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FASCISM ON COURSE-WOLE SOYINKA

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Wole Soyinka

 

It would appear that a record discharge of toxic sludge from our notorious smut factory is currently clogging the streets and sewers of the Republic of Liars. It goes to prove the point that provoked the avalanche EXACTLY! The seeds of incipient fascism in the political arena have evidentlymatured. A climate of fear is being generated. The refusal to entertain corrective criticism, even differing perspectives ofthe same position has become a badge of honour and certificate of commitment. What is at stake, ultimately is – Truth, and at a most elementary level of social regulation:when you are party to a conflict, you do not attempt to intimidate the arbiter, attempt to dictate the outcome, or impugn, without credible cause, his or her neutrality even before hearing has commenced. That is a ground rule of just proceeding. Short of this, Truth remains permanently elusive.

​The ensuing cacophony has been truly bewildering. It strikes me as a possible ploy to smother recent provocations by other, far more trenchant issues, such as revelations of declarations of a religious war. If so, let it be known that I have long declared war against religious fundamentalism, the nature of which justifies the butchery, kidnapping and enslavement of students in the name of religion. That aspirant’s alleged gaffe cuts no ice with me. Far more alarming was the grotesque fantasy of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court disguised as a wheelchair, zooming off in space to a secret meeting with other parties of the conflict. On its own, that is sufficiently scary. Swiftly followed thereafterby a television tirade of intimidation, it strikes one as more than the mere antics by the mentally deranged. The tactics are familiar: ridicule, incriminate, then intimidate. Objective:undermine the structure of justice. Just as a reminder: this writer was not being rhetorical when he declared, on exiting prison detention: Justice is the first condition of humanity.

​The instigating contest – Nigerian Democracy 2023 – has witnessed much that is innovative – largely in the retrogressive vein. Violence and ethnic profiling. “Spiritual” warfare in the shape of sacrificial rams to keep “disloyal” communities under restraint – in short, intimidation yet again!Easily overlooked however are those missives of violence directed against dissenting voices, real or suspect. Such, for instance, were the virulent attacks and threats to the musician Seun Kuti, his family and iconic music Shrine. His crime consisted of nothing more than declaring the name “Obidient” derogatory to his sense of civic dignity and activist history. Such beginnings – and instances are numerous – have culminated in the open intimidation of the Court of Last Resort, even before proceedings have begun. By the way, I do agree with Seun Kuti; ‘Obidients’ is one of the most repulsive, off-putting concoctions I ever encountered in any political arena. Some love it however, and this is what freedom is about. Choice. Taste. Free emotions. By contrast, I have no quarrel with “Yes Daddy”. Roman Catholics are used to saying “Yes, Father”. Secularists say “Enh, Baba”. The context and content are what matters, and lies – where established – raise bothersome issues such as Integrity Deficiency.

​Let us remind ourselves of the following: in any adjudication, society finds it unacceptable that a party to the dispute resort to influencing tactics by extra-judicial means – such as bribery. Intimidation and threats are merely the obverse complements of material inducement. Those who fail to appreciate this are entirely free to their existence in an illusory world.

We shall add the following pointer for this particular electoral tussle – the news may be unpleasant, but here it comes. Quite a few pundits have set out in some impressive – not necessarily persuasive – detail the possibility that the complainants in this presidential election are not as strongly planted on the victory podium as they presume – see, for instance – Ambassador Haastrup’s fascinating analysis inNewspeak etc. April 6. Right or wrong? That is not the issue. What the nations needs to know right now is if you areplanning to send assassins after such negative analysts!Coming to terms with an unpalatable projected eventuality – sorry – possible eventuality, counsels deep reflection, not demonization of the bearer of sour news. For the seriously committed, it requires pulling back the horns a little in order to regroup, rethink and resurge. Democracy is sometimes a long haul. Some of us have been at it for quite a while

​I am well aware that the foregoing is further invitation for more nauseous bilge from the besotted. Please, be my guest. It is, after all, one of those special seasons ofconvergence of two seasons of self-flagellation. Fasting makes bearers of constricted minds even more light-headed.Delusions fill the vacuum.

