The refusal of Governor Seriake Dickson to avoid the perils of hubristic leadership has been blamed for the defeat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in last Saturday’s governorship election. Many PDP stakeholders said Dickson would have escaped the hubris trap if he had heeded the advice of former President Goodluck Jonathan and other elders in the state to support the governorship ambition of former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Timi Alaibe, instead of Senator Douye Diri.
Dickson’s decision to back Diri caused mass defection from PDP to All Progressives Congress (APC). Most of those who defected were supporters of former President Jonathan and Alaibe. For instance, the defection of the former deputy governor, Peremobowei Ebebe, to APC was instrumental to the victory of the party in Ekeremor Local Government Area.
Huhuonline.com understands that one of the major reasons why Dickson refused to back Alaibe, who was the most popular candidate in the PDP primary, was because Alaibe refused to back his senatorial ambition in 2006, but rather chose Senator Heineken Lopobori. A PDP chieftain who pleaded anonymity told Huhuonline.com that the defeat of PDP became imminent after Dickson foist Senator Diri as the governorship candidate without recourse to the sensitivity of Jonathan, who warned him of the perils of his choice.
“We saw the defeat of our party, PDP, coming,” the chieftain said. “Governor Dickson felt he has the capacity to deliver PDP alone. So, others merely allowed him to satisfy his wish. Yes, the man said he could do it alone. Dickson has crashed the party. We warned him. Even President Jonathan warned him. He was not willing to look at the alternative options that were available and as far as he was concerned he had the capacity to win and we have all seen the result.”
In Ogbia, where President Jonathan hails from, PDP lost woefully not because the people hate the party, but they wanted to settle political scores with Dickson who they accuse of disrespecting his benefactor.
In Southern Ijaw which is a major oil-producing area and where Lyon hails from, the people took the election as a special project to deliver their son in spite of Governor Dickson’s last-minute decision to make their kinsman, Monday Olobo, Speaker of the State House of Assembly. Voters in Southern Ijaw with 165,449 registered voters told Huhuonline.com that they preferred governor to the position of speaker, which Dickson had offered them in September.
Another Bayelsa PDP leader said another factor that hindered PDP was that APC leaders used security operatives to prevent PDP chieftains who are reckoned to be strong in certain areas from freely moving around during and after the polls. Though PDP was widely rated to win the state capital, it lost it to APC because of deep-seated frenzy against the incumbent administration.
“In areas where APC leaders knew that PDP was strong or where they will rather use the money to influence the process, security men were deployed to monitor PDP members and pin them down,” he said. “In Agudama-Epiye, three security teams were deployed to a PDP chieftain’s residence and was prevented from stepping out till after the election. He was tactically under house arrest. Even in Yenagoa which people had predicted that PDP would win, it lost to Lyon.”
An associate of Mr. Gideon Ekeuwei, who was a former Secretary to Bayelsa State Government in the administration of Governor Timipre Sylva, told reporters that he narrowly escaped being arrested by the military, which was deployed to Azuzuama community to arrest him and other PDP chieftains. “When I arrived Azuzuama, materials had not arrived,” he narrated. “He was waiting for materials when he was informed to leave, that a gunboat was coming to pick up leaders of PDP.”
Governor Dickson had on Saturday night accused the General Officer commanding the 6th Division of the Nigerian Army of compromising security against PDP. The governor alleged that the army was used to supervise and perpetrate heinous electoral crimes and irregularity in Bayelsa State. Dickson claimed that the army attached soldiers to all APC leaders in all the wards who terrorized people from one polling unit to another.
“The observers are everywhere and everyone knows what is going on,” Dickson said. “I call on the president to call the security forces, the army to do what is right. I call on the Inspector-General of Police to be true to his professional calling and direct the DIG and all police officers to protect the people of Bayelsa State. I do not want to be pushed to the level of calling them to defend and protect themselves. I would not want to do that but please, there’s so much a people can take in the hands of their brothers and sisters in the name of an election.”
