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Aso Wenah: Unveiling Unsung philanthropist, force behind the Amaechi School of Politics and philosophy

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By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze

  Preamble

Some heroes such as Hon. Asondu Wenah Temple are unsung, for the mere fact that they focus on doing what they are doing so as to achieve specific results for others while playing down on issues pertaining themselves. When it becomes imperative that I unveil to the entire world Hon. Aso Wenah, one of the most trusted aides and allies of Rt. Hon. Chibhike Rotimi Amaechi, the erstwhile Governor of Rivers State and incumbent Minister of Transportation, two great quotes from two great minds came to my mind: Maya Angelou with Hon. Wenah in mind stated and I quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”. This great Amaechi disciple whose principle of life is stewed in living his life for others is in tandem with the belief of Maya Angelou.

Orison Swett Marden on the other hand while emulating Maya Angelou described this great but unsung son of Rivers State thus, “There is no investment you can make which will pay you so well as the effort to scatter sunshine and good cheer through your establishment”. Asondu is a fellow who believes that you can only be helped when you help others out of their problems.”

One of the unique principles of Amaechi as a seasoned administrator is his belief in building the youths of Nigeria and assigning to them responsibility to prove themselves as the future leaders of this country. He exhibited it through his educational policy where he not only approved scholarship but sponsored most of them to study professional courses outside Nigeria. Amaechi also craves for younger ones to enjoy what was not possible for him; unlike many leaders who find it difficult to see younger ones enjoy what eluded them.

The fact remains that Amaechi, no matter the thinking of anybody, is an Institution as far as Nigerian politics is concerned; a man who out of nothing but by divine grace and influence has become a rallying point for the unity, greatness, and brighter future for Nigeria and Nigerians.

In order for us to understand and appreciate the impact, import and role that Hon. Asobdu Wenah has played and is playing in making this Institution (Amaechi) one of the most remarkable and outstanding Political Institutions in Nigeria one needs to explain how Amaechi is an Institution.

The Main Aim of this Treatise

An Institution is assumed to mean a place or schools through which leaders are trained to enable them occupy sensitive leadership positions in their place or places of work or country. In Nigeria particularly in Rivers State there exist such an Institution that have trained and turn out great and creditable leaders that it will be out of place for us not to expose such a school and the force and forces behind its greatness. That is the main aim of this treatise.

 

First, How Is Amaechi An Institution?

Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, a humanist, administrator par excellence, visionary, egalitarian mentor, radical giant, a respected pragmatist and exemplary leader, was twice the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly (1999-2007); Chairman, Conference of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria (1999 – 2000), Governor of Rivers State (2007 – 2015), and two-time Chairman of the Governors’ Forum in Nigeria from 2011 to 2015. A winner of several awards including the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), he successfully led the Presidential Campaign Organization of President Muhammadu Buhari to victory both in 2015 and in 2019, a feat never before achieved in any party of Africa for an individual to lead a Presidential Campaign Organization to two victories back to back.

In his capacity as the Minister for Transportation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he has redefined the transportation system in Nigeria with gigantic and unique feats uncommon in the rail system in the country. His plot to link up most key State capitals in Nigeria through rail system is a feat that has changed the thinking of many Nigerians towards the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari of which he played a pivotal role to influence his victory both in 2015 and the 2019 general elections.

Testifying about Amaechi through his Media Aide, Mallam Shehu Garba, the Nigeria President, General Muhammadu, stated and I quote: “As the Minister of Transportation turns 55, President Buhari believes that Amaechi’s investments in the development of Rivers State, and current efforts in building infrastructure across the country, will always be remembered by posterity. The President urged him to stay focused on the larger picture of working to improve lives. The President also extols Amaechi for his willingness to make sacrifices and support the governing party, APC, recalling with appreciation, the major role he played in the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections, and his continuous contributions to promote peace and unity of purpose. President Buhari prays that the almighty God will position the Director General of his Presidential Campaigns for greater glory, and grant him more opportunities to serve the country and humanity.”

Other worthy minds also spoke; one of them is Prof. Nelson Brambaifa who said: “To a steadfast and energetic achiever, a serial record breaker, a higher goal setter; may your days be long and full of unprecedented achievements.”

Today in the politics of Nigeria no matter the stands of some pessimists, Amaechi with the above staggering feats is an Iroko and Institution.  Affirming this belief two great Nigerians: Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Prof.Wole Soyinka stated thus, “Rt.Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is the Commander and General of the Common sense revolution army that defeated a sitting President, he is a wonder boy!” – Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu while the otherhand the Laurent. Prof Wole Soyinka stated and I quote, “Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is the most courageous Nigerian I have ever seen, he is tactful, fearless, reliable, workaholic, honest and blunt.

While those of us that knew his capability and commitment towards raising great and astounding leaders describe him as the Lion of Niger Delta region a region comprising of about nine States and to many other Nigerians he is the Bridge Builder unites and connect the entire tribes and Sections of this country into a virile and vibrant force. Now that the Institutionalism of Amaechi is established, let me therefore use this opportunity to expose and highlight the very few Lecturers and Students that have passed through this Institution before presenting the amiable, indefatigable, unsung and gentle Registrar of this Institution, Hon. Asondu Wenah Temple.

 

Some of the Lecturers and Graduands of Amaechi School of Politics:

Though, it is difficult for one to claim to have graduated from this school that has produced many timbers and shakers of our politics both within and outside Nigeria as there is always a new dimension or area of study to most of the committed and honest students of the school. The fact remains not minding any contradictory opinion the following great minds can boast that they have made a reasonable impact on his political philosophy as they have either lectured or graduated in flying colours from the school.

 

The most remarkable figures were:

Chief Nyesom Wike, Senator Magnus Abe, Igo Aguma, Chief Austin Opara, Engr. Tele Ikuru, Chief Uche Secondus, Hon. Marcus Nle Eji, Hon. Chidi Wihioka, Hon. Allwell Onyeso, Barr Worgu Boms, Chief Tony Okocha. Though some of these great politicians who either lectured or graduated successfully have gone ahead to other political schools or established their own brand of political school totally away from the principles that were handed to or bestowed on them during their stay in AMAECHI School of Politics.

