Friday, 19 April 2013
The management of Rural Africa Water Development Project (RAWDP) regrets to announce the shut down of its home page: www.rawdp.org On-going redesign of the template is currently on. Please ignore con sites already in circulation. For the interim we shall be using a facebook link. Cheers, CY Ajuruchi IT
17 Apr 2013 * Survey shows insecurity as greater risk to business than corruption House advocates bill on private equity By James Emejo and Muhammad Bello The Chairman and Founder of Omnia Strategy LLP, Mrs. Cherie Blair, Tuesday said the menace of corruption and lax corporate governance were currently hurting Nigerian companies and limiting the country's ability to achieve its full economic potential. She said a lot still needed to be done in terms of contract enforcement and strict adherence to the rules of business. Speaking in Abuja at the 10th Henshaw Private Equity Seminar on Private Equity and Policy tagged: 'Enabling Policies and Corporate Governance: Twin Levers for International Investment', Blair said the present culture of impunity even where rules are applied, was not only unacceptable but a disincentive for global private-equity investors hoping to explore emerging opportunities in the country. She said the best way to go was for government and companies to enact enabling policies to sincerely implement good corporate governance and punish infringements. Blair said it was not enough to merely investigate a wrongdoing without meting out appropriate sanctions to those who broke the rules regardless of who they are. She said although every country including the United Kingdom had had to fight corruption at various point in time, the approach in handling the menace was more critical. Omnia Strategy boss said the UK had to severally apply the full wrath of the law including outright confiscation of properties and imprisonment whenever there were infractions. While describing corruption as insidious, she said Nigeria had a commendable template for fighting the menace but implementation had often been a major concern. She said although widely regarded as Africa's powerhouse, where investors are looking forward to invest, the complication of cross-border business had necessitated the need for strict adherence to contracts with significant level of transparency. Blair also highlighted the imperativeness of creating incentives and reward system for good behaviour as well as transparency in handling issues. Her comments came on a day it was revealed that business executives now see the present insecurity as greatest challenge to doing business in the country more than the issue of corruption which had been in the front burner for decades. The survey, which was conducted by the NOI Polls also indicated that almost all business executives had affirmed that they had paid bribes at one time or the other to public officials in the course of business transactions. Chief Executive Officer of NOI Polls, Oge Modie, said during an Enabling Policies Panel session which was chaired by THISDAY Newspapers’ Editor, Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, that apart from insecurity, businesses were more concerned about smuggling, power, finance, corruption - situations which tend to suggest that Nigerians might have become accustomed to corruption. Modie said a comprehensive report on the study was expected to be made public soon. Also speaking at the occasion Tuesday, Minister of State for Power, Mrs. Zainab Kuchi, said the federal government had done all that needed to be done to encourage local and foreign investment in the power sector, particularly the renewal energy which she said would offer much cheaper electricity to Nigerians. She added that government had put in place good corporate governance structure as well as the political will required to boost investor-confidence in the sector. She described 2013 as the year of renewable energy and improve power supply in the country. Meanwhile, the Chairman, House Committee on Finance, Mr. Abdulmumini Jibril, has called for a bill to guide and regulate private equity practice in the country. According to him, when passed into law, the bill should make private equity investors to compete alongside conventional banks in providing funds to businesses. "We need to bring together existing laws and aggregate them to guide private equity and guide a private equity bill. We need to repackage these laws," he said, adding that “such laws should have its own regulator." He said currently, the banks' lending to government represented about 60 per cent of their loan portfolio - a situation which often resulted into higher lending rates to customers. He said though not presently a viable source of financing in the country, "We need to match words with actions. It's necessary to start promoting private equity." Managing Director of FSDH Merchant Bank Limited, Mr. Rilwan Belo-Osagie said organisation must have to believe in the ideals of corporate governance, align it with company strategy to be able to implement it. He said corporate governance had become extremely important for long-term survival of banks and to attract funds to an organisation. Also, the First Lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan, has commended Blair for her commitment to improving the lots of women, by strengthening the capacity of women entrepreneurs through her NGO, “Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.” Mrs Jonathan noted with satisfaction Mrs. Blair’s pursuit of a level playing ground for women to establish and grow successful businesses. The First Lady, according to statement by her spokesperson, Ayo Osinlu, hosted Mrs. Blair to a luncheon at the State House in Abuja. She encouraged her guest not to relent in her personal goal to extend her impact to 3,500 women entrepreneurs over the next three years. The first lady informed Mrs. Blair of a similar vision of her own NGO, “A. Aruera Reachout Foundation,” which has trained about 4,000 men and women in various skills and vocations to make them self-reliant and help contribute to national development. She also explained that the A. Aruera Reachout Foundation is a twin organisation to the “Women for Change and Development Initiative”, her other NGO, which seeks to empower women economically, socially and politically. She noted that through the advocacy of the NGO, Nigeria for the first time has more women in elective and appointive positions, emphasising her conviction that when women and youths are educated, economically empowered and their voices are heard, they can contribute much more to the development of their societies. The wife of former British Prime Minister, Mrs. Blair thanked Mrs Jonathan for her king gesture, restating her determination to facilitate a world where women have equal access to the tools and the support needed to grow their businesses.
by Anthony Akpan Rural Africa Water Development Project (also known as Rural Africa Water Development Initiative) is a Non- Governmental Organization working to promote sustainable environmental development in dispersed and dense communities in Nigeria. First organized in year 2000 RAWDP is today a legally incorporated body (registered trustee) with a 5 member trustee board. Its headquarters is located in Owerri, Imo State in Southern-eastern Nigeria. The organization currently retains a special consultative status in the United Nations (UN); see page 59 of the web page: http://esa.un.org/coordination/ngo/new/documents/INF2008.pdf Some of our sustainable development activities include the development and improvement of safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene programs for poor and marginalized groups especially women and children; RAWDP is committed to the global challenge of fighting climate change particularly the challenges of watershed management to mitigate hazard risks of floods, pollution and land erosion etc. Its well-tailored actions at tackling these hazard risks consist of the design of erosion and flood control measures. Other measures are those relating to clean water supplies, energy generation from wastes (biogas) and food security. Adaptation measures for food security includes the ecologically sound way of growing food using conservation agriculture, agro-ecology, eco-sanitation and the capacity building of small-holder farmers on dry land farming and zero-tillage. Other on-going project includes those on sanitation and consists of toilets shortlisting, design, construction and delivery; the production of organic fertilizer using human waste; and the generation of electricity using urine and other green energy sources. RAWDP also has developed an eco-friendly bio-insecticide suitable for the preservation of rice grains. The Pan African Vision for the Environment (PAVE) is a non-profit, non-political, non-governmental organization established in 1998 with the aim of promoting sustainable development through research, documentation, policy dialogues, workshops, advocacy and consultancy services. PAVE deals with development issues in their environmental and socio-economic aspects with emphasis on the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets regarding water and sanitation and other related human settlement issues including Climate change and Clean Energy promotion. PAVE is registered (RC 26029) with the Corporate Affairs Commission in Nigeria. The chosen mission of PAVE is to act as a catalyst, mobilize, mediate and act directly in several of society’s processes dealing with the improvement of quality of life and respect for cultural and biological diversity. As its basis, PAVE believes in promoting good governance at all level, across all sectors, be it public or private. PAVE also believes in a democratic system for managing human interests. The fundamental objective of PAVE is to act, support and collaborate in the elaboration and dissemination of new approaches, policies and activities related to human development questions. We have over 10 years’ experience in the development sector and work at the local, national, regional and international level. We have presented papers conducted researches and organized capacity building workshops on various sustainable development thematic areas in Africa, Asia , Europe and North America .
