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A.B.C Orjiako: A Toast to Acumen and Integrity

Written By Uche Anichukwu

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A.B.C Orjiako

Among Dr. Ambrose Bryant Chukwueloka Orjiako’s kinsmen, the Igbo, it is a common saying that when something bigger than the farm comes up, it is only natural to sell off the yam barn, for a man whose house is on fire doesn’t go after rats.

So, it happened that although this silent achiever was born in October 1960, the EndSARS protests and the aftermath weren’t the right atmosphere to celebrate an extraordinarily humane and peace-loving gentleman. Besides, this is a man, who prefers to lead a quiet life.

But a diamond jubilee is a landmark and the story of a man whose life may be the only book many need to read to be inspired to success must be told, somehow.

A chick that will grow into a cockerel begins to show the signs from “birth”. Born to the family of the late Chief Daniel and Lolo Rebecca Orjiako in Calabar, Nigeria, A.B.C Orjiako, as he is fondly called, got secondary education in his hometown, Uli, Anambra State in Eastern Nigeria, where he made Grade 1 in his Senior Secondary School Examination.

He headed to University of Calabar where he studied Medicine and Surgery. As an undergraduate, Orjiako was already manifesting his leadership qualities as he served as the African Regional Director of the International Federation of Medical Students and also Chairman, Standing Committee on Education African Medical Students Association.

He emerged as the best graduating medical student in 1985 and headed to the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital for his specialty training in orthopedic surgery and trauma management. He qualified as a Fellow of the West African College of Medicine as well as a Fellow of the Nigerian Postgraduate Medical College 10 years later, distinguishing himself as a cerebral medical practitioner for many years.

However, like Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses, Dr. Orjiako is a lover of higher challenges. There is always something more to be accomplished, new grounds to break, ever willing, ready, and resolved to try. Thus in 1996, Dr. A.B.C Orjiako launched out of the comforts of his medical practice where he had distinguished himself as a Specialist Orthopedic Surgeon to venture into the world of business, where his training and nature have combined to help him flourish like the biblical tree planted by the rivers of water.
A wise man doesn’t test the depth of a river with both legs and if you must join a fight where clubs and sticks are the rule, then you must first cover your head very well. Thus, although business runs through his blood, coming from a business family; although he already started getting involved in the oil and gas industry and also set up businesses even as a medical doctor, he nevertheless proceeded to the Harvard Business School to hone his business skills and immerse himself in the principles of modern business.

Today, A.B.C Orjiako has business interests that stretch from the oil and gas sector to other sectors like real estate, construction, shipping/maritime, and pharmaceutical where he is the Chairman, Board of Directors of Neimeth Pharmaceutical International Plc. And he has to his name companies like Abbeycourt, Glencore (based in the UK), Zebbra Energy, Shebah Exploration and Production Company Limited, and Abbeycourt Energy. He has been a director of MPI and Etablissements Maurel et Prom, which are listed on the New York Stock Exchange and Euronext Paris.

Meanwhile, Orjiako’s nose for opportunities even from a million miles; his ability to leave the comfort zones of medical palace to venture into the chequered waters of Nigerian business environment, particularly the oil and gas sector; his desire to play in the main bowl and mainstay of the Nigerian economy; and his natural proclivity to business with a human face, have all contributed to his pride of place as top indigenous (I prefer to say home-based) player in the tough turfs that Nigeria’s oil and gas industry is.

Aptitudes of perceptiveness and discernment of the times as well as some strokes of serendipity set great men apart from the ordinary and the mediocre. Dr. A.B.C Orjiako’s intuition and perceptiveness can be likened to that of the three princes in the old Persian fairy tale, “The Three Princes of Serendip”. The story is based on historical facts around the time of Persian King, Bahram V, ruler of Sassanid Empire (located in modern day Iran) from 420 – 440AD, but also embellished with folktales.

In the writing, King Giaffer sends his three princes from the kingdom of Serendippo to far removed land, away from the opulence and privileges of royalty to better equip them for leadership. In the course of their odyssey, their uncommon ability to discern, based on the marks and disruptions on their tracks, that a lame camel, blind in one eye, missing a tooth, carrying a pregnant woman, and bearing honey and butter on either sides earlier passed their route, not only saved their lives from false charge of theft, but equally gained them fame, fortunes, and position of influence before Emperor Beramo.

