The Sun News » PressClips - Voice of The Nation Fri, 28 Aug 2015 07:23:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 50 World Editors Talking Journalism Fri, 21 Aug 2015 23:00:20 +0000 (A homage to Dimgba Igwe) BY MUSA JIBRIL (Guest Columnist) THE first time I heard about the global journal­ism book, 50 World Editors, was mid-2012. I had followed the authors, Mike Awoyinfa and the late Dimgba Igwe, to interview one of the Nigerian media icons featured in the book. Tidbits from their discussions got me curious. [...]]]>

(A homage to Dimgba Igwe)

BY MUSA JIBRIL (Guest Columnist)

THE first time I heard about the global journal­ism book, 50 World Editors, was mid-2012. I had followed the authors, Mike Awoyinfa and the late Dimgba Igwe, to interview one of the Nigerian media icons featured in the book. Tidbits from their discussions got me curious. Their excite­ment was contagious. It got me wondering: Why would one book take these two journalism masters several years to write? And, how could a book unleash the spirit of Sokugo on grown up men, sending them roving around the world every year in the name of talking to editors?

For three years, I waited for answers. Waiting for the book. When recently, I had the privilege of holding in my hand a copy of 50 World Edi­tors: Conversations With Journalism Masters On Trends and Best Practices, I felt like a man who had found 14-carat gold.

There was something nostalgic about the book. It transported me back to my undergraduate days in the Department of Mass Communication, Ahmadu Bello University. It was in 1999 I first came across a book written by one of the authors, made available by our lecturer, Dr. John Opoko who, at the beginning of every semester, habitu­ally recommended useful texts on mass com­munication by Nigerians authors. That semester, the text was relevant for Writing for Mass Media. A how-to text on article writing. Later, I chanced upon another book, The Art of Feature Writing, a DIY on feature writing written by the duo. In 2011, I met them personally for the first time.

Back to the new book. Why am I gaga over it? Not because I have received a copy straight from famous authors—you know, the frenzy about getting autographed copies from celebrity writ­ers. Not because I am one of the privileged few who got an early copy. I am delighted because of its utility as a reading text to fill knowledge gaps.

Like a scripture that teaches a way of life, 50 World Editors is a catechism for those desirous of a ‘life lived as a news hound.’ Information on the 628-page book concretises the otherwise abstract knowledge imparted in the classroom context. Hands-on wisdom and valuable know-how doled out sumptuously by 50 global icons in the field of media – that is the book.

I know the agony mass communication stu­dents pass through in the quest for useful texts for assignments and literature review of their theses. In the library or in the bookshop, what you find is a farrago of foreign books, and invari­ably, a dearth of home-grown texts. Available books are mostly academically pedantic. That ac­counts for the loopholes in students’ knowledge bank. After four years of university study, they arrive in the newsroom a complete tabula rasa. Drilled thoroughly about the “five Ws and H” as the building blocks of news writing, but come up short when given reportorial assignments. They are sometimes an editor’s worst nightmare.

This is where 50 World Editors is handy. What is news? This is one question that resonates through the 50 chapters of the book. A question that begets 50 panoramic definitions. News in full spectrum, defined in new-fashioned terms by those whose business is news business. What essentially is a tabloid? This is another question asked over and over which yields a rich descrip­tion and dichotomy of the tabloid vis-à-vis the traditional newspaper. Other questions: What is a human interest story? What does it mean to re­port? What makes a good reporter? What makes a great editor? Who is an investigative reporter? These professional questions answered by the news gurus make the book a practical handbook that should get serious students delirious.

More questions: What advice will you give upcoming journalists? What is your typical day like as an editor? Such questions give the aspir­ing reporter a good idea about the world ahead of him.

The experience contain therein is the closest to field reality students can get about the profession in the comfort of the classroom. Students get to hear about the hazards of the job. On the pages of 50 World Editors, they read riveting recounts of dangerous moments in the lives of profes­sional journalists like Pakistani Hamid Mirs who interviewed Osama bin Laden at the cost of “life-threatening tests”; BBC’s Alan Johnston who was kidnapped for four months by terrorists in Gaza; AFP’s Beatrice Khadige who was detained by militias in Lebanon for two hours as she listened to morbid debates about whether to kill her or not; and Lebanese May Chidiac, whose leg and arm were blown off by bomb planted under her car seat. Yet they all lived to tell their stories to the authors, Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe.

50 World Editors is a book of lessons for both the pro and the trainee reporter. Lessons unteach­able in the context of the classroom; lessons learnt on the job; lessons better learnt vicariously. On the pages of the book, media oracles talks about their defining stories, their motivations, their roles in the media ecosystem, their struggles and their triumphs in the socio-political and economic system. The biographical element affords students the oppor­tunity to learn real-life lessons from real professionals cherry-picked by the authors from iconic news media brands around the world: BBC, CNN, Guardian, Mail and Mirror of UK, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Denver Post, International Herald Tribune, The Washington Times, Financial Times, El Mundo, Channels, Reuters, Hindustan Times. What an eclectic collection!

This instant classic book is an invitation to see far ahead by stand­ing on the shoulders of 50 news media giants. It’s a compass to finding professional direction in the tangled web of the news media. In­corporated as a study text, the book will complement the theoretical teachings of the classroom. It makes a student’s academic preparation creamier. A fine book, of which I have one regret: It should have been published in my days as an under­graduate. Or during my brief stint as a graduate assistant.

The new book only reinforced what I already know about the authors. They are teachers. Their successful journalism careers make it difficult for me to say that they missed their callings. Journal­ist teacher or teacher journalist? They combined the two. They are journalism legends. But the teacher in them is legendary. At a lecture series organised in 2012 to mark Mike Awoyinfa’s 60th birthday, Femi Adesina, presidential spokesperson, had recounted how the pair mentored and shaped his journalism career. He even talked of the Awoyinfa School of Tabloid Journalism, whose proud alumni include Dele Momodu, publisher of Ovation International and Eric Osagie, the current Managing Di­rector and Editor-in-chief, The Sun Newspaper.

This is no mere rhetoric. At close quarters, Mr. Awoyinfa infects you with a febrile creativity that challenges your muse; if Mr. Igwe touches your work, he breathes a life into it in a way that is awe-inspiring. Let me tell you something about their teaching methods. For Mr. Awoyinfa, it starts with you getting a call from him. He briefs you about the assignment. He explains the perspectives. A brief background to tide you over on your way. He wishes you good luck. Once your story berths in his email, he calls you to acknowledge receipt. After reading, he calls you again. Usually for commendation, big or small. For a job well done. God bless you. Thank you. Keep it up. With Mr. Igwe, the approach is different. He invites you for your assignment. And it is better you go with your notepad. He takes his time to spell out all the grounds you need to cover. When your story gets to him, he works through it and sends you an edited copy. Again, he invites you. What difference did you notice? He wants to hear from you. He listens carefully and points out whatever you have missed. At the end of the day your mind is filled with knowledge. By your next assignment, you record a marked improvement. I guess this has been their ways since the Weekend Con­cord days.

It was Francis Bacon who fa­mously said: “Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.” That is the category where 50 World Editors belongs. It is a book “to be read wholly and with diligence and attendance.” It is truly a treasure trove, an invita­tion to feed your muse with manna from the masters. A ‘Torah’ from journalism rabbis.

*50 WORLD EDITORS will be launched on Tuesday, Septem­ber 15, 10a.m., at the Institute of International Affairs, Lagos to mark the anniversary of the death of the co-author Dimgba Igwe killed last year on September 6 while jogging to keep fit on a Saturday morning in his Lagos neighbourhood.


]]> 0
Musings at the Realm of Glory Fri, 14 Aug 2015 23:48:27 +0000 IS this a church? Yes. But not as we know a church to be. Look at the lights. So colourful. A visual pyrotechnics. The stage is set as if it is a night of musical awards. Everything is bright. Everything is colourful. Everything is beautiful. But it is not an award night. We are right [...]]]>

IS this a church? Yes. But not as we know a church to be. Look at the lights. So colourful. A visual pyrotechnics. The stage is set as if it is a night of musical awards. Everything is bright. Everything is colourful. Everything is beautiful. But it is not an award night. We are right in the house of God. And me, I am seated at the front row, at the extreme right hand of God. What a place to sit! We shall come to that later!

I have come, with my better half, on this blessed Sunday morning, to worship for the first time at the Realm of Glory church in Okota, Lagos, where my friend Pastor Sam Aiyedogbon is marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of his church. It’s truly a story of God’s faithfulness for a church that started in a sitting room that has today grown into a crowded cathedral such that my children who followed me had nowhere to sit.

I have come to worship God and to share in the bliss of this great occasion. But the spirit of journalism would not leave me alone. Even in the House of God, I can’t help smelling news. No place is too holy for a journalist to report news. Not even heaven. Spirit of the living God, let me make heaven. And let me be a reporter in heaven with my friend now gone to the Lord.

Spirit of the living God, I am calling on you now. Fill me up like an empty vessel that I am. From the tissues of my brain to the sole of my feet, fill me. Fill my head with the wisdom to think aright. Fill my mouth with the words to speak to your people. Fill my body with good health that translates into wealth. Fill my pocket with money, you who promised me “treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places.” Fill me, fill me now, dear Holy Spirit. Like Oliver Twist, fill me till I want no more.

Now, why am I invoking the Holy Spirit this morning? It was the great man of God, Apostle Anselm Madubuko who, as a guest preacher at the Realm of Glory last Sunday berated Christians for neglecting and not giving the Holy Spirit the due respect. In his sermon, the apostle reminded us all about the trinity of God and the fact that the Holy Spirit is a key part of the tripod without which nothing happens.

“The Holy Spirit is the breath of God,” he intoned. “The Holy Spirit is the doer. Let’s not neglect Him. Jesus could do nothing for 29 years until the Holy Spirit came into Him.”

He could have mounted the pulpit to preach the message and blow his trumpet. After all, it’s his church and he is the chief celebrator and celebrant—two often confused words. Pastor Aiyedogbon, supported by his able, beautiful wife Grace decided instead to lay back and let his seniors in the Lord take over the preaching. First to preach was Reverend Wilson Badejo, the veteran preacher and former General Overseer of the Foursquare Gospel Church fame. Like Jesus his master, Badejo believes in storification as the best way to preach. He told the congregation the story of his own spiritual journey from his days as a radical student union leader who was nearly shot in the heat of the students’ riot at the University of Ibadan that claimed the life of Adekunle Adepeju, a student.

“Uncontrolled freedom is madness,” he told his largely youthful congregation as he recalled the horrific tragedy of the shooting of Adekunle Adepeju who fell next to him at the battlefield. “I tried to pull him but my eyes were filled with tear gas. I wept like a baby. It could have been me. The bullet whizzed past my ears and hit Adekunle. I missed death by a hair’s breadth. With that, I started my Christian journey.”

Turning to Pastor Aiyedogbon and his youth­ful congregation, Reverend Badejo prayed: “The ministry that God has given you does not include the burial of youths. You all will fulfil the number of your days on earth. Pastor Sam, there is more and more still to do. And the Good Lord will grant you the unction to function. We shall hand over this baton to able people.”

I was hearing Apostle Anselm Madubuko preach for the first time and he impressed me with his interactive preaching strategy. He would not even admit he had come to preach. “I came to bring a word, not to preach,” he says. “I am not a man of God. I am a son of God.”

To Pastor Sam Aiyedogbon and the church of the Realm of Glory, he said: “You ain’t seen nothing yet. Get ready. Do not be afraid. Jehovah has said He will help you. There is wealth in the atmosphere. The Lord has said He will give you treasures of darkness and hid­den riches. Jehovah is your source.

“Money is not in the church. The richest man in the church has nothing. As long as you know your balance, you are broke. Can you ask Bill Gates or Dangote: What’s your balance? But all church people know their balance. God wants to take us out of that realm. Money does not come by prayers. If you are fasting and praying for money, you are wasting your time. Money is not in the open place. There are two sources of money: God and the devil.”

Apostle Madubuko’s sermon was centred on the power of the right hand of God. From the Book of Psalms to Isaiah to the Acts of the Apostles, Madubuko gave various references to explain the import of God’s right hand and the special privilege in sitting by the right hand of God. You can see why I counted myself lucky sitting by the extreme right of the front row in the presence of the Almighty God.

Now hear this! According to Apostle Madu­buko, Nigeria’s former leader President Good­luck Jonathan failed because “God did not hold his right hand. That was why he failed. Men of God were holding his right hand but God didn’t hold his right hand. Your right hand is sacred. Your right hand is special. This morning, there is a struggle for your right hand.”

On that note, I rest my case! And I pray that this time around, God will hold our new leader, President Muhammadu Buhari by the right hand so that he would lead us right as he strives to right the wrongs of the past.


]]> 0
The man who moulded me Fri, 07 Aug 2015 23:46:07 +0000 HOW else can I say thank you to the man who took me under his wings as a 7-year-old kid, trained me and gave me the foundation to be who I am today? How else than to write a column, a column of grati­tude to Pa Isaiah Lee Fadeyibi, the man who moulded me, guided [...]]]>

HOW else can I say thank you to the man who took me under his wings as a 7-year-old kid, trained me and gave me the foundation to be who I am today? How else than to write a column, a column of grati­tude to Pa Isaiah Lee Fadeyibi, the man who moulded me, guided me, shaped me, poured his spirit inside my vessel and made me who I am today. He clocked 80 on July 20, which explains why I am paying this tribute.

He is to me what Alhaji Sanusi Dantata was to Aliko Dangote, one of the 20th richest men on earth. Dangote says of his uncle, Sanusi Dantata: “As a kid who didn’t know his left from right, I was under his tutelage. I was almost like a tabular rasa, an empty vessel of sorts. And he poured his business wizardry into me. He poured everything into me. He made me who I am. I would not have been where I am today or who I am without him. I honestly think so. From him, I learnt a lot about hard work. I also learnt simplicity, took after his level-headedness and his low profile style. People always talk about my humility. But I tell you, nothing can compare with him. When you see him, you will see humility and self-efface­ment in motion.”

When I read this Dangote quote, I could easily res­onate with it. For me, Pa Isaiah Fadeyibi is my own Sanusi Dantata—my elder brother, my teacher, my mentor, the man without whom I probably “would not have been where I am today or who I am,” if I may borrow from Dangote, the billionaire.

Like most kids, I was a rascal. And my rascality was becoming a source of concern to my parents. To save me from myself, my father decided to send me away to live with his nephew, Isaiah Lee Fadeyibi, a 24-year-old elementary school teacher and a bach­elor posted to Aboso, some 18 kilometres away from Tarkwa in Western Ghana where I was born. My fa­ther brought him up. Now, it was his turn to bring me up too. Looking back, it was the best decision ever. From the rascal that I used to be, I transformed over­night into a sad, quiet, obedient boy surrounded by books and solitude. As a teacher, Brother Isaiah had a library filled with books enclosed in a glass showcase. In my loneliness, all I could do was to take solace in devouring those books. Book after book, my eyes opened to the beauty and the magical wonders of liter­ature. Page after page, I embarked on a literary expe­dition in the world of fantasy along with the characters in the books. I read books like the Three Musketeers by Alex Dumas, Tell Freedom and Mine Boy, two books by the South African writer Peter Abrahams. I read Allan Paton’s Cry The Beloved Country. I read Tom Brown’s Schooldays by Thomas Hughes. I read Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. I read the Ghana­ian poet Benebengo Blay who first inspired my poetry writing. I read so many other books whose titles I can­not remember now.

But my childhood favorite was King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I remember the chivalric tales of brave Sir Lancelot and the magician Morgan le Fay. I remember Queen Guinevere. I remember Sir Gawain. I remember the Grail Quest—the knights looking for the Holy Grail being the mythical chalice from which Jesus drank at the Last Super before He was crucified. The Holy Grail, according to Arthurian legends was believed to have special magical powers which necessitated knights going on the search for the Holy Grail. It had the key to happiness, prosperity and eternal youth. Like Alfred Lord Tennyson, I remem­ber I wrote my own childhood poems centred round King Arthur’s life and death.