​Oh yes, could these rabid parochial minds of easyexcitation also kindly stop flattering themselves that one’senergies are consecrated solely to the nation space known as Nigeria? The whines of “silence” are relative to the reading scope and world knowledge of idle complainants as well as their grasp of the chain of continuity. I choose my methods of intervention without the permission of social media border patrols, so where you find a gap, just pick up the baton where last deposited and stop whining and belly-aching – “he stopped talking all this while, why now?” etc etc ad nauseum .Flat, easy disposable lies that gain traction by repetition. However, even more importantly, they remain irrelevant to the rights and wrongs of ongoing material issue. Sadly, these virtue vigilantes succeed with the ignorant and susceptible – especially among the younger, confused generation. The consequence is that the nation is plagued by fake CVs compiled by all kinds of amateur commentators, still wet behind the ears, who have too few truths to build on before they are corralled into positions of No-Retreat. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the effrontery of attempts to place the present contention on the same podium as the twenty-year old anti-Abacha struggle! This gross abuse of historic licence actually provides smug satisfaction for rookie activists. I advise them to seek out the school of survivors where pertinent lessons still exist for those with sufficient humility to LEARN before MOUTHING! Otherwise their world of false mythologies will collapse under their feet, and leave them dangling in the void.

​May I seize this opportunity, by the way, to condemn the sanctions imposed on CHANNELS Television which anchored the performance of the LP candidate. As stated, I watched the programme keenly – saw the valiant efforts of the interviewer to ensure fair hearing. I fail to understand just where the station could be faulted, except from a disposition for injustice. To sustain that penalty is to give joy to others who turn Internet into a soak-away for their rancid emissions, yet feel that others should be silenced. If CHANNELS feels up to it, I offer myself willing to engage Mr. Datti – or any nominee of his – on its platform on this very bone of contention – one-on-one – without the malodorousintervention of media trolls, and with the same interviewer as mediator. That should be taken as a serious offer.

​Project NIGERIA, I must confess, has become near terminally soul-searing. Do I still believe in it? I am no longer certain but – first we must rid ourselves of the tyranny of the ignorant and the opportunism of time-servers. In any case, there is not much else to engage one on a foundation of ownership stakes. There is of course, always the possibility ofa Revolution, with a clarity of purpose and acceptance of all attendant risks, including costly errors. Revolutions are nothowever based on the impetus of speculative power entitlement. No matter, until that moment, the structures that ensure just and equitable cohabitation must be protected from partisan appropriation – be it from material inducement, fake news, or verbal terrorism – the last being the contribution of one who is positioned to assume co-leadership of the nation, no less. Revolution is not about lining up behind the nearest available symbol. When a symbol does emerge however, we are still obliged to examine every aspect of what is fortuitously on offer, and continue to guard our freedoms every inch of the way.

Before I take myself off for – well, next port of call – thefinal word goes to a favourite maverick, propagated even as he matched his words by action. I suspect that in this instance we find ourselves on opposite sides of the strategic fence – that is democracy. This now coopted watchword of his formulation remains apt, applicable to all who strive for authentic social transformation: Your mummu done do!

Ramadan Kareem. Happy Easter!

Wole SOYINKA​

Opinion

Celebrating Dumo Lulu-Briggs Astuteness, Greatness and Grace at 60

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By: Oladapo Sofowora

When renowned playwright and dramatist, Professor Femi Osofisan aptly titled one of his literary masterpieces “Birthdays are not for dying’; he meant that the occasion of birthdays is a celebration simply meant for those living on Mother Earth that’s why it has remained a significant day in the life of every human to celebrates the gift of life. For Chief Dumo Lulu Briggs; the occasion of his 60th birthday today the 13th of June 2024 has availed him to reflect on redolent memories of the past and evaluate the years he spent in his bid to live for others.