Following the overwhelming vote for Lyon in Ogbia LGA, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, accompanied by Lyon and other top APC chieftains visited President Jonathan who they said deserved to be respected and honored. “Being a former president of the country and a past governor of the state, Jonathan remains an asset to the state and his inputs will always be needed to advance the course of governance in Bayelsa,” Sylva noted. “As such, it was important for us to introduce the governor-elect to him and seek his support and guidance in building a better Bayelsa.”
Meanwhile, Jonathan has urged Lyon to make the welfare of the people of the state his top priority. According to him, as the former president, he remains a father to all Bayelsans, and his doors would be open to all citizens irrespective of their political affiliations. “I urge you to make the welfare of Bayelsa people a top priority and carry all of them along irrespective of the party they voted for,” Jonathan stated. “Elections are over now; so, I want you to see yourself as the governor of all and not only to the sections that voted for you. This is the way to move Bayelsa forward.”
Chairman of Niger Delta Civil Society Coalition (NDCSC), Anyakwee Nsirimovu, also urged the governor-elect, David Lyon, to ensure that deficit in leadership and existential corruption with impunity that has characterized Bayelsa State politics must be avoided to enable the ordinary people to benefit from the revenue accruable to the state from oil proceeds.
He explained that the defeat of Dickson’s administration should indeed mark the end of an era of open and extreme poverty in the midst of abundance and bad governance. Nsirimovu said Governor Dickson’s disastrous performance and disgraceful exit from office should serve as a warning to all political actors that they could not afford to shun transparency and accountability in a participatory democracy.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director of Finance and Administration-designate of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Maxwell Okoh, has blamed the inability of Governor Dickson to determine who succeeds in the office to his own failure. According to him, “This is a complete failure in his own case. He was blinded by arrogance, disrespect to elders in his party, coupled with his selfish ambition.”
He said the victory of Lyon marks a new beginning in the history of Bayelsa State. “This is so because Bayelsans, in the past eight years, has been crying, suffering and yearning for change. Thank God, by his grace, Bayelsans have spoken through the ballot and that has given our party victory. Nigerians and indeed the entire world can hear and feel the voices of genuine and resolute Bayelsans who demonstrated their aspiration by voting out the PDP-led bad governance in the state at the just concluded governorship election.
“Bayelsans should expect good governance. There are basic things which every good leader has to do to impact on the people and to make them happy. I understand that in the last eight years, pensioners have not been paid and civil servants have suffered salary cuts. The power situation the state has been in a terrible state. The situation has been really bad. I use to be a commissioner in the state some years ago; I didn’t have a generator in my house because there was steady light in the state. But today, rather than our power situation improving from the 40 megawatts we left behind to 110 megawatts that we were set to generate, the situation has gone down to zero per cent!”
Okoh said he regretted that since the inception of the state, there has not been the sustainable provision of pipe-borne water as well as other basic amenities required for the sustenance of life. He expressed delight that the victory of APC in the governorship election would further boost the relationship between the state and the Federal Government, which has been frosty.
However, a former Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Chief Olabode George, has blamed the party’s defeat on the shoddy job done by the electoral umpire and also implosion in PDP. He said: “The outcome didn’t surprise me because I have said it all over; there is the need to overhaul INEC if this country must make any sense out of its electoral process.”
He condemned the deployment of security agents for the elections, saying it was a pre-planned arrangement to rob PDP in Bayelsa. On the internal implosion, George said the current managers of the party needed to do more, “otherwise the managers cannot convince Nigerians to vote for the party in any election. You see how we lost a bright opportunity to retake Ogun in the last general elections and how INEC robbed us in Osun and Ekiti States.”
However, PDP is hoping for a redress through the courts. The party is banking on the spate of violence that permeated the two elections. In this, George remains optimistic that PDP, if well-coordinated and made to speak in one voice, might have a good case to present at the election petition tribunals. He recalled how Dickson was crying foul while the election was ongoing and also the violence recorded throughout Kogi during the two exercises.
Pan-African financial Institution, United Bank for Africa Plc got double honours over the weekend as it emerged the Bank of the year 2019; while its Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Kennedy Uzoka, also emerged CEO of the year at the Business Hallmark Newspaper Awards, held at the Civic Centre in Lagos on Sunday.
