NEWS AND STORIES
Renowned banker and politician, Dr. Alex Otti, speaks to TOFARATI IGE, about his banking and political career
Why did you leave banking for politics?
There comes a time when one looks beyond one’s personal comfort and interest in taking decisions. For me, that time was in 2014. I had spent over 25 years in the banking industry rising from a graduate trainee in 1988 when I finished from the university, to become CEO in 2011, after serving a six- year tenure as Executive Director in First Bank of Nigeria. I may not have completed my tenure as CEO of Diamond Bank, but I had achieved most of what my team and I set out to do in the bank in a shorter time than we set for it. Meanwhile, I come from a state where things were going bad owing to inept and incompetent leadership. I thought it was a good time to go and serve a lot more people than I was serving in the bank.
I was not interested in politics ordinarily, even though like it is said, man is a political animal. So, I always find it difficult to refer to myself as a politician. I do, however, know that the kind of changes that I wanted to make in the society can only be achieved in politics.
I have always been involved in what you call politics from my younger days and even in school, having been part of student union activities. I am also familiar with the words of Plato, which says, “One of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”
Was vying for the governorship of Abia State your first taste of politics?
I will say yes, if what one did in school is relevant to your question. Otherwise, this was my first attempt in the larger society.
Why did you choose to start at governorship level and not the Senate or perhaps the House of Representatives?
Governorship was where I thought I would make my greatest impact. Like I had said earlier, mine was not driven by the need to hold an office but to deliver service to my people. Legislative functions, even though important was not going to cut it for me. Again, I was gainfully engaged and was really not looking for a career in politics. Mine was more of an intervention than anything else.
What were some of the profound lessons you learnt in politics?
Many lessons that can take up the entire paper. I will highlight a few of them. The first is that people are more discerning than governments give them credit. In spite of the propaganda of the government of the day, when people want change, they want change. I was the subject of all sorts of propaganda, prejudices and blackmail, but the people still voted massively for me even though the mandate was stolen. The second one is that many people who call themselves career politicians are actually jobless and many of them are anything but honest. Again, the real power is in the hands of the people, not necessarily those that parade themselves as leaders. It was shocking to see that people can tell the kind of barefaced lies that you will never imagine. It still happens till today. You owe someone five months’ salaries and you take a space in the media and swear you are up-to-date in salary payments. Finally, treachery is fair game in politics.
How did you make the transition from banking to politics?
Those who call themselves politicians do not possess anything that a professional does not have. It is on the other hand more difficult for them to transit to professionalism. As one who had always related with people, it was not that difficult. I had a clear message for the people which the people bought into and followed.
Do you regret quitting Diamond Bank for politics?
If I had any regrets, it would be that I should have done this earlier. I completed my assignment in the bank before leaving. I remain proud of the modest achievements my team and I made in the bank. I am glad that I have led the way for a lot of young people to follow. Many people who had avoided politics like a plague told me that they were encouraged by what I did and would participate in the next election. That is how changes happen. Someone must make the required sacrifice for change to happen. It is impossible to make omelettes without breaking eggs.
Did losing at the poll come as a blow?
First of all, I did not lose at the poll. I won overwhelmingly to the extent that my opponents who were in power then had to manufacture figures to counter their defeat. The records are there to show. Rather than dealing me a blow, I was very proud of my team for their efforts and for dealing a seating government a big blow and forcing them into desperation. You will recall that the Court of Appeal revalidated our victory based on valid votes cast in that election. The Supreme Court reversed it based on technicalities and not facts of the election. Like we have said earlier, we have since moved on.
Were you not bothered about committing so much money into your political campaign even when you weren’t sure of victory?
Everything is about planning. I had a clear plan of what was needed to be spent and where the funds were going to come from. So, there was no anxiety. Besides, I had a lot of support from friends and Abia people who wanted change in the state. Everything in life is a risk, including the risk of going to bed and not waking up. If you get worried about that risk, you may decide not go to bed to mitigate that risk. Avoiding risks is more dangerous than managing them. Once you get involved in a venture, the chances that it would not work are always there. So, we factored in the risk of not winning and even the risk of winning and it being stolen like it happened in this case.
Were you born with a silver spoon?
Wooden spoon you mean? Not at all. I was born into a modest but contented family. There were many of us and the resources were very lean. It was management all the way. My dad would always give us what he thought was enough to sustain us in school while our mum would, out of her meagre resources, augment. Our dad must not know that our mum was augmenting otherwise; he would reduce what he would give us. In spite of apparent lack, there was dignity and happiness.
Growing up, did you have any vices that usually got you into trouble?
I was a very good child and didn’t have such vices.
What is that one unique/quirky thing about you?
Simple; uncomplicated, straightforward; what you see is what you get.
Who were some of your friends and contemporaries?
A lot of them. However, in the university, two of them that stand out are Rotimi Amaechi and Nyesom Wike. While Amaechi was one year ahead of me, I was a year ahead of Wike. So I’m literally caught in the middle. I’m sure you don’t envy me. They both remain my friends.
Considering that they are your friends, have you tried to broker peace between Rotimi Amaechi and Nyesom Wike?
That is work in progress.
You studied Economics at the University of Port Harcourt; had you at that time began to eye a career in banking?
Banking was obviously one of the options given what I read. But I was also open to other things.
Graduating with a first-class degree is a rare feat. How did you achieve it?
I must first of all, attribute that feat to God. It was not my feat at all because I cannot say that I worked harder than others nor was I more brilliant than others. The thing about first-class degree is that you must be consistent both in character and in learning. If you miss it at the initial stage, it would be difficult to correct later.
One must have thought having graduated with a first-class degree, you would have pursued a career in the academics. Was it something you considered?