It is actually from that writing, “The Three Princes of Serendip”, that the Earl of Orford, Horace Walpole, coined the word “Serendipity” in a letter he wrote on 28th January 1754.

Like the three princes, A.B.C Orjiako was discerning enough to see the changing structure of the upstream sector from one dominated by the International Oil Companies (IOCs) to one where indigenous companies would begin to have greater opportunities due to government’s deliberate efforts to ensure that indigenous players have greater say and owing to frictions between the IOCs and host communities.

He equally foresaw that the IOCs would increasingly divest from shallow waters to deep waters for reasons of vandalism, oil theft, insecurity, and poor relations with host communities, which made onshore explorations increasingly less profitable.

Also, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which should have been passed before now, will ultimately have the oil majors release more of their holds in the industry.

Thus, once he put his hand to the plough by setting up the Shebah Exploration and Production in 2004, he never looked back. He was indeed discussing an acquisition deal with Shell Petroleum when someone brought him and the highly experienced founder of Platform Petroleum, Austin Avuru, together. The two great minds struck a merger deal in a matter of minutes, co-founding the Seplat Petroleum Development Company PLC in 2009.

Seplat was actually derived from Shebah Exploration and Platform Petroleum. With such solid technical and business management capacities, it was not surprising that Maurel & Prom, one of the topmost oil concerns in France, acquired 45% shares in Seplat.

It is equally not surprising that the company has taken the oil sector by storm and blazes the trail of indigenous players. Seplat completed the first ever dual listing on both the London Stock Exchange and the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 2014.

With the global demand for all forms of energy in 2040 expected to be a quadruple of what it was in 1990 (according to BP World Energy outlook, 2019); with African population expected to increase by 100 percent in about 30-year time; with Nigeria’s population anticipated to hit over 300 million in 2050; and with global climate change projected to reach critical proportions in half a century time, Seplat as a key player in the Energy Utilities and Resources value chain, is equally positioned and further positioning to lead Nigeria and indeed Africa’s quest for a reliable, safe, efficient, and green energy.

It is apposite to state that even Orjiako’s training as a doctor has greatly contributed to his huge success in the business world. As a doctor, you are trained to leave no room for errors because you are dealing with human lives. He has brought the qualities of discipline, organisation, empirical decision-making, teamwork and team management, which are key to successful medical practice to bear.

As earlier mentioned in passing, Orjiako’s philanthropic nature has been a catalyst for his growth in the business world. By 1996, he had already founded the Daniel Orjiako Memorial Foundation, DOMF, to immortalise his late father. So far, the Foundation has seen tens of thousands through primary and secondary education, while hundreds have benefited from its university scholarship. These are in addition to the Foundation’s special supports to science education, healthcare as well as provision of micro-credit to rural farmers.

Therefore, it is not surprising that Seplat, where he is the Chairman, has excelled in Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, to the host communities, providing health services, scholarships, and social infrastructure. The goodwill Seplat enjoys among the host communities, who see themselves as owners has helped to protect the company’s assets and shielded it from the challenges faced by the IOCs. Orjiako’s kind dispositions also greatly underscore the Seplat’s excellence in staff remuneration, welfare, and motivation. Thus everybody is happy and committed to baking the cake.

Orjiako and his businesses have equally soared on the wings of integrity, transparency, and accountability. Little wonder he passed the due diligence test needed to be appointed into the Africa Advisory Group of the prestigious London Stock Exchange, LSE.

But it will be sheer daydreaming to think that the path to success is rosy. From the grossly misrepresented Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Shebah bank debt saga to the associated convoluted court cases that appear to be geared more at a smear campaign on Orjiako, Seplat, and his business interests, A.B.C has had his own baptism of fire, betrayals, and crucibles common to great men.

However, as a great man, A.B.C is neither fazed by challenges nor intoxicated by success. In 2011, Forbes Magazine named Orjiako as one of Nigeria’s silent super rich, an apt description for an unassuming gentleman, who lets his accomplishments speak for him.

Yet, like Ulysses, he is not close to slowing down, either by advisory or great heights attained. He still roams with a hungry heart and considers it is so dull to pause, to rust unburnished, and not to shine in use! He still strikes the sounding furrows, determined to keep striving to find and not to yield.