Uzoka beat other CEOs to the prize owing to his sterling achievement since he assumed the leadership role of the bank three years ago, whilst UBA was crowned bank of the year following its exceptional performance as it recorded impressive performance in key financial indicators in 2019.
This is the second time this year that Kennedy Uzoka has emerged CEO of the year as he had only recently clinched the Business Day Banking Awards, (BAFI). The recognitions and awards have further endorsed his visionary leadership style which has consistently earned UBA a plethora of laurels.
Receiving the awards on behalf of the bank, at a well-attended ceremony, which assembled distinguished personalities, UBA’s Executive Director, Mr. Ayoku Liadi, who represented the GMD, thanked the organisers for the recognition, noting that he was proud to work at one of the best institutions in Africa.
"We are creating superior value for all our customers, because we believe they are key to our everyday operations and this commitment, without a doubt has been yielding dividends,” Liadi said.
He continued: “Whilst we are encouraged by these awards, the recognitions present new challenges to us, as we will intensify our commitment towards setting benchmarks for the industry, particularly in our strategic roles,”
The Organiser of the awards and the Chief Executive Officer of Business Hallmark, Emeka Obasi, who spoke at the event explained that the best CEO award is borne out of the need to recognise achievements of financial executives who have been outstanding in their profession and have contributed in no small measure to the growth of their organisations and the economy at large.
Obasi also noted that the award given to UBA, is no doubt a well-deserved one, as is evidenced in the banks numerous innovations, and consistent investment in cutting edge technology giving birth to many firsts, including the launch of Leo the Chat Banker, in January of 2018. This fear has earned the bank the number one position in the digital space.
“Uzoka also did well by focusing on consistent expansion of UBA’s activities and services across and beyond the African continent”, all this is worthy of recognition.” Obasi concluded.
Just recently, UBA released its nine-month results ended September 30, 2019, closing the period with an impressive after-tax profit of N81.63bn, a growth of 32% over that of 2018, a momentum the bank will most likely sustain into the full-year, pointing to the possibility of even higher profits.
The bank’s gross earnings for 2019 nine-month stood at N428.22bn, compared to N310.45bn in 2018, representing 37.94% rise, while profit hit N81.63bn, from N61.7bn in 2018. The UBA group’s impairment charges on financial assets for the period decreased to N6.66bn, compared to N10.67bn in 2018, resulting in a decline in loan loss provision of 37.58%, thereby boosting the bank’s profit for the period.
In The Spotlight
Electoral malpractices have become a recurring decimal in Nigeria and have incrementally worsened since the return to democracy in 1999. Something is fundamentally wrong. Nigeria’s renascent democracy has been threatened by blatant corruption and sundry abuses, but these absurdities which have assumed melodramatic proportions got the most devastating advertisement after last Saturday’s gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states; as once again, Nigeria floundered in the wilderness of do-or-die politics.. Police confirmed at least three deaths; maiming, kidnapping; several cases of ballot box snatching, voter intimidation, vote-buying, massive rigging and sundry electoral malpractice, were recorded in both states. Owing to the violence, massive fraud and irregularities that marred the November 16 poll, the election tribunal must not allow the results to stand, as it will validate impunity and set the clock of Nigerian democracy backwards. The election tribunal should cancel the elections outright and send the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) back to the drawing board, to organize free, fair and credible election. The people of Kogi and Bayelsa states deserve nothing less!
Notwithstanding the shenanigans and violence that characterized the November 16 gubernatorial and senatorial elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, INEC went ahead to declare the candidates of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) victorious; even as the electoral umpire declared the Kogi West senatorial district election as inconclusive. It stands logic on its head for INEC to declare part of the election in Kogi as “inconclusive” but still declare the incumbent APC governor, Yahaya Bello as winner of the same election. It is regrettable, indeed unfortunate, that even as the election tribunal is yet to rule on the disgraceful conduct of the elections, President Muhammadu Buhari has been quick to meet and congratulate the purported governor-elect of Bayelsa state, David Lyon, for winning a rigged election. Conferring the seal of authority and presidential legitimacy on a flawed electoral process is a travesty and an insult to democracy.