On April 19, 2013 · In Sports 1:33 am Sports buff, ex-international and a 1980 Nations Cup winner, Chief Adokiye Amiesimaka, who once held the position of the Attorney-General of Rivers State, granted Sports Vanguard an interview. JOHN EGBOKHAN presents his view in this two-part conversation, revolving round Nigerian sports. Is it proper to sack an assistant coach of the Super Eagles in the middle of an important World Cup qualification campaign? Ordinarily, the NFF can hire and fire. It’s normal, if you have the authority to appoint, you ordinarily will have the authority to dismiss. But it’s the circumstances here that make the situation rather unfortunate. How do you sack an assistant coach without reference to the chief coach, especially in a situation where he was recommended by the chief coach. The chief coach must have seen something in him that he considered to be very useful. So it bothers me that Keshi was reportedly not consulted. Adokiye Adokiye It is true that when you are running an organisation and you fall short of funds, you may take steps to be able to continue to run such organisation. One of such steps could be to prune down your staff but the critical question here as I said earlier on is why was Keshi not consulted? That is very suspicious, that is very unfortunate. But I cam not surprised I have said it before that the problem with us in this part of the world is that we do not confront challenges head on, we rather pretend that they don’t exist. I have said it before and I am saying it again that this so-called NFF are not happy that Keshi won the Nations Cup. They are not happy. And they want him out so that they will go ahead and appoint their foreign coach, no matter his calibre. And I wished Keshi had struck to his guns and resigned after the Nations Cup victory. How come the minister of sports came into the scene, even the President came into the scene to persuade Keshi not to resign? Did they find out why he tendered the resignation letter in the first place? They said there was no letter from Keshi, it was only a radio station in South Africa he told of his resignation… So if that is the case, why did the sports minister come into the picture to find out why he said he was going to resign. I said it then that they should address the problem, instead of saying there were no problems. This so-called NFF want to see Keshi’s back. They don’t want him to even be there, since the Nations Cup was done and all the worries that came with it. Are you saying that the reformation process is an attempt to get Keshi out? Of course. You have a chief coach who you say its a work in progress and you are pruning down the staff, its a ruse, its a ruse. I am not surprised too that they have sacked some backroom staff. These backroom staff got millions too from state governors. They were given money and other gifts and do you think the guys in NFF are happy? They are not happy. These people are now millionaires. Don’t you know that, you don’t understand the people you are dealing with? When we won the Nations Cup in 1980, the first thing that those people in the NFA did was to say that we were too rich, that we didn’t want to play football again, that we were millionaires, and that they wanted new blood. I was only 23. You can see how envious they were of us then even with the little money that we got then, there was envy. I am telling you that they are envious. They are not just jealous, they are envious. They are not happy that Keshi has made so much money, that his backroom staff have made so much money, that is why they are doing all these things. Read between the lines. These are people who had gone to the NFF to make money, don’t you know? They are there to make money for themselves, they are not there to run football in the first place. When they are there and Keshi’s backroom staff are making millions, do you think they are happy? They are not. That is why they are doing all this. They want Keshi to fail. I said it before and I told Keshi, and appealed to the sports minister, because for now, he is the one running football, courtesy of the NFA Act, 2004. I said, make sure that Keshi’s terms of contract are such that NFA, these so-called NFF, who just changed the name, cannot tamper with it. That is what is playing out now. They want to discourage Keshi. They want him to fail. How can you sack someone like Sylvanus Okpalla, that we know is a very competent technician, without reference to his boss. They don’t want Keshi to be happy. Give us your observations on the Kenya match and the way forward when we play them in June… In the circumstances, well that’s the thing. They set stage for the Super Eagles to fall. Can’t you see it? Immediately after the Nations Cup triumph, I said look, going through the record; usually when teams who win championships, it takes them sometime to pick up. I called it post-championship Dip in Performance Phenomenon. Usually, immediately after winning a championship, because of all the tensions and all the hypes and all that, and you suddenly exhale, it takes time to build up mentally and physically to that level of competition to win again,. So I was not surprised that we did not do so well when we played Kenya in Calabar. I expected that but the point is with what is happening now, that is going to be very difficult for the Super Eagles to do well in the next games. That notwithstanding, we will still find our way through. But the unfortunate thing is that this NFF, these co-called NFF, are not helping the Eagles and that’s why Nigerians should come and say we cannot accept this from you. Nigerians should come up and tell these people that we cannot accept this from them. They are too docile. Do we require the Presidency to intervene? The sports minister, under section 19 of the NFA Act, it is the sports minister that runs the NFA. The sports minister is in charge of the board of the NFA. So he is the one who is actually running football. But you are aware that FIFA frowns at government interference. If the minister attempts to exercise these rights, NFF will cry interference and FIFA will wade in… Don’t you know how things work? Was it not the sport minister that ousted Lulu’s board? They know how to do these things. They don’t have to show it in the open. The question of interference will not come up at all. FIFA won’t even know what is happening at all. Is it not the sports minister that gives them money to run the federation. All the sports minister needs to do is to call the board and tell them what he wants. It’s a political thing. They can get the congress of the NFA to oust the board. You can get the congress to oust the current NFF board quietly. It will be just like the way they did with Lulu board. After all, they used Maigairi and co to remove Lulu. They can in the same way remove this board. So if the sports minister wants he knows what do do. It’s unfortunate they are doing this. They are just toying with our football. They don’t know their left from right and how they got there is the problem of this country. You have round pegs in square holes. Ordinarily, Nigerians should stand up and say they are not going to take this anymore. It has got to a point where Nigerians should say no to these people. How big a threat is this to our national football? The threat is real. How can you be sacking backroom staff, pruning down allowances, have they pruned down their own allowances? They are so many of them there, who are doing nothing. What are they doing? You have a board of so many people, what are their roles? You say some are members of the Technical Committee. Who are the members of the Technical Committee? Who is the chairman of the Technical Committee? They have all sorts of characters with no real functions. You have people in the technical committee who don’t know about the game. They say they don’t have money and are appointing a Technical Director with two assistants. What we need now is a Director for Football Development, not a technical director. We need a Director of Football Development, who will oversee the age-grade category, that is what we need. Technical Director is going to clash with the chief coach of the Super Eagles. Let them look at the antecedents of other countries and learn from them but they are not ready to learn. In other countries where they have technical directors, the people know their limits. But you can be sure that these people are not going to spell out their limits and this will lead to confusion. Away from football, sir, you were the chairman of a panel, that looked at the modalities of setting up a Court of Arbitration for sports in Nigeria by the NOC. We’ve not heard anything on the CAS. Well, you should ask the NOC. I was the chairman of the panel set up to put together the framework for the actualisation of that body and we’ve done our job and submitted our report, as you are aware, during the AGM of the NOC at Uyo last year March. It was well received. They praised it to high heavens. Why not call amiable Alhaji Sani Ndanusa and ask him on what is happening. My committee has done its job, at very little expense, little or nothing. We’ve played our part and it is now left for the NOC to actualise it. I have had personal discussions with some key persons in the ministry on how to go about it. We’ve done our bit and even more. It is now left for the NOC to actualise it. Are you worried with the delay and the way we run sports? Worry is not really the appropriate word for it. I am disappointed. There is so much that we can do for ourselves in this part of the world but we just cannot do them. I don’t know what our problem is. It was the NOC on it own that came up with this brilliant idea of setting up the Court of Arbitration for Sports, CAS. So why are they not seeing it through. It is the dilemma of Nigeria. I wonder what is wrong with us. The NOC came up with this brilliant idea, which everybody commended, so why are they not seeing it through? We should stand up and say no to these people. We should ask what are you doing gentlemen? Why are they not actualising it? Why are they not seeing it through. We’ve done everything. We even went to Lausanne, Switzerland. We went to the IOC President, met with members and staff of their CAS there, we went to that extent, so why are they not seeing it through.
Saturday, 13 April 2013
On April 9, 2013 • In News 12:30 am http://www.vanguardngr.com/2013/04/nigeria-to-delay-gdp-rebasing-till-2013-nbs/ The rebasing of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, which is expected to increase the estimated size of Africa’s second largest economy by around 40 per cent, is likely to be delayed until next year, the National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday. The recalculation will enable Nigeria to join the ranks of middle-income countries and put it much closer in size to South Africa, the continent’s most developed economy. It will also make it an even bigger attraction for foreign investors seeking a slice of Africa’s fast growth rates. But several deadlines to implement the changes have been missed, with the latest being the fourth quarter of this year. “It is unlikely that even the target of the last quarter (this year) we will make it. I underestimated how much work needs to be done. I think everyone understands that this is very crucial and has to be done properly,” Director General of the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, Yemi Kale said. Most governments overhaul gross domestic product calculations about every five years to reflect changes in output and consumption, such as mobile phones and the Internet. Nigeria has not done so since 1990. The rebasing is expected to add about 40 per cent to Nigeria’s GDP, which would boost the economy of Africa’s top oil producer from roughly $250 billion to around $350 billion. That brings it very close to South Africa’s currently $385 billion economy. And, with a growth rate of over six per cent a year, compared with three per cent in South Africa, Nigeria may eventually overtake its rival to seize the top spot. Some economists warned that a sharp increase in the size of Nigeria’s economy will mean slower growth. “You’d expect that the bigger the economy, the slower the growth but I don’t think it is as easy as that,” Kale said. “Regardless of what our GDP is, we are still going to be small enough to produce even sharper growth rates.” Sectors like telecommunications, construction, hotels and entertainment should get a greater weighting after rebasing but agriculture, which currently makes up around 40 per cent of GDP and 60 per cent of jobs, is likely to decrease in influence. “Growth in agriculture is largely subsistence, largely labour intensive, so there is a limit to how much you can grow. We know that capital intensive technology probably generates more output than labour intensive technology,” Kale said. He said the oil and gas sector, which contributes around 80 per cent of government revenues, is expected to maintain a similar weighting of around 15 per cent. A larger estimated economy would most likely boost interest in Nigerian stocks, especially goods companies looking to unlock the consumer potential of Africa’s most populous country. It will also improve Nigeria’s debt to GDP ratio, currently around 16 per cent. But Nigeria’s tax revenues, seen as woeful for a country of this size, will look even smaller. Foreign aid donors may also find it harder to justify giving support to Nigeria if it becomes a middle-income state. Despite roaring growth rates, 61 per cent of Nigerians – or 100 million people – still live in absolute poverty. “It is very clear that middle-income is growing, it is very clear that consumption is improving. The major problem to ensure that this is broad based,” Kale said.
By Everest Amaefule Sunday, 24 Jul 2011 http://www.punchng.com/Articl.aspx?theartic=Art2011072416282942 Pit latrines account for 54 per cent of the toilets deployed by Nigerian households in 2008, the National Bureau of Statistics http://www.nigerianstat.gov.ng/ has said. The agency in its Annual Abstract of Statistics, 2009, which has just been released also disclosed that 66.3 per cent of Nigerian households lived in a single room as at 2008. According to the agency, while 38.3 per cent of the households have covered pit latrines, 15.7 per cent households have pit latrines that are not covered. To show that the culture of pail toilet is dying in the country, only 0.1 per cent of households used the facility in 2008, down from the 0.2 per cent that deployed the toilet facility in 2007. Households that pass their wastes in the water accounted for 3.7 per cent; down from the four per cent recorded in 2007. A total of 8.8 per cent households did not have any toilet facility as against 8.6 per cent recorded in 2007. The number of households that have VIP latrine accounted for 0.6 per cent while unidentified facilities accounted for 17.6 per cent. On state basis, Imo State accounted for the highest number of households with covered pit latrines at 78.5 per cent. A total of 8.7 per cent households in the state have toilets that flush to the septic tanks and 3.9 per cent have households that flush to sewage. Bayelsa State, on the other hand, accounted for the highest percentage of households that have toilet facilities in the water. This is followed by Rivers State with 30 per cent of households. Delta State has 20 per cent of households that use toilet facilities in the waters. Lagos State at 45 per cent has the highest percentage of households with toilets that flush to the septic tanks. This is followed by Enugu State at 29 per cent, Rivers at 28.3 per cent, Abia 23.1 per cent and Anambra 18.6 per cent. The percentage of households without any toilet facility was higher in Oyo State. A total of 53.3 per cent of households in the state do not have any toilet facility. Benue with 38.8 per cent ranks second in terms of households without any toilet facility. Plateau, Ekiti, Kwara and Niger follow simultaneously with 31.7 per cent, 31.3 per cent, 34.8 per cent and 14.7 per cent respectively. Classifying the housing units lived by Nigerians within the year, NBS disclosed that 66.3 per cent of households lived in single rooms. A total of 27.2 per cent of the households lived in whole buildings. While 5.8 per cent of the households lived in flats, 0.3 per cent lived in duplexes. A total of 0.4 per cent lived in unclassified accommodation. Categorising the housing units by states, Bauchi topped the list of states with 98.6 per cent of its households living in single room. Kebbi, Katsina, Borno, Yobe, Taraba, Ogun and Adamawa followed with 97.5 per cent, 94.7 per cent, 92.8 per cent, 92.2 per cent, 91.7 per cent, 86.8 per cent and 83.3 per cent respectively. For households living in flats, Lagos State topped the list with 26.4 per cent. The Federal Capital Territory, Bayelsa Sate, Jigawa, Oyo and Delta followed simultaneously with 17.8 per cent, 14.5 per cent, 9.3 per cent, 8.9 per cent and 8.7 per cent respectively. Imo State topped the list of households living in whole buildings with 81.8 per cent. The state was followed by Ebonyi, 73.5 per cent; Zamfara, 72.9 per cent; Anambra, 64.5 per cent, Jigawa, 59 per cent and Abia, 57 per cent. Kaduna, Lagos and Kebbi States occupy the bottom rung of the ladder for states whose households live in whole buildings with 1.3 per cent, 1.4 per cent and 1.8 per cent respectively.