I not only considered it, I was given the opportunity by my alma mater after graduation. I turned it down because I thought I needed a job that would pay well at that time so I could support my parents with my seven younger ones, being the first born.
Can you recollect your experiences on your first job upon graduation?
There are many of them. One that stuck is my experience with the personal computer. I had not seen one before. It was my first day at work. My boss then, Mr. Kole Olowofoyeku, handed me a handwritten document and wanted me to produce it on the PC and return to him in five minutes. I had no idea how to turn on the PC not to talk of using it to produce a document. Well, I had to enlist the help of one my more experienced colleagues then, to get the job done. The second one was the kind of training that one had in the bank. Hard work was natural in the bank and I can still remember that on a couple of occasions we could not close from work until the next morning. You would just go home in the morning to freshen up and come back to work.
Did it in any way impact your career afterwards?
Yes. One is that it helped prepare me for surprises. The second is that hard work has become second nature to me.
Who are your role models?
My two role models are no more. They were my dad who passed on in 1994 and my teacher, Prof. Claude Ake, who departed in 1996.
What particular event shaped your life?
I am not sure there is one particular event but a complex set of events which includes the circumstances of my upbringing, education and work.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt in life?
I have learnt so many things that it would be difficult to isolate one as the most important. One of them may just be the one my late mother used to teach. She used to say that you cannot lose anything by working hard, rather, that you had all to gain. That was her way of imbibing the culture of hard work in all of us. The other one is that excellence will always dwarf mediocrity.
While in school, you served as the editor of some publications; did you at any point consider a career in journalism?
Not really. It was just an interest that I had and that is why I still write up till this moment. I maintain a fortnightly column in Thisday and I am completing my second book.
You took a course at Harvard University; how exactly did that impact on your business and professional acumen?
Harvard was one of the most important places that I trained. Interestingly, the course prepared me for the CEO role and exposed me to a lot of new things. The nine-week Advance Management Programme was a life-changing one which I will recommend to anyone who has the opportunity.
What would you regard as the highlights of your banking career?
From 1996 when I joined UBA, I had been part of a transformation team. I guess the successes we recorded must have made First Bank to headhunt me where I also joined a transformation team. The subsequent results by the team must also have informed that call by KPMG in 2010 that led to my resumption as MD/CEO of Diamond Bank. Again in Diamond Bank, it was also transformation all the way which yielded many positive changes. I must say I was very lucky to have assembled an excellent team who worked tirelessly to change the bank. The results came quickly. The bank grew rapidly by assets, profitability and efficiency ratios. It wore a new look as we rebranded the bank, relocated a lot that were not properly located and opened several new branches. It became a preferred place to work as our compensation package became one of the best in the industry. We established a presence in the UK and expanded to more African countries. The Central Bank of Nigeria recognised us as one of the eight “Systemically Important Banks” in the country. This recognition simply meant that because of the size of the bank, it became “too big to fail”. Our information technology systems were upgraded to become one of the most efficient in the country. We rolled out several platforms for service including our agency banking and financial inclusion products. We made the environment such that people were looking forward to coming to the bank and staff loved their jobs.
What were your toughest moments as a banker?
Interestingly, the highpoint of my career as a CEO was also the toughest moment. If I managed to find four hours of sleep in a day, that was a great day. I was everywhere and was involved in everything, juggling them for balance. I was always thinking about the next thing to do to achieve the targets that we had set for ourselves as a team. Thank God, they all paid off.
What professional and personal qualities helped you rise to the pinnacle of your banking career?
Again, I must say that at the centre of it all is God. I believe He enabled me to be focused on what is important. As a leader, you must devote a lot of attention to assembling your team and guiding them. An institution cannot be better than its people. If you want the best institution, you must have the best people. I had a knack for attracting and retaining the best people. I also lead from the front and not the rear. I would not ask you to do what I cannot do. There are very many others that I may not be able to list here.
What were some of the challenges you faced as the CEO of Diamond Bank?
I must say that I was very lucky with my board. I had a very experienced and supportive board so that helped to reduce the pressure. The major challenge beyond the ones I had mentioned earlier was how to deal with the transformation given serious regulatory headwinds. The effect of the global economic crises of 2008/2009 was still being felt in the bank when we came on board. We had to clean up the books of the bank by writing off some toxic assets but we also maintained a minimum capital adequacy ratio as prescribed by CBN. Because the bank was in a transformation mode, additional capital could not easily be raised, otherwise, you would destroy value for shareholders and sell cheap. We, however, found our way round it by raising what is called tier 2 capital. It was not until when we stabilised the bank in 2014 that we went to the market to raise capital by way of a rights issue which was very successful as it was fully subscribed.
What professional/personal goals have you yet to accomplish?
I always set new goals when I accomplish set goals. Right now, my goal is to impact many more people than I had done in the past and the best way to do this is through public service. You can only do so much as a player in the private sector.
In the course of your career, you worked in oil & gas and energy business; in what ways do you think money from the oil industry can be used to ensure meaningful lives for the general populace?
The major problem we have is government. We run a very large and expensive government that we end up using over 70 per cent of the annual budget to pay salaries. That leaves us with less than 30 per cent for the rest of the people. Meanwhile oil accounts for over 90 per cent of our foreign exchange earnings and more than 70 per cent of our revenues. I believe we must do something about reducing the size of government for the populace to enjoy meaningful development. Some call it restructuring. Whatever name you want to call it, we must discuss how to spend more on infrastructure and social amenities than we are currently doing.
You are on the board of some Nigerian universities, how can the educational sector be revamped?
