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OPINION

Between Gov. Bello and Engr. Wada

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By Valentine Opaluwa

Between the two major contenders for  the November  16th Governorship election in Kogi State there is every need for objective analysis and assessment of the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), the incumbent Gov’, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello.

and that of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Engr.
Musa Wada from the positions of strength and weaknesses because both candidates are clearly the leading hopeful in the run up to the election.

Looking at  Govr, Yahaya Bello the APC candidate from position of strength is the incumbency factor which confers on him an advantage.

More so, that the ruling party at the federal level is APC.

GYB as a sitting governor has the privilege of the support of all or most of the political appointees like  commissioners. special advisers, board  members at Federal and  state levels, the local government chairmen in the state and of course, the legislative arms both at the National  and the State Assemblies, where 25 members are of  the ruling party.

There is also a strong notion among some APC members that “federal might” would be deployed to aid APC and GYB to win the election and secure a second term in office by all means. Therefore, GYB can be considered as a strong candidate given the apparatus at his disposal and his capacity to use his foot soldiers who are already brewing for political thuggery and brigandage.

In fact, spectacularly political office holders are desperate and like they did in the last general election, they may also carry A.K. 47 and other arms to influence the outcome of the election in favour of GYB, the “White Lion”. Also GYB as sitting governor has a large purse therefore has plenty of resources to throw around in other to curry support of some people and do vote buying if possible.

On the other hand, Engr. Musa Wada, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), position of strength lies in the fact that the party has been dominant in the state and produced the governors since 2003 until 2015 when it lost the baton of leadership in a very controversial way to Governor Yahaya Bello of APC. Therefore, the party has strong political structure across the 21 local governments area in the state.

Another position of strength for Engr. Musa Wada is that he does not have any political baggage working against him ;he has no corruption case hanging on his neck as a retired civil servant.

Also before he ventured into politics, he was  well known by many people in the state especially in Kogi East where he hails from and given the circumstances that surrounded his emergence in the PDP primary election he does not have a known political godfather that can impede on governance of the state if he is  elected. Another strong factor in favour of his candidacy is the fact that Engr. Wada is well educated and has vast knowledge of administration coupled with the fact that he is known to have unquenchable desire  to render service to the people for some times now there, his emergence on the political soup opera is not accidental.

He is from Kogi East where the bulk of votes for Kogi State governorship reside and lastly which by no means the least, is that GYB’s administration is acknowledged to have received huge fund from the federal government in the name of Bailout fund, Paris refund, Infrastructure fund, Ecological Fund and Internal Generated Revenues yet the civil servants, teachers and pensioners in the state are owe salaries for months, some for more than 30 months and in the same vein, the government has not completed any infrastructural projects a side from the Revenue House in Lokoja.

In fact, since he came into office about four years ago, President Muhammadu Buhari or Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo have  never commission any project executed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) led administration of Govr. Yahaya Bello. This is a source of strength for Engr. Musa Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Now what are the weaknesses of  Governor Yahaya Bello as the incumbent governor of Kogi State? Even though,  Bello inherited an outstanding salary of two months owe the state civil servants by his predecessor, Capt Idris Wada.

Graciously, President Muhammadu Buhari upon assumption of office met this debt burden across the states. Many governors were owing workers salaries as delicate as the issue of workers salary is to the economy and well-being of the citizens. Let call it Buharinomic, bailout funds that were secure for the states made it possible to overcome the challenges of payment of workers salary every month.

Alas Kogi State government under Govr. Yahaya Bello was receiving the bailout fund but was not paying the workers adequately and promptly and in some cases no payment at all. In the name of screening exercise, he oppressed the civil servants, teachers, pensioners and of course the good people of Kogi State. Conducting screening exercise to weed out ghost workers is a noble idea but it was done in a shady manner with a pre – conceived mind.

Kogi State became notorious  place of attention, as the workers cried out, some of them committed suicide; a Director Mr. Soje hung himself and the reason for the act was that he could not fend for himself and family because he was not receiving salary. There were those who died in the course of traveling to Lokoja for the screening exercise that was simply a conduct pipe and tool of oppression and denigration of Kogi State workers and people.

Secondly, despite the huge resources that Govr. Bello has received from the federal government he has not executed  infrastructural projects like roads, housing, or venture into solid minerals that is scattered across the state, education has not fare better. GYB was ensued in bitter acrimony with  lecturers at the state owned  University in Anyigba. He did the unthinkable by proscribing ASUU, a power which was not his but needed to display arrogance. Many professors and senior lecturers left the citadel of learning which was once reckoned as one of the best state owned    in the country.

Thirdly, the populace groins in  pain and penury because most of them depended on salary paid their father and mother to go to school, to pay fees, to feed the family and provide health care services in the case of ill health. Some extended family members depend on their brother, sisters, sons and daughters to make end meet and take care of bills. The absence or inadequate salary makes it difficult for them to get the support and assistance they normally recieve from their family members, relations and friends.

Fourthly, Gov. Yahaya Bello belongs to the Ebira Okene ethnic group and since he came to power as a result  of the sudden death of Prince Abubakar Audu of blessed memory’ he has been trying to erase the foot print of his predecessors in different ways, the destruction of architectural master pieces in different roundabout in the  state were removed. He once ordered the arrest of Alhaji Mohammed Audu, the first son of late politician on thump up charges.