 

Others who have continued to lecture and study in the school are:

Senator Andrew Uchendu, Dr Dakuku Peterside, Ambassador Oji Nyiemenuate Ngofa, Chief Sam Sam Jaja, Prof Henry Ugboma, Dr George Tolofari, Pastor Tonye Patrick Cole, Dr Chidi Julius Lloyd, Dr. Davies H. Sokonte, Prince Tonye Princewill, Ibim Sementari, Prof Onwunari Abraham Georgewill, Prof Steve Okodudu, Hon Ike Chinwo, Dame Aleruchi Cookey-Gam, Chief Victor Giadom, Chief Asita O Asita, Dr Ibiamu Davies Ikanya. Ambassador Dr Maureen Tamuno, Aso Wenah (Registrar), Chief Kingsley Wali, Dr Oyirinda Chris Amadi (PhD), Akpobari Celestine, Chizi Nyeomasila K, Rt Hon Leyii Kwanee, Dawari George, Emma Chindah, Fubara Imangimama, James George Fuayefika, Okey Amadi,  Emeka Nwogu,  Henry Ogiri, Charles Anyanwu, Ishmael Singarr, Lawrence Chukwu (PhD), Ojukaye flag Amachree, Azubuike Byke Wanjoku, Chikode Dike, David Okumagba, Sunny Ogbowo, Achi William-Wobodo, Chris Finebone, Lucky Omenka, Zuby Dike, Reginald Okuoma, Ambros Nwize, and Kennedy Ebeku.Hon. George Ukwuomanwogba, Dr Dabota Jumbo, Chief Dr Mike Nwlieghai, Lady Christie Obiaruko Ndukwe, Barr. Forgiven Amachree, Barr Chizy Enyi, Chief Alex Wele,Hon. Ordnance Odinakachi, Prof Andrew Efemini, Barr. Achi Godwin William-Wobodo, Hon. Omenka,  Barr Enyi Chizy, Hon. Ordinance Odinkachi, Chief Fortune Oguru.

The list is long but also includes Chief Chibuike Ikenga, Dr. Victoria Nyeche, Bright Jacob, Irene Inimgba, Kieran Wobodo, Ezemonye Ezekiel Amadi, Hon. Marshall Isreal, Apostle Eugene Ogu, Nyema Wele, Wele, Theodore Georgewill, Emeka Beke, Tekena Flag Amachree, Mike Igonima, Francis Elechi, Uche Okwukwu, Nancy Ijaopo Stevens, Joe Poroma, Fubara Imangs, Henry Halliday, Chukwudi Dimkpa, Sunday Amangi, Allison Anderson, Martins Manna, Lucky Worluh, Godstime Orlukwu, Lucky Odili, Henry Odili, Gift Okere, Prof Imegi, , Bekks Dagogo-Jack, Ode ThanksGod, Batam Ndegwe, , Chris Oboh, Eric Apiah, Felix Nwabochi, Bisi Nwankwo, and Ogbonna Nwuke, Barr Isaac Ogbogbula.

The list is endless but I will not fail to mention the following great graduates of the school: Chief Ambrose Nwuzi, Collyns Owhondah, Opubo West, Awara Biokpomabo, Kingsley Owhondah, Chikaodi Dike, Caroline Nagbo, Austin Ahiamadu, Bestman Amadi,  Captain Akarolo, Felicia Tanen, Mike Awalanta Ejire, Ngozi Yagbs Abu, Mohammed Bello Koko, Fortune Oguru, Collins Ordu,  Sydney Nyeche, Chimenem N. Wali, Barr Chizi Woko, Chief Nelson Wali, Hon Francis Eleto, Hon Emeka Woko, Ihunda Mbata, Control Asobi, Kerian Nwobodo, Bestman Amadi, Akul Georgewil, Edwin Oludi,  Dr Ugo Ugorji, Lax Damabara, Erima Peterside, Amachree, Arisky Alabere, Achi W. Freddy  Ichego, Chris Nworgwu, Peter Emejuru (PhD), Sunny Dike, Eberechi Wagbara, Chris Obasiolu, Edwin Oludi, Emeka Worgu, Eli Sogbeye, Omenazu Jackson (PhD), Dagogo Emma, Chief Eze C. Eze and  Abiye Festus.

As I said the list is endless and if I have failed to include your name here, please forgive me as the list that the Registrar gave to me is not what can be contained in a treatise like this but will surely be included in the book that will soon be released on who is who in Amaechi School of politics and Philosophy.

With these characters, Nigeria and Nigerians should wait to witness a change of fortune by the time they take their relevant positions in the scheme of things in Nigeria.

A Look at Aso and His Role as the Registrar of the Amaechi School of Politics:

Ronald Reagan one of the most outstanding Presidents of USA with Aso in mind stated and I quote, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” while John C. Maxwell in his input stated, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

We all know that the functions of a Registrar in any given Institution apart from running the administrative organ of the Institution is to formally admit, screen students for admission and prepare policies and strategies on how to make the school meets up with the ideals and principles of the founding fathers.

I will attempt in this study highlight areas in which Chief Wenah have tried to showcase his talent as one of the most outstanding Registrars of any political school in Nigeria.

Before, I go any further in this study, let me reiterate that one of the trademarks associated with this enigma and outstanding Administrator is his ability to keep the record of the birthdays of all former and present students of his school and to wish and send birthday messages to them as the occasion demands. Example of this is this message he sent to one of the Head Of Department, Dr Dawari George on his 50th birthday, “A rare breed…Calm and stubbornly upright…An HOD in ‘THAT’ Amaechi’s School…Happy birthday my dear friend Dawasco…I welcome you to the 5th floor..”

