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A Nation in Search of Hope

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By Reuben Abati

 “Where have you been, you this guy?”

“Omo, I no go deceive you. I just meet this girl wey dey turn my head. Shey you know, I no go deceive you. You don’t need to die to discover Heaven. Heaven is right here on earth, except you have not been lucky to discover it.

This my new babe hen, I am convinced that she descended from Heaven at a special moment of the Lord’s intervention.

“I hope nobody has given you vegetable to eat.

You sound like you are under a spell. I asked you where you have been and all you are telling me is how you met a girl as if you are in a trance.
Well, I must assume you are talking about your wife.”

“Which wife? That one? You don’t get it.

“I don’t. Whatever has come over you, I pray in the name of the Lord Jesus will leave you. Because I don’t know why men will see danger and embrace it with their full chest.”

“Leave matter. Don’t pastors also see women they love and desire, and they keep their Bible aside and obey the call of flesh, the evidence of their eyes and submit themselves to their own humanity and nature? Leave matter.”

“So, when are you going to introduce me to this your new woman that you are so ecstatic about? What is her name? When do I get to meet her?”

“Whenever you want to meet her. Almost a virgin. Fresh. Innocent. Her name is Chidinma.”

“Yeh! Blood of Jesus! Blood of Jesus!”

“Are you alright?”

“What did you say her name is, just now?”

“Chidinma.”

“Oh Jesus! Ore, why are you doing this to yourself? You wan die? One Chidinma has just been paraded by the police in Lagos in a homicide case. She has been accused of killing one of your type, a successful young man with a great future, an entrepreneur with skills and talent, who gave access to a young woman, and ended up dying through her. Such a tragic story, such a sad event, it should make every man run away from any woman that bears the name Chidinma.”

“Are you okay? Are you listening to yourself? You run the risk of group defamation. Every Chidinma in Nigeria should sue you, individually and collectively.”

“Na you sabi. I beg. I am speaking for myself. Since that tragedy was reported, I have been thinking of the pains of Michael Usifo Ataga’s family. He was someone’s son, cousin, brother, husband and a father too. He had a whole world ahead of him. It was even a day to his birthday. His family was looking forward to celebrating him at 50. And then the devil showed up in the shape of Delilah, Cleopatra and Helen of Troy, and destroyed him. I feel the pain in my bone marrows. These days, when I hear the name Chidinma or Adaora, I break out in sweat.”

“You see, this is the problem with you people. You like conspiracy theories. So, because one Chidinma committed a crime, every Chidinma has now become a villain. For your information, Chidinma means “My God is beautiful”. And Adaora means “the daughter of all,” that is the people’s daughter. What is in a name? When a crime is committed, it is for the police to do their work, and ensure justice. The case you are talking about has nothing to do with the name of the suspect. Candidly, I no longer understand how people reason in this country. Is it the poverty? Or the bad politics?”

“After what happened last week, if I hear Chidinma or Adaora, na race be that oh. A girl of 21 years, going out with a man of 50, and yet she killed him in such a gruesome manner. The whole story does not even make sense to me. It does not add up. It is a story about poverty, greed, peer influence, drug abuse, parental upbringing, infidelity, and frustration. Yes, every man should be careful and avoid an amoral life, but that is no reason why the Chidinma, undergraduate of the University of Lagos should kill, drug, tie up and destroy.”

“What if you hear Mary? You go run?”

“That is my mother’s name. Don’t bring my mother’s name into this matter.”

“You see yourself then? Are you aware that the alleged murderer had a fake identity with the name: Mary Johnson? Will you now start running away from every Mary? What has happened is not funny? Nigerians should stop misbehaving, creating all kinds of theories and misinforming people. In case you don’t know, the Ataga family has issued a statement, appealing to the public to stop turning a family tragedy into a material for malice and mischief. I think their feelings should be respected. The police should be allowed to do their work. All self-appointed detectives should be told: Enough! And that should be enough”

“Since you know all of that, then people like you should learn your lesson. Stay with your wife. If you must have a girlfriend, then Know Your Customer. It is called KYC. Stay away from girls from problematic backgrounds. Don’t get carried away by young girls with so-called innocent looks. Mata Hari had innocent looks but she was evil. Every femme fatale is a vamp. Delilah. Helen of Troy. Cleopatra. And above all, don’t play around with drugs.”