In the build up to the election, the actions and inaction of some stakeholders, forced many, including observer groups to express fears that bedlam may reign. It did, as reflected in the nadir of the violence in Kogi State, where Umoru Shuaib and Faruk Suleiman were killed, at Barracks Polling Unit in Abocho Community, in Dekina Local Council. Three persons, who were shot in Bayelsa, have their stars to thank for still being alive, while another youth identified as Prince Odede, allegedly had his hand chopped off by political thugs at Ward 5, Opolo, in the Bayelsa state capital of Yenagoa.
In Kogi, which lived up to its reputation as a hotbed of political violence, an unidentified INEC official was kidnapped at the Subeb Polling Unit in Lokoja. The abduction allegedly occurred after gunmen shot sporadically into the air while voting was going on. As voters scampered for safety, the gunmen went away with the official. This happened not long after thugs reportedly attacked the polling unit where Senator Dino Melaye voted. The hoodlums vandalized one ballot box, carted away the other, and shot severally into the air as they departed in a black Hilux van. The gunmen killed the duo in Abocho, while they were about casting their votes, according to eyewitnesses.
As the last hope of the common man, the judiciary must teach Nigerian politicians the lesson that, the wishes of the people as expressed through the ballot box must be respected. Quite predictably, the PDP governorship candidate in Kogi, Musa Wada and the PDP candidate in the Kogi West Senatorial District rerun election; Dino Melaye both rejected the election results; and are heading to the election tribunal. It is obvious there is great disenchantment in Kogi because of the dismal performance of the incumbent governor Bello; rated as the worst governor in Nigeria, on account of his performance. Taking away the right of Kogi people to remove their under-performing governor imposes such a huge moral and political baggage as give little cause for cheer.
Against a disquieting and upsetting legal fracas with the courts disqualifying both APC gubernatorial candidates in Bayelsa, the election was never a process that promised to end peacefully. The countdown was ominous and replete with forebodings to the extent that APC chieftains are asking Bayelsa people to move on, now that winners and losers have emerged. It doesn’t matter that there were massive fraud and poll disruptions in several polling stations while ballot papers were burnt. Even if innocent Nigerian lives were lost due to electoral thuggery, what is more important is that the elections held and culminated in another electoral turnover, giving the ruling APC, another foothold in the South-south in Bayelsa which has been controlled by the PDP since 1999. The imperfections of the process would be dealt with by relevant state institutions, after the PDP candidates asked their irate supporters to remain peaceful, as they would challenge the result in court, instead of recourse to self-help in seeking redress. The people of Kogi and Bayelsa states ought to be congratulated for their political maturity in the face of massive electoral heist. This is how a truly democratic election should record its denouement.
Obviously, the ridiculous assertion that the elections have been decided and the nation should move on, is on its face laughable and should attract no further comment. This kind of thinking smacks of complacency and is unhelpful. All Nigerians must know that the November 17 elections were not just about who becomes governor in Kogi and Bayelsa states. The fate of Nigerian democracy and the future of the citizens of this badly run nation are at stake. Over the years, Nigerians have been saddled with leaders who are bereft of any new offerings on the national agenda and who have made Nigeria a laughing stock in the comity of nations. Between Saturday Nov. 16 till the proclamation of the results in the wee hours of Monday, Nov 18, Nigerians saw videos and pictures of electoral violence, massive rigging, voter suppression and illegal militarization of states that went viral on social media. The manifest and premeditated malpractices to inflate votes in areas that favored APC candidates, while suppressing or disrupting voting in opposition strongholds were so apparent and amateurish, as to negate the final results announced by INEC.
The political parties, especially the ruling APC, whose candidates were declared victorious by INEC, was seen to be preparing for war and not a game of persuading voters to cast their ballots. The instruments of state, including the police were abusively deployed by the federal government to subvert the will of the people. The militarization of the electoral process is a disservice to our democracy and a throwback to the jackboot era of military dictatorship. The electoral umpire INEC was supposed to be above board and avoid creating room for despair and a resort to self-help. INEC was not only supposed to be independent, it had to be seen as being independent.