Under Brother Lee Fad, I became a teacher’s son. And a teacher’s son was expected to excel at school. Brother Lee really made me work hard on my studies. He gave me all kinds of assignments from mathemat­ics to English to Geography. In the middle of night, while preparing for his own exams, he would wake me up to join him in studying. He kept his cane at arm’s length in case I dozed off. My saddest moment was when he would sometime ask me to go to school in the morning on empty stomach. He was preparing me for the tough times ahead but I hated it. I needed food to concentrate in class. But my father had this adage: “It is with hunger that you acquire good educa­tion.”

Feeling homesick, one day, I escaped from his “enclave” and “stowed away” in a bus from Aboso to Tarkwa to meet my parents. I just jumped into the municipal bus one evening after school without a tick­et. I just sat there, praying no one would ask for my ticket. Luckily, the bus conductor passed me by with­out asking for my ticket. On getting home, my father ensured that I was put on another bus and returned to Aboso that same night. Meanwhile, Brother Lee had set up a search team which combed every nook and corner of Aboso looking for me. My return was one big relief. Luckily I was not punished.

Oh, I remember those musical years of my youth. In our house were packed the school’s musical instru­ment. I seized the opportunity to teach myself how to play the flute and the trumpet. Every night, the sound of my trumpet would echo through the town. One night, Brother Lee heard me blowing the trumpet. He was so impressed that he made me play at the morning assembly. It was one proud moment for him. Today, if you find me listening to Miles Davis, Wynton Mar­salis, Christian Scott and a host of Jazz trumpeters, this was where it all began. I lived in a world of music and books. Brother Lee’s books helped me a lot. It opened the doors for academic excellence and double promotions. My essays were read aloud in class. At prize-giving days, I was garlanded with prizes.

From a teacher, Brother Lee became the headmas­ter of Anglican Middle School in the goldmine town of Prestea. And wherever he was transferred, I fol­lowed him. In 1965, I passed the Common Entrance exam to go to Sekondi College at a younger age without completing my middle school. And there, I suffered an academic setback. I wasn’t doing well in my first year. Eventually I was expelled along with 35 other poor-performing students. We were blown away by the “Monsoon wind,” to use the school jar­gon for such expulsions. I was to be sent back to com­plete my unfinished middle school but Brother Isaiah waded in and mercifully found me another college: Axim Secondary School where I was admitted after passing a test. And there, the Good Lord turned my situation around and I began to find my groove again and excel in academics to the point where I even won a prize in Fante language of Western Ghana, beating the Ghanaians in their own language.

Then the Ghanaian government came with their Aliens-Must-Go law. My parents all left but Brother Lee stayed behind to ensure that I finished my School Cert exams which I passed in Grade 2. From Ghana, he followed me to Nigeria, to my hometown Ijebu-Je­sha where I did my Higher School Certificate and had the best result to the glory of God. From there, I went to the University of Lagos to study Mass Communi­cation and passed out in 1977. And the rest is history.

Ever since my father died on November 11, 1984, I have known no other father than my brother, Pa Isaiah Fadeyibi now 80. I wanted a lavish party for him, but he opted for something sober which was characteris­tic of him. We joined him at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Ijebu-Jesha for a special thanksgiving service to God. In church, he was praised for his service to God. A garland was put around his neck for being a Sunday school teacher who dedicated his life to teaching chil­dren to fear God and to imbibe good values.

I am writing this column to thank you sir, and to thank all teachers and all mentors without whom we won’t be who we are and where we are today. Even if no one rewards you here on earth, your reward is in heaven. Be consoled by Matthew 5:12 which says: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great.”

25 Years of Glory

All roads lead to the Okota Roundabout, Lagos where the Realm of Glory Church will be celebrating “God’s faithfulness” tomorrow. From a small seed planted 25 years ago, the church has blossomed into a tree with many branches. I thank God for what he is doing in the life of my friend Pastor Sam Aiyedogbon. I pray that the church will keep marching on to fulfill the founder’s mission to impact the world for a better society through Christ our Lord and Saviour.

]]> 0
Sad man of Nigerian Journalism Fri, 24 Jul 2015 23:36:10 +0000 A writer writes late into sunset, into darkness, into old age. So I learnt. This is how the poet Dylan Thomas puts it: “Do not go gentle into that good night. Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of light.” At 80, how I wish he is [...]]]>

A writer writes late into sunset, into darkness, into old age. So I learnt. This is how the poet Dylan Thomas puts it: “Do not go gentle into that good night. Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of light.”

At 80, how I wish he is still writing his ‘Sad Sam’ column as is the trend in the journalism world out there far beyond our shores where old journalists still ply their trade till death do them part. Like wine, their writing tastes mature, tastes better and better with age. They have seen it all. For them, there is nothing new under the sun.

But my old columnist and hero Sam Amuka-Pe­mu popularly known as Sad Sam in his writing days stopped the music long, long ago and went into silence and oblivion, far from the madding crowd of today’s young, garrulous columnists throwing jaw-breaking words around like reckless boxers in the ring of life. Hahahahahaha! Don’t mind me.

So, why did Sad Sam stop writing at his old age? He was 80 on June 13 and a book of essays is to be launched in his honour next Thursday at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Lagos. Why did the music stop? This was the question I was dying to ask him.

As a young man, he had done everything I did. He turned column-writing into everything, into an art, into an adventure, into drama, into a narrative of the life of ordinary people, interesting people, telling their untold stories. In those days of innocence, Sam Amuka as Sad Sam used to go about town, venturing into sometimes dangerous and forbidden places, looking for stories to turn into a column. Such an audacious and daring jour­nalist he was!

“A good journalist must be daring,” he told me. “You must not be afraid of anything. You must not be afraid to ask any question. In journalism, there is this maxim that ‘knock many doors, there is a story.’”

But to Amuka’s regret, “that credo is dying nowa­days.” It has been replaced with what he calls “arm­chair journalism” which is responsible for “so much weakness and untidiness in journalism of today.”

He looks at today’s papers and spots so many gram­matical errors—errors that should not have gone into the paper.

Old age brings along nostalgia: the dreams of the good old days gone by. Amuka is no exemption. “In our days, journalists were more thorough than today,” he says with a tinge of regret. “In our days you were groomed as an all-round newspaper professional. Newspapers then were more professional than what we have today. You had to learn it. These days they don’t bother to learn the trade. They don’t take the pains to learn how to produce a newspaper.

“When a reporter files his report to the news editor who sends it to the sub-editor, the sub-editor takes the report and breaks it into pieces to get his own angle. If he needs any extra information, the reporter would be there to supply it. The sub-editor invariably rewrites the story. Professionally, the sub-editors in the Daily Times were highly skilled. We don’t have that now. To­day, if a reporter makes a mistake, that mistake would end up published in the newspaper.”

He continues: “We had the culture of sub-editors. They are the behind-the-scene journalists who, un­like reporters, are not known because they don’t have bylines. They are the custodians of house style and good grammar. They are the ones who through edit­ing and corrections help largely in grooming the young reporters on how to report accurately in good readable prose. Today, sub-editors are endangered species in the newsroom. That very important aspect of newspaper work is dying and we are all suffering from the absence of sub-editors.”

Still waxing in nostalgia, the sad man of Nigerian journalism still kept looking at the rear mirror trying to capture his past of over half a dozen decades in journal­ism all gone:

“When I started newspaper work, people were more careful. You didn’t take people’s name in vain. Repu­tation was highly guarded. When I look back, those were the days of innocence. The country changed with the war—when soldiers went to war and came back. That was a watershed in our history. Everything else changed.”

About that time, Amuka wrote one of his most popu­lar columns titled “Night in Kakadu”. Kakadu was the hottest nightclub in Lagos where Fela and other reign­ing stars of the era used to play. There he encountered a prostitute and out of the experience with the prostitute he wrote a column.

“In those days, I was a young man about town, who was just observing the society and having a big laugh,” he recalls. “We told the truth about real life encoun­ters—interesting life encounters. I wrote about inter­esting people I met. I remember the column ‘Night in Kakadu.’ It was an experience I had with a young pros­titute. She was drinking and we got to talk. Here you find a girl opening her heart to you, telling you about what led her into prostitution, her disappointment with the society. I wrote about that sort of thing. Real life encounters. As a columnist, I just said what I liked. I went out to town, reported as I saw them and expressed my views. With Sad Sam, I had a big laugh. I had fun. I am still having fun, but I cannot say the things I see anymore.”

So, why did he stop writing? The question again. This time, he gave reasons he quit column-writing.

“I stopped writing my Sad Sam column because I grew old. I lost my innocence. Times change. Things I wrote then when I was doing a column, I couldn’t do them now. We are talking of over twenty-something years ago. It got to a stage where people expressed confidences to you and you couldn’t let them down. I grew old for the column.”

The Sam Amuka interview was conducted while working on the book Segun Osoba—The Newspaper Years by Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe, published by Corporate Biographers Limited. He paid tribute to Osoba as the quintessential reporter, one of the best this country has ever produced.

“Osoba’s métier was news,” he declared. “He was a newsman to the core. That is what he is known for. As for me, I am features man. I have very little reporting background. But Osoba’s niche was newsgathering. He wasn’t a features man, and he wasn’t a columnist. He was a newsman.”

In an age where news is now mainly sourced online, Amuka still loves the crispness and the freshness of a daily newspaper which he compares to the birth of a new baby every new day. It’s a life-long love affair that doesn’t wane with age.

He says: “For us in this business of journalism, every day is a new day. Holding an edition of a newspaper is like holding a new baby. It is exciting. You get fulfilled. A time would come when you would realise that money is not everything. If it was, those people with money won’t be asking you have their names eight point in the newspaper, to see their pictures in newspapers. News­paper has power, has influence on the society.”

There was this series I was doing in this column titled ‘100 Heroes of Nigeria at 100.’ Remember it? I was going round interviewing Nigerians who themselves are heroes and asking them to pick their heroes. I met Sam Amuka at a conference and asked him to name his hero. His answer dazzled and confused me: “My he­roes are Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe. And I mean what I am saying. For two of you to pioneer Weekend Concord, make it successful and to repeat your success in creating The Sun newspaper from the scratch make you my newspaper heroes. And when you left The Sun, you reinvented yourself by churning out books. I love how you have been able to stick together through thick and thin.”


To mark the anniversary of Dimgba Igwe’s death, WORLD EDITORS, a book of interviews with 50 edi­tors around the world co-authored by Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe will be launched on September 15 at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Lagos. Our chairman of the occasion? Who else other than our hero: Sam Amuka-Pemu formerly known as Sad Sam? The sad man of Nigerian journalism.

For all of you who wished me happy birthday on July 23, thank you very much. May we all grow and pass 80. Like our Daddy and Granddaddy Sam Amuka-Pemu who has made his mark as a journalist and entrepreneur.

]]> 0
A side of Peterside Fri, 17 Jul 2015 23:29:07 +0000 Hey, I love jazz. The title of today’s column sounds jazzy, sounds like a track from my favorite jazz artistes. Artistes like Miles Davis and John Coltrane. A side of Peterside may sound jazzy but I am not talking jazz. I am playing a different music all together. A music like that of the revolutionary, [...]]]>

Hey, I love jazz. The title of today’s column sounds jazzy, sounds like a track from my favorite jazz artistes. Artistes like Miles Davis and John Coltrane. A side of Peterside may sound jazzy but I am not talking jazz. I am playing a different music all together. A music like that of the revolutionary, Fela An­ikulapo-Kuti, the angry, sax-wielding afrobeat king in his early years wail­ing in a mixture of Yoruba and pidgin: “You can’t gag me. You can’t padlock my mouth. My agadagodo (padlock) is not in your hands.”

Like Fela, let’s hear it from Atedo Peterside, the man who inspired today’s column. Let’s hear it from the economist and the investment banker extraordinaire who at 33 redefined investment banking in 1989—the very year I tried to do some­thing revolutionary in my own field of journalism with the Weekend Concord—a newspaper that took a different path from the crowd. Let’s hear it from Atedo Pe­terside, the philosopher-businessman who says instead of keeping mute, minding his business and enjoying his wealth, he would rather play, sing and shout out loud the troubles with Nigeria, the problems of Nigeria, so that Nigeria would change radically for good—economically and po­litically.

“Why am I shouting out?” he asks in one television interview. “In life we all make choices. The easiest thing for me or any businessman is to just do your business and shy away from making any comment, in getting involved in reforms, in getting involved in arguments on how to improve your country. It’s a choice I made a long time ago. I started com­menting on public affairs, on politics, on national issues more than 25 years ago. And I have never stopped. It is not unique to me. It is not as if I am doing anything wonderful or unique. There are business­men around the world who do the same thing. And there are businessmen around the world who are scared to discuss poli­tics. It is the choice you make.

“You can only take part and argue about controversial policies for the future of your country if you have the confidence that you have done nothing wrong with yourself. There is nobody giving me an inflated government contract. There is no­body giving me kerosene import or what­ever oil subsidy scam as they call it. So nobody can call me and say: ‘If you say anything again, I will withdraw this con­tract.’

“If there is anything that you gave me and you are not happy that I am com­menting on my country, take it away from me. Whatever you think you gave me, take it away from me and I am happy. I will sooner give up everything and have the freedom to express myself in my own country. Why would I give away my free­dom of expression in the name of taking a contract from government or anybody?

“For me, I never contemplated just spending the rest of my life as a busi­nessman doing business and counting the money in my bank balance and the big­ger the money in my bank balance, the happier I get. And if I think something is going on in my country, I will keep quiet because my balance is growing? That was a choice I abandoned many years ago.

“And also, there is a common thread running through the bulk of the comments I make and the bulk of the debates I join. Beneath most of them is economic reform. I am not tied to any government. My only relevance to any government is to pull them in the direction of meaningful eco­nomic reform.

“It is clear that I am not taking elective office. Let me tell you the reason as well. If you want to speak boldly about the eco­nomic reform, if you want to take on any vested interest in terms of economic poli­cy and debunk their argument, if you want to challenge political parties and run down their manifestos and all that stuff, then I don’t think you can be seeking elective of­fice. Because they would be waiting for you. The only time you can speak your mind and argue all the policies that you think are best for Nigerians, not caring whether it contradicts a party’s manifesto or not, not caring which minister is upset, not caring which governor is upset, is be­cause you are not holding elective office.

“But I can tell you it is difficult to sepa­rate politics from economics. Economists who try and say ‘I am not involved in politics at all’ invariably shy away from the big decisions. Because politics and economics are intertwined. So if I am an economist by training and I want to pursue for my country economic reform, half of the things I am saying will also be challenging the establishment in terms of politics. Because if you have wrong poli­tics, it affects the economy and vice versa. You cannot be an economist trying to help your country to achieve rapid economic reforms and then you are completely scared to make any statement that sounds remotely political.”

Let me sum up a few things going on in Nigeria that Peterside is against. He is against a situation in Nigeria where the cost of governance is so high that 70 percent of the nation’s resources goes for maintaining and sustaining government.

“Why should some people who hap­pen to be in government consume 70 per­cent of the nation’s resources and leave the other 160 million Nigerians out there hungry? How long can this continue? Because when you talk of this cost of governance, it translates into a handful of people using governance as an excuse for them to appropriate to themselves the bulk of our resources and leave the rest of us with the leftovers. It is a matter of time if those who are elected into office don’t correct it, the elite would come together again and force them to make the correc­tions. It would happen. And you know what? Fallen oil prices would make it to happen.”

Number Two. Peterside wants NNPC scrapped completely. Hear him waxing lyrical on this track: “We cannot have an arrangement where NNPC as a corpora­tion would receive our oil revenues, de­cide how much of it they keep for them­selves and send the balance to the nation. That is the cause of the problem. Why do you need NNPC at all to receive our oil revenue and decide how much of it to pass on to the nation?

“I am advocating radical solutions to the point of saying that we should phase out NNPC. When I say scrap NNPC, you can’t do it one day. I am saying have a pol­icy of saying that this corporation should cease to exist. And you progressively be­gin to take items from it one by one. And you either advertise them, sell them off, close them down. You can start with the refineries. Take the refineries away from them. They have never managed them anyway. They have never managed them well in three decades. What will change in the next decade? What I am saying is: Take items from them one by one and find solutions to each of those items. And eventually you wind down and you have nothing left in NNPC.”