“Thank you, preacher. Let he who is innocent cast the first stone.”

“Very sad the way tragedy occurs in this country unabated. It can get to somebody, you know, and it is beginning to get to me. I was reading the newspapers the other day, just going through an accumulated pile. I was depressed. If Chidinma is not murdering Michael, Maryam is killing Abubakar, Funke kills Femi, one husband kills his wife because of N2,000, one fellow accuses his mother of being a witch and decides to kill her, a jealous step-mother throws her stepson into a well, someone abducts another man’s wife and rapes her for five months, herdsmen kill farmers, farmers kill cows and herders and their kinsmen, a group of avengers claim they will ensure the permanent recession of Nigeria and humiliate the government, some other groups want to secede… Is there hope? Tell me, where does our hope lie, those of us who fought for this democracy? Can someone help me make sense of this unending deluge of sad news?”

“Oh come on, there is hope. This is the way it has always been with Nigeria since independence. Things go wrong. But just when you think the country will collapse, it suddenly bounces back. What we need is love. Unity. Understanding. The problem is that too many of our people are quick to imagine the worst. But I can tell you, Nigeria will survive.”

“But some prophets have said the country will break up. I know one or two pastors who insist that Nigeria has come to an end.”

“You must stop listening to those spellbinders, futurologists and shamanists. Most of them do not know what they do.”

“It is the word of God. Can’t you see the signs?”

“What signs?

“Are you not aware that a group of Southern and Middle Belt leaders have approached the African Union, the UN, the World Bank and the IMF that they must no longer do business with Nigeria, and must never give the country any loan, because the sovereignty of the country is now being disputed?”

“Don’t worry yourself. Nothing will come out of it. I can assure you that all of those institutions you have mentioned will continue to do business with Nigeria and even grant more loans.”

“But what of the restive youths of the Niger Delta who are threatening to humiliate the entire country? There is Operation Humble by the Niger Delta Avengers, which is even led by a woman, former Field Commander of Operation Red of 2016 now Brigadier General Tu-ere, also known as Queen of the Creeks. A woman! There is also the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, leading Operation No Mercy Alpha Piper Zero Oil. We also have the Niger Delta Liberators. They all want to cripple Nigeria.”

“No worry yourself. Na today?”

“There are separatist groups everywhere. In the East. In the West. In the South South.”

“Na so e dey be any time a major election is around the corner. Everything na hustle. Nobody dey go anywhere. Is it not this same Nigeria all of us dey inside?”

“I think it is different this time around. People are genuinely aggrieved and upset. Nigeria is at a breaking point. You make everything sound so light.”

“Too much grammar. That is our problem. And I keep saying do not focus on the moment, do a trend analysis of Nigerian politics over the years. When people need something, they will make noise, agitate, threaten to pull down the roof but when you speak to them in the language they understand, they will calm down and Nigeria will move on.”

“Of course. That is exactly how Nigerian leaders keep postponing the evil day until one day, monkey will go market he no go return. This is the root cause of the civil war, the June 12 crisis, the menace of military autocracy, the #EndSARS protests, the thinking that some people can seize the reins of power and treat the people shabbily, refuse to listen to them and simply assume that nothing will happen. But I think we are dealing with a new Nigeria. There is a new generation that has emerged that can no longer be taken for granted the way their parents were. They are fighting back in all ways, from rented slaughter beds, short-time joints, to the streets.”

“That is what you think.”

“That is what I know. The dynamics have changed. This new generation is on drugs, they are high on all kinds of substances, they don’t care, they are not afraid of any authority figure. On top of it all, they are educated and outspoken, and they have access to technological means of instant communication. My advice is that the political elite should stop daring them. They will kill and maim, and look innocent. Nigeria has created demons, waiting to strike.”

