Valentine Ozigbo: Beyond Anambra governor to redeeming the black man

By Editor on 26/06/2020

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Ozigbo

If you had the opportunity of shaking hands with at least 30 presidents across the world every year, it confirms you as a global personality. If before your 50th birthday, you had soared through a career progression to sit atop the pinnacle of a Hilton brand with garlands of accolades round your neck from some of the greatest global institutions in the industry, it confirms ability, talent, competency and performance.

If you left one of the highest paying jobs in the world that opens you up to all manner of seducing opportunities, to wade into the uncharted waters of politics, just because you want to uplift your people by giving back to them, it confirms passion. If in times of serious economic crisis, worsened by the effects of COVID-19, you are prepared to throw in as much as N100million in bank guarantees just to ensure that your people benefit from a palliative scheme, it confirms you are real and walking the talk.

These are ostensibly part of the testimonials Valentine Ozigbo, would be bringing on the table the day he would be called upon to pitch for the job of the number one citizen in Anambra State at the time it would matter the most.

Certainly, there are so many factors that must have come into play, by the time Anambra goes into the next governorship election in 2021, part of which would require that each of the aspirants and later, candidates, being asked to come forward like the biblical parable of the talents to show what they have done with the opportunities they have been given by the land that sired them.

For the heavyweights that have lined up in the chase for the Anambra State Government House, popularly known as Agu Awka, it is seems not about having loads of money in the bank or showcasing tall academic and professional credentials, but how those endowments have been brought to bear in touching the lives of the people in the past, what is their takings now and what they would have to look on to in future.

That apparently underscores the current enthusiasm in the camp of Chineto Ozigbo Foundation led by Chineto Valentine Ozoigbo, before now the President of Transnational Corporation (TRANSCORP) Plc, owners of the celebrated Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, arguably the biggest, influential and most prestigious hotel in Nigeria and Africa.

Bubbling with zeal, the camp seems impatient to hear the blast of the gun for the race to commence proper, so as to take over and unleash the knowhow that would wake up Anambra, the sleeping giant, which once produced the human resources that gave Nigeria a head-start in socio-political and economic advancement, not only in African but among its contemporaries across the world, before the bubble burst.

Ozigbo himself captures this enthusiasm, by telling anyone that cares to listen that an opportunity to call the shots as the governor of Anambra State would lead to unfurling the potentials that would not only make the state cynosure of all eyes, but capable of curing the black man of its major debilitating malaise –stunted growth embedded in inadequate self-discovery.

Hear him: “I want to seize an opportunity to transform Anambra and set a new standard for governance in Nigeria. When I think of the place of a black man in the world, I feel that we are doing badly, we are poorly positioned and there is not much to change the narrative in the short run.

“I am discussing this from a very informed perspective because I know the issues. In fact, people have taken this argument to the level of ‘are we cursed or are we the cause?’ The question remains, ‘is something wrong with the black skin?’ Why do we prove our critics right?

“We try to explain this with all sorts of reasons ranging from slavery, racism, conspiracy against the black man and all manner of theories. Now we have some good examples in Senegal, Ghana, and Rwanda where they are doing great things. When I analyse these, I come to the conclusion that nothing is wrong with us. We just haven’t got our acts right.


“One of the philosophies I hold dear which is actually a recipe for our solution is building a culture of continuous improvement. No matter whatever thing we are doing in the world, there is always a better way of doing it. It is just a change for the better. It is about challenging the status quo. That is what is ruling the world. Africans don’t want to invest in research.

“What I am saying is, nothing is wrong with us. We are wrong with ourselves. I feel I have a bit that I can contribute in changing the story of the black man in the world. I want to change that narrative. I don’t need to become Nigerian president to do so. I can actually start in Anambra to show the example. I want to use Anambra as an example of what a black man can do to govern ourselves, change our story and have a state we can be proud of. That’s my motivation.”

This, he says, is the raison d’etre for quitting not only one of Nigeria’s best paid jobs, but one that gives him so much leverage to perhaps the highest circle of influential people around the world – Presidents of countries, Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of global corporations and developmental institutions, celebrities in sports, entertainment, the academia and professions.

Incidentally, and surprisingly, he is doing this at the turn of just 50, when many of his contemporaries are at the peak of enjoying the life of success. Why? Passion to give back to humanity and a life that has given him so much, he says. He even thinks he is not early enough.

Hear him: “I actually consider 50 an age of maturity. I always tell myself that I should have done this much earlier because the best time to impact on humanity is at your youthful age. And the definition of youth is when you are in your prime. People who are ruling the world today, mention them, check actually when they made their most marks. Look at Mark Zuckerberg and some of the youths currently making the wave across the world. Let us even look back at some of those people that led us in the military era. No matter how good or bad they performed, they started at a younger age.