 

It also availed him the opportunity to value life and enjoy it to the fullest paying attention to humanity and those around him. While he is currently witnessing the proverbial 7th Heaven typically of a woman who just gave birth to a baby, he would have loved to climb the highest mountain in a celebration mood shouting Hallelujah thanking his creator for the gift of Life, but for the celebrant; reflecting and appreciating life is something he will continue to do till the end of time; especially at a time when life expectancy in average Nigerian is below the age of 50. For him, his Birthday calls for a massive celebration that requires calling praise singers to sing his praise to the high heaven.

Gliding into age 60 is quite a big deal for Dumo; at a time when many who were born the same day and month as him have been taken by the dreaded grim reaper on a sojourn of no return. For him to still be breathing despite hot shots fired at his life against all odds is a reason for an elaborate celebration. During the last election, Chief Dumo Lulu Briggs faced challenges, including a life-threatening attack, his life flashed before his eyes, as his political convoy was attacked by some urchins and political thugs as pellets of bullets riddled his cars but he remained unscratched. Despite facing adversities, he has demonstrated resilience, hard work, and determination. His success as a billionaire and an influential figure in the Nigerian business landscape is a testament to his unwavering spirit and dedication. While growing up, his peers who were born with a silver spoon in their mouths were busy spending money on frivolities; depending on their parents’ deep pocket, he learnt the beauty of hard work, resilience and doggedness which today has placed him on a high pedestal as a billionaire and an oil mogul of high note in the Nigerian business space. For the birthday boy to have remained flourishing till date in Nigeria’s business terrain; he boasts of the heart of Hercules, the fearlessness of Achilles, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of Macaulay and the hide of a Rhinoceros. During his formative years, those who crossed his path disclosed that he was a man destined for greatness. His demeanour, aura, highly cerebral nature and ability to foresee opportunities in the very tightest situations have made him stand firm till now. He has remained timeless in his field as a successful lawyer and also as a business magnate in the Oil and gas business with his hands in other pies of business.

The paramount head, Oruwari Briggs War Canoe Houses of Abonnema in Rivers State Nigeria has continued to be a shining light in the country as he was lucky to have the blessings of his late father High Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs, OON, DCF who was National Vice Chairman, South-South of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the Second Republic, and late madam Irene Danagogo, both from Abonnema, in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, who ensured he was instilled with discipline which has helped guided his path to success till date. When the future was crystal clear for him he set forth the path of greatness after graduating from the Ahmadu Bello University with a degree in Law and also a Master’s degree (LLM) in Law from the prestigious London School of Economics (University of London); and was called to the Nigerian Bar in October 1986. He did his National Youth Service at the Institute of Legal Administration, Katsina State Polytechnic, Katsina, from 1988 –1989. He was in Private Legal Practice from 1989 to 1994. Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs is a Member of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the International Bar Association (IBA). He has also attended several executive leadership courses at Harvard, Cambridge and the Southern Methodist University, SMU, Dallas, Texas.

While gathering all these experiences as a young man, he never failed to imbibe the spirit of philanthropy which he got from his late father whom he shared a great bond until the moment he left this world. Chief (Barr) Dumo Lulu-Briggs has an excellent and distinguished working career in the private and public sectors in Nigeria. He was the legal adviser/company secretary and contributing editor to Associate Media Limited 1990 – 1991, Solicitor and Notional Head of Chambers, Edu & Mohammed (Solicitor) 1991 – 1992, Principal partner in Nwoka & Lulu-Briggs Law office from 1992 – 1998. He also worked as Company secretary/Legal adviser to Moni Pulo Limited (Petroleum Development), while he served as the Managing Director, Pioneer Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of Moni Pulo Limited; an indigenous, independent oil and gas exploration and Production Company from 1995 to 2004 a company owned by his late father.

