Fellow Nigerians, the story you are about to read is a tale of my miraculous existence. It is my mini-biography as I try to paint a picture of how I left the ancient town of Ile-Ife and headed to Lagos, in search of greener pastures. My first love had always been teaching. How I love teachers. In those good old days, teachers were Lords, and I was surrounded by them. My older brother is a Professor. My older sister is a teacher. Her husband was my school Principal. I started teaching A-Level at the age of 22, in 1982, the very year I graduated from the University of Ife, with a first degree in Yoruba. Prior to that, I was a primary school teacher in a remote village, at the age of 16, after my secondary education. Life was much better then. During my post-graduate studies at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, from 1986-88, I did part-time teaching in the English Department, under what was known as General Studies, which was compulsory. I was very proud of my ability to transfer knowledge to younger ones.
My dream was to remain a teacher, till eternity, marry a teacher, and live happily thereafter. But fate played a fast one on me. As I concluded my Master’s degree in Literature-in-English, I tried everything humanly possible to get a teaching appointment but the military government had placed embargo on appointments and promotions in tertiary institutions. I was totally devastated. All my friends had jobs, most of them as lecturers on campus, but I was the only jobless one. At a stage, I became desperate. My unlettered mum had struggled to send me to school. How come I was finding it tough to get a job despite working assiduously on two degrees?
Journalism was never under consideration for me. I had tried to read Law after my first degree but that also didn’t fly for me. I applied but my application was declined. Had I been the superstitious type, I would have thought some witches and wizards were on my case. That was the mind-set in those days. But my best friend, Prince Damola Aderemi, turned out to be an oracle. He suggested I should be writing and making scholarly contributions to different publications. Why not, I soliloquised. I believe, I was born to write, and also to fly. Writing and flying have been my incurable addictions. I acquired my writing skills from reading widely and voraciously. I’m very greedy about books, I must confess.
So I started writing articles for the Sunday Tribune in Imalefalafia, Ibadan, and The Guardian newspapers at Rutam House, near Mafoluku/Oshodi and I was thrilled endlessly. Only The Guardian paid me a stipend of N25 per article. I would wait till the fourth publication before travelling from Ife to Lagos, to collect N100. Half bread was better than none. This actually became a smart move. The articles popularised and registered me for a future career in writing, journalism and public relations. My style was heavily influenced and customised by my background in Yoruba language and English Literature, an uncommon combination. My writings gave me some incredible visibility. I would soon get an invitation from my friend, Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, of blessed memory, to visit Lagos and seek a job from the African Guardian magazine, but the arrangement failed. Onukaba then suggested I should try the African Concord magazine, owned by Chief Moshood Abiola, and I was offered a job on the spot by one of Nigeria’s most cerebral editors, Lewis Obi. I resumed work on May 2, 1988. My life will never be the same again.
My immediate challenge was how to survive in a big city like Lagos. I had to squat with friends at different times and locations in Lagos. Let me leave the details for another day, in my main biography. Lagos was a different reality for me. I was pushed to work so much to make ends meet. I took advantage of writing for most of the eight titles under the Concord Press of Nigeria and was soon noticed and noted by my bosses, including Managing Director, Dr Doyinsola Abiola, and Chairman, Chief Moshood Abiola, who wondered how I managed to proliferate my by-lines in different newspapers published by them. Within months, I was transferred from African Concord to Weekend Concord as a pioneer staff under the Editorship of Mr Mike Awoyinfa and his deputy, Mr Dimgba Igwe (may God Rest his Soul eternally). My time at Weekend Concord was surreal. My writing blossomed as I wrote exclusive stories almost every Saturday. I was encouraged and compensated by my Editor with promotions galore. Under three months, I earned an unprecedented promotion, straight from Staff Writer to Literary Editor (jumping Senior Staff Writer). Within six months, thereafter, I had become News Editor, and number three in the hierarchy. However, six months later, I was poached by May Ellen Ezekiel, later Mrs MEE Mofe-Damijo (God bless her departed Soul forever) and was offered an irresistible package and a much bigger responsibility as Editor of Classique magazine. On May 2, 1990, I became the highest paid Editor in Nigeria, resuming duty on the eve of my 30th birthday, on May 16, 1990.
To whom much is given, much is expected. I knew the magnitude of the responsibilities placed on me. Many people felt I was too young and expected me to fail. My determination and prayer was to make sure such people waited in vain. I quadrupled my efforts. What was more, I maintained my old contacts, and added new ones to it. By 1991, I met the man I like to describe as the Spirit of Africa, an icon you hardly see but feel his presence always in your life. By the time I resigned from Classique, I was already a household name and my future path was well-cut out for me. By 1992, I was invited by Prince Nduka Obaigbena to be the pioneer Editor of Leaders & Company, which became the parent company for Thisday newspapers. I had the singular honour of recruiting and appointing some of the key staff of that newspaper. I’m so proud of my role in supporting what has become one of Africa’s biggest newspaper conglomerates today and the fact that I’m still writing for the paper till this day.
(to be continued).
WHY PRESIDENT BUHARI MUST READ THIS STORY
To say I was a supporter of President Muhammad Buhari in 2015 is stale news. Today, many of us volunteers are wondering what went wrong. I cannot hold brief for anyone but I know a few reasons why things are not working as planned, or as promised, by our President. It is clear that this Government has been hijacked by a few brazen guys who are giving President Muhammadu Buhari a bad name and image.
If you missed the major story about the Mambilla hydropower project published in the online newspaper, www.thebossnewspapers.com, last week, you need to find it by all means. It is a sad story of how those who are supposed to help President Buhari achieve some decent success have been messing him up constantly with their personal selfish interests in making quick pecuniary gains at great loss to our dear country. Let me do a quick recap.