“In Nigeria, we keep recycling old age and not experience. There is a saying that a man who has done the same kind of thing over and over is simply one year old in that experience multiplied by that number of years. Therefore, until we begin to do new things in our life, and allow younger ones whose ingenuity, creativity, imagination is actually stronger we may not get Nigeria working. So, at 50, I feel it is not such a young age.

“If you bring this to the age of retirement in Nigeria, you may be right because people don’t retire at 50. The good news is that I am not retiring. I am actually looking forward to taking up a much bigger role in the public service. I am looking forward to impacting on far more lives in the next couple of years than I have done in the last 50 years. I am looking forward to, hopefully, shaping a better future for our generations yet unborn so that they can look back and be proud of us.

“I am in a hurry to do this because I will feel unaccomplished if certain changes do not take place in my life time. I feel that I am done with sitting by the side criticising how badly Nigeria has been run as a country when I can volunteer myself to add my own little quota.

“So, I had to leave the job I consider one of the best in Nigeria – the Presidency and CEO of Transcorp – with all the privileges to consider the possibility of governing Anambra State after the current administration. That’s the reason I had to leave Transcorp.”

To the time-tested argument that all politics is local, Ozigbo also has that covered. His outreach to the grassroots in the state, he says, qualifies him as a homeboy, who is not strange to the people and the communities. Having grown from the grassroots to reach at the peak, he insists has never severed his link with that level of the society.

With that steady touch over the years, embedded in philanthropy and revving the potentials of the people, he adds that has been able to hone a relationship that gives him an impetus to claim dividends of support that would enable him do even greater things for the same people in future.

Through his Chineto Ozigbo Foundation, he has organised leadership trainings, youth empowerment schemes, scholarship programmes, support for the widows, the church, the communities, talent hunt competitions, singing, dancing competitions and carnivals where I that bring thousands of youths together.   

“I used to organise business plan competitions where we gather people to talk about business ideas that they have and the best among them we gave the opportunity to start up their businesses. First prize, for instance, would win N2million cash, N1 million for second prize, third prize N1million and then other consolation prizes. We've also had a talent hunt, where we allow people to participate in competitions like acting, dancing, drama and music and comedy as well. What we used to do then, I take a lot of Nollywood guys to my village, organise people from around the close neighborhood and we do these events and end up with a carnival where I've brought a lot of A-list artists, Flavour, Zoro, Simi and co to perform on the ground. And you'd see over 10,000 youths gathering and having a good time.

“I have also been in several other things, I am the Chairman of Unusual Entrepreneur which we started in 2018 when I became the chairman of Unusual Praise, the largest catholic gospel event in Africa. We started our entrepreneurship programme to bring economic empowerment within the church so that as people also are asking that there's a lot that we need to do, we have more churches than we have more industries, so we can begin to leverage the church and other religious bodies to begin to impact positively, economically as well.

“So I think that could be the best of two worlds where you gain your spiritual knowledge and still do things for your living and leverage successes from fellow parishioners and church members.

“And then Feet 'N' Tricks International, a sports promotion company is the biggest promoter of freestyle football in Africa. This is something I picked from just seeing an idea on social media and I decided to register this company with the likes of Kanu Nkwankwo. We started this competition in 2017 and last year when I organised the last event, we had 30 countries on our soil here in Lagos.

“The idea is to create another platform to empower the younger ones, the youths. And it's for men and women. This year, for instance, we are going to start up the competition virtually, from July 1st and I'm happy to share more information on this. What you could see for me that I would summarise in the next slides,” he says.

Most recently, he demonstrated this with two key interventions, one in his personal capacity and the other with Anambra State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to help the ordinary people withstand the effects of the current devastating COVID-19 were carried out in this regard.

Aside providing palliatives in terms of food items and other commodities for his community and surrounding villages, to the tune of N20million, he took a bold step to raise a staggering N100million in bank guarantees to indigenes of Anambra State wishing to draw from the N50billion released by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for small time businesses in Nigeria.

This was apart from the donation of N5million cash to the PDP effort, totaling N125million, put up by leaders and members in the state to procure basic essentials to fight the disease in addition to providing palliatives to the people.  


Why this gesture? He says it is a way of ensuring that the opportunity provided by the loan is not missed by the people, especially as the coming months would be quite dire in the country, economically.

His words: “I come from a background of deep understanding of finance and appreciation of issues. The CBN had put out N50 billion Intervention Funds. I was concerned with my people from Anambra and the problem of mistrust.

“They may ignore the facility with the insinuation that the beneficiaries had been decided beforehand. What I am doing is bringing their consciousness to it and creating awareness. I am encouraging them to go and apply and not give up. I know that in asking them to apply, one of the problems they are going to face is guarantee. So, I want to unlock the opportunities for Ndi Anambra. I want them not to have reason not to take advantage of the facility. Let the failure come from the authorities, for whatever reasons.

“So, I bring those items I call three solutions in one – awareness, the guarantee and of course, the advisory. I am saying to them, ‘if you run into trouble, I am available’. I have tidied up the arrangement with two other microfinance institutions that I actually have stake in.”