We need to start from the most rudimentary level. Primary education by law is under the local governments. We all know that most states do not allow the local governments to function. So, funding is a challenge at that and other levels and unfortunately, that is the foundation. Once the foundation is faulty, what can anyone do? We also need to pay attention to the quality, number, compensation and welfare of teachers. Then we must ensure that merit is the basis of everything in the educational sector, be it admission or recruitment of teaching and non teaching staff. We must also pay attention to the curricular. What are we teaching our students? The world has moved. In the world of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, our teachers cannot continue to teach nonsense, apologies to Fela.
What personal qualities have helped you to stand out?
I can only guess. I believe the fear of God is number one. People say I am committed and dedicated. They also say I work very hard and that I am always focused on what is important. Of course, those people may be wrong.
What legacy would you like to leave behind?
I always like to leave a place better than I met it. That is one of the major reasons I went to contest elections in the first place.
Apart from banking and politics, what other activities do you engage in?
I read and write. That takes a lot of my time. I also love the hospitality business. This is out of my passion to serve. So I do get involved in a hospitality business my wife and I set up. I am also involved in a small real estate business.
How often do you get to spend time with your family?
If you asked this question when I was in the bank, the answer would have been different. Right now, I do spend a lot of time with my family and it feels very good to be able to do those things that I was unable to do in the last quarter of a century.
How did you meet your wife?
My wife and I met in 1991 and got married in 1993. I moved into the neighbourhood a year earlier and ran into her where I had gone to pick up my clothes from the nearby drycleaner which was next to her house. We got talking and like they say, the rest became history. She has been very supportive particularly filling in for me when I was virtually an absentee father and husband owing to my schedules. She was the pillar of the campaign and was at the forefront organising women and youth. She has always been there for me and I thank God for blessing me with such a wonderful wife.
What lessons have you learnt in marriage?
Marriage is a great teacher. One of the lessons it teaches you is patience. Because the two of you are coming from different backgrounds, you must be tolerant of each other and also forgiving of each other’s shortcomings. You must also be considerate of your partner in every decision you make. Marriage compels accountability and responsibility. As a single person you could do anything you want without answering to anybody, but the moment you get married, that must change otherwise, the marriage may be in danger.
What romantic things do you say and do to her?
I am not sure I do a lot of romantic things, but I am confident she understands.
How do you unwind?
I unwind by listening to music. I love music. My reading acts as form of relaxation for me, particularly when it is not serious stuff. I use the gym every other day and hang out occasionally with friends. I used to play squash a lot until a few years ago when my wife took me off it, insisting that it was too high impact. I still do quite some travelling.
What kind of music do you listen to?
I listen to all sorts of music. I like Nigerian music and have supported and continue to support it. I also like Jazz and other soft music.
What kind of attire are you most comfortable in?
It depends on the occasion and the mood. I wear whatever works for the occasion. These days, I tend to wear traditional attires a lot. I guess having worn suit and tie for such a long time, I consider less formal wears, a welcome relief.
What advice can you give to young people as regards business?
The first thing is that they should aim to identify a need or gap and think of filling it. That is the fundamental principle for the success of a business. I see a lot of people start from what they want to do. You may do what you want to do but there may not be a market for it. So you must start from the market. A lot of businesses have failed because the business owner did not know how to separate the business from himself. You must understand that the money for the business is not for you. You should pay yourself salaries just like any other worker and let the business run as a business. Then you must continue to reinvent the business. How can you simplify processes? Are there better and more cost-effective and efficient ways to deliver the service? You must also rein in your cost otherwise; you may soon go out of business. Have your eye on technology and ensure that technological disruptions do not send you out of business. Think of our oil and gas today and how electric cars would send a lot of people out of business between 2025 and 2040. That is a perfect example. As it is, some businesses and countries may just be caught napping in spite of the warning signals that had been there in the last few years.
You survived an assassination attempt. Looking back now, would you still want to remain in politics and probably contest the governorship again?
The assassins and their sponsors were just wasting their time because they do not know God. I strongly believe that nothing can touch me except if God allows it. And if He allows it, then it is time. That is why He removed me from that house before the attackers came. Like I had said, we are all in politics one way or the other, so the question of remaining in politics does not arise. As 2019 approaches, I will make consultations and at the appropriate time, I shall make my decision about contesting, public.
What keeps you busy these days?
I am now unemployed like some people have reported in the papers. I find that I am still busy, even if not as busy as when I was in the bank. I set up a financial and investment services company in addition to all the other businesses I had itemised earlier. We are happy that we are able to create jobs. We have about 170 people in our pay roll who work in the hospitality, real estate, technology/communications and financial advisory parts of our business. I oversee the holding company with offices in different parts of the country.
Deputy National Chairman south of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Engr. Segun Oni also said that the former President should not be talking about what he did or failed to do concerning corruption.
He said the former President failed in his bid to fight corruption as there were no results to show for his efforts, saying he should just apologize to Nigerians for his failed efforts.
He said: “I haven’t read his comment. But let me say that it is very unfortunate that a former President of this country will say that. There is the saying that there is no mark for effort. The only mark you get is for results.
“It does’t matter how much a man tried, if he does not have a result to show, what he should just do is to keep quite and that is what I will advice him to do as far as corruption is concerned.
THE Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee (NCC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ahmed Makarfi has prayed for quick recovery for ailing President Muhammadu Buhari, saying that the party wanted him to be the one it would defeat in 2019.
Speaking at the non-elective national convention of the party in Abuja on Saturday, he affirmed that PDP was already the government in waiting.
He said: “We mean well for our President. We continue to pray for his full recovery. We want him to be fit and on seat when we will defeat the APC government come 2019.
“We will continue to pray for him but that doesn’t mean we will go to sleep. We will work hard to replace the APC government, come 2019 God willing.”