Boardroom Guru

As every reader of this column knows, I am writing a book on “Board­room Leadership and Corporate Gov­ernance in Nigeria.” So far, I have interviewed iconic boardroom gurus and chairmen like Christopher Kolade, Chris Ogbechie (Chairman of Diamond Bank), Biodun Sobanjo (Chairman of Troyka Holdings), Sam Ohuabunwa (Chairman of Neimeth formerly Pfizer) and Sir Steve Omojafor (former Chair­man of Zenith Bank). The stories I am getting are so inspiring. It’s like I am going to the real Business School again, hearing it straight from the mouth of Ni­geria’s business masters. At the end of each interview, I ask: “Is there any busi­ness guru you will like to be included in this book?” And each time, I hear the name Atedo Peterside reecho. I put a call to Atedo Peterside on his birthday this week and he was in faraway Vienna. He thanked me and promised to grant me an interview when he returns. Watch out folks! For another “side of Peterside!”

]]> 0
SLOT STORY: How I built a phone franchise from zero Fri, 10 Jul 2015 23:40:55 +0000 There was nothing like childhood “flair for business.” All Nnamdi Ezeigbo cared for as a kid was to read his books, excel in his exams, leave school and hopefully find a decent job where he would be earn­ing a meaningful salary. With a degree in electrical and electronic engineering plus a master’s, the world was [...]]]>

There was nothing like childhood “flair for business.” All Nnamdi Ezeigbo cared for as a kid was to read his books, excel in his exams, leave school and hopefully find a decent job where he would be earn­ing a meaningful salary. With a degree in electrical and electronic engineering plus a master’s, the world was his oys­ter—so he thought.

After his NYSC where he served at Guinness, Ezeigbo’s eyes were on the big oil companies like Chevron, Shell and Mo­bil where he was dreaming to find a dream job. Two years of staying at home and writing all kinds of applications, he soon realized that it’s a cold, cold world out there, where looking for a job is tougher than finding the proverbial haystack nee­dle. “After two years of staying at home and finding nothing to do, I thought of do­ing something on my own,” Ezeigbo says as he recalls his first, tentative steps into the unknown world of entrepreneurship.

Today, Ezeigbo would bless the day he took the momentous decision to go “start something on my own,” a move which turned out to be the game changer of his life. If he had found a job in the corporate world, say in a big oil company, Nigeria would probably have lost an en­trepreneur extraordinaire, a creative spirit who has mastered the art of selling mobile phones to a country blessed with a heavy population—the biggest on the African continent—that makes business thrive. If he had gotten a job in an oil company or wherever, the corporate world would have subsumed this genius, this brand strate­gist who has built a strong, loyal customer base, this franchise owner whose brand name SLOT is now being rented by others to profit from, because of the solid image, reputation and strong values Ezeigbo has built into his company. For the records, he is Nigeria’s pioneer franchisor in telecoms business, if not the overall franchise busi­ness leader in Africa’s populous country.

Today, in cities and towns in Nigeria where he doesn’t want to invest directly perhaps due to insecurity, economic, po­litical or whatever reason, Ezeigbo has franchised out his brand name.

Those applying for the SLOT fran­chise usually undergo rigorous checks to ascertain whether they can be trusted with the brand name. So far, most of the people who won the franchise happen to be people who had worked in banks and corporate organization, hence understand business. “Those are the kind of people we work with. We build the structure to conform with our standards, we set up the stores, we train the staff, they spend mini­mum of one month with us, we send our managers to manage the store for a period. We make sure it is just the replica of what we have in our organic stores,” Ezeigbo explains.

Whether it is the organic store in the ever bustling Computer Village in Ikeja or the SLOT franchise in Kano or Ado Ekiti, a typical SLOT store in Nigeria is a red-hot beehive where lovers of phones and electronic gizmos troop in to buy because they believe that buying from SLOT will give them peace.

“I came into this business because I saw the need to create value,” Ezeigbo says. “And that is what consumers want. Consumers are not just buying devices. They want value. What we have discov­ered about Nigerian customers is that they want to buy from a place they can trust. So, we are not just selling devices, we are also selling our reputation. We are selling peace of mind.”

The apprentice computer repairer

After staying home for two years in frustration and not finding a job, Ezeigbo followed his heart. He put aside his de­gree certificates and his hubris to become an apprentice computer repairer. “I was led by a passion for computer,” he ex­plains. “I needed to do what I like to do. I joined a friend who had a computer outfit. I spent six months with him learning how to repair computers. We were friends at the NYSC camp. When I was looking for something to do, something I had flair for, which is computer engineering, I joined him. I had left the university with a degree in electrical and electronic engineering with a flair for computer. So it was easy to actually adapt and kick off as a young computer engineer.”

It was in the process of serving as an apprentice computer repairer that Ezeigbo experienced the cut-throat practices go­ing on in the industry whereby custom­ers were being ripped off due to their ignorance. “As at that time, everybody was struggling to make money. Nobody was adding value. It was like: how much were you able to extort from the customer today? I couldn’t really understand why it should be like that. Something inside me objected to that. I was telling myself: It shouldn’t really be like this,” Ezeigbo says.

In one instance, the computer “had a simple problem with the cooling fan. And the cooling fan as at that time was just N300. But these guys took N30,000 from the customer. And when it comes to tech­nical issues, people are ripped off a lot be­cause they don’t understand what it takes to fix a computer. So when you tell them N30,000 or N40,000, everybody wants to pay. Because they want their computer to work. But I was not happy with the sys­tem.”

From that moment, Ezeigbo decided to be a customer advocate. And this caused a misunderstanding between him and his friend “because there was a value mis­match.” The disagreement soon reached a boiling point with Ezeigbo being fired by his friend. He left his friend “to squat with a bookshop owner on the same street” be­cause he had no money to rent a shop. The sympathetic bookshop owner gave him a small space to continue his computer re­pair business. He was there when a cus­tomer he had once fixed his computer and served well came looking for him. Ezeig­bo narrates:

“He went to my former office, asked for me and he was told I was no longer there. He wanted me badly to fix his com­puter, so he was directed to my new place. When this man came looking for me, he discovered I was in a bookshop and he said: ‘Nnamdi, what are you doing here? You are too big to be here.’ I told him what happened between me and my friend and he said: ‘No, get a shop and I will pay.’ And that was how I got a space that we called SLOT Systems today. The office is still there today at No. 19 Ola Ayeni St. I was at the ground floor. He gave me some printers to sell and use the money to pay for the space. That was how I was able to raise N230,000 to pay for that space. The year was 1999. That was how I was able to pay for that space called SLOT Systems which is the head office right now. We eventually bought the place for N100 mil­lion. And that is our headquarters. That was how I started.”

In choosing the name SLOT, Ezeigbo wanted “a simple name that would tally with what I believe.” According to him, “Slot is basically about position, is about being at the right place at the right time. It is not an acronym. Slot is an English word which means to create a slot for some­thing—to create a position. If you want to play your cassette or CD, it must go into the right slot. So, we feel we are occupy­ing a position. If you don’t have a square peg that goes into a square hole, then it won’t fit.” As he grew to understand busi­ness, he wrote a mission statement which states: “Our mission is to build an indig­enous company based on sound ethical principles. And then to create value for our shareholders and customers.”

Today, SLOT has 50 franchises all over Nigeria. And still counting! His story is a classic story of entrepreneurial triumph from zero to hero. I was interviewing Ezeigbo for a book called “50 Entrepre­neur Success Stories.”

“An entrepreneur is the man who im­pacts the society positively,” Ezeigbo says. “He is somebody who is involved in creating jobs. An entrepreneur creates value for the society. Not every business­man is an entrepreneur. A taxi driver for example is a business owner. He is creat­ing value for his family. But when you extend your value creation to your com­munity, you country, by creating jobs and impacting on people’s lives, then you an entrepreneur.”

]]> 0
BOARDROOM GURUS TALKING Fri, 03 Jul 2015 23:00:28 +0000 JULY.  Lovely month of my birth.  Woke up in the middle of the night from this interrupted sleep looking clairvoyant.  An eerie voice woke me up.  A spark of ideas.  I wouldn’t call it brainwave.  It’s more than a flash of inspiration.  It surely must be the voice of the Old Man in the sky, [...]]]>

JULY.  Lovely month of my birth.  Woke up in the middle of the night from this interrupted sleep looking clairvoyant.  An eerie voice woke me up.  A spark of ideas.  I wouldn’t call it brainwave.  It’s more than a flash of inspiration.  It surely must be the voice of the Old Man in the sky, the old editor of editors, my divine muse telling me what assignment next to pursue in this great mission to capture the unwritten literature of corporate Nigeria.
My divine publisher was telling me in a dream: “Boy, your next project is a book on BOARDROOM LEADERSHIP—A Nigerian Perspective.”
I am so thrilled by this new assignment.  It looks so formidable.  It looks so difficult.  But as my late friend Dimgba Igwe would say, “If a project is difficult, it means it is good.”
Dimgba never believed in the easy option.  He believed in travelling the hard road, the “road not taken” as Robert Frost writes in his poem:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Yes, I know a book on “Boardroom Leadership and Corporate Governance in Nigeria” would have excited my friend.  It is one subject he would have embraced.  I believe he is cheering me on and praying for me in the bosom of the Lord where he is resting.
I am happy to say that ever since he left, God has been opening doors, making way where there is no way.  Day after day, I am being bombarded with ideas.  There are so many books to write.  A book on Corporate Governance and Accountability couldn’t have come at a much better time, now that this Augean stable called Nigeria is being cleared and new codes of conduct for doing business are being written for a lawless country where things have fallen apart and business is polluted with the so-called “Nigerian factor.”
In a project like this, you draw a list of boardroom leaders you are interested in featuring to share their experiences and perspectives about life in the boardroom.  You draw a list of questions you want them to address.  That is the beauty of journalism.  All you have to do is to do your homework and come up with relevant questions.  A journalist, by virtue of his training, is one who seeks answers to questions.  He or she doesn’t have to be an expert.  He fields his questions and leaves it for the experts to come up with answers.  At the end of it all, the journalist absorbs enough to become an expert himself.  That is the trick.  That is how we wrote our first bestseller: 50 Nigerian Corporate Strategists—Top CEOs Share Their Experiences in Managing Business in Nigeria and the follow up, Nigeria Marketing Memoirs.
As a test run to the new project, I sent a text message to the boardroom guru, Dr. Christopher Kolade, explaining what I want to accomplish in the book “Boardroom Leadership—A Nigerian Perspective.”
You can imagine my ecstasy when I received a reply from Dr. Kolade expressing his interest.  We agreed to meet the following day.  All night long, I couldn’t sleep.  I was as excited as the day I interviewed Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg in company with Chief Orji Kalu, publisher of The Sun.  It is one unforgettable moment.  Dr. Kolade is not just a moral authority but a respectable boardroom guru with boardroom experiences in both public and private sectors.  I had solid one hour with him during which he regaled me with his boardroom memoirs packed with rich anecdotes and lessons you will never find in any textbook.  Oh, the Lord is good.  All the time.
I asked him to tell me: What kind of place is the boardroom?  Why does a company need a board?  What is the role of the board?  What is the role of the chairman of the board?  What qualities must a boardroom leader possess?  What is the role of the non-executive members of the board?  How must the chairman relate with the managing director?
We talked about the regulatory role of the board in enforcing ethics.  We talked about the board establishing the right tone and standards in top executive remuneration.  We talked about diversity in the board and the plus and minus of bringing women into the boardroom.  We talked about tips in organising an effective board meeting.  I asked him to compare the public sector board and private sector one.  We talked about corporate governance.  We talked about transparency and accountability.  We talked about politics in Nigeria, the agenda of change and how this can be translated into the boardroom.  We talked about the role of the board in choosing a new MD or CEO.  We talked about the key issues in the Nigerian boardrooms today.  There were so many questions on my mind, but Dr. Kolade had another meeting.  And he was not about to allow this Oliver Twist of a journalist to eat extra into his time.  With Dr. Kolade setting the tone for the book, I couldn’t have had a better flying start.
I have lined up other boardroom gurus to be featured in the book and partly in this column.  There is the original “Guru” himself, Dr. Mike Adenuga and Alhaji Aliko Dangote, two of Africa’s and the world’s richest men.  Others are Tony Elumelu, Jim Ovia, Adebayo Ogunlesi, Kola Karim, Abdulsamad Rabiu, Christopher Eze, Olusegun Osunkeye, Otunba Subomi Balogun, Cletus Ibeto, Biodun Sobanjo, Femi Otedola, Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija, Felix Ohiwerei, Chief Kolawole B. Jamodu, Chief Michael Ade Ojo, Chief Orji Kalu, Chief Dele Fajemirokun, Wale Tinubu, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Chris Ogbechie, Michael Omolayole, Gamaliel Onosode, Oba Otudeko, Keith Richards and many more.
This list is not final.  If you think there is a boardroom guru I have omitted, kindly let me know.  Till next week when we see again, I leave you with a wise quote from boardroom guru and chairman to many companies Dele Fajemirokun: “As a rule, I don’t go to the boardroom to win, because if any other person brings a more subtle and progressive point, I will buy it.  It is not a kill-or-be-killed affair.  Two or three heads are better than one.  Someone who is even lesser than you intellectually can see what you may not see on an issue.  And you have to be humble enough, courageous enough to accept a brighter idea from someone lower.”

]]> 0
Bishop’s ‘Tutuorial’ sparks fireworks Fri, 26 Jun 2015 23:00:35 +0000 Dear Mike, your excerpt on the book ‘God is not a Christian’ by Bishop Desmond Tutu is quite interesting. However, it is also pitiable for it shows that a man may attain the utmost height in ecclesiastical appointment and yet be totally blind to divine revelation. Men prefer to hold a view of God based [...]]]>

Dear Mike, your excerpt on the book ‘God is not a Christian’ by Bishop Desmond Tutu is quite interesting. However, it is also pitiable for it shows that a man may attain the utmost height in ecclesiastical appointment and yet be totally blind to divine revelation. Men prefer to hold a view of God based on their totally depraved human under­standing than accept the overwhelming evidence of in­spired scripture. Human philosophy and morality are no platforms for interpreting God. God is His own interpreter and only those who are of the truth can rightly discern spiritual truth – Evangelist Okex Kalu, Enugu, 08056093023

I just finished reading your piece and I am somehow ashamed based on my Christian upbringing to say I agree with Desmond Tutu. God is way bigger than just one faith. I would really love to lay my hand on that book. –Arinze Esomnofu

If only the pastors and the so-called General Overseers would read your article and preach in this light, our coun­try will be a better place. Kudos to you and Bishop Tutu for letting them know that God is for everyone. —Nnamdi Anyanwu.

My five-year-old daughter Condoleeza read the title of your piece and asked: “Daddy, is God a Muslim?” Help me answer her question! – Emeka, 08023682297

“To claim God exclusively for Christians is to make God too small and in a real sense is blasphemous. God is bigger than Christianity and cares for more than Christians only. He has to, if only for the simple reason that Chris­tians are quite late arrivals on the world scene. God has been around since even before creation, and that is a very long time.” As a Rabbi of this age, I can’t but admire such rare and courageous open-mindedness which is clearly corroborated by that great scientist and astronomer Carl Sagan that the “present human culture is a kind of arrogant newcomer” into the world – Rabbi Nat, 080735721252

Even a good native doctor will be with God before some of us that call ourselves Christians or Muslims. The God in me greets the God in you. Amen. 08031169614

What Archbishop Tutu is telling us is that God is for all. Accepting this means religious tolerance which every nation needs for meaningful development. Jason Onyeak­agbusi, Awka, 08037273705

To Archbishop Tutu, I say: May the universal and un­limited God bless you richly for the article on “God is not a Christian.” May He grant you the wisdom and cour­age to tell us more critical and liberating truths – Gabriel, 08102929889

The same argument was why they killed Jesus for say­ing in John 14: 61 that no one “cometh to the Father except by me.” So if Jesus is the only begotten Son of the Father, it simply means that God will not accept anybody without the person accepting Jesus as Lord and personal saviour – E.O., 08060450453

On the face of it, Archbishop Tutu’s book appears “pro­vocative” but on a second thought, one sees easily where the renowned bishop is headed. Yes, “God is not a Chris­tian,” just as God is not a Muslim. God is not a pagan. God is not an atheist. We should not limit God into a par­ticular faith or belief since He created all of us in the first instance. If God is a Muslim, He would not have created Christians. God loves ALL his creations equally. That is why He is God. He is not a human being to discriminate – Dr. Chizoba Christopher Ogbunugafor, Surulere, Lagos, 09099373344.