“Can I make some predictions?”

“I thought you just condemned prophets and pastors a while ago.”

“Yes, I did. But I want to speak as a pragmatist. Stop giving yourself hypertension. Nigeria is this. Nigeria is that. For example, have you not seen the desperation with which politicians have been fighting over party primaries in all the major political parties in Anambra State? The desperation. The theatre PDP, APC, APGA. Does that give you the impression that everyone has given up on this country? No. All the gladiators have followership. They are all convinced that there is still something of value in this country. After their crisis-ridden political primaries, they have all rushed to Abuja to take instructions from the centre.”

“The Igbo political elite do not represent their people.”

“Who told you that? So do the Yoruba or Fulani political elite represent their people?”

“I don’t know.”

“My friend, wake up. Stop getting sick over Nigeria’s problems. Spread love. Get yourself one young girl who can make you happy, and drive away your sorrows.”

“God forbid. I choose to be on the level.”

“Everything God. God. Have you forgotten that everything good and ugly, the Lord makes them? It is the way of the universe. It is the way the Grand Architect has made it all.”

“No. I am okay. And you have not answered my original question before you went off on a tangent about how Nigeria is in a safe and secure place and how the obvious signs of implosion mean nothing to you.”

“What was your question again?”

“Is there something to hope for? I no longer feel safe in this country. I can just pack my bags now, take my children and relocate to Canada with all my frustrations! Arrrgh!”

“And I told you to stop panicking.”

“When even a nationalist and stateman like Baba Olusegun Obasanjo is panicking. He says population explosion is a ticking time bomb in Nigeria. By the year 2050, Nigeria could be the third most populated country in the world. A time could come when Nigeria could be the country with the largest population. Imagine the crisis that will occur. There will be an explosion of poverty, criminals, separatists, decayed infrastructure and too many useful idiots in high and low places.”

“Are you sure the former President made that statement?”

“Yes. He was very factual, analytical and on point. Brilliant submission, as always.”

“Of course. But I recall once reading a book by the same Baba Obasanjo in which he listed his biological and adopted children. I believe I saw more than 20 names, his direct personal contribution to the Nigerian population, not to add an emergent family tree that includes grandchildren and great grandchildren. Baba is my role model. I will like to be like him, and when we get to that stage, can we then discuss the population of Nigeria?”

“You always like to twist people’s thoughts.”

“Listen to me, don’t let anybody give you headache in this country. Get smart. Niger Delta Avengers claim they will humiliate Nigeria. I hope they have heard that electric cars are now in Nigeria, even at the University of Lagos, and that the same Nigeria has accidentally discovered about 206 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in addition to another 600 billion cubic feet. Accidentally! And the man that disclosed that information is a son of the Niger Delta, Minister of State, Timipre Sylva”

“The gas belongs to the people of the Niger Delta. That is the elephant in the room. The accidental discovery does not change anything.”

“You still don’t get the language. Okay. Okay.”

“Nothing is okay”

“Okay then.”

Reuben Abati, a former presidential spokesperson, writes from Lagos.

OPINION

Taking the Right Steps to Save Naira from Further Decline

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By Tony Obiechina

Against the backdrop of continued fall of the Naira, the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) had recently announced that it would join forces with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to clamp down on currency speculators and economic saboteurs.

There is no doubting the fact that the increasing scarcity of the dollar and its growing demand in Nigeria remain the principal reasons for the troubled Naira.

Infact as at Friday, the Naira’s summersaults reached an unimaginable low level of N2000/$1, even as analysts say that all is not well with the Naira.

According to financial experts the unwholesome activities by manipulators who operate through several digital channels  are remotely contributing  to naira’s weakness and  even inflation, resulting to rising food costs and negating financial stability.

One of such unwholesome activities is the crypto environment that is largely not regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN).

In other climes, especially the United States, there are regulatory frameworks for crypto environment and violations of any extant regulations attract severe sanctions.