Makarfi said not being an alliance but a party with strong bond among its members, the party has much experience and has much to offer the country.
He said the PDP was a truthful party to Nigerians which would not engage in deception, adding that Saturday’s event was an affirmation that the PDP was poised to recapture power in 2019.
The party boss observed that the APC has brought hunger and starvation to the country while insecurity has increased many folds.
He told the delegate statement: “Nigerians may wonder, what has PDP got. Well, what are you getting now? Are you not hungry? Are you not jobless? Are you not insecure? My God! Pray for PDP to come back.
“Kidnapping is part of insecurity and it has spread across the length and breadth of this country and it’s because of joblessness.”
According to him, students were crying over hike in tuition fees even when money was scarce.
He therefore promised that when the PDP returns to power, it would consider a Students Loan Scheme to alleviate their sufferings.
“There will be no hunger because there will be plenty to eat. There may be plenty in the market but you have zero cash in your pocket. Under PDP, there will be cash in your pocket because you have earned the cash,” Makarfi added.
He thanked the delegates for funding their ways to the convention and not expecting any refund of their money.
In his welcome address, the chairman of the convention planning committee and Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, noted that the prayers of Nigerians were answered when the Supreme Court judged in favour of the NCC in the protracted leadership crisis.
He said the PDP was now back with a bang and would not disappoint the people.
“Today, let it be known to all Nigerians who prayed for us during our time of travail that the PDP is back with a bang. We shall NOT disappoint you!” Okowa stated.
The convention chairman admonished that the party must now focus on rebuilding and sticking to the principles of fairness, equity and justice.
According to him, “On this day, we must understand that our nation is at a cross road. Therefore, our emphasis must be about building a party focused on fashioning a better society founded on the principles of fairness, equity and justice. We must commit to making the needs – and aspirations – of the Nigerian people the centre piece of our party’s democratic agenda.
“On this day, we must call for a paradigm shift in our party leadership style. Too often, we have demanded service – and worship – from the very people we have been called to serve.
That must change.
“We need leaders, sincere leaders, strong leaders who understand that power is held in trust for the people and, therefore, must be administered for their good and advancement.
“Finally, on this day, we call on all true PDP faithful’s to return home. It’s time to forgive. It’s time to heal the wounds of the past. It’s time to get over the hurts of the past. It’s time to embrace love and reconciliation. It’s time, brothers and sisters, to come back home!”
Mr. Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has won the Osun West Senatorial bye-election held on Saturday in Osun State.
Official results of the election showed that he defeated his All Progressives Congress (APC) counterpart, Mudashiru Hussain in nine of the ten Local Government Areas where the election was conducted.
The results is as follows:
Iwo LG APC 12,205 PDP 12,547
Ede North APC 2,784 PDP 18,559
Ede South APC 2,096 PDP 13,406
Ejigbo APC 12,229 PDP9,723
Irewole APC 8,952 PDP9,096
Ola-Oluwa APC 5,316 PDP5,618
Ayedere APC 5,360 PDP5,789
Ayedaade APC 7,179 PDP-9061
Egbedore APC 4,768 PDP-7,142
Isokan APC 5,227 PDP-6,539
Collation of ward results of the bye-election began in earnest last night with voters anxiously waiting for confirmation of the final outcome from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The election was generally peaceful.
The two leading candidates -Mudasiru Hussein of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – hailed the election as fair and peaceful although the police arrested three suspected thugs for allegedly interfering with the voting process at Okinni in Egbedore Local Government area .
The day began with a drizzle but that did not stop voters from heading to the various polling units in the 10 local government areas that make up the senatorial zone as early as 8am.
Security was tight and voters had little complaints about the supply of voting materials, especially card readers.
Restriction was placed on vehicular movement across the state, except the Ibadan/Ife/Ilesa/Akure expressway, that links Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti States.
The election was preceded by a curfew in the district from 6pm on Friday to 6am yesterday.
Hussain after casting his vote at Ward 3, Unit 1, Beulah Baptist Primary School, Ejigbo,at about 9.30am expressed satisfaction ‘so far’ with the election, saying he was confident of winning.
He commended both the INEC and voters for their maturity, saying that “if elections are conducted like this it means democracy has reached an advanced level.”
For his part, Adeleke, who is the younger brother of the late Isiaka Adeleke, whose death created the vacancy voted at Saagba Abogunde compound in Ede North at 8.34 am.
He said he was “100 percent confident of victory.”
“As you can see, it rained this morning before the voting exercise commenced. This is a signal to the fact that I will carry the day. With this large turnout also, its unarguable that I will beat Hussein hands down by God’s grace,” he added.
The Speaker of the Osun State House of Assembly, Najeem Salam, also commended the effort of security personnel in maintaining peace in Ejigbo.
Former Minister for Youth Development, Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi, advised the INEC to sustain credibility and standard set up by the last administration.
He spoke at his Ward 5, Unit 16 Ode-Omu, where he expressed satisfaction with the process of the election.
The police said they arrested three suspected thugs for allegedly unleashing mayhem at Igbokiti Unit, Ward 10, Okinni in Egbedore Local Government council. The thugs reportedly attacked voters and INEC adhoc officers at the polling unit.
Some voters waiting to cast their votes were allegedly matcheted and injured.
The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fimihan Adeoye, in a telephone chat, confirmed the arrest. He said the suspects were undergoing interrogation.
“With our vigilance and commitment to ensure peaceful conduct of the exercise, we are very happy that there is peace and there is no significant case of violence,” he said.
“We are determined to sustain peace and effective security till the end and even after the entire electoral process.”
AN Ekiti State House of Assembly member Gboyega Aribisogan has accused Governor Ayo Fayose of instigating his suspension because he refused to prostrate and beg for the offence he did not commit.