After gathering enough experience, Chief (Barr) Dumo Lulu-Briggs founded and sits as Chairman, of Platform Petroleum Limited, a reputable indigenous oil exploration and prospecting company and Chairman of DLB Group of Companies. Despite all these achievements at a relatively young age, he opted to serve his people as he delved into politics in 1992 when he contested for the House of Representative seat for Akuku-Toru Federal Constituency seat on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Thereafter he became the National Assistant Legal Adviser for the Grassroot Democratic Party from 1996 – 1998. He was the Governorship candidate, of the National Democratic Party, for Rivers State, in 2003, and also in 2015 contested for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) nomination as Governorship candidate at the Party’s primary election. While he has decided to take a back seat in politics for now, he remains a force to reckon with in the Rivers State political terrain and also a respected grassroots mobilizer who boasts of occultism followership.

Dumo has remained a man of culture and tradition and he has never shied away from it. He wears his Africaness on his sleeves like a badge of honour more reason he has remained a man who believes in development through culture and upholding the tenets of his traditional heritage. He holds various traditional titles and also in his community he is an opinion leader.
In his quest to develop his people through education empowerment, he yearly doles out awards scholarships to indigent students from Rivers State across the 23 LGAs in the state as part of his Corporate Social Responsibility CSR. He also hands out financial assistance to the downtrodden also payment of medical bills for sick people. He is a man who gives without blinking an eye more reason why beneficiaries of his philanthropy gestures are praying fervently for him to live longer than his father. As Chief Dumo Lulu Briggs celebrates his 60th birthday, it is a time to acknowledge his accomplishments, express gratitude for his life’s journey, and honour his contributions to society. This milestone marks not only a personal achievement but also a legacy of resilience, leadership, and kindness.

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Business

The Remarkable Journey of Access Holdings

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This year marks 22 years since two young Nigerian bankers – Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede and Herbert Wigwe – bought a small, nondescript bank and turned it into one of the biggest financial institutions on the continent with footprint also established in Europe and Asia. It was on March 22, 2002, that the two walked into Plot 1669 Oyin Jolayemi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, which was then the corporate headquarters of the bank to assume duty and full control as the Managing Director and Deputy Managing Director. The acquisition process had taken about two years and entailed rigorous negotiations, and countless hours of working through documentation. It was one of the most audacious takeovers in the history of the nation’s financial industry. Indeed, the phenomenal growth of the Access Group has become an inspiring success story.

Shortly after the takeover, Access Bank embarked on a five-year transformation agenda, and two years into the plan, the CBN announced the N25 billion capitalisation deadline set for end of December 2005. The institution’smanagement went to work, raising the required capital and developing the impetus to seek opportunities for possible mergers and acquisitions. Recognising the opportunity that existed to build scale, the institutionmobilised its workforce and quickly raised N15 billion viaa public offer, acquired two other small banks, Capital Bank Ltd. and Marina International Bank Ltd., and convinced FMO, the Netherland development finance company, to become an institutional investor through the conversion of a $15 million term loan it had earlier givento the bank. With the N25 billion capitalisation met and surpassed, the race to the top became a fixed goal to the new owners. They then embarked on aggressive drive to raise money both from local and foreign capital markets.

Between 2006 and 2007, Access Bank raised a local bond issue of N11.9 billion and in 2007 it raised N136 billion in public offerings, including a highly successful and oversubscribed GDR (global depository receipt) and established Access Bank UK. In June 2008, the beginning of the second five-year transformation plan, every action was geared at taking the institution to the top. Between 2009 and 2011, the bank passed CBN’s special audit on governance, liquidity and capital adequacy conducted under the tough-talking Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. Three major achievements were also recorded. The bank was awarded IFC Sustainable Bank of the Year; it acquired Intercontinental Bank and was ranked the fourth largest bank in Nigeria as a result of the acquisition.

With these successes, a huge surge of confidence and can-do spirit have by now swept through the entire workforce. Staffers went through a rigorous process of reorientation and change of the bank’s vision and mission; and with business combination with Intercontinental completed in 2012, management staff assumed bigger roles and responsibilities. Access Bank became one of the favourite places to work for bankers from other institutions. The bank was enjoying the pulsating work pace and dynamic work environment, enthralled in seeing the dream of being in the top five becoming a reality year after year.