Of particular note is Binance which has digital tentacles with large players here in Nigeria. The regulations inherent in the United States crypto space was enough to deal with violations by Binance and its management.

According to the US Justice department, Binance admitted it engaged in Anti-Money Laundering, Unlicensed Money Transmitting, and Sanctions Violations in Largest Corporate Resolution to Include Criminal Charges for its Executive.

The justice department further said “Binance Holdings Limited (Binance), the entity that operates the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Binance.com, pleaded guilty and has agreed to pay over $4 billion to resolve the Justice Department’s investigation into violations related to the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), failure to register as a money transmitting business, and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

The company’s founder and chief executive officer (CEO), Changpeng Zhao, a Canadian national, also pleaded guilty to failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering (AML) program, in violation of the BSA and has resigned as CEO of Binance.

In Nigeria, the concern now is how Binance and other  digital assets platforms are serving as  window for peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions giving opportunity to users to showcase interest to sell or buy currencies of their choice.

It is reported that Nigeria is currently the biggest P2P market in the world, which came about after the Central Bank of Nigeria banned institutions from buying and selling crypto in 2021. However, a circular issued to banks in December 2023 lifted the crypto ban on Nigerian banks facilitating cryptocurrency transactions.

Many Nigerians dealing with foreign exchange struggle to conduct transactions through traditional banking and Bureau de Change channels. This is due to significantly higher fees for transferring foreign currency within the banking system than in the crypto market, making P2P transfers more attractive.

Consequently, in this unregulated market, individuals or groups place large buy or sell orders on the platform with no plans to execute them.

This development has therefore created a false illusion of high demand , influencing others to buy or sell at manipulated prices. This deceptive practice, targets unsuspecting investors, leaving them with significant financial losses and as in the case of naira.

However government crack down on the parallel markets has started yielding positive results as noticed in the reaction of the Association of Bureau De’Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON). Its President, Mr. Aminu Gwadabe has commended the management of the CBN for the action.

He said, “for the past two and a half years this is the first time we have seen engaging and a listening CBN. We have seen how to collaborate to ensure that we get a solution on how we can solve the problem because it is a national crisis that’s where we are now.

“Two, we have witnessed a lot of raids and arrests I want to draw a caveat. Unfortunately there is stigmatisation and criminalisation of the sector due to lack of understanding even with the security agencies there is lack of clarification between who is licensed and who is not. So the raids that is going on, as a licensed Bureau De’Change a regulatory entity.

“For us we are licensed and regulated and as a licensed Bureau De’Change there are criteria, you must have an office, you must render returns you must comply with necessary regulations. What is happening is not targeted at licensed Bureau De’Change but the operator of FX street trading. For us we are against any street trading and we support any actions that will remove street trading. It affects me also, I have an office but my clients cannot come to my office because of the menace of street traders”.

“I want to congratulate the government, the CBN if it can be sanitize. We support any sanitization that can remove street trading. We have all seen it, there is no place on earth that you can go and see rampant street trading of FX so we’re in support of it”.

However, the recent pronouncement from  the presidency in respect of how naira can be strengthened is a welcome development going by a statement from the office of the National Security Adviser(ONSA) it spoke of its synergy with the CBN to sanitise the foreign exchange market.

Similarly, Special Adviser to President Bola Tinubu on information and strategy, Mr  Bayo Onanuga said Binance and other crypto platforms should be banned from operating in Nigeria.

In an X post on Wednesday, he also said foreign exchange (FX) aggregator, abokiFX, should be banned again.Onanuga made the statement while reacting to a comment by Mikael C. Bernard, an X user, who shared posts on cryptocurrency and FX rates.

The presidential aide said Bernard stated in an X post that “Naira is going to zero”.

Onanuga’s statement is coming amid the continuous depreciation of the naira, which fell to N2000/$ at the parallel section of the FX market on February 23, 2024.

In his post, the special adviser said Binance is “blatantly setting exchange rate for Nigeria,” and hijacking the role of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

He said the cryptocurrency trading platform is facing restrictions in multiple jurisdictions, such as the United States, Singapore, Canada and the United Kingdom.