He said some party leaders and appointees urged him to prostrate for the governor at a reconciliation parley brokered by eminent lawyer and founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), Aare Afe Babalola (SAN).
Aribisogan, who was suspended by his fellow lawmakers in October last year said the governor wanted him to admit meeting with the Senator representing Ogun East, Buruji Kashamu, in Lagos sometime last year, an allegation he denied.
Speaking during an interview programme on Adaba 88.9 FM monitored by our correspondent, Aribisogan faulted an investigation panel set up by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) faction loyal to
Fayose claiming that the panelists had been ordered to do a hatchet job against him.
Aribisogan alleged that some party members in his ward were bribed with a sum of N200, 000 and compelled to write a frivolous petition to the panel to nail him at all cost.
He revealed that the panel had already submitted its report to Fayose on Monday while he was asked to appear on Thursday.
The embattled lawmaker disclosed that he reported the alleged illegality Fayose was using the Assembly to perpetrate to the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin.
Aribisogan said: “I cannot confess the sin I did not commit; they (party leaders) asked me to prostrate and beg Fayose but I refused and in the process they brought out a camera with the intent of taking my photographs. Fayose flared when I refused to prostrate and beg and vowed that he would not allow me to return to the Assembly again.
“For somebody to say he would not allow an elected representative of the people to go back to the Assembly shows the type of character Fayose is. He got 14,000 votes from my constituency and he has done nothing for the people.
“If they want to shoot me dead, I am ready. I am not an appointee of Fayose, I was elected the same way hea was elected. I apologize to all Ekiti for joining hands to bring him back to power and that is why he is misbehaving now.
“The Inspector General of Police had given an order that nothing should happen to me; the House of Assembly belongs to Ekiti people and not to Ayo Fayose. Fayose has brought odium and shame to Ekiti State.
“He is owing the Assembly six months salaries, Ekiti lawmakers are crying underneath because many of them are heavily indebted. Fayose threatened that he would recall me, let him go ahead but I will never prostrate for Fayose.”
Responding, Commissioner for Information, Lanre Ogunsuyi, said Hon. Aribisogan, was suffering from political hallucination.
Ogunsuyi said the Assembly suspended the lawmaker according to its rules and does not need Fayose to carry out is constitutional and statutory functions. The commissioner said Aribisogan was merely cooking up stories to cover up his infractions on the House rules.
He advised Aribisogan to avail himself of the opportunity given by the party to present his case before a disciplinary panel set up to investigate the allegations of anti-party activities and disloyalty levelled against him.
Ogunsuyi said: “I will say it is a political hallucination for the honourable member to accuse the governor of masterminding his suspension from the Assembly.
“It is an internal affair of the House and the governor is not a member of the Assembly.
“He was duly suspended by the Assembly; the governor has no hand in it and all what he is saying are stories without corroboration.”
Controversial senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, has continued his verbal onslaught on Governor Yahaya Bello, for allegedly sponsoring a large number of his constituents to demand his recall.
In a post on his Instagram page, the outspoken lawmaker said the Kogi governor suffers the “most chronic form of madness”, adding that it is the prelude to his final destruction.
He wrote: “Well, like the good NAPOLEON said: never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.
“It is normal for mad people to conceive impossibility.
“Let them dance the dance of madness and schizophrenics. Recall who???
“When the gods want to destroy a man, they make him mad in the first instance. Yahaya bello is suffering from most chronic from of madness already and that is the prelude to his final destruction.”
Governor Bello had earlier said there is no rift between him and Dino Melaye.
Two days ago, Melaye described his State Governor, Yahaya Bello as an “olodo governor” over his inability to pay civil servants in the state.
Prof Ango Abdullahi, a former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, is the spokesperson for the Northern Elders Forum (NEF). In this interview, Abdullahi speaks on the two years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and the agitation by some Igbo elements for the Biafra state, among other issues of national importance.
The government of President Muhammadu Buhari is two years. What is your take?
My take is the Nigerian take. You are the people who move around to speak to Nigerians to find out if things have changed in the way that Nigerians had hoped before they cast their last vote for the current leadership in the country. But, to me, personally, life has not changed for me and my family; maybe I was out looking out for anything other than the hope for peace and tranquility to prevail in the country. So, on that score, I will say that, perhaps, the country is a little bit more peaceful now in the sense that the insurgency has been reduced, even if not completely removed.
On the other hand, I receive visitors, young people who come in asking to be assisted to secure jobs and so on and so forth. They know that something is not totally correct with the economy; two major indicators, our naira has been decimated, to me, to nothing because, at my age having seen one Naira exchanged for one dollar and forty cents and to now put together 300+ Naira officially for me to get one dollar something is basically not right there. And until, I have always made this very clear, we can do something about this foreign exchange rate- and for-a country that produces nothing, it has to buy everything, we are going to have a hard drive, if we are able to drive at all, to recover. It is going to be near impossible to recover with this exchange rate, it is a major problem.
But the Minister of Finance spoke a few days ago, saying Nigeria is recovering. She should tell us how we are recovering. Check your pocket if we are recovering, check your soup pot if we are recovering, check everything in terms of cost; how are we recovering?
If the government must change gear, what must the government do now?
It is going to be difficult for this government or any government for that matter because these decisions as they affect the economy require an approach which is not orthodox.
Take for example, Donald Trump, who only recently assumed office as the President of the United States of America, said ‘America first, America second, America third, employ America by America’ and so on and so forth. This is what every country now has to do. This is a policy to protect America, annunciation by the leader of the capitalist world, protecting the American economy and the American people and this is the kind of courage that African leaders require to get up and say ‘my country first, my country second, my country third’. This is what happened to quite a number of countries: The Chinese did the same, they disappeared for some time and now they have resurfaced as one of the leaders of the world because they protected themselves, they protected their country.