http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=116438:society-canvasses-indigenous-waste-management-strategy&catid=25:property&Itemid=655 Monday, 18 March 2013 00:00 By Tosin Fodeke Property - Property AS Nigeria grapples with its myriads of environmental challenges, professionals under the aegis of Waste Management Society of Nigeria (WAMASON) have called for the formulation of an indigenous strategy for the collection, treatment, recycling and disposal of all streams of wastes. The society members while speaking at the swearing-in of new executives in the Lagos Council, stressed that Africans need to adopt a locally formulated technique for managing waste, which would be more effective in dealing with the many pollution challenges, brought upon it by the crude oil boom. Managing Director, Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA), Mr. Ola Oresanya, while speaking at the event, stated that Nigeria needs to develop an internally generated policy for managing waste, as this would help tackle its numerous sanitation challenges. Oresanya an ex -official of WAMASON welcomed constructive criticism and support from the society and tasked the executive council to come up with more programmes that would develop the individual capacity of members. He said: “We need a strategy that is modified or adapted from what has been passed down from the western world. What we have come to know is that they do not usually give us all their technology secrets however we have been managing” “LAWMA over the years has been developing a database of solution to problem encountered in waste management and this is why we have been able to expand our operational space to other countries.” The LAWMA boss stated. Earlier, Chairman Lagos State House Committee on Environment, Abiodun Tobun urged LAWMA and WAMASO not to relent in their efforts at ridding the state of waste. He implored them to work together with legislatures but making their requests known in written proposals. “What we do is make laws for the smooth operation of business and services in the state. And if you don’t make your case known to us how can we help?” Stated Tobun. Guest Speaker at the event, Professor Tunde Ogunsanwo called on waste manager to seize the opportunities inherent in automobile waste recycling. He said: “WAMASON and LAWMA need to look into the endless set of opportunities in managing automobile waste. However this area has been left for the Chinese and Indians” Second National Vice president of the Society, Alhaji Rabiu Suleiman, who performed the swearing-in called on the legislative member to use his influence to assist the Society in acquiring the status of a chartered body governed by law. Members of the new executive committee include, Councillor- Alhaji Jeleel Olubori, Vice Councillor- Success Ikpe, Secretary -Babawale Aduroshakin, Assistant Secretary- Ernest Abu, Technical Secretary-Mrs. Iniobong Abiola Awe, Assistant Technical Secretary-Dr. Gbolabo Ogunwande, and Public Affairs Officer- Mrs. Margret Dara Oshodi, among others.
On March 21, 2013 • In Politics BY GBENGA OKE …North is in the middle of a civil war… PROFESSOR Ben Nwabueze (SAN), the chairman of The Patriots, a group of eminent Nigerian citizens is disturbed that the transformation agenda is on the wrong step and might not yield the desired result. In this interview with VANGUARD, he proffers suggestions on how to re-track the agenda. He opposes calls for amnesty for Boko Haram sect and doubts the ability of the congregating opposition parties to dislodge the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, in 2015. Excerpts: His assessment of President Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda The transformation agenda of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration is inadequate because of its limited objectives. To begin with, it focuses only on the economy. Even as limited to the economy, it does not aim at a radical change in the nature or character of the economy. Its aim as stated in its enabling document is to engender economic growth and development in a way to achieve improvement in the welfare of the citizens. The word ‘transformation’ according to the dictionary definition of it, is “change in condition, nature of character of a thing”, ‘a change into another substance.’ A new approach in the management of the economy may well bring about a great improvement in the economy in the form of enhanced growth and development and welfare services, but such improvement cannot in any meaningful sense be described as changing the Nigerian economy into something radically different in nature or character or changing it into another substance. The Transformation Agenda is inadequate for another more fundamental reason. It has absolutely nothing to do with, not a word to say about, the transformation of our society from moral decadence into which it has sunk. No agenda, in the context of Nigeria, is worth being called a transformation agenda, which does not aim at the moral and ethical transformation of our society. Its focus must enhance the entire society or nation not the economy alone. On how to improve the transformation agenda What this country needs is national or social transformation not just economic transformation. I can think of nothing more disastrous for this country than an enhanced growth and development built or superimposed upon a morally and ethically decadent society, a society bereft of a sense of justice, probity, integrity, accountability, civic virtues and noble values. The vice-President in a speech at the Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership Award Ceremony on March 6, 2013 said that government planned as part of the transformation agenda programme to establish mega universities, each of which can take up to 200,000 students. The establishment of such universities will be a disaster, a disastrous misplacement of priorities when it is taken in the context of the incredible decline in educational standards in the country as attested by the phenomenon of near-illiterate university graduates, the existence of magic schools all over the country whose students are guaranteed automatic success in the school certificate examination, not of course by merit, certificate racketeering; examination malpractices etc. His take on perceived looming revolution For the present, unless the situation deteriorates to a point where the mood and reaction of the people can no longer be controlled, what I advocate for Nigeria is a peaceful, non violent social and ethical revolution led by a person imbued with a revolutionary ardour for national transformation. And I implore Mr. President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan to lead it. On calls by major northern stakeholders for amnesty to the Boko Haram sect I think the call for amnesty for the Boko Haram people is misplaced and it is based on mis-guided comparison between the amnesty granted to the militants in the Niger Delta. These are two different things, completely different. The Niger Delta militants were fighting for justice, it is not an insurgency. Boko Haram is an insurgency, revolt against constituted authorities. Carrying arms against the state, that is what insurgency means. Militants in the Niger Delta never revolted against the state when they were protesting and that is the difference between militancy and insurgency. These Boko Haram people are insurgents therefore there should be no question of amnesty. However, I sympathise with them because they are revolting against the absence of social justice. Now, forget the hardship and suffering, these are not the only cause for their insurgency, it also has political and religious undertones. The origin of the group Boko Haram is political, it was what happened after the death of (former President Umaru Musa) Yar’Adua, the North said the South has ruled for eight years under President Obasanjo and therefore it is their turn justifiably or unjustifiably, that was their argument. They also said after the acting tenure of President Jonathan, that power should return to the North and that the price of that is what Nigeria is experiencing now. That is the political angle to it. I have mentioned the economic side of the revolt, which include hardship, suffering and poverty as well. They have now added a position which is untenable by adding religion to it. They say they want to convert Nigeria into a Muslim state; that is incredible. On The Patriots recurring call for a National Conference, resistance from the National Assembly and next line of action We are still going ahead with the National Conference. The arguments from the National Assembly are again misplaced. They are representatives of the people who are elected members, elected by the people, but what is their mandate? There is a clear difference and distinction between the National Assembly and the Constituent Assembly or National Conference. The National Assembly are elected and given a mandate to govern according to the Constitution. The Constituent Assembly, the National Conference is an assembly for just one specific purpose, the purpose of making a constitution. Their mandate is not to govern, the mandate is a special one and that is making a constitution. The people are the constituent power; the constituent power in any country is in the people as a sovereign people. The National Assembly is not sovereign, the people are sovereign. In exercise of their constituent power of their sovereignty to deliberate on their constitution and how they are to be governed, that is the whole purpose of the demand for a National Conference. On areas that need amendment in the 1999 Constitution Quite frankly, there are many flaws and many errors in the content of the constitution. So many errors and I as a person was partly responsible because I was a member of the constitution drafting committee set up by the military government in 1978. I was not only a member but chairman of one of the sub-committees that produced Chapter 2, the fundamental objectives and one of the cardinal flaws in the constitution is the concentration of powers in the centre. That is why I accept that I am partly responsible for that because at the time, late Chief Rotimi Williams, a close friend of mine and nearly everybody in the Constitution Drafting Committee were so overwhelmed with this feeling, this patriotic feeling that we needed unity and the most effective way to achieve unity of the country is by having a very strong central government. Most of us in the committee shared that idea at the time. Chief Williams shared it because of the patriotism in us and we wanted a united Nigeria, we feel we can achieve unity by having a strong central government. Then, what did we do to achieve our mis-guided objective? We took away 50 per cent of the items on the concurrent list and gave it to the centre. We feel by doing this, we are establishing unity. We did not stop at that. We looked at the residual matters, these are matters exclusive to the states, we took a large part of it, more than 30 percent and close to 50 percent; we took it away from states and gave to the centre. And the result is the almighty Federal Government, but what we discover was that instead of producing unity, we produced disunity because of the intensity of the struggle to control the centre. The intensity is so much and it is not just in the political power that was concentrated at the centre, much of the money also went to the centre and so by action, we destroyed what is called fiscal federalism. Too much money at the centre increased the struggle for the control of the centre and the control of the money itself and that has remained the feature of the Constitution up till today. So when people struggle and agitate for true federalism, for fiscal federalism, they know what they are talking about and they are right, that must be changed and until it is changed, we might not achieve true federalism because the basis of which we did it has proved to be misguided, the unity we thought we will achieve was not achieved and what we achieved was more disunity than unity because of the struggle. So I am not sure the rectification of that error is what the National Assembly can do because so much is involved. We have to restructure the territorial basis of the federation. Even if we have to take power away from the centre, whom are you going to give it to? The 36 states, many of them carry even the power they have now not to talk of bringing back what has been taken away. Many of them are so small to carry those powers. So not only restructuring in political power, not only restructuring in financial power, you have to restructure territorial basis of zones. Six zones as suggested already but there is nothing sacrosanct by number of zones, it can be six, seven or eight but realistically six zones. So that has to be done. Can the National Assembly do it? That is why again the entire people, all the 300 or more of the ethnic groups in the country need to come together and discuss and there are also many other things in the Constitution which experience has proved cannot work and it is not a matter for National Assembly alone and that is why I said let us have a National Conference to look at the whole thing both the more fundamental issues, the source of authority and the content of the Constitution.
On April 3, 2013 • In Features IN the face of the current failure of food security, water supply and power generation, not a few are in haste to ask if the 12 River Basin Development Authorities RBDAs across the country have lived up to their mandate. CHARLES KUMOLU reports… FOLLOWING the 1972-74 drought in Nigeria which many described as the worst ever experienced in West Africa, it was not a surprise that the Supreme Military Council promulgated decree 25 of 1976, as a swift move towards the development of Nigeria’s water resources. Accordingly, that gave birth to 11 River Basin Development Authorities, RBDAs, to harness the nation’s water resources and optimise its agricultural resources for food sufficiency. The RBDAs include Upper Benue Basin, the Lake Chad Basin, Benin-Owena Basin, Sokoto-Rima Basin, Sokoto; Hadejia-Jema’are Basin, Kano; the Lower Benue Basin, Makurdi and the Cross River Basin, Calabar. Others are: Oshun-Ogun Basin, Abeokuta; Anambra-Imo Basin, Owerri; the Niger Basin, Ilorin and the Niger Delta Basin, Port Harcourt. This development, reportedly raised hope among the populace because it was assumed that the RBDs would, apart from agricultural needs, satisfy other basic needs associated with water resources. Instructively, the RBDAs were primarily established to provide water for irrigation and domestic water supply, improvement of navigation, hydro-electric power generation, recreation facilities and fisheries projects. The basins were also expected to engender big plantation farming and encourage the establishment of industrial complexes that could bring the private and public sectors in joint business partnership. Additionally, RBDAs were expected to bridge the gap between the rural and urban centres by taking development to the grass roots and discourage migration from the rural areas to the urban centres. These objectives were to be achieved through surface impoundment of water by constructing small, medium and large dams which would enable all-year round farming activities in the country. But nearly four decades after its establishment many are in doubt if the RBDAs have really lived up to its mandate. The performance of the RBDAs have increasingly been questioned because of the failure in power generation, water and food supplies.