This example of an ideal Aide was put into practice during the first APC Primary to elect her Presidential Flag-Bearer for the 2015 general elections. This man who doesn’t know what sleep means whenever he embarks upon any project for the number of days that the Primary was organised was everywhere organising the Delegates to ensure that they were comfortable and to vote right.

I was privileged to watch this gentle man from a distance at Lagos and I told myself that this Amaechi knows how to raise true and capable leaders.

I will pick up other areas of this man’s endeaavours as we go further with this study and ascertain if he has succeeded in this regard or not.

 

My first contact with Dr Aso Wenah:

Though, it was fate that occasioned my admission into this great school after successfully passing in flying colours from one of the most outstanding political schools in Nigeria the Atiku Political School. My admission was directly processed by the Founder of the School, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi when he was on exile occasioned by the K-leg episode of his gubernatorial ambition under the platform of PDP in 2007. During this period, Sir Celestine Omehia was holding sway as the Governor of Rivers State but reading most of my Press Statements hitting so hard on the administration of Omahia through Dr Doris Fisher and Dr Sampson Parker, Amaechi reasoned with Dr Sampson Parker one of his foot soldiers then that “if this Eze and his Principal, Prince Tonye Princewill can be in Rivers State and issuing this type of Press Statements in the then volatile Rivers State under a PDP Government then they are the type of people that we need to work with”. By the time, God made it possible through the Supreme Court for Amaechi to reclaim his mandate as the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze has already been enrolled into this great school.

Not minding my position with Amaechi the need of formal registration need to be followed accordingly. Based on this it becomes imperative that I need to contact Hon. Asondu Temple whom I have not met or known. My contact with him was dramatic as I was expecting to see one grey head and heavy bearded man but when I met him, I told him that I need to see Chief Aso for formal registration if he is in office, I was shocked when he told me that he is the Aso that I want to see. I wonder how such a young man could be in position to manage such a great and influential school. This unassuming young man simply showcase humility in all its ramification.

 

Aso as Rivers State Liaison Officer In Charge of Lagos State Office

It is on record that since the inception of Rivers State in 1967 Hon Aso Wenah’s feats and innovative ideals and policies as the Rivers State Liaison Officer in Lagos dwarfed both the past and present officers appointed to handle that sensitive organ of government administration.

His feats earned him the title of Ambassador Extraordinary of Rivers State as he used his office to attract foreign and local investments to Rivers State. He ensured that Lagos and Rivers states maintain wonderful and cordial relationship throughout his period of stewardship.

The leading role he played to ensure that President Muhammadu Buhari got the ticket of APC during the party’s primaries held in Lagos is still evergreen in the minds of most of the delegates.

 

Aso as a Member of RMAFC

Sequel to his confirmation by the Senate, President Muhammadu Buhari on June 27, 2019 swore in Hon. Wenah Asondu Temple as a commissioner of Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) representing Rivers State together with Elias Mbam from Ebonyi State as the chairman of the Commission alongside these other Commissioners: Chris Akomas (Abia), Ayang Sunday Okon (Akwa Ibom), Chima Philip Okafor (Anambra), Prof. Isa Mohammed (Bauchi), Samuel Adaa Maagbe (Benue), Ntufam Eyo Nsa Whiley (Cross River), Andrew Ogheneovo Agbaga (Delta), and Victor Eboigbe (Edo).

Others confirmed were: Amujo Philip Ajayi (Ekiti), Maria Aniobi (Enugu), Musa Abari (FCT), Mohammed Usman (Gombe), Alhaji Ahmed Mahmoud Gumel (Jigawa), Alh. Kabir Muhammad Mashi (Katsina), Barr Umar Farouk Abdullahi (Kano), Rilwan Hussein Abarshi (Kebbi), Hon Suleiman Kokori Abdul (Kogi), and Abdullahi Shuaibu Yaman (Kwara).

Wright Olusegun Adekunle (Lagos), Aliyu A. Abdulkadir (Nasarawa), Ibrahim Bako Bagudu Shettima (Niger), Mr.Fari Adebayo (Ogun), Mr. Tokunbo Ajasin (Ondo), Kolade Daniel Abimbola (Oyo), Mr. Alexander Shaiyen (Plateau), Alhaji Modu Aji Juluri (Yobe) and Abubakar Sadiq A. Gusau (Zamfara) were also among the nominees confirmed for the Commission.

President Buhari, during the event which held at the Presidential Villa stated, “The mandate of the Commission is very wide and has an important for our country’s economy. The Commission must be fair and just to the three tiers and arms of government without compromising its core mandate. The officials were chosen based on their integrity and proven track records thus, much is expected from them. I appeal to the commission to work hard towards meeting government’s target of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty”.

“In my speech on June 12 Democracy Day, “I set a target for our country to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. This commitment is to further challenge the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission to rise to its constitutional responsibilities and mandate.

“I will charge the chairman and honourable commissioners to concentrate more on expanding the sources of revenue to the federation account and other non-oil sources including solid minerals, use all legal ways and means to strengthen its monitoring mechanism and block leakages of revenue from the federation account, all relevant laws and regulations on revenue collection and remittances should be fully complied with and appropriate sanctions visited on defaulters,” he said.

RMAFC was established by Decree No.49 of 1989 (now an Act of National Assembly) to handle revenue allocation and fiscal matters on a continuous basis.

The body is also responsible for fixing the remuneration of political office holders as well as monitoring the revenues accruing to the federation account from revenue-generating agencies.

 

Aso as a Grassroot Politician:

The demonstration and practicality of Asondu Temple as a grassroots politician was exhibited during the 2015 rerun elections when he begun massive mobilisation of the grassroots for the coming re-run elections in Rivers State as he took advantage of the public holiday then to reach out directly to voters in their respective houses and kitchens.

From Ogbodo to Adanta, from Alimini to Mgbu-ohara, he visited and discussed with people of various shades of opinions and political leanings in the ancient Kingdom of Isiokpo, signaling a new vigor of rural politicking. As he stepped from one house to the order, he preached the message of hope, assuring the people that very soon, they would have the opportunity of freely casting their ballots in a safe and secured environment.