GYB did not hide his deep hatred and animosity towards Igala people. This can be easily be seen from his appointments.  As a matter of fact, key commissioners were only reserve for the Ebira and Okun people. Can you imagine this anomie in a state where the people of Kogi East, the Igala and the Bassa are clearly in majority, none was found worthy to serve as Commissioner for Finance, Commissioner for Works, Commissioner for Health, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Commissioner for Agriculture, the Speaker and the SSG are from Kogi West and impactful positions like SDG, Local Government Service Commission has not been occupied by an Igala man under GYB’s administration. Even though, for reason of survival some Igala youth are supporting his re – election especially the appointees and those he procured victory for in the State House of Assembly and those at the National Assembly. One good turn they say deserves another since personal interest is a strong variable in the whole gamut of politics.

However, they are very insignificant to sway majority of the votes from Kogi East for GYB who has treated the people of Kogi East so unfairly despite being the people that paved the way for him to become governor. Certainly it was not the Ebiras and Okun that gave him majority of the votes in the All Progressives Congress (APC) primary election in 2015 which he took second, and it was on that premise that he was nominated to replace Prince Abubakar Audu who was already cruising to victory in that election.

GYB has displayed crass ignorance of governance by choosing the path of oppression, dictatorship and pretentious hate for a section of the state. He is attempting to divide and rule the people of Kogi East, so as to incapacitate them politically but from all indication it is a mirage, because his supporters cannot give him up to 15% of the votes that will be cast in Kogi East in a free, fair and credible contest.

Fifthly, GYB does not have a grip on Kogi West Senatorial District where Senator Dino Melaye represents before court nullified his election on technical ground. At the moment two House of Representative seats that were deemed lost by the People Democratic Party (PDP) has been overturned by the Court of Appeal that of Honourable Shaba of Lokoja/Koton-Karfe Federal Constituency and HonourableTijani Yusuf of Kabba/Ijumu Federal Constituency.

Moreover, the appointees of GYB from Kogi West from the Secretary to the State Government, Speaker of the State Assembly, Commissioners and Special Advisers are not well known politicians who have  the people on their side aside Senator Smart Adeyemi, most of the experienced politicians that decide the outcome of election in Kogi West are in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), namely  Chief Shola Akomode, Gen. Jemibewon, Brig. Tunde Ogbeha among others.

While the weaknesses of Engr. Musa Wada are that he is a very independent minded person and would not have become the candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, if he does possess this attribute. He contested the PDP primary against all odds. He was persuaded by elders and younger men to step down for his elder brother, the former Governor of Kogi State, Capt. Idris Ichala Wada but he never budge, he was seeing beyond the request for him to step down.

Abubakar Ibrahim Idris, the son of former Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji. Ibrahim Idris was also contesting and had the support of his father-in-law, His Excellency, Ibrahim Idris, again he refused to succumb to pressure to step down. Engr. Musa Wada was not considered as a front runner in the primary election, but he was far ahead before the disruption during the last stages of the primary election.

In politics especially on our climes, an independent person is often seen as one who would not like to compromise thus supporting an independent minded person is not common. However, independent minded personality which appears to be a weakness in Engr. Musa Wada is a source of strength because an independent minded person is better for the people of the state than a yes man.

Again the fact that he is a younger brother to Captain Idris Wada the former governor some people are likely to see it as perpetuation of one family in power but that story is not flying among many people.  Given the way he emerged and the failure of leadership of the magnitude we are having in Kogi State getting somebody like Engr. Musa Wada is good omen, that the state can be in a safe hand who would be driven by people centred leadership to enhance genuine development. He has the capacity and characteristics to advance the cause of the state positively and he is seen as such a leader by many well meaning Kogite of different shades of opinion and persuasion as things stand.

He does not have the resources to withstand GYB in terms of money for the election. However, luckily for Engr. Musa Wada his campaign is more like a movement and volunteers are many because of the strong desire for change of government for the better. Even though money for logistics and so on and so forth is necessary, it has become people project and that means individual donations is now driving the campaign and you know PDP is behind Engr. Musa Wada in totality.

The power of the people to demostrate their will to get freedom from oppressive leaders, be it monarchy and dictatorship is legendry in human history and about to be repeated. This time, it is about revolting against a young leader who came to power through providence but instead disgrace the very people who are the very essence of political leadership and democracy.

Engr Musa Wada seeming weakness has been eroded by the prevailing situation in Kogi State. Therefore, in comparision, while the strength of GYB is rooted in using anti-democratic forces to change the will of the people in the forthcoming election, Engr. Musa Wada is widely accepted not only in Kogi East but in Kogi West and of course Kogi Central. Therefore, in a free and fair contest, GYB is not popular enough to get 25% of the vote cast across the three Senatorial Districts in the state. The reason is simple, most civil servants, teachers, and pensioners would not vote for him and many others who are their beneficiaries and the generality of the people of the state because of the poverty and lack of democratic essentials which characterize his administration since he took the reign of power in 2016.

#Mr Opaluwa, a social commentator writes from Abuja

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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