Through errors of omission and commission, INEC called its own impartiality into questioned, raising a palpable crisis of confidence that undermined the credibility of the process. The issue leaves no room for equivocation: if Nigerians cannot at their own free will and volition, change their leaders through the ballot box; then there is a bigger problem than the country thinks it has. What this means is that any president or governor can abuse his office and power and exhibit dictatorial tendencies and when it is time for elections, deploy the security apparatus and political thugs to intimidate citizens and confiscate power. For how long will the nation continue to reward this kind of bad behavior?
A situation where the total number of votes cast was more than the number of accredited voters by INEC’s own reckoning is more than just electoral malpractice. It is a debasement of the sensibilities and an irreverent infringement on the collective psyche of Nigerians. Also, the shoddy manner in which valid votes cast were cancelled by INEC in areas deemed to be pro-opposition not only belittled Nigerians and Nigeria before the international community, more importantly, it advertised to the whole world a certain peculiar Nigerian definition of democracy that diminishes the ideal and mocks the primacy of the people in the process. There was no excuse for INEC whatsoever, to have delivered such a poor performance in Kogi and Bayelsa, other than gross incompetence, partiality, corruption and mischief.
Allowing the Nov 16 election results declared by INEC to stand will not only subvert Nigerian democracy; it will probably entrench and validate impunity and electoral malpractices which seems to be the new normal under the Buhari administration. The integrity of the judiciary is now at stake, no doubt. Nigerians, however, expect the election tribunal to rise to the occasion and acquit itself creditably. By acting with a modicum of patriotism at this critical period of Nigeria’s political history, the dramatis personae can write their own names in gold and save the country the odium of failure. Should they choose to do otherwise, history will also be there to judge.
In The Spotlight
“God has been so kind, the only way I can show my gratitude to Him is to use my resources to support those who are underprivileged. This I intend to do for the rest of my life. In a world full of conflicts, diseases, calamities and inequality, we all need to show the milk of human kindness, to reach out and comfort the sick and give a helping hand to the weak.” With those touching words about the collective humanity that we all share and the purpose of life, Femi Otedola, Nigerian multi-billionaire and entrepreneur issued a cheque of N5 billion in support of Save the Children, a 100-year old UK-based charity. Otedola’s donation is for the rehabilitation of displaced and underprivileged children who are victims of the insurgency in the North Eastern part of Nigeria. The cheque was presented by Tolani Otedola, the billionaire’s eldest daughter, at a gala event in Abuja, Sunday, organised by another daughter, Florence Otedola, who is popularly known as DJ Cuppy. The latter is an Ambassador for Save the Children and a member of the organisation’s Africa Advisory Board. Femi Otedola’s friend, Aliko Dangote, also a billionaire and a philanthropist of note, added his own donation of N100 million bringing the total donation to N5.1 billion. I do not know how rich Otedola is, but any man that would give away N5 billion (about US $14 million) to support children or anyone in distress certainly has the milk of human kindness flowing through his veins. Otedola deserves special recognition and a word of gratitude for his generosity. By this singular act, and similar gestures in the past, he seems to be changing the narrative about the art of giving and the need for a sense of community and philanthropy in Nigeria. It is not enough to give, but to give consistently and generously, without any expectation of reward or gain.
Of all his efforts as an entrepreneur, Otedola would probably be most remembered for his acts of philanthropy in the long run, that is his social entrepreneurship, the readiness with which he offers a helping hand. In the last year or so, he has been on record for picking up the medical bills of Christian Chukwu, former Captain and coach of the Super Eagles or the Green Eagles as the team was earlier known. Chukwu (now 68) was a commanding presence on the football field. He led his local team, the Enugu Rangers to many victories, and as a member of the Green Eagles, he was a play maker and motivator of the team’s last line of defence. Both his fans and teammates called him “Chairman.” That was not for nothing. And yet the same man could not pay hospital bills. Femi Otedola stepped in and helped out. He did the same for Peter Fregene (now 72), Nigeria’s former international goalkeeper (1968- 1971). And for Majek Fashek, the gifted Reggae musician who at the height of his glory was dubbed “the rainmaker”, in attestation of the force and mythical quality of one of his famous tracks: “Send Down The Rain.” Many fans of his would insist even today, that whenever Majek Fashek performed that song, rain actually fell! But the magic has since left the stage, the myth has been compromised. The same Majek Fashek could also not pay hospital bills. Femi Otedola bailed him out. He also did the same for two famous Nigerian actors: Sadiq Daba and Victor Olaotan. There are probably many others whose cases are not reported in the media.