He enjoined the people to remain committed and faithful, stating that between then and Feb 2016, Dr Dakuku Peterside and all APC candidates would retrieve their stolen mandates. He reminded them to keep their PVCs safe and secured.

THE TESTIMONIES OF BENEFICIARIES OF ASO PHILANTHROPIC EXPLOITS:

Aso Wenah is a wonderful, kind, quintessential character and galvanizer of the people and Servant Leadership Model. He is a generous and an unassuming personality who though very powerful but never acted as if he was powerful or famous. Some testimonies by others can help to unveil the real who does not talk about himself;-

1. Hon. Aso Built a House for Me – Mr. Chisa Ogbudu

Testifying of God’s blessing through Hon. Aso, Mr Chisa Ogbudu of Ogbodo, popularly called Go-Slow expressed gratitude to Hon. Aso for building a house for him. He told everyone who cared to listen that he was living in a thatch house before Hon. Aso ordered the demolition of the decrepit apartment and replaced it with a brand new building. He pledged his family’s commitment to the APC.

 

2 Hon. Aso Made Me a Crane Operator – Mr.Temple Wobike

Another beneficiary of Hon. Aso’s magnanimity, Mr.Temple Wobike, officially presented his Certificate of Crane Operation to Hon. Aso, who he said paid the entire bills for him to learn the skill. He said “Oga, I no know how I go use thank you; all I can say is, thank you, God bless you sir”

 

3 Even the blind can see his works:

 Hon Aso Has Been Good to Me – Mr. King Okparanta (a blind man):

Mr. King Okparanta, a sight-impaired man was almost moved to tears as Hon. Aso stepped into his parlor. He told all that he had never been abandoned as expected of Nigerian politicians, testifying that most of his responsibilities as a father such as school fees payment for his children, monthly upkeep allowance for his family, repair of his leaking roof, etc, had been borne by three hnourable men, Aso Wenah, Achi Wobodo and Chris Oyirinda.

 

4. We will support you, Aso tells Smart Esemonu’s family:

Hon. Aso has assured a family which lost its breadwinner that he will support them in their burial arrangements. He also promised to assist the bereaved wife and children in finding means of sustainable survival.

5. Am Very Proud Of You – ADA-OROSI:

An old woman, popularly called Ada-Orosi, has commended Hon. Aso for his magnanimity towards her. She said Hon. Aso bought her drugs regularly and gave her money for upkeep. She called him “Ezi Nwo” meaning, good child in Ikwerre language.

Addressing the people, Hon. Aso told them to keep praying for Ex-Gov Amaechi, Dr. Dakuku Peterside and other leaders of the APC.

He charged the people to also pray for Hon. Achi Wobodo and Hon. Chris Oyirinda with whom he has partnered to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people of the kingdom, assuring further that very soon; the three of them shall organize this year’s edition of their annual Christmas support program.

Conclusion

A man must look like his mentor. Amaechi’s legacy and contribution to Nigeria and Rivers State may go beyond what he did as a person but the kind of philosophy and leaders he would leave behind.

I must thus confess that with a character like Asondu Wenah Temple and few of the graduates of Amaechi School of Politics the future of Rivers State and Nigeria is not only very bright but will be prosperous.g

 I pray Aso not for any reason forgoes his style of leadership and his humanitarian approach to leadership as God will always guide and prepare him for higher assignments.

The fact remains that Aso is a good man with a selfless attitude and candor.

Finally, with the powers bestowed on me as the Chief Historian and records Keeper of the history of Amaechi and his politics, I hereby unveil to you and the entire world Chief Asondu Wenah Temple the workaholic and brian behind whatever it is that the Amaechi School of Politics is all about. It is now left to you to judge accordingly.

Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt and can be reached thru: 08022049770,ezemediaconcept2020@gmail.com

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COLUMNISTS

Back on the beat, after defeating COVID-19

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By: Gboyega Akosile                                                             

Thank God I am back at my duty post! I returned to work today, Wednesday, August 5, 2020 after several weeks away, battling the monstrous Coronavirus.

It began with a feverish condition on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. I usually don’t joke with my health so I stopped at a pharmacy on my way home, got an anti malaria drug with some paracetamol and I used it as recommended.

I must state here that I have never completed a full dose of any malaria treatment or drugs before getting back on my feet in my adult life, never! In fact, you would have to remind me sometimes before taking my drugs because I would have felt well after taking the second dose. This time, I completed the malaria medicine yet there was no improvement. By Thursday (July 2) evening and Friday (July 3) morning, my health condition had started to deteriorate. The feelings gradually moved from headaches to severe body pains and cold. Same day, I had a responsibility to organize a media briefing for my boss. I didn’t raise the alarm just yet because everybody was wary of everyone else, especially if you showed any signs of illness. But the truth is I was sick, terribly sick.

I told my wife on Thursday evening that there was a need for us to get tested for COVID-19. I convinced her that we needed to clear all doubts. She understood clearly, knowing it may not be out of place that I had been exposed to the virus, especially now that Lagos was experiencing rise in community spread.

We drove straight to the Yaba Infectious Diseases Hospital on Friday morning and in less than an hour; the very efficient Lagos health workers in charge of sample collection and testing attended us to.

Although he was not ill and showed no signs of COVID-19, I encouraged my driver to join us for the test. We left for Marina to continue with the day’s official activities. While Mr. Governor was briefing and responding to questions from journalists, I stood there on the beautifully tendered State House lawn shaking from within. I could feel that my legs were wobbling from inside my bone marrow. Not even the beauty of the grass, which I usually admire, could calm the way I felt.

I remember how much I tried to keep more than two metres away from some colleagues who had come to me for some clarifications on issues or points raised by Mr. Governor. Since I was not sure of my status, I needed to take responsibility by ensuring that nothing was discharged into the atmosphere from my side.