To Dr. A.B.C Orjiako, husband of a beautiful wife, father of four, philanthropist, devout Christian, Papal Knight of St. Gregory, lowly river that receives tributes of a million mountain streams, I say a happy birthday in arrears. May your days be long. May your coasts get larger, and may your future dwarf your yesterday and today. Congratulations.
––Anichukwu writes from Abuja

GrassRoots.ng is on a critical mission; to objectively and honestly represent the voice of ‘grassrooters’ in International, Federal, State and Local Government fora; heralding the achievements of political and other leaders and investors alike, without discrimination. This daily, digital news publication platform serves as the leading source of up-to-date information on how people and events reflect on the global community. The pragmatic articles reflect on the life of the community people, covering news/current affairs, business, technology, culture and fashion, entertainment, sports, State, National and International issues that directly impact the locals.

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GROpinion

#FixPolitics seeks proper amendment to Electoral Act

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#FixPolitics

#FixPolitics, a citizens-led research-based initiative, has called on the National Assembly to carefully consider a bill before it, seeking to repeal the Electoral Act 2010.

#FixPolitics made the call in a document addressed to the joint Senate and House of Representatives committee on Independent National Electoral Commission and Electoral Matters.

The joint committee had called for a public hearing on ‘A Bill for an Act to Repeal the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010 (as amended) and Enact the Independent National Electoral Commission Act 2020, to regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Council elections for Related Matters’. 

In the document, ‘#FixPolitics’ Electoral Bill Memorandum (Position and Recommendations)’, addressed to the joint committee, #FixPolitics pointed out that some sections of the Act were weak, problematic and filled with irregularities, hence its position and recommendations.

In a statement issued by the group’s Publicist and Spokesperson, Mr. Ozioma Ubabukoh, on Monday, #FixPolitics said, “Our position and recommendations is to engage the existing political order to produce sustained change that guarantees democratic progress and wellbeing of the people.”

According to Ubabukoh, some of the grey areas identified in the Act on which #FixPolitics made its position and recommendations included Section 2 – Functions of the Commission; Section 6 – Establishment of Offices in Each State and FCT; Section 9 – Continuous Registration and Section 12 – Qualification for Registration.

Others were Section 44 – Format of Ballot Papers; Section 52 – Conduct of Poll by Open Secret Ballot; Section 87 – Nomination of Candidates by Party; Section 119-157 – Electoral Conduct and Section 127 – Voting by Unregistered Persons.

Concerning ‘Section 2 – Functions of the Commission’, #FixPolitics said, “We propose that the National Assembly should take on the role and responsibility of calling for a referendum on a new constitution. The National Assembly should facilitate the process through which the Nigerian people can exercise their constitutional sovereignty to give themselves a constitution. This role is not only consistent with principles of constitutional democracy, it is also a validation of the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution.”

The group also proposed a reduction of the time provided in ‘First schedule – Rules of Procedure for Election Petitions: Sections 12, 14, 16, 18 & 142’.

“Paragraph 12(1), which gives a respondent 21 days within which to respond to a petition, can be shortened to seven days. Paragraph 16(1) which provides a petitioner five days within which to respond to new facts by the respondent, can be shortened to 48 hours,” it recommended.

#FixPolitics further urged the joint legislative committee to exude the spirit of statesmanship in the amendment to the sections to address the identified deficiencies in the Act.

“We expect that the proposed amendment will strengthen transparency and accountability in the nation’s electoral system,” #FixPolitics added.

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Osinbajo and a likely date with destiny

Written by By Hashim Suleiman

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Prof. Yemi Osinbajo

Let me use this yuletide season to shine my torch on Pastor Yemi Osibajo who at the moment is top most Christian official of the country and a person who has never lost sight of such a responsibility by behaving and acting appropriately. Such quality has silently endeared him to the people and due to his nature you can only know that when you personally ask peoples opinion about him or APC and 2023.

Due to his nature that I have described above and his not being the everyday politician, he may not be the favorite for political headlines by media and pundits but people like us who take extra mile to observe and analyze our everyday changing and growing democracy do see so many likely permutations of which Osinbajo appears the most likely for consensus sake all the way.