Salvation and paradise are strictly based on our rela­tionship and service to God and humanity. Allah is a God of all people regardless of our vehicle of communication with Him – Yusuf U. A. MD/CEO, Lincoln Technologies

Bishop Tutu was merely emphasising the fact that it is not enough for Christians to carry the Christian tag as if that is all that is required of them. Rather, they should live it by making the required impacts that would make it pos­sible for them to win souls for Christ. The word Christian means Christ-like behaviour. Unfortunately, this is con­trary to what we have today – Iroka Sampson, Keffi

After reading your piece on Bishop Tutu, I ask: Why is the world afraid of Jesus? Bishop Tutu has a politi­cal agenda, not scriptural agenda. Someone is lying. It’s either the Bible, God, Jesus and His disciples were wrong and the world right or they were right and the world is wrong –

Desmond Tutu is correct. God couldn’t have been a Christian because He is holy, spiritual and divine. Chris­tianity’s motive is mundane, economic, exploitative, ex­pansionist, slavish, invasive, colonial and apartheid. The West used it to enslave Africa, trade Africans in chains as articles, invade and colonise African communities by force, killing the natives who did not allow them easy ac­cess. Today, Africa use it to exploit fellow Africans. To Africans, especially Nigerians, Christianity is the second machine outside government to make illegal wealth and live corruptly and immorally. The so-called Christian leaders promise their gullible followers a good life in heaven while they enjoy theirs on earth – Hypocrisy in action. Ozo Nnaka, Ukpor, 07051503636

True, God is for all, but saying God isn’t a Christian is what I can’t come to terms with. All the same, it is good to explore our thoughts beyond ordinary boundaries – Victor Bello, 08032204716

Dear Mike: Thank you for this beautiful reading. The book, to me, isn’t provocative. Truth, most times, is bitter. It is completely infantile and laughable for ANY religion to personalise or restrict God and His heavenly and uni­versal might, wisdom, mercy, grace and kingdom to itself. If all humans were like Bishop Tutu, the world would be a kind of paradise. Now I know why he got the Nobel Peace Prize – Rashid Adisa

This article came at a very auspicious time in which religious bigotry and fanaticism has been arrogated to an instrument of war and social upheaval. It is very wrong for any religious group or sect to think that God belongs to them alone or those who did not accept their belief are eternally condemned into abyss. This is very wrong. If the adherent of the various religious faith can imbibe the culture of tolerance, all the frictions in the name of fight­ing for God will abate. God is for all and does not belong to anybody or group. All the religions of the world es­pouse the same principles of righteousness, justice, equity, fair play, kindness and all the attributes of God’s spirit in man. – Thaddeus Iberosi

It’s a pity that Desmond Tutu has fallen into apostasy. That is what politics does to people – Don Peter Okoro, 08031386142

I believe the title of the book must have been carefully chosen to create a kind of shock therapy among the read­ing audience so that we can get out of religion and em­brace the truth – Engr. Ayo Fatola, 0808073264


I met him through my late brother and friend Dimgba Igwe. Ever since, Elder E.E. Ekeoma, the chairman of Nepal Oil and Gas from Igbere, Abia State, has been a friend through thick and thin. He was 55 on June 25. Here is wishing him long life, good health and glorious years ahead.

]]> 0
‘God is not a Christian’ Fri, 19 Jun 2015 23:00:56 +0000 I am reading this provocative book which I brought from Cape Town titled God is Not a Christian by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. You know him, the outspoken Nobel Peace laureate and the first black Archbishop of Cape Town. I have nothing to say than to invite you to join me as I bring you excerpts [...]]]>

I am reading this provocative book which I brought from Cape Town titled God is Not a Christian by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. You know him, the outspoken Nobel Peace laureate and the first black Archbishop of Cape Town. I have nothing to say than to invite you to join me as I bring you excerpts from this thought-provoking book about God, Christian faith and other religions. Your comments are wel­come:


Most Christians believe that they get their mandate for exclusivist claims from the Bible. Jesus does say that no one can come to the Father except through Him, and in Acts we hear it proclaimed that there is no other name under Heaven that is given for salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Those passages seem to be categorical enough to make all debates superfluous. But is this all that the Bible says, with nothing, as it were, on the side of inclusiveness and universality, and does the exclusivist case seem rea­sonable in the light of human history and development?

Fortunately for those who contend that Christianity does not have an exclusive and proprietary claim on God, as if God were indeed a Christian, there is ample biblical evidence to support their case. John’s Gospel, in which Jesus claims to be the exclusive means of access to the Father, right at the beginning makes an even more cosmic and startling claim for Jesus, as the Light who enlightens everyone, not just Christians. (John 1:19) In Romans, St. Paul points out that everyone stands condemned as under sin before God—both Jew and Gentile (Romans 3:9). This, which is central to the teaching he intends to convey, is found in an Epistle focused on the wonder of God’s free acquittal of all. God’s grace, bestowed freely through Jesus Christ, would be untenable if there were no universality about God’s law… An important hermeneu­tical principle calls us not to take the Bible texts in isola­tion and out of context, but to use the Bible to interpret the Bible, thus helping to ensure that our interpretation is read out of the Bible in exegesis and read into the Bible with our peculiar biases.

To claim God exclusively for Christians is to make God too small and in a real sense is blasphemous. God is bigger than Christianity and cares for more than Chris­tians only. He has to, if only for the simple reason that Christians are quite late arrivals on the world scene. God has been around since even before creation, and that is a very long time.

If God’s love is limited to Christians, what must the fate be of all who existed before Christ? Are they con­demned to eternal perdition for no fault of their own, as they must be if the exclusivist position is to be pushed to its logical conclusion? If that were the case, we would be left with a totally untenable situation of a God who could be guilty of such bizarre justice. It is surely more accept­able and consistent with what God has revealed of his nature in Jesus Christ, and it does not violate our moral sensibilities, to say that God accepts as pleasing to Him those who live by the best lights available to them, who are guided by the most sublime ideals that claim that all truth, all sense of beauty, all awareness of and desire after goodness has one source, and that source is God, who is not confined to one place, time, and people.

My God and, I hope, your God is not sitting around apprehensive that a profound religious truth or a major scientific discovery is going to be made by a non-Chris­tian. God rejoices that His human creatures, irrespective of race, culture, gender, or religious faith, are making ex­hilarating advances in science, art, music, ethics, philoso­phy, and law, apprehending with increasing ability the truth, the beauty, the goodness that emanate from Him. And we should also join in the divine exultation, rejoicing that there have been wonderful people such as Socrates, Aristotle, Herodotus, Hippocrates, Confucius, and others. Isn’t it obvious that Christians do not have a monopoly on virtue, on intellectual capacity, on aesthetic knowledge? And wonderfully, it does not matter. Is God dishonoured that Mahatma Gandhi was a Hindu? Shouldn’t we be glad that there was a great soul who inspired others with his teachings of satyagraha, who inspired the Christian Martin Luther King Jr. in his civil rights campaign? Do we really have to be so ridiculous as to assert that what Mahatma Gandhi did was good, but it would have been better had he been a Christian? What evidence do we have that Christians are better? Isn’t the evidence often overwhelming in the opposite direction?

Don’t we have to be reminded too that the faith to which we belong is far more often a matter of the acci­dents of history and geography than personal choice? If we had been born in Egypt before the Christian era, we would have been perhaps worshippers of Isis, and had we been born in India rather than in South Africa, the chanc­es are very, very considerable that we would have ended up being Hindu rather than Christian. It is worrisome that so much should be made to depend on the whims of fate, unless it is to make us more modest and less dogmatic in our claims. God can’t want people to be Christians and then seem to stack the odds so very considerably against them and then proceed to punish them for their failure. Such a God is too perverse for us to want to worship Him. I am glad that the God I worship is other than this…

Many Christians would be amazed to learn of the sublime levels of spirituality that are attained in other religions, as in the best examples of Sufism and its mys­ticism, or the profound knowledge of meditation and still­ness found in Buddhism. It is to do God scant honor to dismiss these and other religious insights as delusions, which they patently are not. We make ourselves look quite ridiculous, and our faith and the God we claim to be proclaiming are brought into disrepute. I have met great exponents and adherents of other faiths, and I stand in awe of them and want to take my shoes off as I stand on their holy ground. I have no doubt that the Dalai Lama is one such, and you can’t but be impressed by his deep serenity, and the profound reverence that Buddhists have for life which makes them vegetarian, refraining from all killing, and constrains them to greet you with a profound bow as they say, “The God in me greets the God in you,” a greeting which we Christians could make our own more truly since we believe that every Christian is a tabernacle of the Holy Spirit, a God-carrier.

To acknowledge that other faiths must be respected and that they obviously proclaim profound religious truths is not the same thing as saying that all faiths are the same, however. They are patently not the same. We who are Christians must proclaim the truths of our faith hon­estly, truthfully, and without compromise, and we must assert courteously but unequivocal that we believe that all religious truth and all religious aspirations find their final fulfillment in Jesus Christ. But we must grant to others the same right to commend their faith, hoping that the in­trinsic attractiveness and ultimate truthfulness of Christi­anity will be what commends it to others. That as they see the impact Christianity has on the character and the life of its adherents, non-Christians would want to become Christians in their turn, just as in earlier days pagans were drawn to the church not so much by its preaching as by what they saw of the life of Christians, which made them exclaim in wonder, “How these Christians love one an­other!”

I am not aware of any major faith that says human be­ings are made for a destiny other than the high destiny of being in uninterrupted communion with the divine, how­ever this may be defined, whether the summum bonum, the greatest good, is to be absorbed into the divine, or to exist as distinct for all eternity in nirvana, or paradise, or heaven. I am not aware that any faith has declared that it is acceptable that human beings should be victims of injustice and oppression. On the contrary, we have been able to walk arm in arm with adherents of other faiths in the cause of justice and freedom, even as fellow Chris­tians have vilified and opposed our witness.

I hope I have done enough to convince diehard exclu­sivists that the Christian cause is served better by a joyful acknowledgment that God is not the special preserve of Christians and is the God of all human beings, to whom He has vouchsafed a revelation of His nature and with whom it is possible for all to have a real encounter and relationship.


]]> 0
The world is his laughter Fri, 12 Jun 2015 23:00:21 +0000 HE laughs to live and lives to laugh. His world is a world of laughter, laughter and more laughter. Laughter like a brook flowing gleefully across the path of s tones a nd t hunder. L aughter c as­cading like Victoria Falls. Laughter il­luminating the darkness of our country to bring us hope, light and [...]]]>

HE laughs to live and lives to laugh. His world is a world of laughter, laughter and more laughter. Laughter like a brook flowing gleefully across the path of s tones a nd t hunder. L aughter c as­cading like Victoria Falls. Laughter il­luminating the darkness of our country to bring us hope, light and joy.

My son, brother and friend, Femi Adesi­na is a man of laughter and a man of peace. Some say they have not seen him angry. But twice, I have seen him transfigure into an angry man. The first transfiguration was when, as deputy managing director of The Sun, some people below him were try­ing to undermine him. At a board meeting, he erupted like the impetuous Peter in the Bible. And I was so proud.

The second was when he was contesting to be the President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors and there were pressures for him to step down for another candidate but he would not sell his birthright for a mess of pottage like Esau.

Today, I am here to celebrate one of our own. A good man. A humble man. Our beloved Femi Adesina. The man who has just been appointed the Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to President Buhari. The first man to get an appointment under this new administration. In marketing and in life, being first means a lot. Everybody remembers the first man to step on the moon but nobody cares about the second or the third.

It was in the late ‘80s when a young man walked ner­vously but confidently into my office where I was Week­end Concord’s pioneer editor. We had just created this Saturday newspaper making waves in the country. And suddenly arrived Adesina who had just come out of the university and jobless. He was armed with an impres­sionistic piece he had written about the “People of Pepple Street,” a street in Ikeja where Fela and his people lived a hedonistic life of sex, music and marijuana. With that, Femi Adesina instantly became a part of Weekend Con­cord’s “new journalism” school where reporting was an art and reporters were required to write straight from the heart like poets, novelists and sculptors of news, turning the ordinary into extraordinary, elevating news and fea­tures into the realms of the sublime. We did all that and more. We elevated the ordinary man on the street and even put beggars and lunatics on front page for the right reasons. We celebrated the wedding of two beggars living under the bridge. On a Saturday before Easter, we put on front page, a lunatic Rastafarian who wakes early in the morning, ringing his bell and telling Nigerians to “repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Our reporter Omo­lolu Kassim followed at dawn this itinerant prophet and cornered him for an interesting interview. We went after stories that the mainstream papers ignored. We also res­urrected the big stories of the week and gave them depth and further illuminations. Journalism was one big laugh­ter and we laughed all the way as we created our brand of human angle journalism.

Weekend Concord was the place to be. Ask Dele Momo­du, Shola Oshunkeye, Aliu Mohammed, Ben Memuleti­won, Chika Abanobi, Yetunde Francis, Sanya Oni, Sun­day Umahi, Femi Adesina, Eric Osagie, Omololu Kassim, May Ellen Ezekiel, Sam Omatseye, Wale Sokunbi and Lat Ogunmade. The late Dimgba Igwe was there as my deputy. And Dr. Doyin Abiola was our “mother hen.” It was a great time to be a journalist, an unforgettable pe­riod of youthful exuberance. For us, journalism was an adventure. You just had to go and look for something new and dramatic. It wasn’t just about reporting what govern­ment officials said. It was journalism of the people, for the people, by the people. We provided a platform for the common people to talk and to taste stardom.

Unknown to me, Femi Adesina, a student of English from the then University of Ife had been following my writings on campus and teaching himself journalism based on reading the articles of the journalists he adored. In the world we live in, every child wanting to go far needs a roadmap and a role model to emulate. Without a Diego Maradona, there would be no Lionel Messi today to fol­low his path and take football on a higher plane.

When I was mentoring Femi Adesina, little did I know that this young man would follow my footsteps, occupy every position I have occupied and even rise above me. To God be the glory. Today, another son, Eric Osagie whom I also mentored has taken over from Adesina as the MD/Editor-in-chief of The Sun. To God be the glory! In those days, it was said that Osagie and I used to decide the front page of the paper at the beer parlour. Ha ha ha ha ha ha! I can’t stop laughing! As editor, I had to learn to manage star writers who all wanted to hit the front page as many times as possible.

At the 60th birthday party for my younger brother Otun­ba Wale Awoyinfa recently, Femi Adesina surprisingly showed up. It was there I decided to do this column. I re­membered my son Jide Awoyinfa had earlier interviewed Femi Adesina for a journalism book he is writing. He had also interviewed Sam Omatseye, Dele Momodu and Steve Nwosu. Of the journalists he interviewed, Jide said of Ad­esina: “He is the man that really knows you in and out.”

It was from interviewing my son that I arrived at the above headline: “The world is his laughter.” Let me leave you with the portrait of Femi Adesina from the eyes of Jide Awoy­infa.


“Uncle Femi Adesina is a unique man. A man who is always happy, always smiling, always laughing. You can hardly see him angry. You can never read his mind because he always laughs out everything. If I ask him a question, he would start by laughing and laughs all through his answers. That kind of person, you will be able to relate with him. He draws you in. He treated me like a friend and like a son. I approached him first being scared and nervous. But the way he laughed made me re­lax and I was able to ask him ques­tions without being intimidated. He has this friendly looks. He encouraged me. When you have this character, doors open for you. I am not surprised the way he is moving up and up. The sky is his limit.