To the PDP intervention, he adds that it came in two folds. First it emphsised that the party was travelling on the route of self-rediscovery in terms of unity and the other the humanitarian bent of the gesture.

His words: “I have to say that my respect for Governor Obi has gone a notch up because it was actually his idea. He called me to say that he had reached out to other key stakeholders and asked that we respond. He first acknowledged all that I had done as a private individual using my foundation where I had spent over N20 million on palliatives, buying rice, hand sanitisers, facemasks and other activities.

“He acknowledged some of those things and said, this time, let’s do something collectively. I loved the sound of it because one of the things I had feared about PDP in Anambra was unity.

“The truth is that Anambra belongs to PDP. The only reason why it had had problems at governorship election is multiple camps; people moving towards different directions when it comes to governorship. If you want to test what I am saying, check the way the national elections go. With that, you will know that actually Anambra belongs to PDP. So, the attempt to bring us under one umbrella which is what PDP symbolises, is the first thing I want to applaud.

“Secondly, the sheer level of generosity I saw in the people especially those in elected offices giving back to the people from the nice figures they have been paid over the years, it’s good that the masses are benefitting from such.

“The fear really was that COVID-19 might not kill many Nigerians but its impact can lead to hunger that could kill more Nigerians. So, to provide those comforts would go a long way, especially with our most vulnerable who are actually the targets of the palliatives. There is also another part of it which is building a Test Centre in Anambra which I consider very laudable because with that, we are able to identify cases better than what currently obtains regarding travelling to Edo State many times for the tests.”

Ozigbo sees himself very qualified for the job, not only because of his superlative academic records or his meteoric rise in his 25-year job progression, 17 of which was in the banking industry, but because of his high network of connections, coupled with his deep passion for humanity and care for the next person.

He adds: “Anambra people know that I am one of the most connected in the state because of the privileges I had in my working life. And in all of this, I came out unscathed; no scandal! They know my story of leading a company (TRANSCORP) with the highest number of shareholders in Nigeria – almost 300,000 shareholders and taking it to where it is, and may be also, being one of the most decorated men in Nigeria, leading an organisation that has won series of awards in Spain, Greece and other countries. Maybe with these feats, they will be convinced that competency is not lacking in me.

“I think they have the confidence that if there is any one that will take them to the new reality, they will see such in me. We are preparing ourselves to compete favourably with the best in any part of the world. They have that confidence in us.”

Indeed, Ozigbo stands on a good ground to make such a claim. Trasncorp Hilton, Abuja, ensconces a mini Nigeria in its bowels. It is a convergence ground for the high and mighty, not only in the country but beyond – a rendezvous for the movers and shakers of the society – government, politics, businesses, industries, financial institutions, the professions, et al. Metaphorically, sitting atop the magnificent structure, as the CEO, somewhat mimics presiding over Nigeria in a way.

Having a direct eye-contact with Aso Rock, conduces some kind of shared power and influence, by its highest officer in such a manner that would make him exude enough influence and dispense privileges like the seat of power itself.

He admits this much adding that he had actually dispensed such privileges to the extent that many people in high places in Nigeria owe him one favour or the order. In politics, this is a great advantage during a period of payback.

But, is this all that he needs to take over Anambra after the blast of the whistle? Perhaps not! Indeed other factors, including that the zoning arrangement being touted as a big issue in the coming contest, have equally come into the fray.

However, this also favours him, coming from the Anambra Central, the only zone that has not occupied the seat since the return of democracy in 1999.  

In fact, he agrees even to the extent of arguing that any contestant from other zones would be a clear joker, because the groundswell of opinions resonating with the people clearly indicates a fait accompli for the Central. Yet, he insists that competence and merit remained the major factor.

He says: “I will like not to be seen as a candidate that emerged as a result of zoning. I am rather in this race because I consider myself, far more qualified, far more competent, with all sense of humility than the names I have seen in the race so far. I feel that the exposures I have had, the experience, the network, goodwill, my level of emotional intelligence, my sense of purpose, my strategic foresight, my critical thinking nature, have prepared me well enough for the assignment I am going for. So, zoning or no zoning, I am in a position to win the governorship of Anambra State.

“Once the momentum is in favour of a particular zone, it makes no sense trying to change it. Once you go against the momentum, you are bound to fail. My advice to people who are not from Anambra South who are in this race, is, not to search for what is not theirs. If there are other reasons they are in this race, they can go ahead. But if it is about being the next governor of Anambra State, I might as well advise them to save their money because no matter what, you cannot play God; certainly not in Anambra.

“But, you do not just go for people because they are from your zone. Vote for people who are from that zone but who are competent. This is where I fit into the best of the two worlds.”

His mission statement reads: “I’m committed to creating a brighter future for the The Light of The Nation, Anambra!” Would he have the opportunity to make that happen? Tic-tac, says the clock!

 

 

 

 

Source Whirlwindnews.com

Posted on June, 26 2020

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