In Africa today, there are only two or three countries that are going in that direction: Rwanda, Zimbabwe and the same thing perhaps to some extent Uganda. But the rest of the countries (in Africa) are just appendages of colonial mentality and Nigeria is one of them. Nigeria is an appendage of colonial mentality and that is why we have not moved, 60years; Nigeria cannot produce 4,000megawatts of electricity that is not big enough for a village in Europe, for about 200million people. Something is wrong basically.
Is the problem with the people in power?
The problem is with all of us. One major conference that is required is a conference on attitudinal change by Nigerians, particularly those of us the elite.
Who should organize that?
Nigerians who worry about Nigeria. I attended four constitutional conferences in the last 20years but where are we? Our paper work, well-written and so on, but nothing on ground. And when you look at it very carefully, it is we the elite and that is why I keep talking about the elite being responsible for what is happening to Nigeria and they have to do something about it.
2019 is about two years away, but some people are already talking about it. What shape should it take?
The shape that Nigerians want it to take because if Nigerians are complaining that things are not going well for Nigeria and, by implication, things are not going well for Nigerians, 2019 means an opportunity for them to ‘shine their eyes well’ well and look for leadership because the problem, in my view in this country, had always been poor and inept leadership, particularly after our fathers politicians of the First Republic) have gone. Each time I speak, I give very high credit to our founding fathers, they did extremely well with very little. In their hands, the country had no means of getting huge resources except from our agricultural products, yet these people did what they did; infrastructure, tell me what infrastructure has been added seriously on top of what they have done? The railway, the ports, the airports and so on, just tell me; in spite of the billions of naira that is coming or that is supposed to be coming into the Nigerian coffers, what has happened?
At what point did President Muhammadu Buhari get it wrong?
I gave a number of interviews on the man; good man, no doubt, but he got it wrong because he got the wrong team, that is it. Not one single person to run the country, you need competent hands everywhere to get it going.
Did he consult with people like you before he made his appointments?
No, no. But if there had been sufficient guidance through consultations, a lot of the initial mistakes about the take-off could not have been avoided It is better to say that the team he has chosen to deal with the socio-economic challenges of this country was not quite well chosen and I think what happened was that the choice of the team was driven more by political patronage than really looking at the competence of people that will come and help the President and the government to run a more efficient system of administration.
How should the Federal Government respond to the renewed Biafra agitation?
Well, we should be mindful of the fact that the renewed agitation cannot be detached from the politics of Nigeria. It is not new and not different from normal politicking that has been taking place in Nigeria since independence.
Politics? Why lump the agitation with politics?
Biafra agitation arose from the Nigerian political process. It came from a power struggle in the First Republic, which culminated in the assassination of the First Republic leaders and the subsequent emergence of Ojukwu. Incidentally, it was Ojukwu, who suspected that the Igbo were being attacked whereas it was the Igbo who attacked Nigeria.
Attacked Nigeria? Is this revisionism or what? They were the ones being attacked in the North and they had to flee…
(Cuts in) It should be noted that Ojukwu, assisted by Igbo intellectuals, thought they should pocket the rest of Nigeria. Thus, the so-called Biafra agitation is rooted in the 1966 coup and I want to say that if people are still asking for Biafra almost 50 years after the civil war, then it is necessary for us to sit down and ask ourselves how we want the nation to be. That’s exactly what the Igbos are asking for – let’s sit down and discuss but it seems that is not falling on good ears? In dealing with the renewed Biafran agitation, the Federal Government should adhere strictly to the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution relating to the rule of law. Accordingly, the Federal Government should be firm in dealing with any individual or group trying to create problems for the rest of Nigeria under any guise.
SPONSORED BY X365RADIO.COM: ABUJA-Presidency Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday told former President Goodluck Jonathan to be afraid of probe only if there is skeleton in his cupboard. The president also refuted claims that he was harassing the family of the former Nigerian leader in any way.
Buhari’s remarks followed an outburst by Jonathan in a new book, “Against The Run of Play”, written by the Chairman of ThisDay Editorial Board, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi that the present administration was hounding members of his family with its anti-corruption crusade.
In a statement by Buhari’s spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina on Wednesday, President Buhari told Jonathan that “fear belongs only to those who have abused trust while in office.” The president asked anyone with valuable grievances to approach the courts for redress.
The statement read thus: “The Presidency is constrained to respond to the banner headline story in a national newspaper of Wednesday, April 26, entitled: Buhari’s govt harassing my family, saying Jonathan. “The paper said former President Goodluck Jonathan made the allegation in a new book, “Against The Run of Play”, written by the Chairman of ThisDay Editorial Board, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi. “The former president also reportedly disagreed with the style being used by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in fighting corruption.
“We make bold to state unequivocally that President Buhari harasses nobody; he merely allows the law to take its course. For the umpteenth time, we say that anybody without skeleton in his or her cupboard, has nothing to fear about the bared fangs of the anti-corruption initiative. “Fear belongs only to those who have abused trust while in office. Anybody who feels aggrieved is free to approach the courts to seek redress or justice. President Buhari believes in the rule of law and that is why his campaign against corruption is anchored on that plank.
“With regard to President Buhari’s anti-graft style, which the former president deprecates, given the scale of revelations and recoveries so far by the anti-corruption agencies, it is obvious that corruption had an uninhibited course during our recent past. “In any case, time will give the verdict on whose style of fighting corruption ultimately yielded the most dividends. “For now, President Buhari is resolute and single-minded in the fact that his crusade against graft is not targeted at any individual or group. “He firmly believes that national interest must always be placed above personal interest, no matter who is involved.”