That same 2012 and spanning 2013, the bank raised $350 million Eurobond in the international market and divested from non-banking subsidiaries. It was also designated as a significant important financial institution by the CBN, one of the very few in the industry. This means a recognition of its huge footprint in the economy, the integrity and respect of its leaders and the fact that the bank could not be allowed to fail under any circumstance. It is for this reason that the CBN recently intervened in the board and management composition of one bank. Another huge milestone came in 2014 when Access Bank issued $400 million subordinated note (tier 2 bond) and transited into a large, diversified banking institution.

In January 2014, Herbert Wigwe assumed duty as the Group Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, after the retirement of Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede. With enormous goodwill and attractive brand equity, the bank continued to outpace its contemporaries. In 2017, it further shored up its capital by raising N42 billion through rights issue and issued another $300 million subordinated note.

But it was its merger with Diamond Bank in 2018 that catapulted Access Bank to the number one slot in at least some parameters: assets and retail business with 646 branches. It also recorded the biggest channel touchpoints: 38 million cards; 3,000 ATMs and 34,000 POS terminals. In 2019, Access bank issued the first green bond in Nigeria. In 2020, it expanded its African business into Kenya and Mozambique and became the first Nigerian bank to set up shop in South Africa. A few weeks ago, the South African ambassador to Nigeria was on TV commending the bank for establishing a branch in his country.

In 2022, Access Bank marked the final year of its previous five-year strategy, which focused on building Africa’s gateway to the world, through the deployment of robust risk management practices, and a flawless execution of its strategic priorities. By all key metrics, the strategy was successfully executed as the bank grew its scale to span over 6,000 dedicated professional staff serving over 52 million customers across 17 markets worldwide.

In the second half of 2022, Access Bank was restructured into a Holding Company – birthing Access Holdings – to realise the potential of the synergies from the various businesses, while expanding product offering to customers in payments, insurance, consumer finance and pensions.

True to plan, Access Holdings, in 2023, launched its operations in Paris, setting the tone for a robust long-term goal across the Northern Hemisphere. The Group has also strategically ventured into new territories, bringing its expertise, resources, and innovative solutions to areas with immense growth potential. These strategic moves exemplify the company’s vision to be a pan-African force, contributing to economic development across borders. Through its subsidiaries, the institution has played a pivotal role in sectors ranging from finance and banking to agriculture, technology, and healthcare, bringing diverse opportunities to the communities it serves.

In countries where Access Holdings has established a presence, the institution has become a driving force for job creation and entrepreneurship. Access Holdings has sown the seeds of sustainable economic development by supporting Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs), investing in local businesses, and providing financial solutions tailored to the needs of each market.

The company’s ability to adapt its business model to the unique dynamics of each African market sets it apart, as it recognises that Africa is not a monolithic entity, but a collection of diverse economies with distinct challenges and opportunities. Through its expansion strategy, the institution tailors its approach to address the specific needs of each region, contributing to a more inclusive and holistic development across the continent.

Commencing in the second half of 2024, the Group’s Africa and international expansion strategy will enter the consolidation and efficiency phase, aligning with the institution’s five-year plan to accelerate the attainment of its 2027 strategic objectives.

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Opinion

Tokunbo Wahab: Restoring Sanity to Achieve A Greater Lagos Rising

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By: Oladapo Sofowora

Barrister Tokunbo Phillip Wahab is a man who is not swayed by frivolous things or sentiments. He is not like other public servants who are in it for personal gain. His foray into politics is to make a difference because of his upright nature. Those who know him describe him as fearless, unperturbed, and unbothered by anything. As a lawyer, he was outspoken, coherent, distinct, articulate, elegant, and highly cerebral. He knows the legal profession like the back of his hand and can cross-examine in the court with ease. He would have attained the highest legal title in the land as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria if he continued practising. However, he chose to put his knowledge into public service, and he has not regretted it since.