I waited till the end of the press conference, managed to move towards my boss but ensured that I didn’t move close to him. In that socially distanced position, I informed him of my state of health and his response was direct, “have you gone for another test?” He asked because he had mandated his entire close aides to go for COVID-19 test on two or three occasions. He has also done the test repeatedly, just for everyone to feel safe around the office. I answered him in the affirmative, “yes sir, I just did this morning. Results should be out on Sunday.” He then said I should go home for a couple of days. I thanked him and I left the State House.

No sooner had I left the State House than the real symptoms started in fearful proportion. To be honest, I was scared. I had never felt that way before in my entire life. Driving from Marina to Ikeja felt like travelling from Lagos to New York. The vibrations and other bodily pains I experienced that day can’t be described here. I rolled from one end of the vehicle to another. All I remember was my driver’s voice, saying “epele sir (sorry sir)”. It was excruciating! By the time we got home, my eyes had turned red, with the retinal looking the other way. My wife took over immediately as the resident nurse. She was scared too but she summoned the courage and took charge. She insisted we went to the hospital. We did. I told the doctor that I had gone for COVID-19 test but he said he would place me on another round of malaria treatment.

I took some shots that evening, repeated them on Saturday morning and evening. I went again on Sunday morning but there was no remarkable improvement. By Sunday evening, our COVID-19 test results were sent to me via email. My worst fear stared at me in the face; we all tested positive for Coronavirus – my wife, driver and I. I immediately called my driver to inform him. Clearly he was asymptomatic because as at that time and up till the time of writing this piece, he had no symptoms. Life has been normal for him. Nonetheless, I insisted that he should self-isolate at home for 14 days and not go about infecting other people.

I duly informed my principal and then called my direct boss, Mr. Tayo Ayinde, the Chief of Staff to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who immediately made arrangements for my treatment. The doctors called in and asked that we isolate at home. They tutored me on all the protocols, most of them I was already familiar with, having been part of the communication team on Lagos State Government’s response to COVID-19.

Case management started and in two days, I had lost my sense of smell, taste and every symptom that comes with COVID-19 had fully manifested in me. Trust me, it was not a particularly pleasant experience.

In eight to nine days of medication, the initial pains and discomfort started to disappear. I began to experience a new lease of life. My SPO2, which is a small device used in checking the flow of oxygen in a patient’s system was back to normal. BP was good and body temperature returned to normal. This time, I could attend to work related issues. I started working from home.

Recall that three of us tested positive and one was asymptomatic. My wife too showed some symptoms from Monday, July 5, so she was placed on same medication. While I improved, her condition took a downward turn; her oxygen level was below the acceptable limit of 95! At first, it fluctuated between 90 and 94; sometimes it would hit 95 so I was hopeful. Her Blood Pressure was also irregular. The value was inconsistent; sometimes good, at another time bad.

On Tuesday, July 14, her SPO2 went down to 88! That was when it dawned on everyone that she had to be evacuated to an isolation centre. She was taken to the Onikan centre, where she received some of the best treatment that COVID-19 patients in the United States of America are looking for. I don’t get scared easily by anything or situation. This time, I was very scared. I thought the worst phase of my life had come when after three days of her admission, she had not responded well to the treatment. She neither called home nor picked her phone. Everyone was worried.

Thanks to the Lagos State Government, the Ministry of Health, the health workers; doctors, nurses and drivers, among others who ensured that my wife, like all the other patients that were brought in under very terrible conditions returned home with joy.

After spending five days, we started to connect again via video calls.

Since I was not in the isolation centre, the closest was when I took her birthday cake there for a symbolic celebration; I could only rely on her experience, which she described as wholesome.

I decided to touch on my wife’s experience to draw attention to the fact that people do not necessarily die of COVID-19. You lose people to complications from underlining ailments. Unknown to us, my wife had a silent case of pneumonia and had some blood clot related issues. And since she had not fallen sick, these conditions never manifested in any form. Everyone in the house appeared healthy and truly so until the COVID-19 incident.

It is very important to conduct comprehensive medical checks, even if it is once in a year. If we had known this earlier, perhaps our experience would have been less traumatic when COVID-19 came calling.

Without sounding immodest, Lagos State Government is a model State on the COVID-19 response in Africa. Special thanks to Mr. Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu who built excess capacity in readiness for the pandemic. This has helped the State to manage the effects of the pandemic since it broke out.

COVID-19 is not a hoax, it’s very real. Use your face mask  wash your hands regularly, use sanitizer and please keep to the social distance protocols.

Now I am back on the beat, what have I missed?

Akosile is the Chief Press Secretary to the Lagos State Governor.

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COLUMNISTS

Pendulum: Tribute to the Parakoyi of Ibadanland, Bode Akindele

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BY DELE MOMODU

Fellow Nigerians, one of Africa’s greatest business icons, Sir Chief Labode Oladimeji Akindele (OFR, KJW, JP), was buried in his hometown of Ibadan, Oyo State, yesterday. In a country where history is no longer a priority, many Nigerians may not readily remember the name and the man as he died at the ripe age of 87, though he never retired from not his business and the limelight that he hugged so tenaciously in his heyday. But, trust me, if you’re talking of old money, good business and good character, here was a colossus, a giant amongst men physically and literally, who was committed to mother earth in a classy but understated ceremony, engendered by the COVID-19 pandemic and the physical and social distancing guidelines that it has spawned all over the world.

But for the unfortunate pandemic ravaging the world, Sir Chief Bode Akindele’s funeral obsequies would have been a global affair starting from the Commendation Service held in Lagos on Tuesday till the funeral itself on Friday in Ibadan. He deserved it because he worked assiduously for it. You will see the justification for my assertion in the course of my story about this enigmatic Yoruba chieftain and national and international business mogul and monumental philanthropist. During normal times, this would have been a burial of a titan, a farewell of monumental proportions that would have had the movers and shakers of Nigerian society in full attendance. The earth would have moved and trembled at the might of those who had come to pay their last respects to this great elephant that had fallen. It was not to be, but nevertheless, as was befitting of such a great man Chief Akindele still went out with a bang notwithstanding the prevailing conditions.