“I had come to interview him but he also had questions for me. He asked me: ‘Are you really interested in jour­nalism? Is it because of your dad? Do you have the pas­sion for the job? Journalism is a good job. It is not about what you studied. It is about your interest and flair for journalism. I like your courage and interest. Keep it up.’

“He said things that really encouraged me to choose journalism as a career. That to make it in journalism, I needed to work hard, to read wide, to open my eyes, to sharpen my nose for news, to be creative. I was so proud when he mentioned my dad as the one who taught him a lot of things in journalism, such as the art of casting head­lines.

“To Mr. Adesina, everything is funny. Anything you say to him is funny. He doesn’t need to go to a comedy show to start laughing. Laughter comes to him naturally. For him, life is a joke. He takes life easy. Even if he has a problem, you will not know. In just two hours of inter­viewing him, I learnt so much. There is something mag­netic about him. He is a natural magnet. He just keeps drawing people around him who all like him. You just end up liking him.

“He told me I need to sacrifice a lot. I need to be hard­working: ‘Don’t let your father’s image overshadow you. Go out there and carve your own niche. Create your own brand. Acquire as much knowledge as possible. Knowl­edge is a principal thing. Be humble.’

“I was with him for two hours and it was like ages. Within two hours, I learnt a lot. His story is a testimony. If you are humble, God will elevate you. That is what I have learnt from Mr. Adesina. When I was leaving, he gave me something generous which I will not like to men­tion. I wish him the best in his new assignment. I know he will not disappoint because he is a man who has paid his dues. Anytime you see me laughing, just know that I am borrowing from Uncle Femi, a man whose medicine is laughter. Laughter, they say, is the best medicine.”

]]> 0
The God of new beginnings Sat, 30 May 2015 03:09:36 +0000 ON this first day of a new beginning, a new political dispensation, we come before you, we stand before you, we kneel before you, you God of new beginnings.  You God of change yet changeth not. Our voices soaring high like larks in the azure sky, we chant your praises, you that live forever to [...]]]>

ON this first day of a new beginning, a new political dispensation, we come before you, we stand before you, we kneel before you, you God of new beginnings.  You God of change yet changeth not.
Our voices soaring high like larks in the azure sky, we chant your praises, you that live forever to be praised, you who feed on praises and whose only food is praise and praise and praise.  You are worthy to be praised every day, every time, every moment till eternity where you reign eternally.
Our religions may differ, but our God is one and God of all.  The only one God with different names.  Some call you Allah.  Some call you Jehovah.  Whatever name you are called, you are our God, our Chineke, our Almighty Father, the protector, the great provider and the redeemer of our nation.
We thank you Father for this new day, for this new dispensation because nothing happens without your approval.  You are the God who makes possible the impossible.  You made this choice possible.  You made this new day possible.  We won, because you won first.  Because our God is a winner, we believe we have many victories and many glorious days ahead of us.  We shall rejoice in them.  We shall prosper in them.  In them, we shall regain everything we have lost to the years of the locusts and cankerworms.  The Egyptians that we saw, we shall see them no more as we march to our Goshen, to our Canaan, to our realms of prosperity.
It hasn’t been an easy journey.  Nothing good comes easy.  As I sit preparing this message, all is quiet in my neighbourhood.  My neighbours’ generators that used to cough, roar, drone, cry, weep, wail and disturb the neighbourhood all day and all night long have remained silent in the last days of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration which ended poorly and anticlimactically yesterday.  No light.  No petrol.  All is quiet in the park.  All is quiet on the usually busy streets where few vehicles now ply.  All is quiet in the land except at the few petrol stations where there are long queues and there is confusing noise of Babel and quarrels by the petrol pumps.  Our land is quiet but it is the quietness of the graveyard.  The quietness of Nigeria under an old regime dying.  A national swan song of tragic proportions.
Let me quote from Path of Thunder the last testaments of Christopher Okigbo, Nigeria’s most celebrated poet who died fighting for Biafra: “AN OLD STAR departs, leaves us here on the shore/Gazing heavenwards for a new star approaching;  The new star appears, foreshadows its going/Before a going and coming that goes on forever.”
Beloved, our God is a God of new beginnings.  Old things must pass away for new things to take over.  Just as we have the Old Testament, so do we have the New Testament.  Just as we have the old Adam, so do we have the new Adam.  After disaster comes rebuilding.  After God angrily punished the world with flood in the time of Noah, He ushered in a new beginning, an era of rebuilding.  There is nothing wrong with starting all afresh.  There is nothing bad in going back to the drawing board with a view to retooling the Nigerian project.
As a new man takes over Nigeria, let us first thank God for giving our former leader President Jonathan the spirit of peace in conceding defeat.  But for God, the story of Nigeria might have taken a different turn.  May God continue to teach other African leaders the spirit of sportsmanship and how to gracefully throw in the towel when they lose elections.  Well done and God bless you President Jonathan for this one step, for this one good moment which is your biggest achievement as president.  It takes a child of God to make peace.  The Bible says “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”
My God and my Father.  You who make and unmake kings.  Just as you replaced Saul, the father of Jonathan with David, let President Buhari, even in his old age, be the new David, the unifier of the southern and northern kingdoms of Israel.
And just as Joseph became a great prime minister in Egypt who wisely and prudently managed the economy of Egypt in the period of famine, so do we pray that Buhari will steer Nigeria successfully through this economic dire strait confronting us.
Like Moses who lived and led his people till old age, may President Buhari’s eyes not dim.  May his brains not die.  May he not fall sick and die in office.  We are tired of our leaders dying in office.  Death in office will not be our portion again.  May you renew him like an eagle.  And may he inspire us with a leadership that is honest, purposeful and righteous so that we can all rebuild our country.  May he do the right things as well as do things right.  May he be father of all and not a sectional leader.
Bless him with the wisdom of Solomon to rule wisely.  Bless him like Abraham and make him the father of our nation, just like Mandela of South Africa.  And may God bless the new first lady and put her quietly in her rightful place.  May we not have a Jezebel in our hands seizing the reins of power as was the case in the days of old.  And may we not have a Marie Antoinette asking us to eat cake when there is no bread in the land.  We shall not go hungry in this land of plenty.  We shall not lack.
Jehovah, we ask that you bless our land, secure our land, heal our land  and prosper our land.  Everything we have lost would be restored in this season of restoration.  All our kidnapped girls and our missing citizens would be found.
We ask that you cleanse our land from the spectres of bombings and killings and destructions that put our country in bad light.  No longer would our children and our citizens disappear.  No longer would the blood of Nigerians be shed in the name of terrorism.  No longer would fear and insecurity rule our nation.  No longer would corruption and stealing be glorified in our land.  No longer would thieves and looters of our treasury walk free and triumphantly in our land.  No longer would we continue to live at the mercy of oil cabals.  No longer will we continue to depend on refined oil imported.  No longer will we continue to remain in darkness upon darkness while our economy remains comatose.  No longer will our children go abroad in search of better education.  No longer will we head to India or wherever in search of solutions to our health problems.
The God we serve who is the God of new beginnings will not leave us.  He will abide with us.  He will teach our leaders to do the right things for this great nation.  As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so will the Lord surround Buhari with a team of good, incorruptible, capable men and women who have something to offer Nigeria.  God will deliver us from false economists and “chop-chop” ministers who have been hoodwinking us with their hocus-pocus.  God will deliver us too from false prophets who have been prophesying for their mouths and stomachs.
It shall be well with Nigeria.  In this new era, this new season, God will revive our lost hope and lost pride.  He will fill us with the love for our country and love for one another.  He will revive our educational systems and institutions.  He will revive our hospitals and usher in good health policies.  He will revive our refineries.  He will take us back to the land and we will reap bounteously from agriculture.  We shall eat from the fruit of the land.
Our roads will no longer be dead traps but roads paved with the smoothness and the goodness of the Lord.  Our economy will bounce back.  Our oil will be king again in the global market.  Our trains will be back as trains and we will not just be taken for a ride as has been the case.  Our land will be secured from the enemy within and without.
This is my prayer for Nigeria as we start this journey of a new beginning.  May the God of new beginnings hear our prayers as we pray in Jesus name and with the blessings and intercessions of all the Holy Prophets.  And for you reading this and saying amen, may the God of new beginnings begin a new thing in your life, in the life of your children and in the life of your family.

]]> 0
The City People Star Fri, 22 May 2015 23:38:47 +0000 THIS week’s column belongs to my kid brother, a first-class journalist, an entrepreneur, the City People star who recently clocked 50. Let me start off by saying that, apart from the Guru, who dazed me with a characteristic fat cheque and a very moving letter thanking me for being a lifelong supporter and promoter of [...]]]>

THIS week’s column belongs to my kid brother, a first-class journalist, an entrepreneur, the City People star who recently clocked 50.

Let me start off by saying that, apart from the Guru, who dazed me with a characteristic fat cheque and a very moving letter thanking me for being a lifelong supporter and promoter of the Mike Adenuga brand, one man who also made my 60th birthday anniversary memorable is the affable Seye Kehinde, the organiser of a “Mike Awoyinfa 60th Birthday Colloquium on Tabloid Journalism.”

Didn’t they say one good turn deserves another? Even if he had not celebrated me as a tabloid master, nothing would still have stopped me from celebrating this iconic publisher of City People, this celebrator of celebrities, this man who identified his own niche in the newspaper market and pursued it with passion and vigour until he attained success as a newspaperman and businessman.

In a country where looking for a job is as tough as searching for the proverbial haystack needle, the likes of Seye Kehinde are among the heroes of enterprise who should be celebrated for creating a product that stood the test of time, offering journalists a place to work and get paid. Ordinarily, journalists are not known to be good businessmen, but the likes of Seye Kehinde, John Mo­moh of Channels, Sunny Obazu-Ojeagbase of Complete Football fame and Larry Izamoje of Brilla FM have all shown that journalists also have a nose for news and a knack for business.

You think you are humble. Wait until you meet Seye Kehinde. You think you have the passion, the commit­ment to journalism. Wait until you meet Seye Kehinde — a missionary and an evangelist of the soft-sell brand of journalism.

In those days when I was the editor of Weekend Con­cord, The African Concord news magazine edited by Bayo Onanuga had their office next door and we seam­lessly interacted. Seye Kehinde was a reporter at The African Concord then. I remember the spirit of cama­raderie between the staff of Weekend Concord and Afri­can Concord; how we used to be each other’s brother’s keeper in coming up with story ideas and eye-catching headlines. Each time he is searching for an elusive head­line, Bayo Onanuga would simply walk into my office and by the grace of God a headline would emerge. We all learnt a lot from each other in those glory days of MKO Abiola’s Concord media empire.

Then things fell apart at African Concord. The maga­zine had come with a smoking, hot story where a con­fused military President Gen. Ibrahim Babangida was put on cover, admitting failure and lamenting the fact that he no longer understood the Nigerian economy which was running on autopilot. The military responded by closing down the paper and offering to reopen it if only Bayo and Co would apologise to President Babangida. The publisher Abiola wanted an apology from the journalists to appease his angry friend, Babangida, but the heroic journalists refused. Instead, they handed in their letters of resignation in one of the proudest moments in the his­tory of Nigerian journalism.

From Bayo Onanuga, Babafemi Ojudu, Kunle Ajibade, Seye Kehinde and the whole of The African Concord crew, I learnt about the courage to dare. Under Baban­gida, they tried to “shake the system” with stories that even angels feared to tread on. Stories like: ‘Domkat Bali, My Regret’, which sold like hot cakes. Another exclusive was the Major Gideon Orkar abortive coup of 1990, when no paper had the picture of Orkar, the face of the coup. Bayo and Co had to travel to Shaki where Orkar once was with the Second Mechanised Brigade. There, they stole from a local photographer Orkar’s pic­ture and led with it which other papers copied.

In our forthcoming book “50 WORLD EDITORS— Conversation with Journalism Masters” around the world, which would be launched in Lagos around Sep­tember on the first anniversary of the death of my co-author Dimgba Igwe, Bayo Onanuga said ironically that in journalism, “sometime you need to do certain things in an unorthodox way. If you follow orthodoxy, you will never get anything done. You must be creative. But not to do it in a criminal way.”

The African Concord crisis gave birth to The News magazine. Even though he was a partner and a share­holder in the new publication, which was doing very well at the time, Seye Kehinde felt unfulfilled. He had his own picture of the kind of publication he had always dreamt of as an undergraduate. Fired by the ambition to carve his own niche, he broke away from his friends to start City People in 1996.

“I believe journalism is all about people, stories of people who have done well, those who have failed and those who have not performed at all,” he says, justifying the name City People. As an avid reader of biographies, “I thought it won’t be a bad idea to set up a paper that would be about people. I realised that news was too dry and too harsh. They were always talking about budget or figures and I realised that, for you to be relevant, you need to add a bit of human content to it.

“When I was a student at the University of Ife, I used to joke with friends that someday I hope to do a maga­zine that will talk about people, entertainment, people in showbiz, fashion, politics and business. I drew what City People will look like and I kept it. In 1996, the same friend that I sat down with kept on reminding me about the magazine I always talked about. He is a finance ex­pert. Together, we did the calculation and we realised it was something possible. What I came up with was actu­ally an improvement on the initial draft.

City People is God working through me. At an early age, I perfected how to relate with God. When I want to do something, I don’t rush into it. I turn it over in my mind. When I started, I didn’t see too much challenge from the market. There were some papers in the market but I believed I could compete successfully. I believed in myself.

“Today, I thank God for journalism. It has made who I am. It has catapulted me to the level at which I am today. I have found fulfillment in it. I believe that whatever you have decided to do in life, keep at it. I have learnt a lot of things from life and from journalism. It has made me understand my environment and my country better. I have met great people on this job and I believe the sky is the limit. I have found contentment in journalism. I am someone who is not too ambitious. All I want to do is to run a good business and contribute my quota to the change in the society. I think I have done my own bit. What I need to do is to improve on what I am doing so that I can touch more lives.

“I am a very reserved person. I am a very shy person. I am one of those who feel that I don’t think I need to cel­ebrate my private life on the pages of the newspapers. I was brought up to be an easygoing person. We celebrate those who are doing well, but I didn’t meet my seniors in the profession celebrating themselves. Having this kind of platform, what I have is the privilege to celebrate oth­ers.

“By the time you start celebrating yourself, you are abusing the platform that you have. People need to know about people who are doing wondrous things in the soci­ety. I live a normal life like everybody. I don’t believe that I need to celebrate myself or take space in the papers talking about myself.

“For the young people, there are certain things you need to do in life. One, what is your purpose in life? What is your vision, mission, purpose and goal in life? What is your dream? Don’t be afraid to realise your dream. Dream big. Don’t take ‘No’ for an answer. Know yourself, know what you want to do. Decide on what you want and stand by it. He who stands for noth­ing will fall for anything. Finally, follow your passion. If you follow your passion, feel good about it and put in your best, you will be better off for it.”

Once again, happy birthday, my brother Seye Kehinde. May your star continue to shine in the city and among the people who read City People.

]]> 0
Nigeria now sitting in limbo Fri, 15 May 2015 23:33:00 +0000 I want to write this column, but I don’t have the en­ergy. By energy I don’t mean physical energy. I mean all the other energies without which there is no life. I want to write but there is no electric en­ergy. And I can’t power my generator because there is no fuel. And there is [...]]]>

I want to write this column, but I don’t have the en­ergy. By energy I don’t mean physical energy. I mean all the other energies without which there is no life. I want to write but there is no electric en­ergy. And I can’t power my generator because there is no fuel. And there is no energy to power my water too.

The other day, I queued up for four hours waiting for petrol. I was queuing up with human beings and jerry cans of all races and colours—black, white, yellow, all look­ing for petrol. Amid the bedlam around the fuel pump, I had waited patiently like Madam Patience. And when it reached my turn, my good luck turned into bad luck. The petrol station attendants suddenly put an end to sell­ing petrol. All our begging and supplications hit deaf ears. Angry and frustrated, I had to kick my car and drive to the unknown to continue my search for fuel. That is the picture of Nigeria of today, as we wait for May 29 to usher in a new dispensation.

I have read books on leadership which harp on finishing strong. But Nigeria of today is a good case study in finishing weak. It’s so sad that this government is finishing so poor­ly, so badly, everything drifting to the point of anarchy—a country where governance has stopped functioning because an election has been lost.