Tokunbo’s style is distinct, and he is a stickler for success. He believes that things should be done the right way to achieve great results. As Special Adviser to Governor Babajide Sanwoolu on Education, he spearheaded the biggest turnaround in the educational sector in Lagos. He revamped the educational template of Lagos to meet global standards, upgraded colleges of education, and polytechnics to universities, and ensured teachers were dishing out quality education inline with the THEMES agenda. He monitored and ensured quality delivery in the education sector, and his strides in that sector have been unmatched since he left to serve in another capacity. Despite the global pandemic that took students out of class for a long time, Wahab ensured that the educational calendar in Lagos was not tampered with, displaying Lagos status as the true Centre of excellence. He ensured the calendar was followed to the core, as there was no break in transmission like other states witnessed. With all his giant strides, Governor Sanwoolu immediately redeployed him to his new role as the Commissioner of Environment and Water Resources during the beginning of his second tenure.

When he was sworn in as a Commissioner; it didn’t take him less than a week to settle in and read the riot act to workers in the ministry and also erring Lagosians who are in the habit of polluting Lagos through waste, air, noise, and encroached builders on areas reserved as green areas or those blocking the drainage channel for easy movement of rain water. He displayed his negotiating ability by inviting all critical stakeholders for dialogue while he also highlighted the importance of removing contravening buildings stopping water flow into the canal to ensure Lagos is not flooded during the rainy season. He also rejigged the once moribund Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) and Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), which are now charged with the responsibility of enforcing complaints written by many on the issues of indiscipline, and the Lagos Environment Protection Authority has been on their toes receiving petitions and carrying out enforcement.

To make the work easy, he ensured the running of open-door policing and also opened his lines and other channels of communication for speedy action. On several occasions, he has received complaints on social media and acted on them at the speed of light, which has earned him the commendation of many. While his approach has restored the confidence of people in government agencies functioning optimally, Tokunbo is not relenting in his quest to restore more sanity to Lagos so it can be an eco-friendly and habitable haven for all in line with the United Nations Environment Organization terms. Non compliance Hotels, religious houses, entertainment hubs have been locked due to one infraction or the other in other to restore sanity within the Lagos Metropolis.

While Tokunbo is doing his job, many won’t know that back door discharging his duties is a Herculean task. Many elites have complained to the authorities about his no-bending style, but Tokunbo has said that he will do everything within his power to ensure things are done according to the law and also in due process without minding whose ox is gored. Some allegedly top political stakeholders were culpable when he was demolishing houses that encroached on drainage setbacks, but Tokunbo didn’t mind their emotional blackmail and campaign of calumny on the media instead of him to slow down he intensified his effort. He has always said posterity will judge him for doing the right thing and everyone will thank and appreciate the Governor Sanwo-olu led government for the job they are doing when the result becomes more evident. While many have resorted to sponsoring media campaigns to soil the name he has built, he has identified them as cheap blackmail and will not in any way deter him from doing the right thing.

For Tokunbo, at his current level he is not particular about wealth, he has accomplished virtually everything he wants at a relatively young age, but politics for him is an avenue to give back to his immediate society. Despite his standing order to do the right thing, on a lighter note, the Epe born generous money bag is a fun and compassionate person. Those who have been with him can disclose the fact that he is a man who loathes the sight of another man in distress; he is always ready to assist. Despite trying hard to stay out of the media cynosure for the good things he does, his name has continued to remain a recurring decimal in the media for philanthropy and also cheerful giving and service to humanity. In his personal capacity; he has sponsored plenty children to school at all levels, he has sponsored free health checkup and operation for many people, he has constantly provided edible items to the downtrodden and constantly doles largess to many who are on his payroll. Tokunbo believes he has made a name for himself, but one thing remaining is to cement a long-lasting legacy that the generation unborn will admire and applaud.

As the popular parlance says, the reward of a job well done is more job. Wahab is not resting on his oars anything soon until he achieves his main goal of restoring sanity to achieving a better Lagos rising like the morning sun. He believes there is nowhere like home, putting Lagos on the pedestal of other developed cities across the world. To achieve that, it will require deviating from the norm and that what he is currently championing.

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