I was proud and delighted to be invited to join his close family members, associates and friends at the popular Methodist Church, Agbeni. It was for good reason. I have been a chronicler of the great man for a couple of decades. I have known Sir Chief Bode Akindele for close to 20 years. I was honoured to have been welcomed into his inner circle so warmly and was privileged to have had unrestricted access to his homes and offices in Nigeria and England. We enjoyed good food and exotic wines every time we had the opportunity of meeting. Our favourite at his home in London was always a sumptuous meal of Amala accompanied by Gbegiri and Ewedu otherwise known as Abula (an Ibadan all-time favourite and delicacy), with an array of rich assortment of meat and fish dishes as supporting cast. What do you expect from a proud Ibadan man, one of its wealthiest sons ever? I have never met such a man who loved his background and upbringing and glorious heritage so passionately. Despite being surrounded by a motley crowd of expatriate staff, everyone knew him and referred to him as an Ibadan son of the soil. You could see the glint in his eyes whenever he spoke, so copiously and eloquently, about his town, one of Africa’s biggest cities. He was innately still that Ibadan boy and was acutely aware of it and happy about his rich culture.

The first comprehensive glimpse of his life as a global player in the world of business was the launch of his autobiography, I DID IT GOD’S WAY, on his 70th birthday some 17 odd years ago, as well as his first major interview which he granted the Ovation International magazine. During the session he had with me and the Editor of Ovation International, Mike Effiong James, we met an accomplished man in all its ramifications, a humble and God-fearing gentleman, a man at peace with everyone and his Creator. Due to space constraints, it may be difficult to encapsulate all of Chief’s adventures in a life spanning 87 years plus in one article. I believe a compendium of books would not do him justice. He is a veritable resource material for historians, social commentators, welfarists and economists alike.

He was no doubt a silver-spoon kid with his father, Pa Laniyan Akindele, being the Chief Tax Officer of the Ibadan Native Authority, the equivalent of the Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue today. His mother, Alhaja Rabiatu Adedigba Akindele, was a wealthy textile dealer and was the first woman to travel to Mecca in the whole of Ibadan. According to Chief, the journey took two and half years to complete and she returned in 1953. In those days “the only means of transportation to Mecca was first by train from Ibadan to Kano and then from Kano on camels through the Sahara Desert to Mecca…” What a scenic journey and vibrant experience that would have been for a young woman.

Despite his pedigree as a member of the privilegentsia, he attended primary and secondary schools in Ibadan and Abeokuta, before taking overseas courses by tuition in Secretarial skills, Accountancy and Business Management. He was determined to build his own career rather than rely on family fortunes. In those days, children of rich men and women were immediately co-opted into the family business rather than be encouraged to get an education. Akindele was fortunate that his father was a top civil servant who knew the value of education.

Once he completed his education Akindele took to business like a fish to water.

His business acumen was phenomenal. He knew it was better for him to gain experience in the unfolding business world that the British and Europeans were introducing to Nigeria. The years 1952 to 1956 saw him navigating and meandering his ways through the labyrinth of commercial enterprises including U.A.C Limited, as a Trainee Manager, Ibadan Traders Association Limited as Personal Assistant to the Managing Director, Ibadan Bus Services Limited as Assistant Accountant and as Under-Secretary of the Western Nigeria Union of Importers and Exporters (Inc.).

However, it was right from school that his entrepreneurial spirits and skills first germinated and flourished. According to Chief Akindele:

“When I was in primary school, I used to do a little trading… Whenever I was going to school, I would just throw a packet of sugar or something in my bag. I would sell it to my school mates and teachers. So, I was making a little money. Later on, as I advanced, I would buy business journals, and write to merchants, who would send me things like shoes and so on and I would sell to both school children and teachers. When I got to secondary school, I decided to upgrade it.

I made a deal with my mother, who was a trader in dried meat, called Kundi, from the North, to send me quantities of Kundi instead of my school fees and allowances. So, I would resell the meat and make extra money. Later on, we agreed that ten packets of Kundi would cover all my fees, so I asked her to send twenty to sell for her. She agreed to send me the meat, but I had to return the entire principal to her and keep only the profit to myself. I had to comply strictly with the conditions of the contract in order to keep that business going. You can’t do otherwise with my mother.

“Later on, after leaving school, I started importing sewing machines. At that time, the Japanese were very unpopular. It was long after the end of the second world war and their goods were regarded as second class. What the Japanese did was that they copied Western technology. At that time, Singer sewing machines were being sold for 32 Pounds. The Japanese wanted to penetrate the African market because they knew that Africa was where people could afford highly priced high-quality goods. I wrote them that we had a company that could help them popularise their goods in Nigeria. So, they wrote back to me. I asked them to send a sample for me to show to people. They replied that they would be delighted to do that if I could pay half the price of the machine. They would take care of the freight. I saw that as a good opportunity.

“The school I attended trained us very well in commercial subjects. I calculated that I would sell the machine for about 21 Pounds. So, I sent them 7 Pounds 10 Shillings and they sent a brand new sewing machine. Though it was assembled in Japan, there was no difference at all with the Singer sewing machine. I invited the big tailors to see the machine; I sold the machine for 14 Pounds. I sent the 14 Pounds to two other companies who wanted to send me samples. When the time came that I figured that the machine was getting popular, I raised the price to 21 Pounds each. So, the two that came were sold for a total of 42 Pounds.