25 Feb 2013 Promasidor Nigeria Limited is in the business of manufacturing food, essentially, dairy and beverages. Its managing director, Chief Keith Richards, lamented the deplorable situation of electricity supply in the country and its attendant cost to the 20-year-old company as he spoke with Kunle Aderinokunon prospects and challenges for the manufacturing concern, amongst others. Excerpts: Though 2012 has come and gone, but how will you describe its impact on the dairy business and what is the business outlook for 2013? Last year was difficult because of the crisis that attended the fuel subsidy removal and the attendant increase in pump price of fuel. When that was laid to rest, we had the issues of insecurity in the north and the flooding that swept through the southeast. All that affected our market last year. We hope this year would be more peaceful, though there are still nagging issues in some sections of the country. One good thing is that Nigerians are very resilient people. I think the market has settled down and this year should be more positive. The early signs are good for us. All our range of products performed very well in January and I'm told that the packaging company has seen a little more over-booking which suggests that there is a general boom across consumer products. There is a little more optimism in the air, the demographics are right, the population is there, demand is there, the question is around micro-economies. If Nigeria's economy is growing around 6 to7 per cent, how much of that trickles down to the ordinary Nigerians? If some of the money that the country is earning from oil, or investment starts getting down, it will be a boom market for the milk and other consumer goods. But the big question is how effective is this government in ensuring that this revenue trickles down to ordinary Nigerians on the streets. A high percentage of our sales are in the North. All our brands especially those in the N10 and N20 range are very popular there. Also very popular in the north are our Top Tea brand and our seasoning. It goes beyond what is happening directly, you know, the north is a big trading out-post for export to Cameroun, Chad, Niger even up to Mali and what happened is that for lots of months, the borders were closed and even when they were re-opened, there were scepticism about all exports outside the country. The Boko Haram threat and what is happening in Mali makes the security forces nervous leading to serious restrictions of movement at the borders. The other issue is that the North which heavily relies on agriculture have had their lives disrupted by this sectarian violence. A lot of transporters do not want to go to the North anymore. Some want to charge a 25 per cent risk premium and that’s costing us more and costing other FMCG money and making it more difficult for farmers and anybody producing in the north to get their goods to the urban market like Lagos and the south. So there is a direct impact that trickles down and affects the economy as a whole. In the north in particular, it’s difficult to measure but it’s definitely there. How strong is Promasidor on export? Well we do export to Benin and neighbouring countries, but you know Promasidor is a group so we have our own business in Ghana and we have other business around that export to some of these other countries. We definitely export to our neighbours. How healthy would you rate the demand and supply curve of your products? I think in demand there is no doubt about it that consumers want our products. Where we are having issues is the ripple effect of insecurity on the economy. For example, even in the east, less people went back home for Christmas this time around because of the concern that rising cases of kidnapping is generating. That reduced consumer demands in the east for the period. Very interestingly, the seasoning market did very well; like Onga seasoning out-performed other brands which are not hard to see. If you have a security concern and you are not going out after dark, there would be more demand for food, after all if you are not going out to have beer with your friends and you are not going out to Mai shai to drink tea what would you do? The average man would stay at home and ask his wife to cook a pot of soup and he will eat at home with his family. That’s good for the seasoning market but difficult for other brands. I mean it’s difficult for the beer market, the soft drinks for those kinds of things that are consumed in places where people are reducing their visit. Lagos is ok but you know if you go to Owerri, Enugu, Aba, the security issue definitely means less traffic at night and less socialising. Are you satisfied with your share of the market? No, because I am never satisfied. I learnt from Chief Ralph Alabi that the reward for hard work is more hard work. Late Chief Alabi, who then was the chairman of Guinness, told me that and I have passed it down to my team. I am always looking for more. I am looking for more from our existing brands and am looking for how to develop more products, and more brands. I can never rest; the day a company decides to rest is the day it begins to slide, so I am never satisfied. Do you think the Federal Government is doing enough to improve the macro-economic environment? Well, I think I will spilt it into two, I think they have the right intent and they have some very good policies, but, they are not doing well on implementation. Take power for instance, that Mr President understands that it is the backbone for industrial growth is very glaring, but look at the way the privatisation is being implemented. The whole thing is just going anyhow, it’s been delayed and I am sure that must be frustrating the President and other members of the cabinet. I have no doubt that he has the right intent and I really believe that they have the right policies but the implementation is not happening fast enough. The implementation is not meeting the need of ordinary Nigerians. All these infrastructure, power, roads, particularly education, health, this government has been earning more money from oil revenue, but I think the money is not been utilised as effectively as it should be. What is your take on electricity generation? Lack of constant electricity is affecting us considerably. The cost of producing an alternative is huge. We spend up to N100, 000 per hour on diesel. Because gas is now available we have just installed a gas generator that has cost us $1.2 million and the payback time is less than one year to show you how damaging the cost of power is. It is not the direct cost, if we switch on to PHCN, besides being epileptic; the voltage is unstable, so bad that it does enormous damage to the machines. Machines stop and start that means you get less machine efficiency, you are less effective. For a company like ours, at least we have the employment muscle and the ability to plan around these shortcomings and do the best we can but what of those other companies that lacked the capacity. There are small businesses that want to produce goods so that we stop importing from china or India, instead they first have to invest in a generator and get bogged down by the diesel headaches, these are the drawbacks that cause the death of SMEs. This is sadly not affecting only big companies like ours, the ordinary people on the street with small businesses are also affected, there is no doubt that there will be a big boom in the economy if there is more electricity supply. What other challenges are you encountering in your operation? You know I have referred to transport and that the government understands and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has been to the port to make sure that they are run efficiently and we have seen some improvement. But even if you clear your goods quickly, you have just come out of a queue at Oshodi-Apapa expressway which has gone bad over time due to non-maintenance. Rather than maintain the road through which 90 per cent of the raw materials come into the country, what you see is the tension between the federal and the state government over the management of the road. They are too busy playing politics while all manufacturers are suffering because of the very bad state of that road and poor management of that road and the fact that trailers particularly fuel tankers have blocked the road. They are trying, there is no doubt you know the Benin-Ore road has improved that’s a very important road structurally built in the country but look at the Lagos- Sagamu express for how long will that contract last given how much we have spent? And now it’s been given to other people. So things are happening and that’s why I said the government has the intent but it is the implementation that is holding everything up. Promasidor Nigeria will be 20 years this year, what has kept the company so far? Well, it has been a fantastic journey for Promasidor. We have so much opportunity in Nigeria and they far outweigh the difficulties we have had in those 20 years. This company has gone through a lot, the company came in 1993 and has gone through all the problems with democracy in 1995, everything and yet this company has grown astronomically. That is very positive, it shows the possibility and the potential in this country despite the problems that we have been talking about and it shows that if we fix this thing, this is a great place for investment. So we are very positive about Nigeria particularly in relation to the long term and that is why we are constantly re-investing. We are investing money in a plant for new product that will be launched before year end, we are investing in research and development, and we are bringing technology which will enable us to work with local raw material we have signed a memorandum of understanding with University of Ibadan where we will take some of their students to France on some sponsored programmes and when they return, they will help us to work on those products developed with local raw materials. Things have been very exciting here and the great thing is that we do have shareholders in Promasidor that take the long-term seriously. They are making investment that will enable us to continue to grow in the long term. So I think the outlook is very positive and exciting. Later this year we will celebrate our 20 years and we will do a lot of things; for example, 460 workers who are celebrating their 10 year anniversary this year would be celebrated. In effect, we will be having a great celebration of long service award and we will be celebrating our 20th anniversary for Promasidor and particular the Cowbell brand in Nigeria. Are you thinking of getting your raw materials locally? Well, first of all let me talk about agriculture; I think the ministry of agriculture is bringing new energy, new insight and a new focus on agriculture which is great for Nigeria. Again some of the policies, some of the implementation are proving tougher than the minister had imagined. There is a lot of focus on local raw materials development which is excellent but backward integration is not something you can do over night. So the research and development we are doing in the use of local raw materials some of the technology cannot be used in sub- Saharan Africa, so adapting it for you will take time. We are started doing these things, for example seasoning; we used to import, but now, we just import certain aspect of it and we source most of it locally and we blend and manufacture them. We have just started doing that in the last few months. That is an example of how we are improving made in Nigeria goods. Of course the big question is dairy. We have seen that there are a few dairy farms in Zimbabwe, Ilorin in Kwara State, Jos, Obudu but we are talking of a few hundred heads of cattle. To produce the amount of milk needed in Nigeria as researched by all of the dairy industries through the manufacturing industry in Nigeria, you need about 600,000 cows to produce this amount of milk and an investment of about US2 billion, because for example to produce a litre of milk you require two hundred litres of water because you have to irrigate, the cows have to drink, then clean and all the processing. Really what Nigeria has to focus on are those crops that are indigenous to us here. There is a reason why God put palm oil, cocoa, cashew, soya, cassava in Nigeria because they are suitable to the Nigeria climate and what we have to do in Nigeria is to resurrect those crops instead of bringing in foreign cows and cattle, and invest in something that is not naturally produced. We should be developing rubber, palm oil, we should be processing these here. Rather than exporting cocoa we should be processing it here. One of the success stories is cement and now Nigeria is producing and exporting cement that is what we should be doing with our indigenous agricultural products we have available. We should be processing cocoa, processing palm oil, cashew and developing agriculture that way. Promasidor will continue to do her own, we will substitute import with local raw materials wherever we can. We are already working with local businesses, we buy a lot of our nutrients from bio organics, a Nigeria company producing vitamins and nutrients locally rather than importing them. So we are doing what we can and I think it is a major structure issue and the government needs to focus on those crops that we can easily develop. What is your take on the proliferation of imported goods? There is no doubt that there are different standards by and large, companies in Nigeria are much regulated. NAFDAC do a very good job, SON do a very good job. In fact we just had our ISO certification and I am very positive and optimistic that we will get our