It would be recalled that previous CBN guidelines, while aiming to curb banking involvement with crypto, leave the P2P space largely unsupervised and country is at the receiving end.

The vacuum created by non-regulation has allowed manipulative tendencies in P2P market, making the integrity of the market to nosedive, while  eroding investor confidence.

Nigeria, and indeed the regulatory authorities should consider a review of the existing guidelines  to check this menace, or probably liquidate their operations in the country as their activities pose a great risk to national security.

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OPINION

Why Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger Exit from ECOWAS is no BREXIT

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By Olu Jacobs

Comparisons are being made between the sudden exit of the military juntas of
Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger from the Economic Community of West African
States, ECOWAS, and Britain’s 31 st January 2020 official exit of Britain from the
European Union.
On the surface, similarities can be found with Brexit, to wit: some small nation
with a fraction of the GDP of the entire group leaves a Community of equals and
forfeits all the advantages of the economies of scale inherent in a single market
where there is unhindered intra-Community movement of goods and services,
unencumbered by law or tariffs.


As the pretext for leaving, the errant countries accused the Union of promoting
unpleasant polices, policies which were in fact part of the fundamentally practices
of the body and core mandate of the group, and entrenched in its rules of
procedure and which has sustained the Union throughout the 40 or so odd years
of its existence
As a consequence of leaving a group which exerts stronger bargaining power as a
block, the decampees runs the risk of losing out on the group’s negotiating
power and may no longer enjoy free trade with the rest Member
States
But here the comparison ends.
The UK at least held a
referendum where its people voted to leave the EU. The trio of
Capt. Ibrahim Traoré, Col. Assimi Goita, and Brig. Gen. Abdourahamane Tiani,
did not bother with such niceties. Having come to power through the force of
arms, they were under no obligation to inform their people, much less seek their
views, before the pompous announcement penultimate weekend that, “taking all
their responsibilities in the face of history and responding to the expectations,
concerns, and aspirations of their populations, decide in complete sovereignty on

the immediate withdrawal of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger from the Economic
Community of West African States.”
Moreover, Britain was not buffeted by terrorists on the verge of overrunning the
country when it left the EU, nor did it need any help with its security
architecture. On the contrary, it was the most powerful military force in the
union at the time with a strong economy. Still, leaving the EU against popular
expectations shook the global markets and caused the British pound to fall to
its lowest level against the dollar in 30 years. The following day, Prime
Minister David Cameron resigned, and economists suggest that Brexit may
have irreversibly harmed the British economy despite its development level
and reduced its real per capita income, in the long term.
One can therefore imagine the implication for Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger
which together belonged to the ten poorest countries in the world, abandoning
the $702bn economy that ECOWAS represents. These three are not only
landlocked nations bedeviled by the twin plagues of recurring drought and
terrorism, they are moreover hounded by sanctions, substantial populations of
internally displaced persons who are near famine and a losing battle with ISIS-
Sahel and other violent groups.
Burkina Faso for instance is ranked the fourth worst terrorist plagued nation in the
world after Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia. It had 597 violent attacks across 10 of its
13 regions in 2022 leading to thousands of deaths and an estimated 1.6 million of its
population internally displaced. Mali‘s 4500 miles of porous borders with seven
neighboring countries has seen similar armed attacks, abductions, car jackings, IEDs,
vehicle-borne IEDs, rocket attacks, targeted assassinations, and armed imposed
blockades and ambushes. With their security services overwhelmed, they can hardly
cope as ISIS-Sahel, formerly known as ISIS-GS, and the al-Qa’ida-affiliated JNIM
operate indiscriminately.
A recent report ( Pls attribute) described this part of the Sahel as “the epicenter of
terrorism globally accounting for 43 percent of terrorism deaths in 2022, more than
South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa combined.”
These are compounded by pervasive poverty, battles over decreasing resources,
mass displacement of people as a result of climate change and refugee problems
caused by ubiquitous violence which have collectively transformed the area into the
epicentre of terrorism . Yet although General Tiani said the reason for his coup was
to check the scourge of terror, the truth was that by 2022, his Niger, which the year