Finishing strong. This was the theme I discussed with my friend and founder of Realm of Glory church, Pastor Sam Aiyedogbon when he came visiting on Wednesday morning. Ever since my friend died, this man of God has not stopped praying for me and asking after my welfare. I asked him to address the state of the nation. These are his thoughts:


Nigeria is in limbo as at now. A limbo is when you are neither here nor there. A limbo is when you are neither in heaven nor in hell. You are hanging somewhere. You can’t be said to be alive here. And you are not dead either. The situation in Nigeria now is a limbo situation because the out­going administration of Goodluck Jonathan now has this at­titude of: Why should we be responsible for anything? It’s like that negative mentality of “if I am not good enough to be voted into power, why should I care about whatever is happening?” Because right now, there is no system in place working anyway. Whereas the incoming administration of the President-elect Gen. Muhammadu Buhari has not re­ally got in there, so you can’t hold him responsible yet. The handing over is yet to be done. It’s like we are not in any­body’s hand. So that is what I call a limbo situation.

In this kind of limbo, it is the people that are left to suffer. And I am sure part of the shock is that by the time General Buhari takes over, he is going to realize that things are worse than he ever imagined. And that poses a greater challenge. I think we are in for some shocking revelations that will show us what the past administration has been patching, how bad it really is. That is going to call for everybody’s understand­ing.

If it is going to be bad as we are even feeling it now, then to expect a magic or a miracle overnight would not be realistic. I remember part of the questions you Mike kept asking at the onset of the race is that: Are we going to put up with this situation for another four years? And you said you cannot afford to be neutral. That we are not going to allow things to continue this way for another four years. Your voice kept coming to me. And where I applied that on my part, what I didn’t want for another four years is the people I call “Pen­tecostal Masquerades.” They were doing cash-and-carry prayer and prophesy in Aso Rock. It got to a point where some Christian organizations became appendix of PDP, like the religious wing of PDP. And I have people in Abuja who tell me how big pastors have turned Aso Rock to a market where they put money in the mouth, they prophesy, they take prayer contract. For me, I was asking God: Is this how it is going to continue? My own concern was the religious as­pect. It such a shame. It was so disgracing to hear that some billions were given to some Pentecostal pastors—whether in PFN or whatever. And nobody came out to deny it.

What I am glad about is that for me, I don’t carry um­brella, I don’t carry broom. If you are called to be a spiritual leader, I believe your disposition to a larger extent should be able to accommodate all across board. Because if you are in APC and you are in my church, I must not disfavour you even if I am inclined to another party. A man of God, a spiritual leader should not be partisan. Because the moment I pitch my tent to a particular party, then I may not be fair to all. I may not be able to avoid playing up my sentiments directly or indirectly.

It was a concern that this misrepresentation of the min­istry of the Lord, this bastardisation, this corruption of the pulpit and the sacred calling that has been so commer­cialised. Is it going to continue for another four years? I was more concerned about that than infrastruc­ture. Because I believe corruption thrives in a so­ciety when the spiritual sector is corrupt. I wrote about this in Thisday in 1996 when I started writ­ing for them. I believe where God focuses on and the people God holds responsible first are people in the religious sector. Because every governor and president belong to one religion or another to a large extent. So they listen to somebody that is either an imam or a pastor. If the spiritual leaders were upholding the values they should uphold, teaching what they should teach and doing what they should do, these political leaders directly un­der their influence should be able to do better. But we are in a situation where it is the religious lead­er mounting pressure on the political leader and prophesying what I would call “prophelying.”

In the Book of Ezekiel, Chapter 22, God itemised three sectors in the society responsible for the fall­ing apart of the society. He talks about the princes who are the political leaders, then the priests who are the religious leaders and the prophets who are like spiritual seers. God was holding the three of them responsible for the state of the nation. The one to blame the most were the religious and spiri­tual leaders. That was what led to God saying: “I sought for a man in the whole land to stand in a gap and I couldn’t find.” He wasn’t talking about poli­ticians. I don’t think politicians have been God’s problem. It is His own people failing and missing the mark. Micah Chapter 3 says something inter­esting: There are prophets, when you put something in their mouths, like you put credit in your phone, they prophesy and say “God bless you.” When you don’t, they say: “God damn you.”

I am happy that, the religious charade that was going on in Aso Rock, you can’t do that with Gen. Buhari. And I am sure the Vice-President elect Osinbanjo too. He is also a pastor. Nobody can go to him and say bring money for prayer contract.

I believe Buhari has what it takes. My only concern was the violence that accompanied the 2011 election. And I re­member you Mike said to me: “What if Buhari is a Saul of Tarsus who has changed to Paul?”

But as far as Buhari’s resume and antecedents, his pedi­gree is concerned, I think it is clear that he is set to take Ni­geria to a better phase. Things are going to be better. Num­ber one, he is not a pushover. He doesn’t have a godfather that he is answerable to. They call him Baba himself. So when you don’t have a Baba you are bowing to, that is the first thing. The problem with Nigerian politics has been the problem of godfatherism. But this is a man you can’t push around or push over. Everybody knows what he stands for. It is good people who know your values and know what you stand for. It will even make them to decide what to propose to you or not to propose to you. People know that there are certain things you can’t do around him. Everybody would sit up. And that is already putting us on the path to glory. Part of what has bedeviled our polity is impunity, is reck­lessness, the feeling that whatever you do, there is not going to be any consequence. And nobody is going to checkmate you. You can’t tell Buhari there is no difference between being a thief and being corrupt. That alone is a leap in the right direction.


]]> 0
Oh, Pacquiao Fri, 08 May 2015 23:00:47 +0000 LET me call you brother, my brother, because a brother is who and what you are. Any man who puts his trust in God, who prays first before a battle is my brother. Any man who came from nothing to something, who came from zero to hero is my brother. Any man who, having found [...]]]>

LET me call you brother, my brother, because a brother is who and what you are.

Any man who puts his trust in God, who prays first before a battle is my brother. Any man who came from nothing to something, who came from zero to hero is my brother. Any man who, having found money, uses money well to fight and alleviate poverty in the world, is my brother.

That is why I chose you over and above the other guy who worships money, who glorifies money, who even calls himself “Money” and flaunts his riches in a ritual of vanity. Vanity upon vanity.

You may have lost the fight, but you have not lost my love for you, my faith in you, my trust in you and my belief that you are still the champion. A champion in my heart and in the hearts of so many in the world. Not just in the Philippines where you are the star and a superstar.

In life, everyone goes through a disappointment. Dis­appointment is a fact of life. It happens to everyone. Something must always go wrong. Whether we like it or not.

Beloved, the Manny Pacquiao that showed up against Floyd Mayweather was not the Manny Pacquiao that we know or we used to know. It was not until after the battle had been lost and won that we knew what went wrong: that Pacquiao had suffered an accident, had injured his shoulder in training, three weeks before the fight. And with all the big money at stake, he thought he could risk it against an unbeaten champion like Floyd Mayweather. We later learnt he even asked before the fight to be given a pain-relieving injection which was denied him. But that is not an excuse for losing.

The truth is that Floyd Mayweather has won. He re­mains undefeated. And he should not be denied his glo­ry. His victory should not be diminished by the lame ex­cuse of Manny Pacquiao’s breaking his arm in training.

I salute you Floyd Mayweather. I congratulate you. You are truly a champion. From now on, I will learn to respect you and not write anything bad about you. Last week, I wrote a piece titled “Floyd Badweather” indi­rectly predicting a defeat for you, but it turned out to be “Floyd Goodweather.” Congrats!

Shortly after your victory over Manny Pacquiao, my phones started ringing. I got all kinds of text messages from Floyd Mayweather fans all mocking me and asking me to write a rejoinder.

That is what I am doing now. Like President Goodluck Jonathan, I concede defeat. I congratulate all you May­weather fans, starting from my wife and my son Kehinde who were on the side of Floyd Mayweather. For the first time, we had a divided house. The non-boxing fans in the house supported Mayweather while those with box­ing in their genes wanted Pacquiao to win. Nobody slept. Everybody kept vigil. Just to watch this fight. A fight like no other. A fight that had been hyped to the extent that even non-boxing fans were eager to watch. From all over the nation, people were calling to ask: “What time will they be fighting?”

Outsiders came to join us to watch the fight. We all sat waiting as the night melted into day. It started with two boring, uneventful opening fights. Then came the actor and singer Jamie Foxx rendering a disastrous ver­sion of the American national anthem. In four decades of watching boxing, I have never heard the Star Spangled Banner so massacred on a night of boxing. Haba! And for God’s sake why were they playing the national an­them of Mexico? Is Manny Pacquiao a Mexican? Or is Floyd Mayweather also a Mexican? Yes, I have watched Mayweather entering the ring, dressed like a Mexican in one of his fights, wearing an oversize hat.

Now, don’t let me take anything away from Floyd Mayweather. He proved himself a great fighter and a consummate ring strategist. From him, I learnt a few lessons. Not just in boxing but about life in general. A man must protect and defend himself at all times. Floyd Mayweather is the best defensive boxer ever. It was ob­vious in the match against Pacquiao. He was always on the move, bobbing and weaving, dodging and dancing his way out of trouble to the point where a frustrated Pacquiao was just punching the empty air and chasing shadows. Poor Pacquiao!

Lesson No.2. To win in the game of life, you must have a strategy and you must be able to execute your strategy successfully. Mayweather’s strategy was to use subterfuge. He was slowing down the aggres­sive Pacquiao and prevent­ing him from punching through constant holding. He wasn’t after a knock­out. He just wanted to be ahead on points. As usual, he didn’t waste his punch­es, always delivering when necessary and right on the button. Once again, May­weather has proved that he is a ring technician, a man who knows what to do at any time, a boxer who keeps adjusting and synchronising as the fight moves on.

From his muscular built, it shows that Mayweather really worked hard and prepared well for this fight. He went the old school boxing way, an axe in hand, chopping woods in the forest and building strong muscles with which he subdued the not-so-muscular Pacquiao in this particular fight. The les­son here is that hard work pays. Not just working hard but working smart. Mayweather is one smart guy, a thinking fighter and a psychologist. Even when Pacquiao’s blows are hurt­ing him, he shakes his head to disorient the opponent, saying: “You are not hurting me.”

From the Mayweather versus Pacquaio fight, I have confirmed what the Bible affirms in Ecclesiastes 9:11. That “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

This is the time of Mayweather. This is the season of Mayweather. This is the weather of Mayweather. Ev­erything is going well for Mayweather. But it is not over for Manny Pacquaio. He is not finished. God has not yet finished with him. He will be fit again. He will get back his broken arm. He who fights and runs and runs in a fight like Floyd Mayweather, lives to fight another day.

I am sure there would be a rematch. And it would be a better fight than this overhyped one where a lifetime’s fortune was paid out, just to see two half-naked men slugging it out in 12 rounds of boxing. I have watched far better fights than this one. And I disagree with Floyd Mayweather that he is the best or the greatest boxer that ever lived.


]]> 0
Floyd Badweather? Fri, 01 May 2015 23:00:43 +0000 AFFICIONADOES of the “sweet science” of boxing will tonight feast on their dream fight. The long-awaited fight. T he fight that many thought would not be possible. As a boxing fan, I have yearned for it, wished for it, prayed for it. And finally, it is here. Tonight in Las Ve­gas, Floyd Mayweather, the unbeaten [...]]]>

AFFICIONADOES of the “sweet science” of boxing will tonight feast on their dream fight. The long-awaited fight. T he fight that many thought would not be possible.

As a boxing fan, I have yearned for it, wished for it, prayed for it. And finally, it is here. Tonight in Las Ve­gas, Floyd Mayweather, the unbeaten boxing champion will finally walk into the ring to face the man he has con­sistently avoided: Manny Pacquiao. The pride of Philip­pines. The bionic fighter, slugger and a brutal puncher with a fist of iron.

This is boxing at its best. It’s the best versus the best. The best defensive boxer against the best attacking boxer. The thinking and adjusting fighter versus the ever-surg­ing fighter always coming at you to rip off your head. The vain, boastful, undefeated champion who knows all the tricks in the book of boxing against the one who has tasted defeat yet is still the man to beat the undefeated. This is a clash of contrasting styles. It is a tough one. And anyone can win.

Great fights have come and gone. Fights I keep rolling back the tapes to watch on Youtube. Fights like Cas­sius Clay versus Sonny Liston, Muhammed Ali versus Joe Frazier I, Thomas Hearns versus Sugar Ray Leonard, Sugar Ray Leonard versus Marvin Hagler, Mike Tyson versus Evander Holyfield. But none of these fights can match the expectations of Manny Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather. It’s a fight between a man who came from nothing to something versus a man who from day one has been trained not to lose a fight. It is a fight between vanity and humility. It is a fight between the loud and the quiet. It is a fight between a fighter with the bad boy image and a fighter who looks meek, humble and prays before a fight. It is a fight between the orthodox fighter and the southpaw. It is a fight between the defensive at­tacker and the attacker’s attacker.

Mayweather is the defensive genius who has gone to win world titles in five divisions, not defeated for 20 years and earned half a billion dollars in career earnings.

On his part, Manny Pacquaio is the boy who started as a street urchin, turned into boxing to become a legend of boxing and a Congressman. He too has won in many divisions of boxing. He is a symbol of hope among his countrymen, a man who works to fight poverty and helps the poor by donating part of his money to help alleviate poverty. When it comes to boxing, he is sensational, he is unstoppable, he is indomitable, he is the Pacman.

For the first time, boxing experts are divided as to who will win. Some favour Pacquiao who is coming in as the underdog, while some think Mayweather is simply too smart to fall to Pacquiao’s “reckless” and relentless on­slaught. The two boxers have trained and trained. And they are ready to go. For the first time, Mayweather is subdued. He is not boasting or talking trash as before, because of the respect he has for the man he is facing. A man he has avoided so many times. A man he has given all kinds of conditions from regular Olympic-style drug tests to taking the lion’s share of the money. Everything he asked for, Pacquiao has conceded. All in the interest of making this fight happen.

Now, the die is cast. No place to run. No place to hide. You have to face the enemy. The two strong men have to meet in a Darwinian survival of the fittest and a place in boxing history. Win or lose, the two boxers will have their places in boxing. They are both champions. True champions.

I love the two of them. I love Mayweather. And I love Pacquiao. Both of them are good at what they do. Two masters in the art of inflicting pain. Two warriors trained to brutalize. Two champions who have watched the op­position fall many times to their brutal and devastative punches. Two entertainers who have thrilled boxing fans and are set tonight to thrill us more and to take their fight­ing prowess to the next level.

In the past it used to be that heavyweight champions rule the boxing ring. Not anymore. Today, the heavy­weight division is lacklustre, if not dead. The boxing champions of the world are small men fighting big fights. Mayweather and Pacquiao are the best of the small fight­ers who have set the box office records with their fights commanding outrageously big money never dreamt of in the days of Jack Johnson, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, Muhammed Ali, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson and all the boxing greats the world has known.

For those who ordinarily could have turned criminals or used their God-given talent negatively, boxing has of­fered an escape valve to riches. Boxers like Mike Tyson and Sonny Liston were champions nurtured from the un­derworld of crime which could have killed them or get them rotten behind bars. Instead they found fame and fortune in boxing where they are legalised to inflict pain or even kill inside the ring.

This is one fight I cannot afford to miss. If it means keeping an all-night vigil to watch it, I will. I want to be part of history. I want to witness this historic fight. I want to be able to tell my grandchildren about the night Mayweather faced Pacquiao.

Who do I support? In whose camp do I belong? Well, just like I supported Buhari all the way to defeat Presi­dent Jonathan, I am sticking out my neck for Manny Pac­quiao to win. I will bet on Pacquiao to turn Mayweather into “Badweather.”

But you never can tell. This guy Mayweather is bad. And when you are bad, it means you are good. He knows every trick in the book. He is the consummate boxing artiste. He is undefeated. Failure is not in his dictionary. He knows what to do to win. He has his own strategy. And he is going out there to execute his strategy. But in the world we live in, no man is unbeatable. Every man has his master. Win or lose, they are both boxing greats who have carved their names in the annals of boxing.