SPONSORED BY X365RADIO.COM: ABUJA—AMIDST increasing concerns over the health status of President Muhammadu Buhari, indications emerged, yesterday, of his imminent return to the country, having reportedly finished with the extended medical tests his United Kingdom-based physicians ran on him.
The latest public declaration that the President is in fine fettle was given by Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and Speaker Yakubu Dogara who, in separate tweets, acknowledged that the President is in fine shape.
Also yesterday, a very close associate of the president, who had been in close touch with people around him, confirmed the positive news of his health, saying the President was expected to return any time from today. Meanwhile, President Buhari, yesterday, received two prominent leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande, in London. The assertions came as the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, JNI, in separate calls, also urged Nigerians to pray for the well-being of the President, asserting that as a human being, he is also prone to ill-health. A prominent official of government who also maintains a close personal and family relationship with the President, equally confirmed the well being of the President, yesterday. “I found out from the family and I was told that the tests had been carried out and it is being envisaged that he could come back anytime from tomorrow (today),” the public official, who spoke on the strict condition of anonymity, said. Another senior Presidency source spoke in the same vein, saying there is nothing holding the President back, though he could not give a clear date for his return.
The well being of the President was further accentuated by pictures of the President with APC leaders, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande, which Vanguard confirmed to have been taken yesterday afternoon. In one of the pictures, the President was sitted between the two party leaders in a sitting room and, in another, Buhari was sandwiched between the two men with all of them smiling.
Asserting that the President is hale and hearty, Saraki in a tweet at 11:35 p.m. on Wednesday, confirmed that he spoke with Buhari, adding that the President even cracked jokes with him during their discussion. Noting that he is happy to have interacted with the President, Saraki in his tweet, said: “Happy to have spoken with @NGRPresident @MBuhari tonight. He was in good spirit and joked about my working late into the night, as usual. – @Bukolasaraki on Twitter Wednesday 8th of February 2017, 11:35 pm.” Saraki’s assertion came three days after Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, also disclosed that the President is hale and hearty. Speaker Yakubu Dogara also went on Twitter, yesterday, to confirm speaking with Buhari, who he claimed professed his pains at the sufferings Nigerians endured last year and had as such, resolved to ensure a better life for the people. Dogara in his tweet said: “MBuhari called me yesterday evening. He talked about what the Executive/Legislature must do to ensure food security for all Nigerians. “He said he was pained by the suffering endured by most Nigerians last year and he is resolved not to let events of 2016 repeat themselves. He also asked me to extend his best wishes to all Honourable members.” Ahead of the President’s return, the expectation was also being raised among APC members.
At the national secretariat of the party in Abuja, a big banner was placed inside the parking lot with the inscription, “Welcome Mr. President, Baba, Oyoyo” the banner produced by the National Youth Council of Nigeria, had pictures of Buhari and Youths and Sports Minister, Mr. Solomon Dalung. Pray for his quick recovery, CAN urges Nigerians Meanwhile, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, yesterday called on all Nigerians to pray for the quick recovery of the President and his safe return. In a statement by the Director of Legal and Public Affairs, Barr. Kwamkur Samuel, CAN also called on the Presidency not to hide information from the people.
The statement read: “We wish to call on all Nigerians to join hands in prayers for the quick and full recovery of Mr. President and his safe return to Nigeria instead of dwelling on the needless rumour on the President’s health. “President Muhammadu Buhari is human, hence subject to health challenges sometimes. CAN appreciates the anxiety of Nigerians to hear Mr. President speak, but sues for understanding as we await that. It is very clear that our leader is passing through health challenges. “We advise the Presidency to update Nigerians on how he is faring and the full progress of his recovery. “We call on all Christians and indeed, all God-fearing Nigerians to dedicate time of prayers for our President and the nation. We owe our leaders prayers and support at all times while shunning divisive opinions that only generate strife. “CAN also calls on Nigerians to give the Vice-President who is also the Acting President full support and prayers to lead well. “We acknowledge that government is a continuum. Hence, we call on Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to be bold in handling critical state matters and not to be distracted by those who do not wish Nigeria well.” JNI condemns death-wish peddlers The Jama’atu Nasril Islam, JNI, on its part, condemned those it said were wishing the President dead instead of praying for his full recovery. The JNI also termed those it said were calling for the resignation of Acting President Osibanjo as “callous and mischievous.”
In a press statement by its Secretary General, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, the group said: “JNI is, indeed, perturbed over the series of rumours making the rounds on the state of President Muhammadu Buhari’s health. “It should be, however, noted that as with every mortal, illness is inevitable, likewise life and death. Thus, JNI is very concerned about the pandemonium generated as a result of the rumoured illness of the President and the dimension it is unfortunately taking. ‘’ Does that mean he can no longer get ill? Agreed that reports from the Presidency stated that President Muhammadu Buhari is currently undergoing a cycle of tests as recommended by his doctors, hence the extension of his leave. “We must as patriots, be cautioned on spreading inaccurate information. More so, Muslims should be cautioned not to join the bandwagon of rumour-mongers. This is so because already some unpatriotic elements are wishing that the President is dead. Interestingly, those who wish him death will certainly not live till eternity. Aren’t we supposed to wish each other good well-being? Let alone, the President of the country? “Therefore, following the unnecessary excitement in the President’s delayed return to Nigeria, we implore all and sundry, particularly Muslims to persistently supplicate on daily basis for President Muhammadu Buhari’s safe return, restoration of good health and the ability to continue with the task of piloting Nigeria to greater heights with his team.