before had the largest increase in terrorism deaths had already turned a corner.
President Bazoum was winning the war on terror so much so that 90 percent of
deaths from extremist groups in the Sahel in 2022 occurred in Burkina Faso and Mali
which were, ironically led by military juntas.
The Niger coup therefore was more likely to worsen rather than reduce the scourge
of terrorism, as history has shown, which was one reason ECOWAS was set against
it and took the drastic measures to impose sanctions and invoke the protocol that
allows it to use force if necessary to dislodge an un democratic government. Another
reason, apart from the need to halt the domino effect of this putsch on neighboring
countries, was because Niger had turned into a bastion of democracy in the Sahel, a
bulwark against Russian and jihadist movement and proof of the success of western
alliance. With the coup the nation lost all aids and military assistance. The EU
foreign policy chief Josep Borrell promptly announced the “immediate
cessation of budget support” and suspension of “all cooperation actions in
the domain of security,” which translated means its allocation of EUR 500
million for improving governance, education, and sustainable growth in the
country, it’s 27 million-euro military training mission (EUMPM) in Niger in
addition to around 1,500 Barkhane troops stationed in the country, has
come to an end with “immediate cessation of budget support” and
suspension of “all cooperation actions in the domain of security.”
France which has provided the country with around EUR 120 million
in development aid in 2022 also suspended all development and budget
support, and the US which had two military drone bases and over 1,000
troops deployed in Niger, and had just announced $150 million in direct
assistance also suspended its security cooperation with Nigerien forces.  
For a nation which the World Bank estimates has about 10 million of its
people, or around 40 percent of the population, emershed in extreme
poverty, the lowest Human Development Index (HDI) worldwide and
battling acute water scarcity and food insecurity and high population
growth, there is little doubt that Niger needs all the help it can get from
ECOWAS. In total, the country, like the rest two, relies on close to USD 2
billion a year in official development assistance of which ECOWAS provides
a sizable part and more importantly access to the huge regional market.
Economic sanctions led to the closure of the bustling border between Niger and
Nigeria, halting roughly $1.3 billion worth of annual trade. The United States goods

exports alone to ECOWAS in 2022 were $6.7 billion, and its imports from
ECOWAS totaled $9.4 billion in 2022, up 38.8 percent ($2.6 billion) from 2021.
This is the market that the three nations will forfeit. According to a report, Guinea’s
2008 coup and Mali’s coup had erased a combined $12 billion to $13.5 billion from
their economies over five years, which represented 76% of Guinea’s 2008 gross
domestic product and almost half of Mali’s 2012 GDP.
The real goal of ECOWAS is to promote economic cooperation among member
states in order to raise living standards and promote economic development. The
regional group has also worked hard to address security issues by developing a
peacekeeping force for conflicts in the region. The three juntas claimed they were
taking their 75m people out of the bloc because it has not helped them fight
terrorism. That is clearly not true. For instance, ECOWAS sent thousands of
soldiers to help Mali in 2013 when a jihadist onslaught almost overran it. ECOWAS
members were in fact the leading troop contributors to a UN peacekeeping mission
there until the junta sacked it last year.
Now we come to the real real reason why the three coupists announced on Sunday 28th January
that they were taking their countries out of the regional body. Clearly it is to escape the pressure
been mounted by ECOWAS to return their nations to democracy. Mali and Burkina Faso were
already set to hold elections this year as promised ECOWAS, and Niger is under pressure to
produce a short transition timeline for civil rule.
Lashed by hunger, terror and civil strife the economies of Mali, Niger and Burkina
Faso are stunted by what has been called a “multi-dimensional crisis where insecurity,
humanitarian need, rapid urbanization of the country and the drastic effects of
climate change—impacting access to food and water, which fuel intercommunal
conflict, all converge.”
The earlier they return to the embrace of ECOWAS, the better. As a matter of fact,
the West African regional body remains Africa’s most successful example of
integration and economic, political and security cooperation. People’s free movement
throughout the region, underpinned by the visa-free system and a common passport,
is one of ECOWAS’ key achievements benefitting the region’s citizens. For landlocked
countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger especially, the Customs Union
facilitates imports through the application of a single common external tariff.
For almost 50 years, ECOWAS’ rules and operating methods have shaped
governance in its Member States.
In effect, the withdrawal of these countries which together account for 15% of
ECOWAS’ population, but nearly half its surface area is some blow to the regional