May the better fighter win. And may the sweet science of boxing be the ultimate winner.

]]> 0
Everybody’s Mike Adenuga Song Fri, 24 Apr 2015 23:42:59 +0000 A troubadour. A pen in hand, a notebook and a tape recorder, I have moved around the world 10 years today, studying one man, interview­ing people about one man and in the end I have become a student of this one man who continues to amaze, educate and inspire me. If I have not given [...]]]>

A troubadour. A pen in hand, a notebook and a tape recorder, I have moved around the world 10 years today, studying one man, interview­ing people about one man and in the end I have become a student of this one man who continues to amaze, educate and inspire me.

If I have not given up on the Mike Adenuga project, it is something I drew from the man himself. The passion, the persistence, the hard work, the drive and the determination to follow a lifelong dream up to its logical end. Not giv­ing up, not bowing out in spite of obstacles and daunting challenges along the way that every writer faces in this arduous literary journey.

The other day, I was casually reading the massive tran­scripts of the Mike Adenuga interviews I conducted in the last 10 years. It occurred to me, now that my brother and writing partner Dimgba Igwe is no more, in his memory and with his support wherever he is today, I could refo­cus our book by making the people we interviewed tell their own Mike Adenuga’s story straight from the horse’s mouth. Just like our other book: SEGUN OSOBA, THE NEWSPAPER YEARS.

From Africa’s first winner of the Nobel Prize for Litera­ture Prof. Wole Soyinka to Nigeria’s first military Presi­dent Ibrahim Babangida, everybody has his own unique, enthralling Mike Adenuga story. Every person constitutes a chapter in this gripping narrative that tastes like tea or coffee filled with the milk of human kindness. We inter­viewed the brother, the sisters, the mother’s sister who looked after Adenuga as a baby when the parents went to study in England, the daughter, the classmates, Femi Ekundayo, the man who was the first managing director of his Devcom bank, Chief Dosu Adelu, the man who taught Mike Adenuga all about oil drilling, the Senegalese su­perstar Youssou N’dour who once begged Mike Adenuga for a ride in his plane. The list goes on and on. All the interviews attest to the greatness and the legend of this one man whose story must be told to inspire and challenge the youths of today about the values of hard work, talent, wisdom and the strategies to make it in Nigeria through entrepreneurship.

From Femi Akinrinade, Mike Adenuga’s first-ever busi­ness partner, I heard a pathetic story about trust and friend­ship. It reminded me of how I related with my late friend Dimgba Igwe. Said Akinrinade: “I am a senior brother, but Mike is a taskmaster—what Americans would call a slave driver. He does not know come. It’s always go. I really enjoyed working with him. He is younger than me, but I learnt a lot from him that you never say never. He never gives up on anything. He would keep on keep­ing on until he gets to his destination. That is the kind of man he is. What I enjoyed most in our partnership is his transparency and honesty. You do not have to be there. If any money comes in, that you are not expecting, you do not have to be there for Mike to put it on the table. As partners, most of the times, I insist it is 50:50 but Mike would protest: ‘You can’t do that, sir. You take more.’ But I would say no, this is business. He is starkly honest when it comes to material things. We never had arguments over money. In fact, sometimes when we were working togeth­er, if he does something on the side, on his own, nothing to do with me, and he makes money on it, I would just see a cheque or money. He would say: ‘Egbon, I did this business and here is a little something for you.’ That is the kind of person that he is. And that is what I enjoyed most about working with him. You can go to sleep and you know that even if you die, if you don’t wake up, your next of kin would get what is coming to you.”

At my 60th birthday, Dimgba Igwe said something similar and prophetic when he was paying me his tribute. He said he would sleep peacefully knowing that I Mike Awoyinfa “would surely take care of business.” It’s a heavy responsibility but we have God to help one carry on.

One man who knows Mike Adenuga in and out is Niyi Adewunmi, his oldest aide. Adewunmi’s most unforget­table Mike Adenuga experience was at the point of death in 2000. He recalls how Adenuga like an angel of mercy “flew me with a jet overseas. He hired an aircraft for me. He put me in the most expensive hospital in London. He told me: ‘Niyi, don’t worry about money. I am paying here. God has made the money. We started together. This is the time for you to enjoy it. Death would not take you away.’ Till tomorrow, when I remember that statement, tears would roll from my eyes. I had what they called neuropathy. But at the end of day, a miracle happened and I survived.”

In Abuja, Senator Tunde Ogbeha’s has a cook from Ogoja by name Emmanuel who has a special way of cook­ing okro soup which Adenuga enjoys so much. “Some­times when he comes to the house and he is happy with my cook, he would give him a cash gift which is more than his salary for one year,” recalls Ogbeha. According to Ogbeha, “my most memorable Adenuga experience was when he had no house, when we hanged out at the mother’s house in Ibadan. I cherish that period. The mum had a very good friendship with my mum. To the extent that when my mum died, we did not tell her, because of her state of mind.”

Lt. GENERAL (Retired) VICTOR MALU, Command­er of the ECOMOG peace-keeping force in Liberia (1996- 1998) and Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (1999-2001) has this to say: “I went to Liberia and for one year, I didn’t come to Nigeria because we were fighting throughout. In fact, I didn’t even think I was going to come back alive. When I came back, I started trying to see if I could go and thank Mike Adenuga for what he did because that five thousand dollars he gave me was my saviour. It was more than the worth of five thousand. When I got to Liberia, the war started. My name was not included on the nominal pay roll. For three months, I didn’t have any allowance. It was that money I survived on as an officer to live a decent life. Mike is a very generous human being. He shows you generosity and you have no means of saying thank you to him. You write thank-you letters and you are not even sure it got to him. That is the kind of man.”

It was under Prof. Jubril Aminu’s tenure as petroleum minister that Mike Adenuga got his oil licence and struck oil. Aminu goes on memory lane to recall the drama of Mike Adenuga coming to his office with David Ogbodo (Aminu’s then P.A.) and the two of them begging the min­ister for the oil licence which Aminu gave him in the end after he was convinced that Adenuga, young as he was, should be given a chance to go into oil exploration. To­day, he says of Adenuga: “He’s been very good, he is suc­cessful, he is a go-getter. I mean after Consolidated Oil, he moved in to express himself in National Oil when it was being privatised. By that time, I had left petroleum a long time and he got it, changed it to Conoil. And then he moved to Glo. I was very worried for him when they said he paid $20 million and it was not refundable. I went to one or two places on his behalf and I am very happy he got the business and he was able to recoup his $20 million and more. He is a great businessman. I don’t know what he is working on now. But I won’t be surprised if he is working on some atomic energy thing or something like that. He reminds me of somebody who said: ‘Naira is running at 90 miles per hour and Nigerians are following it at 120 miles per hour.’”

From Senator Jubril Aminu to Dele Momodu to Bella, Adenuga’s daughter to Dr. Ebi Omotshola to Mohammed Jameel to Mike Jituboh to Adewale Sangowanwa to the architect Isaac Fola-Alade, everybody has an Adenuga song—a song worth singing. Fola-Alade recalls that of all the people he helped with government contracts, only Mike Adenuga came back to say thank you. Quoting the Bible, he asks: “Were there not 10 cleansed lepers? Where are the nine?”

In his book on GIVING, President Bill Clinton asks: “Who is happier? The uniters or the dividers? The build­ers or the breakers? The givers or the takers? I think you know the answer. There is a whole world out there that needs you, down the street or across the ocean. Give.”

And didn’t the Good Book say “it is more blessed to give than to receive”? Here is wishing the Guru a happy birthday on April 29.

For more Mike Awoyinfa writings go to www.ex­

]]> 0
John Momoh’s Channel of excellence Fri, 17 Apr 2015 23:00:44 +0000 On a placid Wednesday morning this week when the programme “Business Morning” was being aired on Channels TV, the un­usual happened, which is the real definition of news. There was a fire outbreak. Not just an ordi­nary fire. An iconic structure, the Mamman Kontag­ora Building on Marina, a skyscraper in the financial district of Lagos [...]]]>

On a placid Wednesday morning this week when the programme “Business Morning” was being aired on Channels TV, the un­usual happened, which is the real definition of news. There was a fire outbreak. Not just an ordi­nary fire. An iconic structure, the Mamman Kontag­ora Building on Marina, a skyscraper in the financial district of Lagos was on fire.

And the two anchors on Business Morning, Harriet Ag­benyi and Boason Omafaye, responded spontaneously to the breaking news with aplomb and the gravitas of two professionals who know their onions as they effected a seamless merger of the breaking news with their normal business programme.

While reporting the breaking news, they cautioned those in the vicinity of the fire to stay out of the fire. At the same time, they urged viewers to send in still pictures and videos of the raging fire which they did. This is the face of new journalism—an interactive form of journalism whereby viewers act as “citizen journalists” and “citizen photojournalists” who not just report what they are seeing but use their phones to file in eyewitness images of the breaking news. It was a trend that caught on during the just-ended elections with viewers sending in Election Day pictures from all corners of the world against the backdrop of a Channels TV in their rooms which they are watch­ing. It was a good branding strategy that shows the global reach of Channels TV as Nigeria’s CNN, a station that Nigerians in Nigeria and those in the diaspora depended on to know what was happening in Nigeria. And the sta­tion really gave their best in reporting the elections. In the words of one Channels reporter, “in reporting these elec­tions, we were stretched to our wits end in our search for professional excellence.”

Talking about excellence, Channels is today Nigeria’s undisputed champion of news reporting which has won countless times the “TV Station of the year” award. The story of John Momoh and Channels TV is chronicled as a chapter in a new book by Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe titled: ‘50 WORLD EDITORS—Conversations with Journalism Masters on Trends and Best Practices’

The book which features interviews with editors, pub­lishers and news media men and women around the world will be launched in September to mark the one year an­niversary of my friend and brother Dimgba Igwe who was killed on September 6 last year. Among the news­men featured in the book are editors from The New York Times, The Times of London, The Guardian (UK), New York Newsday, Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Finan­cial Times, Daily Mirror, Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, Reuters and AFP, just to mention a few. John Momoh was featured in the Nige­rian category which features names like Alhaji Babatunde Jose, Segun Osoba, Dele Olojede and Bayo Onanuga. This is an excerpt from the book about John Momoh and Channels TV:


Today, Channels TV is to Nigeria what CNN is to the world. It’s Nigeria’s television news leader—a station many Nigerians tune to to get their news objectively and professionally presented without taking sides. But it hasn’t always been like that.

Prior to starting Channels where he is the founder and CEO, John Momoh, the son of a cook who wasn’t born with the proverbial golden spoon, had to fight his way up, slaughtering Goliaths along the way to build his media dream. He used to work at the Nigerian Television Au­thority (NTA) where he was the star anchor and winner of the station’s “Newscaster of the Year” award. At NTA where Momoh learnt the trade of television news in all its ramifications, news was defined solely from the point of view of the Nigerian government—a situation that got him in trouble occasionally as he tried to balance playing the government angle and be­ing professional.

Reporting news from the government’s angle is “one of the things that didn’t go down well with in the NTA,” Momoh says. “So, I thought it was an opportu­nity for me to correct this, if I ever got the licence to start a TV station.”

He remembers an inci­dent when the iconic Na­tional External Telecom­munications skyscraper, popularly known as NET Building was on fire in La­gos and the then Nigerian President Shehu Shagari was travelling to India that night. As the norm in NTA, he was not supposed to mention the fire as the main lead, even though it was the hottest national story. The Shagari-off-to-India story had been scripted for him as the lead story but Mo­moh had other plans. He did something creative—a case of killing two birds with one stone in order to save his credibility as a news anchor.

He incorporated the fire story into the opening intro as follows: “The President is off to India but first, let’s look at the NET fire.”

In a sedate and highly bureaucratic institution like the NTA, that was a major gamble which the authorities frowned at but Momoh got away with it. “That was how I was able to balance the two,” he said. “Of course, I got the rap for it but eventually they knew it was the best decision.”

Like every enterprise, the story of Channels is the tri­umph of dream, passion, professionalism, perseverance and luck which translates as God’s blessing. From cor­porate sharks who wanted to take over the company by owning majority shares and potential clients who never believed that a news-oriented TV station could succeed in Nigeria, Momoh today is having the last laugh as Nige­rians looking for authentic news of the day all switch to Channels and corporate bodies queue to put their adver­tisements on his station. Channels TV has come to stay as a Nigerian success story with foreign TV stations wanting to buy into it with a view to building an African version of Al Jazeera.

The above Prologue is followed by a lengthy interview in which Momoh tells his story—an inspiring story which is a triumph of the spirit of entrepreneurship. Who will ever believe that things were initially so hard that the com­pany bus had to be turned into kabukabu with the aim of bringing in revenue to pay salaries, but the drivers were cheating and coming back with nothing but stories? It’s all in the book, 50 WORLD EDITORS)

]]> 0
A hero in the theatre of the absurd Fri, 03 Apr 2015 23:02:19 +0000 The weather was clement. All was going well. The election spacecraft was going smoothly into the stratosphere, carrying the banners of Nigeria. The whole world was watching and praying nothing would go wrong, because if anything goes wrong, the whole of Africa and the world at large will suffer its consequences. On the control is [...]]]>

The weather was clement. All was going well. The election spacecraft was going smoothly into the stratosphere, carrying the banners of Nigeria. The whole world was watching and praying nothing would go wrong, because if anything goes wrong, the whole of Africa and the world at large will suffer its consequences.

On the control is Captain Attahiru Jega, the pilot, the Nigerian hero. So cool. So calm. So composed. So focused in his determination to carry Nigeria to its po­litical destination. He was soaring high on the wings of prayers. A whole nation was praying that he would land safely without any incident, without any accident. But then, out of the blues came this phantasmagoria. A figure wearing a hat and armed with a microphone, threatening to hijack the plane. If this is not a coup attempt, what else is it?

There are all kinds of coups. There is coup de theatre. Coup d’etat. Coup de grace. Coup de piece. Coup de resistance. I don’t know how or where to classify this coup attempt. Maybe I should call it: coup de what? Or coup de l’absurd.

It was one theatre of the absurd that frightened every­one. It reminded me of the German pilot who locked the cockpit door shortly after the main pilot had gone out to wee. Then he went ahead to crash the plane and wrote his name in history. History of infamy.

Oh my God! I was scared. I was so afraid. I was embarrassed. To think that this should happened at a time like this with the whole world watching. Is this the beginning of the prophecy that Nigeria would tear apart in 2015? Is this the anti-Christ or what? I was pray­ing that God should intervene. I remembered Murphy’s Law. Whatever would go wrong would go wrong. I was hoping that Jega, the referee would use his red card and send the fellow out of the field. But it seemed Jega didn’t come with his red card. He just sat there. Cool. Calm. Composed. Focused. Restrained. Not losing his mind.

It was obvious a script was being played. But he sim­ply refused to be ensnared in the trap. This pilot would not just play along.

I was hoping somebody would do something. Hoping that the security men would pounce on him. But nothing like that happened. And the actor had a field day. His day in the global spotlight. He was raving like a mad man. But there was a method to his madness.

His was reciting his lines so adroitly. At a point, there was a lull. And Jega wanted business to resume. But the man would not allow business to resume.

“Please, leave me,” he charged menacingly at the ap­proaching cameramen and security men. “Don’t near me. Jega is tribalistic. Jega is partial. Jega has released the result to the APC. Prof. Jega, you cannot continue… You cannot continue…”

But thank God, it all ended well. Normalcy was re­stored at last. And Jega finally brought out a yellow card, saying something like: “You were a former minister. As a former minister you are a statesman in your own right. But you have not behaved like a statesman. This exer­cise had been going on smoothly until you came in to disrupt this peaceful exercise.”

There were other moments of fright and absurdity. I remember the comic professor who was finding it dif­ficult reading the results. He indeed offered comic relief. But that was not what we were looking for at that point in time. Thank God, somebody was sent to assist the professor in that theatric moment of absurdity.

My third frightful moment was when President Good­luck Jonathan’s fingers refused to be recognised by the card reader. That was the first sign, the first bad omen for Mr. President. The First Lady, “Madam Peace” also tried her luck and the machine rejected her. Another bad omen.