Let me make a reminder to my earlier article of November 4, 2019 titled ‘Pantami as near perfect fit for 2023 permutations’ https://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/2019/11/04/isa-ali-pantami-as-near-perfect-fit-for-the-2023-permutations-by-hashim-suleiman/ where I had identified Tinubu’s clear interest in the game but could be stalled by a likely need for pairing with a Muslim like Pantami which is doable but with its attendant challenges and as such a pairing of Pantami with a Christian could be a more perfect fit. Such a Christian is gradually turning out for me to be Osinbajo.

Events have come and gone after the above article and in fact the race for the 2023 is becoming clearer with so much interests for the presidency in the APC and none of them is likely ready to shift grounds for the other, little wonder why Pastor Tunde Bakare had to attempt to shut some of those camps who are hell bent on truncating Asiwaju Tinubu’s ambition for the 2023 presidency bid.

It is not likely that those camps are going to pull back their ‘shakabula’ guns as a result of Bakare’s sermon and one thing Bakare also forgot is that in politics such guns may not kill but they may be spoilers in a supposed well planned operation.

Regardless of all these however, Tinubu has continued his reach out to all parts of the country from Sheikh Bin Usman’s daughter’s wedding in Kano to Maiduguri on a condolence for the incident at Jere local Government.

Furthermore, it is not longer news that Kayode Fayemi and his crew are nursing their own agenda with him being the presidential candidate or pairing with a northerner as vice. The Goodluck Jonathan card is also flying and a friend just recently whispered another card of Orji Uzor Kalu perhaps to placate the Igbos. The people who fly these cards are mostly those who are vehemently against Tinubu’s candidature and I’m not sure they are ready to support it for whatever reason and I’m also not sure if Asiwaju himself is ready to go ahead with his agenda without all these erring groups in the APC or in other words the APC being intact.

Make no mistake to think the Asiwaju who is a benefactor of Osinbajo is not fully qualified or does not enjoy my personal support for the presidency owing to my belief in his progressive principle which I had also enumerated in the November 4, 2019 article I made reference to in the third paragraph above but the realistic fact is there are so many land mines which do not appear pleasant for both his party and himself should he insist to go ahead.

The first major challenge will be that of the religious pairing unless well insist to have a repeat of the muslim-muslim ticket of 1993 and whether such would fly could be left to the further strategy meetings that would be held and such meetings must be made with sincerity of purpose, lucky enough Osinbajo had informed us in one of the Colloquiums that Tinubu holds his meetings with such openness during his governorship days and could give in on superior progressive arguments.

The second major hurdle would be those other groups who would back out in the event of the emergence of an Asiwaju candidature. Such would leave the APC very weakened to go into the election and there would also be anti party activities.

Against the backdrop of all of the above, Osinbajo appears to be the most perfect candidate to mitigate all of the above challenges. He is a Christian of repute who could easily fit into pairing with another Muslim of repute. He fits into the class of the new breed politicians that the Nigerian youths clamor for on a daily.

Apart from being a graduate of the Asiwaju School of progressive politics, he is a very close friend and confidant of all the other groups who might be opposing an Asiwaju candidature. Osinbajo had worked as meticulously as bagging enough friends from the opposition PDP.

If all of these are not enough pointers for a likely date with destiny then what could ever be more. Time shall tell however, but it’s instructive for the APC family to look inwards and make appropriate decisions against the 2023 elections which is fast approaching.

But Osinbajo does appear as the most suitable consensus candidate for the APC.

*Hashim Suleiman wrote from Abuja. He can be reached via @oneheartnaija

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OPINION: As The Nigerian University System Dies

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By Azuka Onwuka

If you have any reason to go back to the public primary school and secondary school you attended, you would notice that only the children of the lowest parts of the social classes attend such schools. They allow their children to still attend public schools because they find the school fees of private schools out-of-reach. The moment their earning power changes, they move their children out of the public schools.

This was not how it was in 1970s and 1980s when we attended primary and secondary schools. Children of all social classes attended the same public schools. Even the children of state governors, federal ministers, and top chief executive officers attended the same public schools with other children. Those who did not want to attend secondary schools within their neighbourhoods sought admission into some prestigious schools or federal government colleges. These schools usually had good boarding facilities. Old boys and old girls of such schools proudly talked about their alma mater.

There were few private schools then, but they were seen as not having the same high standard as the public schools. Government had taken over all schools built and run by missionaries.