body and potentially a disaster for the three landlocked countries. However, it is
important for the reputation and the overall well-being of ECOWAS that the
countries return to the fold.
At the extraordinary Session of Ministerial Mediation and Security Council meeting,
which held Thursday to discuss this and the situation in Senegal where the president
had suddenly postponed elections, ECOWAS Commission President, Alieu Touray
said, “If there is a time for ECOWAS to stay together, this is the time … There is no
challenge that ECOWAS cannot overcome.”
ECOWAS has always insisted that the modalities of their withdrawal are
irregular, that such sudden departures are impossible to implement, and do not
comply with ECOWAS’ governing treaty which stipulates one year formal notification
during which states asking to leave must respect their commitments to the bloc. 
Critics say the current situation presents an opportunity for ECOWAS to review its
frameworks, policies and practices to make the organisation more consistent and
effective and responsive to the development needs of the constituent States.
While doing that, it might not be a bad idea to create conditions for the return of
the three countries to the regional bloc either.

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OPINION

Herbert Wigwe: The Things Yet Unsaid

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By Dakuku Peterside

Clean-shaven, suave, upwardly mobile, and incurably optimistic, Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe (HOW) was one of the most recognisable figures in the banking space and corporate Nigeria. His official biography could only be written by him. But I hope his example can inspire and influence us.

Accurately describing Herbert in one word can be compared to explaining the mystery of centuries in a few words or a wild goose chase.
It is a nuanced and complex process.

He was an extraordinary businessman who died alongside his wife and son in the United States of America under exceptional circumstances.

His tragic and sudden departure reverberated beyond our shores.
But who was Herbert Wigwe? I can only answer this question from the narrow prism of my friendship and many encounters with him.

Herbert and I were members of the same local church assembly, and I witnessed his dedication to spirituality, good works, and commitment to church growth. It is easy to explain this because of his solid Christian foundation. Herbert’s father, Elder Shyngle Wigwe, is a pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Herbert was a man of prayers, which he complemented with a ruthless work ethic. He attributed all his successes to God’s blessings.

Both of us are from Rivers State, and we had many sessions on how best to fix the politics of Rivers and, by extension, improve the State’s development trajectory. Herbert was utterly detached from politics but had deep insight into political manoeuvrings. We debated the affairs of Rivers State and the country, and he baffled me with the precision with which he predicted the outcome of political contests. He would quickly tell you that his political party is Nigeria and no other.

His passion for Nigeria was simply unwavering. Only a few persons can match his faith in Nigeria. He firmly believed that he would impact society by using businesses to provide solutions to society’s needs and create wealth that would touch the lives of many. He was unapologetically capitalist, in the proper sense of it, and he lived his life using capital to solve many of societies’ needs, such as creating employment, paying taxes, providing lots of charity, and investing heavily in world-class university education. He used capital as an instrument for socio-cultural upliftment across Africa.

Herbert was a man of bold dreams and obsessed with excellence, while making room for unavoidable mistakes. Herbert never gave up on any bold dream, no matter the odds. He rode the waves of challenges and was filled with the spirit of hard work, dedication, and strokes of ingenuity. He had bold dreams in all ramifications, and this was self-evident.

