The Reformed Oghomwan Mandate Group (ROMG) has commended the leadership of the Edo State House of Assembly for declaring vacant the seats of the 12 members-elect who are yet to present themselves for inauguration into the seventh Assembly as well as two others that failed to meet the constitutionally approved 181 sitting days.
The group also called on well-meaning Nigerians, including the Otaru of Auchi, Aliru Momoh III and the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, to find common ground to end the political crisis embroiling the state. A statement by ROMG’s Director of History, Statistics and Strategy Wing, George Osagie Osaghae, in Benin City, urged the monarch to prevail on the former labour leader in the interest of peace.
It commended the “uncommon display of courage by the Edo State House of Assembly Speaker, Mr. Frank Okiye, in declaring the 14 members-elect seats vacant.”Osaghae said the 14 absentee members’ action to stay away from office six months after inauguration of the legislature was a threat to democracy and the rule of law.
“We must salute the uncommon tolerance level of Edo State House of Assembly Speaker Frank Okiye.“ This call has become imperative as the Binis are more than ever unanimous that Oshiomhole’s pejoration against Governor Godwin Obaseki’s second term smacks of tribal hatred unless he is cautioned by the Otaru and well-meaning Etsako people,” he stated.
He continued: “Whereas, a good number of Edo South members-elect are affected by the irrevocable plenary decision of the State House of Assembly, we wholeheartedly welcome the declaration and unreservedly so, because, the so-called honourable members-elect should not be allowed to continually hold the legislative progress of their constituencies to ransom under the unholy godfatherism of a brigand,” which was interpreted as a veiled reference to Oshiomhole.
“Fighting purposefully is a honourary duty, but fighting for the sake of being a notorious fighter is a vice, and must be condemned by all, hence, we condemn the reprehensible acts of hostility being waged against Governor Godwin Obaseki, Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu and Speaker Frank Okiye.”
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
Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi experienced a dose of the peoples’ anger in faraway Madrid Spain, where he was attacked by some Nigerians as he took part in the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference, dubbed COP25. Although Amaechi was lucky to have been rescued by Spanish police officers who whisked him off the venue to safety, eye-witness accounts paint the picture of a sad and embarrassing spectacle watching a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria being mobbed in such a disgraceful manner outside the shores of the country. This blight on the toga of Nigeria’s image is one more international embarrassment the nation can do without.
The attack on Amaechi follows a similar ordeal by former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu who was manhandled in Nuremberg, Germany, where he visited to address a gathering of Igbo nationals as a guest of his kith and kin. In that instance, the proscribed Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) claimed responsibility for the assault and vowed to attack more Nigerian officials who travel outside the country. Videos of Ekweremadu’s encounter went viral on social media and sadly most commentators viewed it with sadistic relish and infantile gloating. These incidents like the reasons advanced to justify them are unacceptable. There is no rational justification for Nigerians; wherever they may be, to wash their proverbial dirty linen in front of the international public.
More so, as the unfortunate incidents threw up some of the intense contradictions of contemporary Nigerian life – how our people have taken political differences to the extreme, how capricious mob actions could be in confronting political issues, how leaders have tragically failed to meet their social obligations to the people, and how we find some ambivalence in totally condemning acts of self-help as occasioned by the Madrid and Nuremberg experiences. It also internationalized the dilemma of the Nigerian people in dealing with state failure and gross official ineptitude.
Upon reflection, this raises certain posers: do Nigerian leaders at all levels – the executive arm at federal and state levels, the legislative arm both at national and state levels – feel the angst which the people have against them? Do members of the judiciary know that the Nigerian people are angry with them? Do they realise that there is a deep disenchantment with the system and its operators and that any opportunity to physically express that anger can easily be exploited? Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky observed in his seminal novel Crime and Punishment that “when reason fails, the devil helps.” The devil, as it were, has taken a front and dominant seat in the relationship between the leaders and the masses in Nigeria as it now seems that reason has been a failure that keeps failing.
To be sure, no self-respecting media outfit should lend support to violence as a means of expressing disagreement. An endorsement of self-help promotes chaos and anarchy. We are therefore at odds with the resort to self-help, which the Nigerians in Spain demonstrated when they attacked Amaechi who was in Spain on a national assignment. The consequences of this trend becoming a pattern can only be better imagined because it sets a dangerous precedent that could lead to unexpected dire outcomes, including serious bodily harm and even loss of lives. For, as we know, once an action by a mob starts, there is no predicting its denouement. It takes on a life of its own with certain persons using it to settle personal scores. Furthermore, Nigerian politicians with their remarkable genius for travesty; known for their wily ways could instigate persons to embarrass officials with whom they have political differences. So, the mob mentality, which reigned supreme in the assault on Amaechi, is condemnable.
However, we must call to question the yawning income gap and access to the good things of life between the average elected or appointed officials and Nigerians. To be elected or appointed seems to confer on one the power to exploit the resources of the state. Else, how do we account for the stupendous amounts being approved as welfare packages for the supposed servants of the state? The staggering sums, which are allocated to officials in the name of work, are offensive to social justice and equity. We are indeed sowing the seeds of eternal discord that could lead to mass revolt. Added to this is the failure of the government to secure life and property with insecurity running riot. If brigandage gives the political elite access to power and state resources, then the people, particularly youths, who voted with their feet by immigrating to seek greener pastures abroad, would begin to see themselves as bona fide claimants to the self-help theory to protect the state.
Certainly, this is not the way to go. Is this not partially responsible for the criminal behavior of some youth who have taken to cybercrime as a way of keeping up with the Joneses? We do not rationalize criminality. The hard fact is that the trajectory and philosophy of governance in Nigeria inexorably encourages criminality and eccentricity. It is apposite to observe that the government is sparing no effort to muzzle internal dissent by descending harshly on non-violent protesters. To a large degree, citizens who were vociferous in expressing divergent opinions and promoting a healthy counter-discourse are being cowed.
Unfortunately however, Nigerians in the diaspora cannot be bullied into submission. They live in climes where the right to protests and free expression is fully guaranteed and protected. They monitor events at home and often would tell anyone who cares to listen that if things change back home, they would rather return than be second-class citizens in Europe, America, Asia, etc. As a result, their passion for change is often greater than those who have remained at home. The assault on Amaechi in Spain is a pointer to this fact that should not be ignored, in the circumstances.
The doctrine of change, anti-corruption and the next level which characterized President Muhammadu Buhari’s elections were expected to alter the narrative. Sadly, five years down the line Nigerians are beginning to worry about the true dreams and intentions of the Buhari administration. Daily, the nation is bombarded with bad news of malfeasance, murders, and kidnappings. In the states, although official corruption is raging, there is a culture of silence because most fingers are deep in looting the pie. Hardly do state governments charge any official to court for corruption. It is only when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) makes an arrest that we hear of fraud at that level. What is the Nigeria Police Force doing? Are they so enmeshed in harassing helpless citizens and extorting bribes that they have become complicit in official corruption at the state level?
These are the most difficult and trying periods in the history of Nigeria. Our continued existence as a nation is fundamentally under tension. Nationhood in a federation is not to be taken for granted: it must be nurtured in the altar of truth, justice, and equity. The signs are not good. The optics are bad; really bad. Daily existence is a nightmare compounded by a seeming acquiescence to brigandage by some sacred cows. The body language of Mr. President is not encouraging. The people are disenchanted and have resorted to self-help to seek redress in their own courts, promoted by social media. Except definite and progressive steps are taken to address the drift, it is easy to prognosticate that there will be more assaults on public officials abroad in the months ahead.
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