“In the same vein, we are all implored to fervently pray for the nation, the Vice President, governors and all those in positions of authority, for Allah’s guidance in the discharge of their respective duties. “We nonetheless, condemn in the strongest terms those calling for the resignation of Professor Yemi Osinbajo, as the Vice-President, Federal Republic of Nigeria. Whatever, the intent may be, we see such calls as callous, mischievous and unpatriotic. “ Moreover, why must that vacuum be created now, if not for sinister motives? We, therefore, call on all Jumu’ah Imams to include the matter in their respective Friday sermons tomorrow and beyond.”
SPONSORED BY X365RADIO.COM: Spokesperson to Gambia’s president elect Adama Barrow has said on sunday that Barrow’s inauguration must hold on Jan 19 unfailingly
“Jammeh’s term shall end on the 19th and the same date president-elect Barrow’s term begins. Nothing will change that. He will be sworn in and shall assume office on that date without fail,” as revealed by spokesman Mai Fatty, who accompanied Barrow to Dakar.
Barrow flew into Dakar as requested by West African leaders AFP reports.
SPONSORED BY YES434.COM...THE BUSINESS DIRECTORY: ABUJA— THE new Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe North), said yesterday, that with his emergence on Tuesday, the animosity which had characterized the 8th Senate, which was inaugurated June 9, 2015 has been nipped in the bud.
Lawan noted that the atmosphere was tensed soon after the emergence of Dr Bukola Saraki as President of the Senate when members of the Senators Unity Forum, SUF, alleged injustice and felt that things must be put in their proper perspective, adding that now that there was compliance, there will be unity and peace in the Senate where the lawmakers will now focus on real legislative activities. Ahmad-Lawan He said: “The 8th Senate started on a shaky foundation. This Senate will end on a solid, stable and successful foundation. On the part of the SUF, we were never personal, we only felt that what ought to have been done was not done and if there is compliance now, there will be no animosity.”
Addressing journalists, Lawan, who disclosed that he had no knowledge of his party and Senate decision to replace him with the immediate past Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, said what took place was an act of God, just as he called on his colleagues to cooperate with him in his new assignment to deliver the dividends of democracy to Nigerians. He further called on his colleagues on the need for collaboration to make life better for Nigerians by improving on security and ensuring economic growth.
The Senate had on Tuesday adopted the change in the leadership of the APC in the red chambers as it affirmed the replacement of Senator Ndume with Senator Lawan as the Senate Majority Leader.
SPONSORED BY CHIQUEMAGAZINE.COM: The All Progressives Congress in Ondo State has accused Governor Olusegun Mimiko of planning to divert N1.5 billion in grants from foreign donors to phony contracts.
APC, in a statement issued by its Publicity Secretary, Mr Abayomi Adesanya, in Akure on Saturday said the money was the accumulated foreign grants to Ondo State Wealth Creation Agency (WECA) and Multilateral Relation Department.
“It has come to our knowledge, on good authority, that Ondo State Government, two days ago, specifically Jan. 4, 2017, took receipt of the N1.2 billion physical cash being amount deposited into the account of the Multilateral Relation Department of the Governor’s Office as accumulated grants from foreign donors.
“Confirmed information also shown that another sum of N385 million was credited into the account of the Wealth Creation Agency (WECA) of Ondo State.
The APC said it was sad that unpatriotic and unscrupulous elements within the highest echelon of the outgoing government had activated nefarious plans to siphon the money into private accounts.
“To perfect this plan, arrangement had been made to transfer the N1.2 billion to WECA which has been designated as exit point for the monies.
“Already, high level civil servants in the two departments have been mobilised to begin processing of phony contracts award papers to perfect the looting spree of the total sum of N1.585 billion.”
Adesanya described the act as callous and sabotage by some individuals in government to steal public funds as valedictory gifts to themselves and warned civil servants of the consequences of such act.
“Ondo APC wishes to direct the attention of Gov. Olusegun Mimiko to this and to emphasise the need to arrest this heinous crime before it completely tarnishes him in the dying minutes of his tenure.
“We also wish to point out to the Governor that all accusing fingers are pointing at him considering the fact that the two agencies are directly under his supervision.
“And now that this massive looting plan has been uncovered, civil servants, particularly the relevant officers at WECA and Multilateral offices are seriously warned not to cooperate with the outgoing Mimiko administration to defraud Ondo State.
“Gov. Mimiko, his political appointees as well as civil servants should be put on notice that already the incoming government of our party is in possession of past, current and daily records of financial misdeeds of high elements of the outgoing government.’’
Reacting to the allegation, Mr Kayode Akinmade, state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, disclosed that the allegation was “frivolous and a falsehood.
“The allegation is frivolous and falsehood and I challenge the party to provide facts on this allegation.
“APC will take over government in Ondo State on Feb. 24, they should wait till then. As at now, Dr Olusegun Mimiko is the governor of Ondo State and he has the right to take decision(s) about the state.
“APC cannot tie the hands of the governor from performing his statutory functions,’’ Akinmade said.
SPONSORED BY X365RADIO.COM: Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi has said plans are underway to pay the monthly stipends to former lawmakers and local government chiefs of the state.
The governor announced this at his Uburu country home when the people of Izzi clan, comprising Abakaliki, Izzi and Ebonyi local governments visited him for Christmas and New Year.
Umahi, who said he will approach the House of Assembly to make a law to that effect, said the reason was to accommodate them in his administration.
A statement yesterday by his Chief Press Secretary, Emma Anya, quoted him as saying: “My aim is to carry everybody along, especially the political class. That’s why I will be approaching the House of Assembly to ask for approval so that those legislators, who are not on seat now, we will start paying them some stipends. Former local government chairmen will also be included.
“I believe this is how we can get them to help in developing and creating wealth in our state.”