, his word will be final!”

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace follow proceedings during a youth rally in Marondera about 100 kilometers east of Harare, June, 2, 2017.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace follow proceedings during a youth rally in Marondera about 100 kilometers east of Harare, June, 2, 2017.

Madame Mrs. President?

Mrs. Mugabe is on the shortlist of Zimbabwean public figures rumored to be trying to succeed him, alongside Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Professor Shadrack Gutto of the University of South Africa says the president’s wife is clearly making a play to be his pick. But, he says, she’s wrong about one thing: President Mugabe’s word is only final as long as he lives.

“She wants the position,” he said. “But I’m saying it will occur, as soon as he goes -- in other words, he passes away -- Grace doesn’t have political power in Zimbabwe, at all. And therefore a lot of struggles will start to take place within.”

Pro-opposition analyst Jacob Mafume said he thinks Mugabe has already handed the reins to his wife. Zimbabwe’s struggling economy has been blamed on President Mugabe’s decisions during his 36 years in power, and the couple have been repeatedly accused of corruption and mismanagement.

Mugabe’s plan? Only he knows

“He actually believes that he is running the country when he is not, that is how bad it is,” he told VOA. “His wife is running the country. The other half of the country is being run by Vice President Mnangagwa. The other half is being run by Grace Mugabe grabbing farms, dams and whatever she wants to do at that particular time. So basically we are on auto-pilot as a country, and it is a shame that we are failing to retire an old man to an old people's home.”

And what does the president think? When asked, his response far from clear.

“Other countries have more than two, why can’t we have three deputies,” he said, his voice soft, slow and halting. “Two, two choices: The one, to revert to our position of two vice presidents and one being a lady but another of adding another position of vice president, we have three vice presidents and one a woman.”

Zimbabwe votes in 2018, with President Mugabe leading the ruling party’s ticket.

Posted On Saturday, 29 July 2017 06:10 Written by

Nigeria’s ailing president Muhammadu Buhari and the country’s acting president Yemi Osinbajo are meeting in London, the Presidency said on Tuesday.

“AgP @ProfOsinbajo meeting with President @MBuhari in London today, and returning to Abuja immediately afterwards,” the Presidency tweeted. But there was no detail on the subject of the discussion.

The president has spent most of this year in London receiving treatment for an unspecified medical condition. He left for London for a medical check-up on May 7, leaving Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to lead the country. His aides said only his doctors can determine when he can return to the country.

“The length of the President’s stay in London will be determined by the doctors. The government will continue to function normally under the able leadership of the Vice President,” presidential spokesman Femi Adesina said in a statement.

Adesina, however, insisted that there was “no cause for worry.”

Buhari had left earlier Nigeria on January 19 for London to “undergo routine medical check-ups” during a short holiday. He only returned on March 10 after an extended period of medical treatment.

Though he hinted at the possibility of him going back for more treatment and acknowledged that he was terribly sick, he did not disclose the true nature of his ailment.

His office released an audio message during the Eid-el-Fitr celebrations purported to be from him. The message delivered wholly in Hausa angered more than a few Nigerians who accused him of being sectional with the choice of language he conveyed his message in.

Last month, Ekiti state governor Ayodele Fayose advised Buhari to resign but his supporters rejected the suggestion.

Posted On Wednesday, 12 July 2017 01:06 Written by

The Senate on Tuesday demanded that the acting President Yemi Osinbajo must obey the resolutions of the Senate, including the immediate removal of the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.

It also suspended all confirmation of appointments until compliance with its resolution.

Recall that the Chairman of the EFCC, who was appointed in Acting capacity by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 9, 2015, has consistently been rejected by the Senate.

Upon his appointment, Magu said he was committed to the anti-corruption war, drawing a connection between the economic challenges facing the country and the endemic corruption in the country.

 
Posted On Tuesday, 04 July 2017 15:04 Written by

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Monday released a timetable for the recall of Senator Dino Melaye (APC-Kogi West) from the Senate in spite of a lawsuit instituted by the senator to stop the Commission from proceeding with the process.

According to the timetable, the process will begin on July 10 with notice of verification of constituents to be posted at INEC’s Lokoja office and end on August 19 with the conduct and announcement of the outcome of the verification of the constituents who want the senator out of the Senate.

The constituents of the senatorial district on June 21 submitted a petition to INEC demanding Melaye’s recall, citing his “abysmal performance” at the Nigerian Senate and as their reason. The senator was also accused of distancing himself from his constituents.

“For the past two years, Senator Melaye has not organised one town hall meeting anywhere in Kogi West to meet with the people to present his scorecard or stewardship,” Leader of the constituents, Chief Cornelius Olowo, told State-run News Agency of Nigeria shortly after submitting the petition for the recall to INEC.

“He has been completely disconnected from the people. Since he won his election and the legal battle at the court, he is no longer reachable.

“He has no constituency office in Kogi West as we speak, as a way to reach him on the matter of interests from the people that elected him,” Olowo said.

But the Senator insisted the petition against him was sponsored by agents of the Kogi State Government because of his criticisms of Governor Yahaya Bello’s administration.

Melaye also alleged that they claimed to have gotten over 188,000 signatories of electorates in Kogi West when the total vote cast, both valid and rejected, in the last senatorial election of 2015, was merely 111, 000 for all the candidates that participated.

“This recall exercise was hatched in Kogi Government House due to the manner in which Senator Dino Melaye consistently challenges and engages the government over non-payment of workers’ salaries and pensioners for over 15 months; and also the constant closure of tertiary institutions,” he stated.

Posted On Tuesday, 04 July 2017 14:55 Written by
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