Can Nigeria afford to ignore Uba at this time?

By Sunny Igboanugo on 26/02/2016

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How does one describe Ifeanyi Uba? Is he a money miss road rabble rouser that just wants to be heard? Is he an ambitious little lad who came into too much wealth that he thinks he can buy himself fame, position and influence? Or is he a patriotic Nigerian, who, having made so much money at such a young age, is imbued by the fire of patriotism and wants to follow the pattern in other climes, where the rich embrace the noble idea of giving back to the society from which they benefitted so much?

Whatever is the case, there is no denying the fact, that this young man, who just turned 40, has somehow, etched his image in the nation’s consciousness in a very dramatic and peculiar manner.

Of course, quite a number, still stung by anger over his bid, as the purveyor of the Transition Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN), which undertook the ill-fated project of returning former President Goodluck Jonathan to power against all odds, may be tempted to simply dismiss him as a business man, who, in all things business, is looking for some form of profit, be it protection of his empire, political power or simply more money.

Indeed, since, as Shakespeare wrote, there is no art to read the mind’s construction on the face, there is no way of ascertaining the real motive and driving force, in some of his activities in the past few years, either in his attempt to be the governor of his home, Anambra State, the Jonathan project or his most recent undertaking - electing to play the role of a nemesis to Nigeria’s economic saboteurs. Yet, it has become quite clear that there is something here that must stoke the consciousness of those who truly love this country.



Certainly, only very few, would have forgotten what Nigeria was like in the wake of the transition of government from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the current All Progressives Congress (APC). It was as if the devil itself had come down from the coven of hell, to give Nigerians a practical foretaste of what his kingdom feels like. Whatever Nigerians had suffered before, simply paled into insignificance as what they thought to be a stray animal that could be contained in the usual manner it was dealt with before, became a strange monster threatening to stamp them to death. It was like a huge pall was thrown around the country, from the darkness that practically enveloped everywhere, real and figuratively.

Uncertainty, exasperation and genuine fear of the inevitable became rife. Jonathan had decided to crash Nigeria, the doomsday prediction of the US that Nigeria would be no more by 2015 is here. It is over, became the eerie mantra.   

However, that afternoon of May 24, 2015, five days to the inauguration of Buhari, the echo from Uba’s media interaction reverberated across the land. It bore more than a ray of hope to the nightmare of a totally trounced and traumatised nation.

Playing the patriotism card, Uba, had told reporters how he would not want to join forces with those whose activities were capable of destroying the country. What to do? From that day, 500 trucks laden with petrol would leave his tank farm in Lagos on daily basis to different destinations in the country. He promised to sustain this till normalcy returned. Of course, the problem was not solved instantly. But it helped. Not only did it redirect the finger-pointing away from Jonathan and his men, it gave impetus to exposing the unconscionable cabal in the oil industry. But, more importantly, even as a palliative, it continued to nibble at the crisis until the cabal felt quite uncomfortable to continue.

Now, the reason why the Nnewi-born multi-billionaire decided to break away from what ordinarily ought to be a comfort zone, being a major player, could be as varied as those who interpret it. But the most important takeaway remains that he did something – something unusual that counted.   

It is against this backdrop that his current outing regarding the runaway fate of the Naira, should at least rouse national collective attention. It is a bad father that would dismiss continuously a child that wants to draw his attention to something in the dreamful and arrogant belief that it was another irascible and recalcitrant prank. Experience has shown that such indifferent attitude, had on occasions resulted to regrettable fatalities. If a dog pulls at its master’s trousers, wags its tail and runs to a direction, it is time to follow a trail. It is unwise not to do so.

That Uba, is up again at a time virtually every Nigerian, from the pure water seller to the financial analysts at Broad Street, to the policy makers in Abuja, are beside themselves over the crisis brought about by the crash of the Naira, is something that must be taken quite seriously.

Why? He is neither just any other scallywag around the corner, nor an area boy that could be dismissed as talking out of certain influences. He is in the business of money making and has made a success of it. Whatever made it possible for him be so rich at his age, must interest everybody, no less at this time Nigeria is at its economic nadir. Pride must be withstood at this time, because the issue at hand is about survival.

What is more? It can’t just be a loose talk for him to ask the country to take over his multi-billion Naira assets if he failed to restore the value of the Naira to N200 to a dollar in 30 days. It’s no mean talk either. Anybody willing to take that risk, must have something up somewhere. At least, it would be enough compensation for the pain Nigerians would undergo, if it is a waste of time. But it is not worthless to try.

In fact, if it is true that Buhari has actually invited him for the purpose of proving himself, then, nothing could be more cheery. For one, it shows the President is not only listening, but genuinely interested in finding solution to the crisis currently besetting the country, beyond foreign lands. After all, what he may be looking for in Sokoto, may actually be hiding somewhere in his sokoto trouser. There may also be so many Ubas out there today. Nigeria must not ignore them at this time.

What makes Uba so bold, must lead somewhere. Take that to the bank.


Igboanugo, a journalist, wrote from Abuja



Posted on February, 26 2016

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