First, as a young banker, he teamed up with his friend and partner to acquire “a distressed bank”, rated number 89 then, and turn it around in two decades to become one of the top five banks, with an assets base of over N20.9 trillion. This is phenomenal. Herbert, as CEO, set out to build an Access Bank with the vision of becoming the gateway to Africa, and the world’s most respected African bank. With presence in more than 13 African countries, plus footprints in other continents, Access Bank was working towards realising this vision. Second, Wigwe University, which Herbert personally referred to as the “Future Harvard University of Africa,” was another extraordinary, bold dream. He set out to build the best University in Africa, investing $500 million in the initial set-up. You do not need further testament that he was a man of bold dreams.

An entrepreneur extraordinaire, his mystique was his ability to sniff out opportunities where others saw none, multiplied by the fact that he was one of the most persistent persons I know when going after opportunities. He mentored many budding entrepreneurs, top managers, and top academics in entrepreneurship. Apart from his well-known flagship institution, Access Bank, he was active in other financial services concerns, construction, oil and gas, aviation, film, and music, and, most recently, the education sector. He made a star success of all his multiple business pursuits.

Herbert’s hidden strength was his ability to connect with people of all classes and cadres, accompanied by a related instinct to simplify complex things in the most basic way. His mastery of Rivers’ version of Pidgin English could only equal his fluency in Queens’ English. He was among the few successful people referred to as the “original old Port Harcourt boy.” Another strength of his was his courageous, daring, patient, and persistent nature, which added to his relentless ambition to accomplish exceptional things. This attracted to him friends and foes in equal measure.

His philanthropic work in the Herbert Wigwe Foundation, which he founded in 2016, focused on youth empowerment, health, arts, and education. This focus on youth development was central to his mentoring, given his strong belief in the importance of the youth in the development of Nigeria and Africa. He was an art enthusiast and contributed to the development of art in the country. As the art connoisseur he was, his collection reflected his passion for excellence, diversity, and social purpose. The HOW foundation extensively supported many healthcare projects for the downtrodden among us. His charity works were unique because he loathed publicity about it.

Herbert’s enduring legacy is the power of vision, bold dreams, courage, and determination to pursue it and rally people to accomplish the objective. This is what we need to improve in our public space. History has shown that bold dreams have the power to transform societies. He was exceptionally enterprising and entrepreneurial.

Listening to Herbert talk about his vision was to find yourself in the oasis of inspiration. He genuinely believed that there was nothing you fixed your mind on that you could not accomplish. He had bold dreams for the banking sector, tertiary education, the oil and gas industry and most importantly, society.

What lessons can we learn from him? Herbert epitomised a life of passion, dedication, resilience, and boldness in achieving grand personal and societal visions. He was bold in setting out great goals and pursuing them relentlessly until he reached them. He proves that an unexamined life is not worth living. To achieve greatness and impact on society maximally, one must be purposeful, bold, and patient. Herbert’s hidden strengths prepared him for an eventful life – one he lived on his terms. His ability to connect with people, courage, daring attitude, ambition, and excellent work ethic were the ingredients of his success and they must be emulated. Peter Drucker posits, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Herbert created his future and lived it to the full of those he loved.

For our budding entrepreneurs, Herbert left a legacy. He proved the axiomatic expression true: “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” He made the needed sacrifices at the start of his entrepreneurship and built capital enough to be reckoned among his contemporaries. Steve Jobs posits that “your work will fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.”

Herbert did outstanding work; the only way to do great work is to love what you do. Success is not just a product of luck. Hard work, knowledge, skills, and integrity underpin it. Thomas Jefferson argued, “The harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” Herbert worked hard enough to be lucky. He had an eye for greatness. It is little wonder he set great goals for himself.

John Rockefeller advised that one should not be “afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” Both in banking and establishing a University, Herbert went for greatness and achieved it. We should do the same. As a business and community leader, Herbert understood that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. He created leaders of industries and global advocates of responsible capitalism in the 21st century.

My friend and brother Herbert lived like a candle in the wind. His star burned so brightly but ended so shortly. Greatness in life is not measured in how long one lives but in the impact of one’s life on society. Herbert lived, and he conquered. Adieu, my great visioner!Peterside is a policy and leadership expert.

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