In the 1970s, Nigerians who got admission into a Nigerian university and an American university would choose the Nigerian university over the American one. Students from other countries came to Nigerian universities to study. Lecturers from different countries came to Nigerian universities to lecture. Nigeria was seen as a hub of education and intellectualism in Africa.

By the time we went into university in early 1990s, private secondary schools were gaining currency. Public secondary schools had lost much of their quality. There were no private universities then. Government had not allowed private universities to operate. Public universities were degenerating but still of good enough quality to be accorded some respect.

In 1999 Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State was established at Okada, Edo State as the first private university followed same year by Madonna University, Okija, Anambra State. Even though the existing public universities had lost so much of their glory and prestige, the new private universities were still viewed with suspicion. Many believed that in addition to having unnecessarily high tuition fees, they did not have high enough standard for students and would not provide students the needed well-rounded life.

As the new century progressed, the attitude towards private universities began to change. The first reason was the certainty that within every four years, there must be a long strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, which has lecturers of public universities as members. (This does not include the strike of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities). This would ensure that studies at all public universities are suspended for as many months as the strike lasts. Currently there is a strike by ASUU since March 23, 2020 (nine months). The global COVID-19 lockdown that occurred from March to July did not allow many people to notice the strike. But now that the lockdown has been lifted in all parts of Nigeria, most people have become aware of the strike. The regular strikes in public universities ensure that the graduation time of students is uncertain. People know when their children start their university education, but cannot predict when they will graduate.

Another issue was that changed the attitude to private universities was the dwindling quality of education in public universities. This became obvious as the ranking of Nigerian universities continued to drop. Just as government neglected the primary and secondary schools, it also neglected the universities. The hostels and classrooms became dilapidated. A hostel room that housed two students in the 1970s began to house four students in the 1990s, then six students, then eight students and then countless number of students, both those who were officially assigned the room and those who were not. The laboratories and libraries had only obsolete materials.

There was also the issue of university cults. Societies that were formed as university fraternities in the 1950s metamorphosed into dangerous gangs that intimidate, extort, attack, rape and sometimes even kill those who have issues with them. Sending a child to a public university became a risk: the child could be lured into one of the cults and become a monster or he could be maimed or killed for not being in the good books of cult members.

Then there was also the issue of sexual molestation, especially of girls, by lecturers. It is an underground problem that everybody knows but prefers not to talk about. Many female students have been the victims of lecturers who would demand sex for marks. Some would blackmail mediocre students because of their vulnerability, while some would do it to even bright students, including married students, denying them graduation unless they succumb to their sexual advances.

As Nigeria’s public universities were losing their attraction, more and more parents began to embrace private university education for their children. Many parents with the wherewithal preferred foreign universities. Even universities in neighbouring African countries like Benin Republic, Togo, and Cameroon, which were not considered by many Nigerians as possible choices, became acceptable. Many parents just wanted their children and wards to have a reliable timetable for the completion of university education and also to complete it in safety and some measure of quality. The difference between the public universities and the private or foreign universities is the cost of tuition. Many parents have learnt to save for it.

The loser in all this is Nigeria. The money that should remain in Nigeria is sent out to other countries to pay for university education. The country is lucky that the money paid to private universities is still within the country. While students are going abroad to study, lecturers are also moving to other countries to teach. This is in addition to other professionals from all other fields who migrate to other countries every year to settle, because of the uncertain condition of things in Nigeria.

In university education, just like in almost everything, Nigerian government has proved that it is incapable of managing anything successfully. As opposed to Midas, whatever Nigerian government touches turns to dust. This has happened in railway, telecoms, broadcasting, newspapering, hospitals, roads, electricity, water, airports, seaports, museums, zoos, sports, manufacturing, security, economy, governance – everything. The only sector that gives a ray of hope whenever government fails is the private sector.

The only thing that can save Nigerian universities is if they are taken over by private organisations. As long as they are under the management of government, they will continue to degenerate. The only challenge is that once private organisations take over the universities, their fees will skyrocket, so they can be profitable. One wonders if there is a special arrangement that can be made between government and private organisations to take over the running of universities without increasing the fees beyond a certain level. But dictating to a private organisation how to run a business is a recipe for failure.

In the final analysis, the fate of Nigerian universities is bleak. Year after year, ASUU will go on strike to force the government to take some actions concerning the welfare of universities and lecturers, but whatever government eventually does will remain a drop in the ocean when compared to what the needs of the public universities are.

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