On Facebook, I tried being a reporter. I wrote on my wall: “Bad luck! Card reader appears to malfunction as President Goodluck Jonathan attempts accreditation at Otueke.”

I thought I was just reporting. But like bees, the fans of President Jonathan swarmed on me, stinging me from all corners. An army of my supporters fired back, telling the Jonathanians that I have said nothing to warrant such abuses.

This was one election that divided Nigerians 50-50. That is the way it should be. We need a strong opposition to keep democracy alive. But I hated the extremity of it all. The hate language and what-have-you. We should not kill ourselves in the name of politics.

Jonathan’s Finest Hour

This election was President Jonathan’s finest hour. He saved the best for the last. Awwwwwww. He is my man of the week. He behaved like a leader, a statesman, a good man, a patriot, someone who loves Nigeria and wants to keep Nigeria intact.

I was watching as he stood under the tent, confused but composed when the card reader failed him. I was praying that Madam Peace would not go into a tirade, accusing her political enemies of sabotage. But she com­ported herself. Oh, we will surely miss this woman. She brought in something unique to the office of the First Lady. We would all miss her sense of humour and her natural acting prowess. She was born to act.

On Election Day, the devil tempted the President to turn the tables and say something negative against the new technology introduced into our elections. The technology that failed a whole President. But he took it calmly, explaining that it is not about him. That the technology should be given a chance to work. Mr. Presi­dent, thank you very much. In my book, you are now a hero, my hero. And thank you for doing the unexpected. Left to your followers, Nigeria should have been turned upside down into a theatre of chaos over election results. But you took the road less travelled. You calmed the nerves of Nigerians and the world at large by going to congratulate the General. That is the way it should be. You stole the show and turned the theatre of a near-war situation into a theatre of peace. God bless you, sir.

Pastor Kalejaiye

Finally, I salute the man of God, Pastor J.T. Kalejaiye. The man who stood on the pulpit to deliver God’s mes­sage that Buhari will win this election. I wrote about it in this column and verily, verily, God’s words have come to pass. Yes, there is God. And He loves Nigeria.

]]> 0
Laments from this Inverter Country Fri, 27 Mar 2015 23:00:57 +0000 Here we go again! Another election. Anoth­er hollow ritual. Another rounds of queu­ing up, standing for hours at the crossroads of our hostile political life, there to make a choice via the ballot box. Like 100 million or so Ham­lets in Shakespeare’s tragic play Hamlet, we are one nation gripped in one big dilemma. To [...]]]>

Here we go again! Another election. Anoth­er hollow ritual. Another rounds of queu­ing up, standing for hours at the crossroads of our hostile political life, there to make a choice via the ballot box. Like 100 million or so Ham­lets in Shakespeare’s tragic play Hamlet, we are one nation gripped in one big dilemma. To be or not to be. To continue or to change. That is the question. The big question Nigerians have to answer today.

Four years ago, we travelled this road. And we are back on this same road again, like hunters with our bush lamps, searching for nirvana in the darkness and the gloom that eclipse us. If this is poetry, forgive me.

I woke up at night angry, sweating profusely in tor­menting heat as if drenched in water, fanning myself with a hard paper. I woke up wanting to write, wanting to pour out my soul. But how do I write amid these frustrations? Can any writer from the more civilized world cope here in these circumstances? Yet write I must. I have no choice.

Everywhere is dark. The mosquitoes are buzzing and making a feast of me while I scratch my body ahead of the malaria to come. Like a mad man, I am slapping myself in the attempt to kill the small, invisible tiny tormentor that is more of an artful dodger. Around me, I can hear the all-night sounds of generators big and small, humming, droning, croaking in monotony and cacophony, disturb­ing the solitude and the peace of the neighbourhood, as the owners slept in the comfort and discomfort of living in Nigeria.

Now, my wife and my critic-in-chief doesn’t want me to write this, believing I should not put myself in the story. But I tell her: I am an autobiographical writer. What is happening to me is happening to every Nigerian. The big­gest of my three generators has packed up. After eight years of servitude, carrying a house with six air condition­ers or more, the 27kva generator has finally packed up. I have repaired and repaired until I gave it all up. No more money to fritter on repairing a “cancer-stricken” genera­tor. The generator had served me well. I feel like burying it somewhere in my house as a tribute to a machine that had served me well where the government has failed me. In good and in bad times, it had provided me with power, with light, with energy. I feel so nostalgic about keeping it as a memorabilia, but I have to let go. There is a man who specialises in buying and refurbishing old generators and selling them off to other innocent customers giving them three or four years’ guarantee. Guarantee? I have heard that dubious word so many times in Nigeria that I no longer know the meaning or trust the word. I simply sold off the pieces of junk to him for a pittance just to have my peace. I know it would cost a fortune to get a new generator of that size and magnitude. You know the dollar rate now against the naira. This is Nigeria, our troubled Nigeria.

Nigeria, the country about which Fela sang. A country of Suffering and Smiling. A country with so many po­tentials and great opportunities all frittered. A country whose oil dollars were not properly channeled when the sun was shining. A country blessed with so many talents. A country of Davidos and Wiz-kids. A country that single-handed created Nollywood. The Nollywood that magical­ly “rebased” our economy—whatever that means. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not campaigning for anyone. The time for campaigning is over.

Yes, as a country, we have our problems. But creatively, we know our way around these problems. One achieve­ment most politicians forget to mention is the fact that Nigerians single-handed invented a contraption called in­verter. Whether it was manufactured in China, in Taiwan, in India or wherever, an inverter is a Nigerian idea that evolved out of our present predicament. The failure of our electricity and the inability of the government to solve the problem in spite of the election promises made four years ago, in spite of all the money spent, the big money too big to mention. But still we thank God. In every situation, we must thank God. Because it could have been worse. But for God. Truly, ‘dia is God.’ And God is watching as this elections play out.

Out of the perennial darkness of Nigeria, some smart Nigerians spotted an opportunity. What else are Nigerians celebrated for if not for the talent, the creativity in spotting opportunities? That is the kernel of entrepreneurship. In a country inverted by darkness came this invention called inverter. Unlike our noisy generators, the inverter bears its suffering in silence. It quietly absorbs electricity supplied from the grid, stores it, then releases it when the public electricity fails at usual. That is the magic of the inverter. I am so surprised that this administration is not counting as one of its achievements the invention of the inverter. It is one very, very big achievement that has been silently overlooked. The writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who owns inverter vividly describes it: “It’s silvery, boxlike batteries make a corner of the kitchen look like a physics lab. The inverter’s batteries charge while there is light, storing energy that can be used later, but therein lies the problem: The device requires electricity to be able to give electricity. And it is fragile, helpless in the face of the water pump and microwave.”

The inverter doesn’t come cheap. It’s not for the poor man. The poor man has already acclimatised to living without light. To buy an inverter, you really have to cough out a lot of money. You need between $3000 to $4000, depending on how many batteries you want to power it. You will think you have solved the problem of power through inverter only to discover that the inverter has its own problems. The salesman gives you a guarantee of three years, but you will be lucky if it lasts six months before your batteries run down. How many of such inverters have I bought, all in the name of struggling to make a living as a writer, a biographer, a columnist? Why has electric power become the Achilles’ heel of our beloved country? Who and where are the witches, the devils, the gas pipe vandals, all collaborating to sabotage the efforts of this country plunging us into perpetual, irreversible dark­ness? Why is this problem getting worse, in spite of all the money and all strategies aimed at tackling it? Jehovah, the God of light, our case is in your hands.

When the inverter failed, my children, pitying me, came with the idea of a solar power to electrify the house. But once bitten, twice shy. I have no money to invest on solar energy. I am a retired man, a pensioner. I cannot afford to spend the little I have on solar technology that would land me nowhere.

These days, I sleep with two fans called rechargeable fans. Like the inverter, the rechargeable fan also has an inbuilt battery that works for a couple of hours before ex­piration. My two rechargeable fans work on interchange­able nightshift. One works from 12 midnight to around 3a.m. Then when the mosquitoes start singing in my ears, I know it’s time to wake up and switch on the second fan. That is the only way I can sleep in this Nigeria, our trou­bled Nigeria.

As we go into another election, our prayer is that God will finally give Nigeria a leader who will take us out from this dark ages into the age of light. If only that is the sole achievement of our leadership, we will sing hosanna and shout: free at last. May God grant us a free and fair elec­tions. That is what we pray for. Not stolen election. Not rigged elections that would plunge us into irreversible darkness. May the best man win. May Nigeria be the ultimate winner of today’s El Classico, this Mayweather versus Pacquiao political bout. Let me end this piece with another Chimamanda Adichie lamentation on Nigeria’s power problem:

“What greatness have we lost, what brilliance still­born? I wonder, too, how our national character might have shaped, had we been a nation who took light for granted, instead of a nation whose toddler learn to squeal with pleasure at the infrequent lighting of a bulb.”


]]> 0
MAN OF THE WEEK: GOV. SHETTIMA ‘HOPE IS COMING’ Fri, 20 Mar 2015 23:00:42 +0000 Next week is the elections but my mind is not there today. Instead I am gazing up north, thinking of our brothers and sisters in Bor­no, Yobe and Adamawa who would not vote because they have been “Shugabaed” (exiled) and forced out of Nigeria by forces beyond their control. To really understand what the hell [...]]]>

Next week is the elections but my mind is not there today. Instead I am gazing up north, thinking of our brothers and sisters in Bor­no, Yobe and Adamawa who would not vote because they have been “Shugabaed” (exiled) and forced out of Nigeria by forces beyond their control.

To really understand what the hell is going on up there, I am digesting and writing on this interesting interview with the young, erudite Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, the man in the eye of the Boko Haram storm. A menacing, killer storm that has taken lives, ravaged vil­lages, shrunk the size of Nigeria and given us a black eye. Thank God for the six-week “Operation Desert Storm” resurgence by our military boys whose morale have sud­denly been boosted. Supported in battle by the combined efforts of armies from Niger, Chad and Cameroon, the in­surgents are fast losing grounds and we are regaining our lost paradise and our lost pride as the giant of Africa held hostage by a rampaging, ragtag, fanatic army of suicide bombers.

As to be expected, it hasn’t been easy for Shettima, the governor of the beleaguered and the bedeviled north-western chunk of Nigeria. Here is the man who sleeps with one eye open. The leader at the frontline. The man wearing the shoes and feeling the pinch. The man with the uneasy head scarred by the trauma and the emotion of helplessly watching his people die and bleed to cruel deaths in the hands of the most dastardly terrorists ever seen in this part of the world. Those who are not yet dead, for fear of their lives, are leaving the land of their birth in mass exodus of biblical proportions to seek refuge in strange lands.

Shettima has just returned from Niger Republic where he visited the flood of refugees from his state. Men, wom­en and children alienated, uprooted and displaced from their native land by the Boko Haram insurgents. For the governor, trauma is the word. Trauma with a capital T.

“All of us are traumatized by what is happening to our people,” he declares. “People who are uprooted from their ancestral homes and made refugees in foreign land. I am personally touched, I am traumatized.”

The destruction caused by Boko Haram is beyond any estimation. “I think it is preposterous for one to start put­ting figures together,” Shettima says. “The destruction they have caused is beyond physical infrastructure. Our people are psychologically damaged. What we can do now is how to rehabilitate our people psychologically, in terms of physical infrastructure, in terms of means of live­lihood. Because a lot of our people are artisans, farmers. They are among the poorest of the earth. The activities of the insurgents have further pauperized them. So we will have to take stock on how to fix the system and assist our people.”

What is of utmost priority is driving away the vandals and allowing peace to reign where there was war. “Let us just get our land back,” the governor prays. And like a prophet of hope, Shettima believes hope is coming. “The good side to all these,” he says “is a silver lining in the ho­rizon. The current effort by the Nigerian, Nigerien, Chad­ian and Cameroonian troops have indicated that respite is on the way and very soon the insurgents would be over­come and our people would be coming back home soon.”

From Niger, the governor says he intends to visit Cam­eroon where “we have refugees from Kala-Balge, Ngala, Gwoza, Marte and Dikwa local governments. We are go­ing to go and sympathize with them and assure them of our unflinching empathy and support. Believe me, once our communities are totally liberated and clear of land­mines, once infrastructural facilities are repaired, once insurgents in the countryside are cleared up, a lot of the refugees are willing to go back home.

“But for now, there is apprehension because there are still some insurgents in some of the villages. There are over a thousand insurgents in some villages between the Abadam/Mobbar axis and this is making our people not to go back home and the insurgents are still extorting money from the people and wreaking havoc. But very soon we believe our military authorities will extend their reach beyond the local government headquarters to the nooks and crannies of the local governments to clear out the in­surgents once and for all. For now, the job is half done. If they are allowed to roam the countryside they can still wreak havoc. To be fair to the military, there have been major developments especially in the context of the recap­ture of the major towns.”

Jaw-jaw better than war-war

Boko Haram may have been driven back, but the gov­ernor still believes that the panacea to ending insurgency is “jaw-jaw which is always better than to war-war,” to quote from Britain’s wartime leader Sir Winston Church­ill.

“Unless we want to engage in an endless war of attri­tion, dialogue is an inescapable option,” he declares. “I have always been an advocate of dialogue and I will al­ways remain one. As John Kennedy has rightly said, ‘Let us never negotiate out fear but let us never fear to negoti­ate.’ So, along that line, I believe dialogue is the only way out. The most intractable of global problems are solved on the negotiation table. The Irish question, the Israeli/ Palestinian quagmire, most of the problems of the world; in Colombia, the rebels are talking to the government of Colombia. And in Boko Haram, there are the ‘moder­ate elements.’ Underline the word ‘moderate elements.’ These are the ones that were forcefully conscripted into the sect, those that are willing to lay down their arms; are we averse to embracing them?

“We just have to embrace them and give them reorien­tation and reintroduce them into the society. But the nihil­ists among them, we will never dialogue with. That is the truth of the matter. But along this line, I believe the ‘mod­erate elements’ among the Boko Haram far supersede the ‘extreme elements.’ As a result of fear, the newly con­scripted Boko Haram insurgents were being forced along; they are not operating out of their own volition. They are not ideologically Boko Haram, but they are forcefully conscripted young boys and girls. And they are the ones they push to the battlefront to die very horrible deaths.”

In the estimation of the governor, the tragedy of Boko Haram in Nigeria is far more serious than what is happen­ing in places like Syria and Iraq. Even the figures of Boko Haram-induced deaths are underestimated, he claims.

“A chunk of the generation between the age bracket of 15 and 25 years has been wiped away. If anybody tells you that 15,000 people lost their lives since Boko Haram insurgency started, that is a cock and bull story. Between Maiduguri and Maisandra ward, in a month, up to a thou­sand lives might have been lost. When they are talking about Syrian tragedy, believe me, ours supersedes it. Be­tween 300,000 and 500,000 might have been killed in this tragedy. Every single day, we are witnessing a countless loss of human lives. In terms of infrastructure, in terms of building, we can get over that soon.”

Marshal Plan

But then what should be done to rebuild? Gov. Shet­tima wants a Marshal Plan approach involving the global community. “I believe there should be a global effort, a kind of Marshal Plan towards rehabilitating the infrastruc­ture, towards rehabilitating our people, making our educa­tion system work, towards enhancing and strengthening our healthcare delivery.

“It is beyond the resources of the state and, to a large extent, beyond the resources of the Federal Government because there are other competing demands for the mea­gre resources, worsened by the plummeting price of crude oil to less than $60 per barrel.”

It is against this backdrop that the Bornu State governor is appealing to the whole world to “come over to Macedo­nia and help us.” Come and save Bornu State and the other states from the aftermath of the Boko Haram scourge, he cries out loud:

“There has to be a global effort towards rehabilitation and reconstruction in the manner millions of dollars was mobilized for the rebuilding of Syria, Libya and other communities. We neither have much oil nor are we im­portant in the context of our territorial location but we still need the support of the international community. We have oil in Lake Chad but I do not think we are of strategic location to the global powers. It is in the enlightened self-interest of the rest of humanity to come to our aid.”


]]> 1