Nigeria is a very strange place where the future is as uncertain as the present. The gap between the rich and the poor is wider than the entire Sahara Desert. The average Nigerian lives on less than a dollar per day. Social infrastructure is in a state of decay. There is no social security scheme. The public health system collapsed long ago. Private hospitals detain the sick who are unable to pay for treatment. One woman gave birth in a hospital; she and her baby were detained. The country once tried to introduce a National Health Insurance Scheme. It has never worked, because it is used as an instrument of political and ethnic patronage. Ours is a country where even the rich are not sure of tomorrow. Talented people, distinguished professionals in various fields of endeavor end up becoming beggars, or destitute, not necessarily because they did not plan for their future or for unforeseeable accidents of life, but they suffer because Nigeria often leaves its citizens stranded. The state routinely disappoints the people. It is unfair. It can be cruel. People are treated as if they do not matter.
This is why every act of kindness is significant. It is not the amount that matters, but the very thought itself, that gesture that reminds us occasionally that in this pressure cooker of a society in which we live, you can still find a rich man who gives out a dollar or two, a concerned citizen who helps an accident victim, a cab driver who finds a document or some money forgotten by a passenger and returns it, or a security agent who does his work with the fear of God. Such persons are quite rare in these parts, and it is why we need a constant reminder that beyond the state or government, Nigeria is a country where we must continue to search for the meaning of Being-ness, and the reasons for being human. An Otedola helping the sick and the weak reminds us of the big difference that we all can make, not in dollars but each man in his own station according to his strength through simple and possible gestures of kindness.
As for Otedola, I do not imagine that he goes about with an ambulance-load of cash looking for other people’s medical bills to pay. Far from it. He supports other causes as well, particularly poor students whose school fees he pays, educational institutions to which he has donated buildings and religious bodies and groups that he has assisted. By involving his children in his most recent donation, he also signposts a strong narrative about parenting and sustainability. His N5 billion donation is routed through the Cuppy Foundation. The cheque was delivered by his eldest daughter. What else does a man need to say to his daughters or the suitors who want to marry a billionaire’s daughters? He tells them clearly that life goes beyond music, fashion, dancing, boo-ing, bae-ing, vacationing and Gelato-ing.
It is not surprising that his donation of N5 billion drew enthusiastic applause. The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo said it is “the single largest donation to philanthropy in the country.” He may well be right. But perhaps the most notable reaction has been that of Reno Omokri, who describes himself these days as “a table-shaker.” And did Reno Omokri try to shake the table? In this particular matter, he didn’t actually shake the table; he broke the legs. Said he: “Femi Otedola has just put the billionaires of the North East to shame. Where are the Indimis, the Mai Deribe family and other oil billionaires from the North East? Google their names and some of the first pictures you will see are of their children in private jets marrying President’s children and displaying obscene wealth while surrounded by extreme poverty. It took a Good Samaritan stranger to do what the natives of the North East failed to do! Shame on them and God bless the talakawa that they have refused to look after.” This harsh and pain-inflicting comment has stretched the narrative a bit further - with the daughters of the two families that Omokri calls out directly defending family integrity on social media. The emerging controversy about how the rich Nigerian one per cent engages the rest of society and gives back or not is useful. But while Omokri may be accused of trying to politicize or ethnicize the Otedola gesture, we need to place his comment in proper context.
One, he probably generalizes when he refers to “Oil billionaires from the North East” in a manner that may be unfair to some other persons from that part of the country. The North East, one of Nigeria’s six geo-political zones consists of the following states: Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe. I don’t know whether Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is an “oil billionaire” or not, but I know he is from Adamawa state. One of the reasons for his popularity among his people is his generosity and common touch. General TY Danjuma is from Taraba state. He easily belongs to Omokri’s “Oil billionaire” category, but it is a fact that through his TY Danjuma Foundation, the General has done a lot for his own people in Taraba State and across the North East and Nigeria. There is also a Muhammadu Indimi Foundation which prioritises the North East. We can praise Otedola without hurting the feelings of others. Two, while stating this, I am mindful of the bigger point in Omokri’s comment which is the felt, seen, and often commented upon abdication of responsibility by the Nigerian Northern elite.
