Fellow Nigerians, please, let’s move away from the plethora of bad news today.
Everywhere you turn in the world it seems the world would soon come to an end. If it is not some terrorist bombs exploding and floating in the rarefied air like flying saucers it is news of some deranged person spraying bullets at school kids in America. The baddest news for us lately in Nigeria apart from the unending Boko Haram menace is that of the free fall of the Naira like kamikaze divers. I have never seen anything like it. It is big trouble for those who transact most of their businesses in foreign exchange and do importations. If your family lives abroad and you have school fees to pay you are just on your own.
But I want us to run away from all that migraine today and celebrate good news. As bad as things may seem, some Nigerians are marching forward, breaking down barriers and conquering territories. This period requires doing things differently. We need men and women of valour. Those who can take on humongous tasks without minding the encumbrances they are likely to encounter along the way. There is so much to learn from such people by many of our youths. Life is never a bed of roses. It is one of the reasons I love reading biographies. I also enjoy conducting interviews or reading those granted by iconic figures. They all have something in common; they had to ride through rough valleys and mountains of trouble to get to the top.
Many of our young ones missed the great businessman and political colossus called Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. No story was better told than the way he captured his grass to grace trajectory. Chief Abiola was greatly endowed and he was able to display exceptional brilliance early in life. From a poor background, he was able to attain a global status by dint of hard work and remarkable courage. His forays into telecommunications, agriculture, shipping, aviation, books and media at a relatively young age showed a man who was clearly ahead of his time. For him, the money he made was not as fulfilling as how much he contributed to charitable causes. He touched lives everywhere and became a global brand. He invested heavily in educating the poor and elevating them in life. He promoted the development of our youths through sports and became Africa’s Pillar of Sports. You can’t ever be great if you can’t do extraordinary things, Chief Abiola taught his disciples like me. I will recommend the teaching of Chief Abiola’s life in our school.
In my adult years, I have been privileged to meet and study the lives of many great Africans. I discovered nothing good comes easy. Everyone knows and talks about the Chairman of Globacom Dr Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Isola Adenuga today but they are not likely to know that the secret of his uncommon accomplishments is that of guts, hard work and tenacity. I remember one of the rarest interviews he granted Newswatch when his Consolidated Oil became the first indigenous company to strike oil in commercial quantity. The Newswatch scoop gave an insight into a man who took a risk too big for the faint-hearted. Those who should know knew that oil exploration was a most risky business but Dr Adenuga was undaunted. He had the agility of a bull. He had started business right from the time he was schooling in the United States of America and the Ijebu blood in him prepared him for the long voyage in business.
Dr Adenuga went into banking and single-handedly owned two prominent brands, DEVCOM Merchant Bank and Equitorial Trust Bank. He went into telecommunications and changed the landscape spectacularly. He made the impossible possible by empowering the poor and the rich alike. We often forget where we were at some point in time but some of us cannot forget those giant strides so quickly. Dr Adenuga did not stop there; he laid submarine cables from Europe to Africa to ensure a blistering internet speed. He ventured out and landed in Benin Republic and Ghana. He united Africa through football and entertainment. He supported our stars to live like their counterparts in Europe and America. There are endless testimonies to his generosity. It is painful when we don’t teach our youths about the pains that come with seeking greatness.
Barely eleven years ago, there was no Nigerian Bank in Ghana. The story we were told was that none could pass the stringent conditions laid down by the Bank of Ghana. What was more, Nigerians were largely perceived as fraudsters and harbingers of bad manners generally. But one man dared to be different and this banker Mr Tony Elumelu scaled all the huddles and the bank he led then, Standard Trust Bank became the first Nigerian financial institution to be licensed. Not just that, the much smaller bank soon acquired the powerful bank UBA and the rest is history. Today UBA has solid presence in about 19 African countries as well as Europe and America. Mr Elumelu also founded Heirs Holdings and has his fingers in many pies including power projects and hospitality business. The iconic banker has made spectacular impact as a philanthropist who has chosen to build a new crop of youthful entrepreneurs in Africa.
Permit me to give one more example of how Nigerians are performing wonders at home and abroad. My last but certainly not the least is the one and only Alhaji Aliko Dangote who has exploded on the world scene in the last couple of years. From doing commodities and making stupendous money he has become Africa’s leading industrialist with Dangote Cement becoming a major force on the African continent. There is no doubt that Dangote Cement will soon become number one in the whole of Africa and one of the largest in the world. Say what you will, this could not have been an easy feat. My mission is to encourage our young ones to grumble less and emulate these inspirational leaders. Alhaji Dangote at great risk has penetrated about 14 or more African countries and I have had the privilege of visiting some of his eye-popping plants. Nothing could be more daring than his refinery project I watched on television just days ago. By the time it is ready, Alhaji Dangote would have positioned himself as one of the most influential Africans ever.
What gladdens my heart today is that there are new Adenugas, Dangotes and Elumelus emerging and doing outstandingly well. I’m writing this piece in Cotonou, Benin Republic where a group of young Nigerians are set to build one of the biggest power plants for that small but ambitious country. Thanks to the opening up of the country to transparent investors by President Yayi Boni, Genesis Energy, led by its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Mr Akinwole Omoboriowo, has signed a Concession Agreement to execute a 360MW capacity Gas Powered Projects in the Republic of Benin. This agreement empowers Genesis Energy to “construct, own, operate, maintain and supply electricity to the national grid of the country.”
The projects are to be delivered in phases.The first phase of 120MW will be operated on a fast track basis from Maria Gleta through a piped gas to be supplied by the Nigerian Gas Company. The Power Purchase Agreement for duration of 20 years was signed between Genesis and the Benin Electric Power Corporation for the 120MW Power Project. The key partners in the project include General Electric, Engro Powergen Limited, Cummins Cogeneration (UK) Limited and Genesis. According to Genesis, “The power project will provide on completion over 30% of Benin’s current electricity demand.” It is good to see Nigerian companies spreading its wings everywhere and showing the world our capabilities. This Genesis has been doing for some time without making any noise about its achievement. A look at its projects portfolios is impressive. As far back as 2006, it did project in Guinea Bissau, a co-development of 50MW Emergency Power project in Ghana (2007), on grid generation in Sao Tome and Principe, off grid Distributed Power Project at NNPC’s Port Harcourt Refinery, name-plate power generation in Banana Island, Lagos; Calabar Free Zone off-grid project; multiple embedded generation for the Eko Electricity Distribution, etc.
As the former Governor of Oklahoma attested at a dinner in Cotonou days ago, the success of Genesis is rested mainly on its integrity and the rock-solid determination of its team. It is so wonderful to have such wonderful news come from non-Nigerians about Nigerians. It is only a matter of time before greater things begin to happen to us after all the bad stories we’ve had to endure over time.