“In those days, 42 Pounds was a lot of money. I put the whole 42 Pounds back into the business. I was the first person to introduce Japanese sewing machines here…”

Chief Akindele did not rest on his oars and rely solely on selling sewing machines. He realised at an early stage that diversification was necessary for any successful entrepreneur. He therefore decided to also go into the business of electrical fittings like fans and so on. At this time Chief Akindele had also established the Oke’Badan Brothers & Company (Produce Merchants) in Ibadan but later moved its headquarters to Lagos sometime around 1961 to 1962 because he felt Ibadan had become too small for the massive dreams brewing in his fertile and fecund mind. In Lagos. It was in Lagos that he founded his flagship company, the Modandola Group with a beautiful office at one of the choicest locations in Lagos at the time, 27-29 Martins Street, at the top of the African Continental Bank one of the prime Nigerian Banks of the 1960’s.

The business of produce merchandising was big but delicate. Many of the big names in it ended up incurring huge debts which sent them into liquidation and bankruptcy. Chief Akindele decided very early that this would not be his portion. He embarked on a lot of research and discovered the loopholes. For example, “the controlled produce included palm kernel, cocoa, palm oil, and some others. It was in these areas that big money was being made, but also, businesses were failing. However, there were more than two dozen other uncontrolled produce like gum Arabic, coffee, chilli, shea nuts, and so on. In his own words, “I decided that there must be somewhere out there in the world where these things are needed. I began to write. The first deal I got was for shea nuts. It was needed in Japan and Denmark and they said they wanted some…

Then, I added chilli. I sold it all over England. Also Gum Arabic… Just before the civil war (1967-1970), I had grown relatively big. I had sixteen branches in the North, where I collected produce…”

To be continued…

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COLUMNISTS

Pendulum: Do You Think Nigeria Can Ever be Good Again?

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BY DELE MOMODU

Fellow Nigerians, wherever two or more Nigerians are gathered and engaged in deep-heated discussions and arguments, you can immediately guess what the issue is all about, NIGERIA and our intractable problems. The questions on most lips today are: are we likely to witness a better Nigeria again; is Nigeria cursed or jinxed; do we have leaders who can rescue Nigeria from the brink of collapse; is corruption in our DNA; are we the worst country in the world; is it better to just break up Nigeria and say in unison “to thy tent oh Israel…”? And so on and so forth…

I shall endeavour to respond to the very germane questions, as complex and complicated as they may be. The first question suggests that Nigeria is a good country. Once we all agree on that in principle, then there is hope for a greater and better Nigeria. If we disagree, we must ask ourselves why we are frustrated about the wasted opportunities. Even the famous African writer, Chinua Achebe, had virtually written Nigeria off in his final offering to the country, in his book titled “There was a Country.”

Nigeria can truly frustrate The Pope and make him lose faith in God. It is not that we don’t all know our problems, or that we lack the mental abilities to think through and come up with solutions, but most of us are just too selfish and crudely self-centred to make the necessary sacrifices. We all grumble and lament endlessly before attaining power but as soon as we get into office, it seems some demonic forces overpower our common sense and turn us into foolish morons.

Or why would anyone think of stealing in arrears and in advance? What could drive any soul, sensible, rational or otherwise, to inflate contracts at 1000 percent and still stupidly refuse to execute the jobs?

The events of the past few weeks are just enough to task the brains of every optimist and turn us into an incurable pessimist. The stealing going on in a country that has the last Saint standing as President is not only mind-boggling but absolutely incredulous. So, I’m not surprised that many of our citizens have given up finally on anything good ever coming out of Nigeria. But, please, wait a minute, I don’t think hope has evaporated totally from Nigeria. It is true I feel such negative vibes too, sometimes, but I know for a fact that it is not impossible to save Nigeria from its self-inflicted pains, self-immolation and destruction. Kindly permit me to offer my own ideas in a jiffy.

What do we need to move Nigeria forward from this seeming state of inertia or even backwardness? The most important is that one man who genuinely believes in one Nigeria, and is willing to carry everyone along. We don’t need a multitude to fix Nigeria. Let me now describe in greater detail who that man should be. We need a completely detribalised Nigerian. That man must not be a religious bigot or tribal warlord. Sorry, the closest to such would be a Moshood Abiola or an Olusegun Obasanjo, despite his many other foibles. The leader must be naturally brilliant, intelligent, streetwise and confident like those two. The man must have managed people and resources successfully in his personal and private capacity. A man who has never managed business and resources is not likely to be well-equipped to manage the economy of a country as massive as Nigeria. That man must know how to assemble the best team, strictly on merit. Former Presidents Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasanjo impressed me in that aspect. We urgently need a man who believes in a star-studded cabinet and not some colourless and odoriferous desperados who are not interested in nation-building. He must be tolerant of different shades of opinions. He must be fair-minded and treat everyone with respect and decorum. He must obey the rule of law and allow separation of powers, as enshrined in our Constitution to flourish.

That man must know the importance of time, hit the ground running and have his blueprint and masterplans ready from day one. The masterplans must embrace the use of technology and de-emphasise physical contacts between government operatives and raw cash. This will normally reduce temptations by potentially corrupt souls. As much as possible, the leader or President must search for Nigerians with proven records of integrity all over the world. What’s the biggest task ahead of that man?

Education is the bedrock of modern nations. That man must subscribe to this truism. A nation that fails to invest aggressively in education at this time and age is doomed and sentenced to eternal damnation. Education should never be about going to school only and obtaining certificates. No.

Education should make everyone a useful citizen, a compassionate human being and responsible soul.

We should open vocational schools in every part of Nigeria and teach our youths how to become more of entrepreneurs instead of waiting for jobs that are not available. There is business for most of those with requisite knowledge. But many go to school today to possess certificates that would not be relevant to their lives and well-being.

The next man should be ready for battle, even a full-scale war with the reckless politicians who are not ready to sweat by sacrificing for Nigeria. He must commit to urgent reforms. The present American Presidential system we practise cannot be sustained. It will kill Nigeria, ultimately, if we don’t kill it. A system that forces a country to spend the bulk of its resources on politicians and civil servants is parasitic and must be exterminated by all means. We must consider a parliament with hugely reduced members. We must also think of how our Parliament can be a part time vocation for patriotic people. How I wished our previous military governments were disciplined enough to hand over such institutions to us. The outlandish enjoyment of our politicians is no longer tolerable or tenable. If it continues unabated, the mad insecurity in the land will soon quadruple and not even the uniformed men can contain it.