The Nigerian elite is generally callous, selfish and irresponsible but the most alienated, the worst set can be found in the Northern part of Nigeria, an indolent elite that has occupied the higher rungs of privilege and power before and after independence and yet has not been able to translate its access to power into advantages for its people. Northern Nigeria has the largest number of out-of-school children. It has the largest number of girl-child brides, and other children under difficult circumstances. It has the largest number of persons living below the poverty line. It has the smallest number of educated Nigerians, and the highest number of Nigeria’s “lazy youths.” Reno Omokri throws up the questions: why don’t we have the Northern rich, as many of them as possible, helping their own people? Why must it be a Yoruba man from Epe donating N5 billion to assist displaced children in the North East? Our response to Reno Omokri is that philanthropy needs not wear an ethnic or partisan garb. It is about the collective humanity we share. Isn’t Reno Omokri himself running a #Free LeahSharibu campaign? Leah Sharibu is neither a member of his church nor is she of the Itsekiri stock. Bill and Melinda Gates, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Oprah Winfrey, George Soros, Mark Zuckerberg have supported worthy causes around the world.
What we may legitimately say is that the example of Femi Otedola and others like him necessarily generates a conversation about the purpose of wealth and the place of the privileged in a dispossessed society. Aliko Dangote who made his own donation to the Save the Children charity is probably the leading philanthropist in Nigeria today, in terms of spread and scope, through the Dangote Foundation, which is run by his daughter, Halima Dangote. Dangote appeared on stage recently in New York, with Mo Ibrahim and Bill Gates and he said he is inspired by their examples. Mo Ibrahim, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are among the most generous givers in modern history. It is an ethic that should be encouraged. Closer home in Nigeria, there are other examples: Tony Elumelu, of the Union Bank of Africa (UBA) is the founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation which promotes Africapitalism and provides opportunities for young entrepreneurs in more than 40 African countries. What TOE, as he is otherwise called, has done with that Foundation is impressive and reliable. Jim Ovia is the founder of Zenith Bank. He has invested heavily in education, not for profit, but to provide opportunities for young persons. He is the founder of James Hope College, a world-class, private school in Agbor, Delta State where he tries to provide a strong, educational foundation for the youth of tomorrow. Recently, he launched a branch of the school in Lagos with an offer of full scholarship to 40% of students. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, of Access Bank and Coronation Capital, has a scheme called Africa Initiative for Governance (AIG). Every year, AIG sends five students from Nigeria and Ghana to the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, to take post-graduate degrees in Public Policy. He believes that when they return and they are injected into the public sector, over time a crop of well-trained experts would have been created to act as agents for public sector transformation in Africa. The scholarships are fully funded. There are other philanthropists of course who intervene in their own way – like Professor Pat Utomi who supports widows, Florence Ita-Giwa who provides for the poor in Bakassi, Sir Emeka Offor, Mr. Oba Otudeko, Folorunsho Alakija, Otunba Subomi Balogun… We can have more people in this country willing to give back and help. Reno Omokri may have been direct in his finger-pointing but there is certainly a large community of rich Nigerians out there who do not know what it means to be public-spirited. They are happy to go about in private jets: it costs about US $4 million per annum to maintain a private jet in Nigeria (Otedola’s N5 billion donation is the cost of maintaining a private jet for about 4 years) and yet most of the nouveaux riche are much happier going about in those jets with girls with long legs, fake skin, fake eye lashes, Brazilian butt-lifts, fake accent, and small brains, rather than help the poor. Their type can be found across Nigeria.
But it is not enough to make donations or set up a Foundation. There must be transparency and accountability in the management of funds and processes. Sustainability is important. Too many Foundations rise and fall. We hope Femi Otedola and his daughters will find every reason to sustain their new-found passion.
by Reuben Abati