accreditation. Now a lot of products that come in from overseas particularly those from China and India are not properly accredited. You know, they just bring in a container and one wonders how they get through the ports and how they get distributed when we local producers go through so much inspection. If you take seasoning for example, there are so many powders that come from china that are available in the market. They claimed to be allowed but have they been inspected, they do not have NAFDAC registration, and somehow they are allowed to come into the market and then they sell at a very cheap price. That has a cost not just to , but some of our competitors who are world class international companies, who make sure they produce here meeting all the high standards and then somehow they are made to compete with cheap imported products. One has to say that some of the businesses that is coming into the market, one wonders if they are subject to the same type of regulation and inspection or whether there is some short cut that they take. These things are bad for the consumers because Nigerians deserve to have good quality and safe products. What is your view on multiple taxes? I am always complaining about multiple taxes and I think the government does not understand. Multiple taxation is very difficult to explain, you have the federal, state and local government eyeing the same revenue. Everybody is looking for revenue, you know if I want to put a plant here I need environment impact assessment certificate at the state, at the local level, I have to pay this or that levy to pay. If I want to do a promotion, I have to pay some fees and inspection are also randomly done, I have to bring both the national and state lottery commission, SON, Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) and all of these people are charging you fees that must be paid or you face sanctions all of these give rise to duplication. We pay company tax, we pay expatriates tax which are paid to Lagos state government in fact for three out of the last four years, we have won awards from Lagos state presented by Governor Fashola, for other state integrity when it comes to paying taxes, so if I pay my taxes why should I pay another N100,000 to an agency for inspection? Why do I have to pay something like N10 million every year on different local government levies, if one of my vehicles with Cowbell on the side drives from here to the east, every local government would stop them and make them pay levies and if they are missing one sticker they will arrest the driver and arrest my salesman then I have to go and pay money to get them out and these all constitute multiple taxation. Now I have to say MAN is making a very big effort. The great thing about Chief Kola Jamodu as the president of MAN is that he has been a minister. He was a very good minister, you know the cement that we are talking about comes from his days as minister of industry, he understands the industry and I understand that the economic management team chaired by the President has announced the complete review of taxes to address the monster called multiple taxation. Do have any advice for prospective entrepreneurs? Well the first thing I say to young entrepreneurs is remember the adage if you want to eat an elephant eat it one mouthful at a time. If you are a young entrepreneur, make sure you have achievable targets and goals, understand the customers and consumers make sure that your business plans are filled with the right kind of data and information. You know people are too busy to produce something and not realising that they can’t sell it at that price. Do your research, talk to your consumers, talk to your costumers and then take a step at a time and progress. That way, if you get something wrong, you can address it and as you achieve a step or a goal you can celebrate it. I think the entrepreneurial spirit in Nigeria is strong and it’s still very much part of Nigeria. I hope that this government provides power I hope that they can persuade the bank to lend to small businesses and entrepreneurs to enable them to grow because that is a big issue for SMEs at the moment. It’s difficult but there are definitely opportunities for young entrepreneurs in Nigeria. Last year, Promasidor launched the Promasidor Quill Awards to reward excellence in the media, what is the situation now? This is our first full year, the panel is been appointed and they will start reviewing. I think we have extended the date for submission, to make sure we have enough application that are of interest and articles, columns, photographs, so we are very excited about it and we take that it will stimulate excitement in our sector, it will stimulate understanding and a higher quality of reportage of our sector and it will show Promasidor as a partner to the media and enable us to get our views across. After two decades as a private business, are you thinking of going public? Yes, for sure, the company’s intention is to move towards an IPO and we are definitely planning on moving towards that goal. We have appointed financial advisors and we are looking at making sure that the company moves from a private company to the kind of structured governance that will enable us to have a very open and clear IPO. The stock exchange now is a lot more rigorous in the management of the exchange and that is fantastic and has earned a lot more confidence for the Nigerian stock exchange. Even though there are signs that the stock exchange is growing and there is more confidence, I think there is still some way to go and I think we in Promasidor have a few things to do to complete our preparation. But I am hoping that in a year or two, we will be ready to take Promasidor Nigeria to the Nigeria stock exchange and to enable our consumers, costumers and stakeholders own the business.`
Our Reporter March 24, 2013 10 Comments » By Shola Oshunkeye/Niamey http://sunnewsonline.com/new/specials/icon/prof-dora-nkem-akunyili-ofr-the-war-obasanjo-fought-to-make-me-nafdac-boss/ Some loathe her because she is audacious. She has guts and God. Some detest her because she pursues whatever she sets her mind to accomplish with every fibre of her being. Some disdain her because she is confident and bold. And there are those who can’t stand her and who, indeed, avoid her like a plague because failure does not exit in her lexicon. They are often sad and mad that she succeeds where others fail and falter.But what the traducers of Professor Dora Nkem Akunyili, the no nonsense former Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, do not know is the fact that all these virtues, plus a razor sharp intellect, are ingrained in her DNA. Which is why when life’s journey becomes rough and tough, when the wind of life blows like a monsoon or a ferocious tornado, threatening to crush everything on its path, this virtuous woman stands solid like a rock, firmly anchored on those lofty ideals of humanity. The ideals normally recommend her for favours with supernatural flavours. They have won for her positions that many fight tooth and nail to secure but never get. It was these same ideals that made former President Olusegun Obasanjo to appoint her as Director General of NAFDAC on April 11, 2001. This was at a time the life of the organization was ebbing, having been rendered comatose by the suffocating rot it was en-meshed. Prior to her appointment, Akunyili never met the then president nor had any contact whatsoever with him. But Obasanjo had learnt about her uncommon act of honesty at the Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, where she was serving as zonal secretary, and sent for her. It was at a period the PTF was being wound down. And Akunyili, a native of Nanka, Anambra State, had developed a health condition that her Nigerian doctor thought needed surgery. And PTF, her employers at the time, had approved 17, 000 pounds to travel to London to have the life-saving surgery. But when she got to the London Hospital, her British doctors carried out a series of tests that revealed that her condition did not require surgery. Meaning, it was a wrong diagnosis. Contrary to what many people in her shoes would have done, she, upon her return to Nigeria, refunded the 12, 000 pounds earmarked for the operation to her employers, and set a precedent in the organization. Impressed by Akunyili’s unparalleled honesty, General Buhari, himself a straight and shrewd manager of men, materials and money, wrote her a letter of commendation. Obasanjo heard the story and personally phoned her, inviting her for a meeting at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, the next Tuesday. It was a Sunday afternoon. Akunyili and her family had just returned from church when their phone, a NITEL landline, rang. She almost banged the phone on the president when his baritone voice boomed from the other end: “Hello, Obasanjo is my name.” “I thought it was a con man talking,” recalls Prof. Akunyili, a recipient of the 2003 Integrity Award of Transparency International, and holder of the national award of the Order of the Federal Republic, OFR. “I was confused.” But when that cloud of confusion cleared, and she regained her breath, the president asked her over. On the D-Day, Obasanjo didn’t need a long interview to decide that Akunyili was the woman for the job. But the political class didn’t think so. They had a separate agenda. They rose against the president’s choice, and attempted to shred her impeccable C.V. But the president saw through their shenanigans and stuck to his choice. Since then, there has been no stopping Akunyili, who clocks 59 come July 14, this year. She was, later, appointed Minister of Information by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. For President Obasanjo to have reposed such confidence in her at a time she never met him, and to ensure that Nigerians no longer suffer needlessly in the hands of the merchants of death who manufacture and peddle fake medicines, Akunyili worked herself to the bones at NAFDAC. In the process, the woman, whose diabetic sister died as direct result of fake medicines, suffered nervous breakdown and almost took a bullet in her skull. Many, indeed, are the afflictions of Dora, but the Lord saw her through them all. In this encounter, the former minister, a staunch Catholic who has won about 700 awards, both at home and abroad, for her service to humanity, opens a window into her action-packed life. Welcome on board this ‘flight’ with Professor Dora Nkem Akunyili, CFR. Excerpts: I think the best point to start this interview is this award that you are taking today (March 8, 2013) in Niamey. What is the significance of this award to you? This award is special to me in that it is coming over four years after I left NAFDAC. What it tells me is that the struggles of those seven and a half years are still in the minds of people not just in Nigeria but also across the globe. This (Niger Republic) is a country I really least expected to honour me because it is a French-speaking country, a country where we think would not have too much information on activities in Anglophone countries like Nigeria. And I don’t have any friends here. Not even one. I also feel happy about it because it is coming from women. Remember, people used to say that women are their own enemies. That may be true to some extent. Therefore, when women appreciate one another, it is something for us to be happy for. By the way, the wife of the president originated the award, and the Nigerien Ministry of Women Affairs took it up. They actually invited me last year (2012) but I was in America. When I told the ambassador who was asked to call me that I was in America, he said there must be a way. He said I should try to make it and that they would arrange my passage from America because the wife of the president had already put her mind to the fact that I was coming. At that point, I had to tell him the real reason I was in America. And that was…? I was in the hospital, preparing to have fibroid surgery, and it was a major surgery. He said okay. And I forgot about it. You can then imagine my surprise when they wrote to inform me about my nomination for this one. Generally, awards are good if they are not the cash-and-carry type. But they do no longer excite me. Why shouldn’t they excite you? Because I have had so many. They are almost 700. You can check www.doraakunyilionline.org to see what I mean. And we are not listing the awards from church organizations. Those are the ones we selected and they are almost 700, and many of them are international. So, I forgot about it. I didn’t even ask if it’s an annual, or what. I didn’t ask. You can then imagine how I felt when I got the message again, this year. I said, ‘so, this people still remember me, over four years after I left NAFDAC, and one year after the first nomination?’ I decided to go. But the devil is wicked. The day of the award (March 8, 2013) again coincided with the burial of somebody I regard as my father and my mentor; somebody, who, together with his wife, actually took me as their own child right from my university days. His name is Professor J.O.C. Ezeilo, a former Vice Chancellor. He was being buried that day. So, I had another valid point not to be at the awards. But my husband said ‘no, even if daddy had been alive, if dead could talk, I know that daddy would tell you to go’. So, my husband said I should go, while he would attend the burial, from the wake-keep till the outing service on Sunday. So, I’m happy to be here (in Niamey). I am happy because no matter how many awards you have, each of them has its own significance. This particular award, the International Active African Woman Trophy (TIFAA NIGER), I believe, must have been triggered by what I did for the West African sub-region because when the drug traffickers started having it rough in Nigeria, they began to migrate to other West African countries, and the problem became worse for them. In fact, our success in Nigeria started casting dark shadows on our neighbours and I thought of what to do. I felt strongly that we needed to do something because if we continued fighting in Nigeria without giving a thought to what was happening in the West African sub-region, these criminals will find safe havens in other places. I, therefore, on my own, got in contact with all the regulators in West Africa and invited them for a meeting in Abuja, and we instituted the West African Drug Regulatory Authority Network, WADRAN. We created WADRAN as a platform for interacting with one another, sharing ideas, teaching them what to do, and doing peer review. That way, we would be able to form a critical mass in the region to tackle the criminals that deal in fake and adulterated drugs frontally. That way, we would make the region so hot for them that there would be no hiding place for them. And in that way, our success will be more sustained. Understandably, I was made their chairperson, and President Olusegun Obasanjo understood what I did and had to receive them personally at the villa. The regulators were all happy. We took it up from there and started having meetings in other West African countries. Instructively, we never came to Niger Republic till I left NAFDAC. For whatever reason, our Nigerien counterparts did not invite us. But I remember vividly, (and I think it’s in my book), that when we instituted WADRAN, and had meetings in Abuja, the head of Food and Drug Administration in Niger Republic said that his problem was that whenever he intercepted fake drugs, the politicians would ask him to release. For me, that was a rude shock. You mean you never experienced such things when you were in charge in NAFDAC? Never! Nobody ever gave you a phone call to say release those medicines? I said never! Nobody ever tried it with me. Not even the president, President Obasanjo, who hired you and could fire you without qualms? That means you don’t know President Obasanjo. He is not one president who would give you an assignment and meddle in the way you do it. Never. He never did. Okay, if nobody called you directly, didn’t people try to reach you indirectly? Didn’t people go through people who can reach you? Yes, there were instances when people would call me to ask what happened. That was happening. And when I explained what happened, they would say ‘Madam, I’m sorry. My hands are not in it.’ But to call me and say ‘Madam, release…’ Nobody ever tried that with me. Nobody ever tried any monkey business with me. You know the way we went about that struggle, it would be extremely difficult for anybody to mess with me. Nobody. For me, I had a job on my palm-to save my fellow countrymen and women, our children, our senior citizens, the aged, and the vulnerable, from dying needlessly. I did my best to ensure I didn’t betray that sacred trust. Above all, I had, still have, a pact with my God not to disappoint him. You also must remember that I am a pharmacist. So, I knew what I was doing. In one minute, because of my training, I will reel out everything that happened, down to the specifications of the drugs and where they failed. When I do that, the person will just quickly say ‘Madam, I am sorry.’ There is this impression that women do better as managers because they don’t easily fall into the kind of temptations that easily beset men. When you were in NAFDAC, did you take bribe? God forbid. Never? Never. Were you offered bribe? Of course yes. When I started, people offered, but after about… (I cut in…) They were bringing money? When somebody comes in with a briefcase and even says ‘we want to discuss’, there is a reaction you’ll give and the person will not send the message. Remember, people are also very clever. Nobody wants to be disgraced or disappointed. They find ways of introducing these things. I remember an instance, but I can’t remember the exact amount. But it is in my book. I think it’s US$10, 000. The person came and said ‘somebody wants to give you this money, I think you should take it.’ I gave him the bitterest part of my tongue. I tongue-lashed him. He was sweating under my office’s air-conditioner. On another occasion, another one came and said, ‘Madam, somebody has 10 containers, you release nine, you can keep one. You can indicate the one you will seize; seize it and make all the noise in the media. I’ll advise you to take it, madam. This is Nigeria. There is a way to work in this country. Don’t kill yourself because of one job.’ I got that kind of advice. I documented everything in the book. There was also somebody that used me to make money, by dropping my name. He told somebody that I said he should give him money for me. He took the money. That was in 2001. Luckily for me, I did not do what they wanted and they went to my husband to say, ‘we gave N2 million to this person and your wife still did not allow our product to go. And my husband said, “Go and take your money from whoever you gave it to. My wife does not solicit bribe and will never receive any. It is not possible. Even with two million pounds, it is not possible.” When my husband told me, I was mad. I was livid. I said I would invite the police. But he said ‘no’. He said, ‘If you invite the police, it will be your word against their (the criminals’) word. And criminals can do anything. They can say ‘Yes o, Paul was with me when I gave the money. The guy can be in a tight corner and say my P.A., Paul and Peter were with me when I gave the money’. So, it’s going to be your word against their word. What you do is tell this guy that since what you wanted was not done, that should be enough evidence for you to go and take your money.’ The good thing was that about six months after I started (as DG), I never got any satanic offers again because the message was clear. I had made myself clear that it was not going to be business as usual. The lesson in that is that once you do not compromise your principles and ideals, people have a way of conforming to whatever is the laid down standard. They have a way of knowing that there is no need to even try to make any offer. Many people are still astounded by your success in NAFDAC. Could it be a factor of putting a square peg in a square hole? It’s part of it. When people understand the job, when people have a passion for the job, when people have a drive, when people have an inner motivation, the job becomes easy even with the difficulties around it. So, what was your drive? What was your motivation? The motivation, first of all, is that as a pharmacist, I understand the job. I also understand the problems of counterfeit medicines because so many people have died, including my own sister who died of fake insulin in Nigeria. My sister’s death brought the message back home to us vividly. What year was this? 1988. How old was she then? She was just 22. What happened that she had to be taking insulin? She had diabetes. Juvenile diabetes? She developed juvenile diabetes at about 19. She was taking insulin. It was a typical case of counterfeit drug but we never knew until it was too late. We would buy from some shops, she would respond very well and be normal. You know that if you are diabetic, and you are taking your insulin, you can live for many years because you are substituting what is not there. But when we bought from shops, she would go down. It never occurred to us that what we were buying was fake because there was no public enlightenment that this insulin could be fake. What was more, when her blood sugar became uncontrollable, which did not make any sense because proper insulin must control it, she started developing some types of infections. Again, it didn’t occur to us the kind of thing that was bustling out. These infections were caused by the type of insulin we bought. I eventually found in my first two months in NAFDAC. You know, some of the insulin we destroyed. Millions of vials of insulin were just unsterilized water. But if somebody injects water that is not sterilized, is it not potential infection? So, she died. We knew there was something wrong, but it didn’t really clicked. Honestly, it did not click too much. We could not say ‘yes, it is fake’, but we were suspecting that there was something wrong. But we didn’t know what was wrong. And we didn’t know there was a body like NAFDAC to complain to. When she died, her death brought the issue of the havoc that counterfeit medicine can cause to us as a family. Another motivating factor was the fight that President Obasanjo had with the political class to appoint. When he wanted to make me DG of NAFDAC, he had heard about what I did at PTF (Petroleum Trust Fund). His close friend and brother, Dr. Onaolapo Soleye, who was Minister of Finance under General Buhari, had told him a story about a woman in PTF that returned about 12, 000 pounds. When he heard the story, he said he wanted to see me. What year was this? It was in 1999. I was in PTF as zonal secretary, coordinating all PTF projects in the south east. In 1999, I had problem with my tummy and I went to UNTH (University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu) to see the late Professor Echi who said he suspected, from the diagnosis, that I had pancreatic problem. And I needed to go for surgery in London. The diagnosis was correct? No, it was wrong. So, I wrote a letter for sponsorship and I was given 12, 000 pounds or the surgery and another 5000 pounds for incidental expenses. In all, PTF paid me 17,000 pounds, and I went to London. But after undergoing several tests, the doctors said the initial diagnosis was wrong. They said what I had was irritable bowel syndrome and I would not need surgery. So, I was given drugs to normalize it. At the end of my stay, I had to tell the doctor that I needed to be paid back for the money meant for the surgery-12, 000 pounds, so I could return it to my employers, PTF. I told them the money, whether cash or cheque, should be paid to PTF. They said they had never returned money to anybody, but they could give me cash. They were shocked that I said I was going to return it to my employers since I didn’t have the surgery. When I returned to work and returned the money to General Muhammadu Buhari, our Executive Chairman, he too couldn’t believe me. He was pleasantly surprised. He wrote me a letter of commendation. I still have the letter. I protect it like a certificate. General Buhari said, and he wrote behind the letter: “I did not know that there are still some Nigerians with integrity.” He said I should give the money to director of finance. I returned the money. I also submitted the result of all my tests and all the drugs that I bought. How did people at PTF generally react to that act of honesty? My brother, I saw hell. I experienced unprecedented persecutions and attacks because it had never happened and I had made a precedent. Even auditors came to check my account to see whether they could find something because it was like I stopped a process that people used in making money. They couldn’t find anything to roast me. But I’m happy to say that despite the persecution, my action caused a quiet revolution at PTF such that when people now travel for official assignments, they would bring their tellers. So, what happened next? One day, I went to see my friend, Engineer Joko Senumi, in his office. He is now in CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria). I came from Enugu. As soon as I came in, he turned to a man sitting beside him and said: “Daddy, this is the woman that returned the 12, 000 pounds.” The man, who turned out to be Dr. Onaolapo Soleye, General Buhari’s Minister’s of Finance, said: “You! What happened? Tell me.” I was flabbergasted. He said he was just from Gen. Buhari’s office and everybody was talking about me. And he asked: “What happened? Why did you return it?” I said ‘Well, it’s not my money and my Catholic upbringing would not allow me to take what is not my own.” He said what I did meant a lot in Nigeria of the time, that Gen. Buhari said he didn’t know that there were still some Nigerians with integrity. Then, he said, “My friend (President Obasanjo) has been looking for somebody to clean up NAFDAC. Give me your CV.” I said ‘I don’t move around with CV.’ He said “go and do me a CV.” So, I went and typed what I could remember, and gave him. Exactly two weeks after, on a Sunday afternoon, I got call. Then, landlines (NITEL lines) were still working. The voice said: “Hello, my name is Obasanjo.” I almost dropped the phone. I thought it was a con man talking. Then, he talked a little more, and suddenly, it became clear to me that ‘this is the voice we normally hear on radio and TV.’ I was confused. I was shaking. I can’t even remember what I said to him in reply because I was totally confused. I guess he too must have sensed my apprehension because he allowed some seconds to pass before he spoke again, and said: “Can you come and see me on Tuesday?” I said ‘yes sir’. So, on Tuesday, I went to Abuja. My name was at the gate. I had lunch with the president. Then, he took me to the small office and started asking me about the issue of the money that I returned in PTF. I told him the story. He said: “You are a pharmacists; my friend gave me your CV.” Then, he asked me a few questions about what was happening in NAFDAC, and I told him what I saw. And he made up his mind to give me the job. Just like that? Just like that. But trust Nigerians, that triggered a war of some sort because even the then senate president had a candidate. Dr. Chuba Okadigbo? Yes, God bless and rest his soul. Our beloved brother, the late Okadigbo also had his eyes on NAFDAC. He had a candidate. The political class, they all had candidate. They all had their eyes on NAFDAC. Maybe they had seen that it was juicy portfolio? I don’t know about that. But everybody at the top level, especially the political class, had their candidates. So, the fireworks began. Everybody was against President Obasanjo; and when people are against an appointment, they can always make up credible reasons. They could argue: one, she is Igbo, the minister is Igbo, and who are the drug counterfeiters? So, it sounds logical. How can she do it? Besides, gender issue is there but nobody would actually bring it up. The fight was intense and fierce but Obasanjo stood his ground. He said “I have made up my mind to give the job to this woman, let her go there. If she doesn’t do it well, then, I will remove her. I have made up my mind and nothing can change it.” Eventually, they cooked up another story. They went and told him that I was not a pharmacist. Simultaneously, they mounted serious pressure on him to quickly sign and approve their candidate. You know once the announcement is made, he cannot reverse it. That was the game. Luckily for me, President Obasanjo called Dr. Soleye and that people said the woman he recommended for the cleaning of NAFDAC was not even a pharmacist! He said they have come to give me another news that she is not a pharmacist. Dr. Soleye told me all these one morning. But Dr. Soleye said he begged the president to let him call me and revert to him as soon as he finished speaking with me. He called me. I said ‘I am pharmacist. I started Pharmacy from first degree to post doctoral level.’ He said ‘do you have your certificates? Bring them.’ The next day, I took all my certificates to Abuja, and Dr. Soleye collected them and went and showed them to the president. The president approved my appointment immediately. Dr. Soleye told me all these. Why am I saying all these? I said all these in response to your question about what motivated me to put my life on the line in NAFDAC. The death of my sister from fake medicine motivated me. I could not afford to allow Nigerians to suffer needlessly from the evil deeds of counterfeiters. The second was the huge trust I had from a president who never knew me from Adam, and who I never knew nor met one-on-one. Can, and should anybody in his or her senses betray that kind of trust? President Obasanjo’s trust in me was a motivating force for me. Again, when people say you can’t do a job, it’s also a motivating factor because you want to prove that you can do it. (To be continued next week) They put juju tortoise in my office at NAFDAC Our Reporter April 1, 2013 8 Comments » By Shola Oshunkeye/Niamey (Continued from last week) http://sunnewsonline.com/new/specials/icon/they-put-juju-tortoise-in-my-office-at-nafdac/ As she enthuses in her book, The War Against Counterfeit Medicine, My Story, a book that chronicles her childhood and the titanic battle she fought against merchants of death masquerading as businessmen in Nigeria, life was good in Makurdi, her place of birth in Benue State. Born to a wealthy businessman, Chief Paul Edemobi, and his wife, Grace, life, for Dora Nkem Edemobi, then a little but exceptionally brilliant girl, was full of bloom and no blight. She pleasured her parents and teachers to the heights with her razor sharp intellect. She regaled them with her ingenuities. “In fact, due to my performance in school (she always topped her class), my father exempted me from all household chores, afraid that they may distract me from my studies,” recalls Professor Dora Nkem Akunyili, former Minister of Information and erstwhile Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC. “My father’s slogan was: Dora’s brain will earn her cooks and stewards.” How prophetic. Dora’s exceptional brilliance, content of character and a steely resolve to success where others failed, effectively ensured that her parents never spent a dime on her education. “My entire education, from high school through university in Nigeria, to doctorate and post-doctoral studies in London, was possible due to government scholarships,” Akunyili, who turns 59 on July 14, this year, writes in the book. The same qualities, especially her honesty and hard work, also recommended her for all the top public service positions she has held so far. They also account for the almost 700 awards she has garnered so far, both locally and internationally. However, Akunyili’s success, as she recalls in this interview conducted in Niamey, Niger Republic, almost brought her ruins as some agents of darkness attempted to kill her for doing what was right and just. But like the Holy Book says, many have been the afflictions of Prof. Dora Akunyili, but the Lord saw her through them all. Here are excerpts: The forces that you fought at NAFDAC were formidable. Apart the assassination attempt on your life, what were the other attacks that you also escaped? There were many threats. Prior to that attack, they would write letters, make phone calls, call my husband and tell him that ‘if you don’t caution your wife, she may not come out of this job alive’. And what did your husband do? He was supporting me but he was a little bit afraid. He was afraid for my life and it’s natural. But my spirit was stronger. When they harassed him, he would call me. In some other instances, he would not even tell me so as not to create any panic. Oh, those criminals, they did a lot. There was a time they went to my house at Abuja and looked for me. Fortunately, I had left for Lagos. I had an emergency in Lagos and I left from the office. They came to my house that same night, beat my cook almost to pulp, repeatedly asking him: where is she? They ransacked everywhere. If I had slept in that house that night, only God knows what would have happened. What I found worrisome was that the day these people came, the police security people on duty did not come to work. I reported to the then Commissioner of Police in charge of the Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Lawrence Alobi. Till today, nobody has told me what really happened. That was exactly what happened the day Chief Bola Ige, a sitting Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice who was killed right in his bedroom after his police orderlies left their post to eat. Did you suspect any high level conspiracy? You cannot put anything beyond the cartel behind counterfeit medicines. There was another day they planned to attack me in the Lagos office. Somehow, something prevented the plot. We had that kind of reports (of planned attack) about two or three other times and asked for our police protection to be reinforced. On another occasion, they put a tortoise in my office. Live tortoise? It looked dried. How did they get into your personal office? Was it not locked? Of course, my office was locked. So, what happened to the tortoise? I didn’t touch it. It was my assistant that sprinkled holy water on it and removed it. I didn’t even want to talk about it. It’s not worth announcing. It was the Minister (of Health), Prof. A.B.C. Nwosu, that got so frightened that he said offhandedly that: “People should leave this woman alone! Why should anybody put tortoise in her office?” They didn’t attack just me, they also attacked our staff at Onitsha. Do you think we closed Onitsha Market just because there were fakes? No. If there is fake, you screen the system and flush out the fakes! We were screening the system with their cooperation. But on one occasion, my staff went there and they attacked them and destroyed six cars. So, I said ‘enough is enough!’ Since they would not even allow us to screen, we needed to close the market. And we did. Gen. Owoye Azazi, may his soul rest in peace, was the Chief of Army Staff then. The Inspector General of Police was Mr. Sunday Ehindero. President Obasanjo got them together to give us support to clean up the place. They attacked our staff in Onitsha. They attacked our staff in Kano. They attacked them in Dukku Local Government Area of Gombe State. . They destroyed our vehicles. The then Governor Danjuma Goje of Gombe State consoled us and promised to replace the cars. I think he did. So, it is not just attacking me and threatening me, they were also attacking the staff of NAFDAC. They were threatening my family members. There was even one staff member in Gombe State that I had to relocate the family. What about my son? They attempted to kidnap my son but for God. My son was in Igbinedion High School (Benin, Edo State) then, and two men came and told him that his uncle, Clement, was looking for him. When he came out, he saw two fierce-looking men. Before he knew what was happening, they grabbed him, and said: You are Obuneme, Professor Akunyili’s son. My son said: ‘No, she is my aunty!’ He swore vehemently that I was his aunt, so they left him. They almost kidnapped him. That was why we quickly bundled him to America. All his other siblings had gone to America because I won the American Visa Lottery. But we didn’t want him to go to America because he was too young. We felt he should stay and get older. But after that incident at Igbinedion High School, we quickly sent him over. I never knew that big people like you also play the American Visa Lottery… I did not only play, I also prayed out my heart that God should let us win. I wanted it so badly so that my children would go to school in America. It was a direct prayer point to God. It was my earnest prayer. You were still teaching then? I was in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and that is the power of testimony. How did it happen? A lady came to look for my head of department, Dr. Okonkwo, and she waited till evening. I said ‘You have been here since morning, I don’t think Dr. Okonkwo will still come to work today. What do you want him for? Is it something I can do for you or you want to go to his house?’ She said she would go to his house because she won the American Visa Lottery. I said ‘What? How? Who are you?’ She said she was his niece, and she brought out the letter that was sent from America. I asked if she knew anybody in America because I didn’t see it as a lottery that anybody could win just like that. She said she didn’t know anybody. She said she filled it at Awka, sent it and she won. She also said “But, aunty, I prayed out my heart.’ So, I took her to Dr. Okwonkwo’s house. From there, I went to Big Heart Memorial Seminary, visited five different Reverend Fathers, and told them to book mass for me for 30 days. I told them to tell God that I wanted to win the American Visa Lottery so that my children can go and study in America. The five Reverend Fathers booked 30 days masses for me. When I got home, I called my children and told them to let us start 30 days Novena prayers to Our Lady. I told them I wanted them to go and study in America. But without the lottery, it would be impossible for six of you to study in America. We will not be able to pay. So, we started the prayer, everyday for 30 days. While we were praying, I called one of my husband’s relations to enquire if there was any special form that we must fill. He said there was none; that we should just apply. So, we applied. But, because I wrote in a hurry to give to somebody travelling to America to give to my husband’s relation, I made a mistake on one of my daughters’ date of birth. One day, we got a phone call saying that we won the American Visa Lottery. My God, we were very happy. We were excited. We rejoiced. But we still needed to go to the embassy in Lagos because it is not automatic. Somehow, my husband felt he didn’t need it. He said since it’s the children that needed it, we should go. So, I went with my children. Meanwhile, my first daughter had left Nigeria on NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) scholarship. They asked her to come back because after the NASA scholarship, she would still not be able to get a Green Card. So, she rushed back from America for that. The first day we went to the embassy, they looked at my papers and asked me to sit down. We just sat there, from morning till afternoon, waiting for the counselor. One man told me that if they keep you for too long, it means they want to mess you up. With faith, I said it’s not possible. Immediately, I told my children to join hands and let us pray that one prayer: what God has given to us, nobody can take it away. I told them we would be praying it even if it takes four hours for them to call us. People who saw our mouths moving were wondering what was going on. Finally, they called us. The female counselor asked: how are you going to take care of six children in America? Do you have a job? I said I was a pharmacist. I could work in any lab. I could teach. I would earn enough resources with my skill to take care of them. The woman looked at our paper and stamped it. She gave all our documents to me and told us to come and collect our visas, maybe the next day or whatever. I carried everything to the hotel. I didn’t open it. When we got to the hotel and started cutting out the papers, we noticed that immigration in America had written a letter to Lagos telling them that there was a discrepancy in the date of birth of one of my children. Now, if they had seen that kind of red flag in Lagos, that would have been the end of the journey. My interpretation of that miracle is that it’s either an angel did not allow them to read that letter, or somebody read it and forgot. That is the highpoint of my testimony about our Green Card. That’s how I took my children to America, left them with our relations who took care of them, and they started going to the community college because it is free. But we left out my last born because we thought he was too young to live in America, …until that kidnap attempt in Igbinedion High School. While all those attacks were going on, weren’t there moments you felt like quitting the job? Well, not really. But there was pressure from my husband, my children and my relations. One day, this particular Obuneme that was almost kidnapped said to me, ‘Mummy, when is this job coming to an end?’ I said, ‘I have spent two years, it remains three.’ So, every year, the boy was counting. He was actually singing it to all his siblings. So, when we were celebrating our four years at NAFDAC, my husband came. When he was talking, he said that ‘Thank God, by next year, this job will be coming to an end.’ He said that I would not go for second tenure; and that was the family’s decision. When President Obasanjo heard it, he asked me to call him. I called him. What did Baba tell him? Of course, you don’t expect Baba to say ‘please’. In Baba’s characteristic manner, ‘Why are you discouraging her instead of encouraging her? You should be encouraging her.’ Then, he stylishly appealed to him: ‘Do not discourage her. Please, encourage her.’ My husband felt good that he (the president) called to talk to him about it. And that really helped. Now, normally, if you desire second term, you are supposed to write a letter two months to the end of the first tenure. I didn’t write any letter. It was one-and-a-half years into my second tenure that my board members said ‘listen, by law, whatever you were signing in the last one-and-a-half years, somebody can pick it up and use it against you. You must write a letter.’ So, I wrote. Is there anything you did in office that you regret? Yes. My husband’s first cousin, who was living in London, and who loved me to a crazy point, had some drugs to register. For more than five years, he was not doing his documentation properly. And I kept telling him that if ‘you don’t do things properly, they cannot be registered’. There is no brother or sister in this job because if I bend the rule, my staff will start bending the rule too. Once I bend the rule, all that I have struggled to build in the past would be rubbished because they are also watching me. But because I am able to stand erect, nobody can bend the rule without facing the consequence. So, my brother-in-law kept begging me: ‘Please, do this for me’. I couldn’t do it. Unfortunately, he died without getting the approval. It haunts me. Even till now? Even till now because he never got it. Maybe he felt that he didn’t need to do everything that was required by law. He never concluded it until he died. And when he died, my pain was that he was not able to register those drugs. Even the day I was launching my book (The War Against Counterfeit Medicines, My Story), I said, ‘I pray that he has forgiven me.’ I said the same thing to those people, in general, who also felt I did not bend the law for them. I said, I hoped they had forgiven me. Then, President Jonathan got up and said I did not need to ask for forgiveness from anybody. He said I was a worthy daughter of Nigeria; that I did not owe anybody any apology; and that Nigerians appreciated what we did. Indeed, I also got very motivated by the support of Nigerians. I don’t know any public office holder that got the kind of support I got when I was working with my great team to fight drug counterfeiters. The support was unprecedented, all over the country and even outside the country. I want to take you back to your fibroid surgery that you told me about at the beginning of this discussion. Was that the first fibroid you had or you had more? That was the first. But luckily, since I was no longer having children, they had to remove the womb. You did hysterectomy? Yes, I did hysterectomy. The doctor suggested that and I agreed with him that removing the womb would be better, because if you remove fibroid, it might re-grow. So, I had the surgery in America. It couldn’t be done in Nigeria? Why not? We have great doctors in Nigeria. Our surgeons are among the best in the world. Given the same work environment, given the same opportunities, given appropriate equipment, they would work excellently. But I didn’t go to America because of surgery. I went to visit my daughter-in-law who had a baby. But when I got there, I decided to do some check-up. It was during the check-up that they found that I had fibroid. And I was caught between coming home, prepare for it and then return to America; or I do it straightaway. I figured that since I wasn’t working back home, and my children are there in America, and they are doctors, why shouldn’t I stay and do it? That was the first time fibroid was detected. What year was this? Last year. 2012. That means you had been carrying it all over the place without knowing it? I didn’t know because it doesn’t pain. No symptoms like heavy menstrual period? Yes, I had heavy menstrual period but I felt it was the onset of menopause. How old were you then? I was 57 then. I was 58 last July. I started getting into menopause at 56. And that was when I started getting irregular and heavy menstrual period. So, I felt it was part of the process. I didn’t know it was fibroid. What are the things that made you know that you were getting into menopause? My menstrual period started getting irregular and very painful; then, age. When you combine that with your age, you can then guess. After 45, people start expecting menopause, depending on the family. For my family, we start expecting it from 55. These things are genetic. When the late President Yar’Adua appointed minister, most Nigerians were disappointed. They felt you should have continued the great work you were doing in NAFDAC? Their reactions were born out of the love they had for me. But we must appreciate that this is a developing country where the president of the country calls you from a parastatal. NAFDAC is a parastatal. It was just that by the grace of God that we raised it to a level that made it to look larger than a parastatal, because of the work we were doing. So, when the president says, ‘come out of NAFDAC, I want to make you a minister,’ do you really have a choice? Could you, in all honesty, say ‘No’? Besides, I didn’t have the opportunity to say, ‘minister of what?’ And I don’t know of anybody that had the opportunity. And won’t it even sound and look a bit naïve and not fair-minded for you to tell the president of Nigeria that, ‘Sir, let me be. I don’t want to be promoted. I want to remain where I am.’ It’s impudent. Meanwhile, the same Nigerians that were saying we are disappointed she left NAFDAC, will also say there is something she has there that she doesn’t want to leave. What does she have in that NAFDAC that she doesn’t want to leave? The same Nigerians will say that ‘after being in a job for seven-and-a-half years, with all the threats to her life, with the assassination attempt, is she not tired? Shouldn’t she be released?’ To be honest with you, I was relieved to leave because I was happy that I didn’t leave NAFDAC out of fright, out of fear, or out of cowardice. Remember I told you that I told my husband, when he was saying that I should not take a second term, that if I left at that point, the drug counterfeiters would feel that they had won. They were actually popping champagne at Onitsha when my husband said I was not going to continue. I said they were celebrating and we cannot allow them to have the last laugh. So, when, by the grace of God, two-and-a-half years later, the president now said ‘come, I want to give you a higher responsibility, if I were your wife, would you say no? Even if the president did not appoint me minister, I would still have left two years after because the law would not be changed for me. So, how did you react when you heard that you had been appointed minister? It further strengthened my belief that nothing happens without God’s approval. Six months before I was appointed Minister of Information, my elder sister, Mrs. Obala, phoned me and said she had a dream where I was made Minister of Information. I said to her: ‘You must have malaria, and you know that malaria causes hallucination. Go and drink Coatem. What is my business with Information?’ She stood her ground. She said that was how she saw it, and that the dream was very vivid. Now, after the announcement as ministers, after the screening and all that, on the day that new ministers are being sworn in, the last thing they normally do is the announcement of portfolios. And that is after the swearing in. When they announced Dora Akunyili, Minister of Information, I nearly broke down. I quickly collected papers and started taking minutes of the (Federal Executive Committee, FEC) meeting because the meeting started immediately. So, the Minister of Information is the secretary of FEC? Yes. He takes the minutes. He reports the decisions from the meeting to the public. And you had never done such a job before, even at board level? No. But when you are properly educated, you are actually prepared for anything. That is what I feel. Bill Gates did not study computer science but he put his mind in it, focussed on it and he was able to develop it. In other ministries, people are not appointed to positions just because of what they studied. It is out of competence because in most ministries, what you do is that you are managing human beings and resources. So, after the announcement of my portfolio as Minister of Information, I almost broke down. What was your disappointment? My disappointment was that I expected anything but Information. Were you expecting Ministry of Health? Yes. I was expecting health but I never dreamt or believed it could be Information. So, I went to President Yar’Adua during lunch break. As I said ‘Your Excellency’, he said ‘No, don’t talk. Please, I want you to be the one handling the ministry. We have huge problem and I know you can handle it.’ He never allowed me to talk. I don’t know whether he knew what I wanted to say. Maybe he saw my face. So, I went into the toilet and cried my heart out. I was shattered. What consoled me? I remembered my sister’s dream. I said ‘God, you want me to be there (Ministry of Information), and you have a reason; to you be the glory. You have your reason for taking me to this place that I don’t know anything about; this place that is regarded as a ministry where people just talk. I would have loved to go to the ministry where I would effect a change, a total change in the system. It doesn’t have to be health. If I went to environment, I know I will change the system. If I went to aviation, I know I will change the system. All I wanted was any of these critical areas where people would see changes in six months. That was what I wanted. But when I remembered the dream of my sister, I said ‘God, you know everything. You have your reason and to you be the glory. For you to reveal this to my sister, to prepare my mind, I give you all the glory. I will put in my best.’ Again, my daughter, who came from America for the swearing-in ceremony, said ‘Mummy, I want you to know that no matter what people say about Ministry of Information, it is the soul and image of the country. So, it is out of trust that it is being given to you. Stop crying.’ My daughter, and the mother-in-law, who came from Cote D’Ivoire, spoke to me. The mother-in-law said what my daughter said was correct. She said ‘Ministry of Information is not given to questionable characters. Please, bring your make-up, people should not see your face like this.’ So, I cleaned my eyes and did my make-up with them right there in the bathroom. We finished the meeting, I reported it. When I got to the ministry, the wretchedness I saw at the place crashed my spirit again. It was unbelievable. It was not as good as my directors’ office in NAFDAC. But I must quickly add that that one didn’t crash my spirit like the first day I got to NAFDAC. When I went to NAFDAC, there was nothing. When I got to Information, journalists came around. They asked me, ‘How would you do this? You are not a journalist.’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t have to be a journalist to do this job. My trainings, over the years, have prepared me to be able to fit into any system.’ They said Minister of Information is expected to be telling lies. I said ‘I am not prepared to tell lies for anybody and I will never.’ At the same time, some journalists were writing in the papers that they did not want me. But when council was dissolved, the same people started writing that they wanted me because in that space of one year, they saw that I put in all my heart into what I was doing. I don’t know how to work halfway. I started the Rebranding Nigeria Project. I said, let us change the negative perception. And it was gathering momentum. Even now, go to Heathrow Airport (in London), you will see (the slogan…) Nigeria: Good People, Great Nation. We feel so good that many Nigerians are still putting it in their products’ packs. When we were dissolved, there were a lot of write-ups from journalists association. They wanted me back; and when I was reappointed I didn’t feel terribly as I felt the first time. I was going back to a familiar ground. Then, one year after, my governor (Mr. Peter Obi of Anambra State) invited me and said I should come and run for Senate. And I said well, it’s good to get another platform, because I didn’t really feel totally utilized at Information. Why? I was doing my best but I didn’t see the system changing. There were too many resistances? Yes, too many resistances. Even the Rebranding Nigeria Project met a stiff resistance, even in-house, because people didn’t want too many activities. They were comfortable with the laid-back system. So, I couldn’t change the place the way I wanted. But I did a lot.