The $5.972 billion Mambilla hydropower project agreement signed and widely celebrated by Hon Minister of Power, Works, and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola SAN, on the 10th of November 2017 is in big trouble and seems doomed due to the overbearing influence of some members of this government. It risks not being funded by any bank because of CORRUPTION, and the refusal of the CABAL to comply fully with President Buhari’s directives issued since April 2016.
This project is the brainchild of Mr Leno Adesanya and his company, Sunrise Power Transmission Co. Ltd since it was conceived in the year 2000. Sunrise’s promotion of the project led to President Obasanjo’s first visit to China in 2001 and Vice-President Atiku’s visit in 2002. Following the visits, an ad-hoc Inter Ministerial Committee recommended the award of the contract for the project, the construction of a 3960 megawatts hydroelectric power plant in Mambilla, to Sunrise and it’s Chinese partners on a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis for a sum of about US$6 billion. On the basis of the recommendation, Sunrise partnered with two Chinese companies, Sinohydro and North China Power Engineering Co. Ltd to execute the project.
However, in September of 2003, the first of many shenanigans that would bedevil the project occurred with a startling letter stating that the Federal Executive Council had not approved the memo recommending the project. Sunrise had expended time, resources and money on the project. It got Chief Afe Babalola to ask the government of the day to rethink. Nothing more was heard of the matter until May 29 2007, in the very twilight of the Obasanjo Administration, when another razzmatazz took place with the award of the first phase of the project to another Chinese consortium made up of two companies, China Ghezouba Group Corporation of China (CGGC) and one CGC, in the sum of US$1.46 billion. Funding of this phase was to be through a loan from the China Exim Bank and funds from the Excess Crude Account. This should be contrasted with the Sunrise arrangement where there would have been no exposure to Nigeria, since it was a BOT.
Sunrise sought judicial intervention by going to Court. Late President Musa Yar’Adua became apprised of the situation and the fact that the 2007 contract had been secured by an alleged bribe of US$15 million. He ordered his Attorney-General Michael Aondoakaa to cancel the CGGC/CGC contract and reinstate the BOT contract awarded to Sunrise and its partners.
In October 2012, the Federal Government decided, for some nebulous reason, to again abandon the BOT option and to own the project in its entirety. This led to the signing of a General Project Execution Agreement (GPEA) which CGGC and CGC refused to sign. Subsequently, upon a visit of President Jonathan to China in 2013, the Chinese government urged him to accept CGGC as joint EPC contractor with Sinohydro. This was accepted by Sunrise, who remained the local content partner for the consortium and a letter of contract award reflecting this was issued to these parties on 14 January 2015.
Upon assuming power in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari categorically stated that power generation was very high on his list of priorities. He held meetings with the management of Sunrise and promised to comply with all existing legal agreements on the project, with a warning that Sunrise must resist and stop any attempt to corrupt the project.
In late April 2016, President Buhari instructed his Attorney General, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN, to comply with existing legal agreements with Sunrise. In May 2016, Malami directed the Power Minister, Fashola to sign the EPC Contract with Sinohydro Corporation of China, and CGGC on 50/50 basis, with SUNRISE as the Local Content Partner to the project. Malami repeated this recommendation in numerous letters to the President, VP, and Power Minister.
The monkeyshines resumed when the Chief Of Staff (COS) to President Buhari, invited three Chinese companies to the Presidential villa on 26 May 2016, and instructed them to form a joint venture for the execution of the 3050MW Mambilla project. This despite caution from both Sinohydro and Fashola that there were existing agreements with SUNRISE and its Chinese partners.
On 31 March 2017, SUNRISE informed the President and Fashola that one of the three companies the COS instructed to be in the Joint Venture, CGC, had admitted to Late President YarAdua that it paid huge bribes to a senior Presidency official in 2007, in order to sign the $1.46 billion Civil Works contract in respect of the project. Apparently, Mr. President never received these letters. Instead, the COS, rather than the Power Minister, led the Power Ministry for negotiations in China.
On 22 May 2017, the COS instructed the Power Minister to remove Sunrise from the Mambilla project, and instructed him to sign the EPC with the three Chinese entities WITHOUT ANY PUBLIC TENDER. Sunrise wrote to Malami and the then Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo challenging the authority of the COS to give a directive of such magnitude ($5.792 billion contract) especially as the President was on medical vacation and there was an Acting President.
Once again, on 24 July 2017, Malami wrote to the Acting President reiterating his earlier recommendations to sign the EPC, 50/50 between Sinohydro/CGGC with Sunrise as Local Content Partner.
Following the November 2017 announcement by power Minister who appeared to have done a volte-face, Sunrise went to the International Court of Arbitration, Paris to seek relief. Although the proceedings are confidential, we are aware that Sunrise is claiming US$2.3 billion in damages and loss of profit. The parties to the suit are Sunris, the Federal Government and Sinohydro. Supo Sasore, a former Attorney-General in Fashola’s government in Lagos State is representing the Federal Government. There is no sense in stalling such a humongous and beneficial project for over 18 months, and then to make matters worse, make Nigeria pay for what it would not otherwise have paid for.
The final dastardly twist is the ethnic dimension. While SUNRISE belongs to Mr. Leno Adesanya, a prominent Yoruba business man the replacement local content partners being promoted by the COS all belong to Northerners. President Buhari needs to step into this matter to ensure that his legacy can at least be that he contributed to the increase in power supply in Nigeria. Obviously, President Buhari is a Prophet in search of good disciples.