We must grow our economy by diversifying our exports. Nigeria is blessed with so much, but we are too mentally lazy to change our over-dependence on oil. Our population should be an asset and not a liability. We have significant natural resources which we are yet to tap. We need to transform our country into an industrial giant. The exploitation of these resources can only augur well for the development and transformation of our nation. It is essential to produce more at home than going abroad for nearly everything. This won’t happen until that man finds the will and courage to fix electricity problems.

The endemic issue of corruption would have to be tackled differently. It should become a way of life for all of us, ingrained in our body fluids. It should stop being a veritable tool for vendetta and witch-hunt. The leader must stop paying hypocritical lip service to fighting corruption if he is not willing to live by example. The billions of Naira we allocate to running the various State houses should be hacked down drastically. This time around, most of the Presidential jets should be sold off save for two for the President and Vice President. When President Obasanjo took power in 1999, he used to fly commercial flights, initially. This forced civil servants to calm down a bit. Nothing stops our President from choosing Air Peace or Arik as our symbolic National carrier. So, wherever he/she is going, you can charter one and patronise a Nigerian company. This will encourage our airlines to keep their aircrafts in serviceable conditions when they know the leader and others may call on them anytime. Our leaders must stop making frivolous flights from fancy.

No Nigerian leader must go abroad for medical treatment. This has become a major source of embarrassment. Is it not sad that some of the best Doctors in the world are Nigerians but they can’t practise in their own country? I pray that COVID-19 has taught us all a big lesson. If it hasn’t, then our case is beyond redemption. There is no earthly reason Nigeria can’t build one world class hospital per region. But none of these suggestions would ever work without the determination to succeed where others have failed. Who can ever imagine that the present government has spent over five years already, with nothing really tangible to show for it?

Lastly, do we need to break up Nigeria for things to work optimally in our country? Once again, my response is no. That will never be the answer. There is no region or State in Nigeria that has only one tribe in the region or even in a State. And where one single tribe predominates, there are several groupings within such tribe. What it means is that if you carve out a Yoruba nation, or whatever name you call it, how will it stop the perennial troubles between the different language groups? I am convinced that once we have a leader who gives every Nigerian a sense of belonging, the agitations would subside.

The billion-dollar question is, who will bell the cat? Truly, it seems we are doomed. And suddenly my optimism has changed to pessimism…

Goodbye Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua

I am aware of the spate of sacrilegious allegations and accusations that have dogged Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua since he passed on during the week. It is not my intention to dally into them simply because I have not investigated the gory allegations of unbridled corruption and abuse of power, and I know not what is true, exaggerated or fake news. For me, one must always hear both sides of the story before taking a principled position. Sadly, a dead man cannot defend himself or even ask for forgiveness. All I wish to do here is mourn the passing of a cherished colleague and older friend.

I often wondered what Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua saw in me that made him take to me so much. But I had no doubt that we bonded well despite our obvious disagreements on politics in all its ramifications.

I got to know Mallam Ismaila Funtua, the Godfather, as many knew and called him, through his friend, Chief Moshood Abiola, the Boss of Bosses, about 30 years ago. Malam was interested in the Leadership of the Nigerian Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria of which Abiola was then the President. Malam was extremely networked like Abiola. They both made so many friends all over Nigeria and age was no barrier. Both men agreed to collaborate with each other. Since that time, we have had a special bond in spite of our political differences in recent times.

My opposition to the Buhari government, based on my belief that it condones ineptitude and incompetence is well known. Mallam on the other hand was a die-hard Buhari loyalist, a member of the famed cabal ruling the country which he unabashedly publicly admitted in an interview. We both held on to our respective positions and Mallam did not give up on me. He would call sometimes, on Saturdays usually and once I saw his call, I knew immediately there was fire on the mountain. He was fiercely jingoistic in his relationship with President Buhari but also respected and tolerated his critics. What he hated was when a writer never sees anything good in government.
I loved his company because he was such a confident and charismatic man, attributes which many saw as arrogance. He often listened and gave way to superior arguments. He was admired by many of us for that reason.

I remember the last three encounters I had with him. The first was when he had invited Nduka Obaigbena and I to his Lagos home in Victoria Island while President Buhari was ill in London. Mallam was angry because he felt that some people in Lagos and Abuja wanted Buhari dead. I told him it was not true and that he had only allowed paranoia to creep into him. I was with him before Nduka arrived. He then complained about a very senior columnist in Thisday who had written a scathing attack against Buhari. Nduka calmed him down and told him that every Thisday columnist was independent and was not controlled by him. When we stood up to go, he said I shouldn’t leave. Nduka had another appointment to catch. I stayed and Mallam and I discussed late into the early hours.

On another occasion, he called me in Ghana and invited me to fly with him, Nduka Obaigbena and Kabiru Yusuf, the big man at Daily Trust, to attend the Guild of Editors’ summit in Port Harcourt, which I obliged. We spent the evening with Governor Nyesom Wike who also addressed Mallam as his Godfather. I realised how effortlessly Malam made friends with everyone including members of the Opposition. He liked to operate under the radar. I once wrote a story he didn’t want published, unbeknown to me. He complained the last time I saw him and Nduka Obaigbena at The George Hotel in Ikoyi, Lagos. I apologised to him and we immediately continued our friendship as if nothing had happened.

It was impossible to know Mallam and not like his personable character. I saw first-hand how Uncle Sam Amuka-Pemu, the Publisher of Vanguard newspapers, Chief Olusegun Osoba, Nduka Obaigbena, Sam Nda-Isaiah, the boss at Leadership newspapers all adored him. Definitely, his affability was appreciated by all who knew him well, irrespective of what they saw as his business dealings and political machinations.
May Allah grant him Aljannah Firdaus.

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