By Gozie Irogboli
Writing on a concept, idea or events is much easier than writing about an individual yet it is imperative that sometimes we write on personalities especially those with impeccable credentials; the purpose being to encourage or spur others to do that which is right and aspire to achieve greatness. As a person, a scholar, a public affairs commentator, I find it extremely difficult to write on individuals so that my intentions may not be misconstrued by people. Nevertheless, I also find it as a bounden duty to always do that which is right no matter whose ox is gored. I do not play to the gallery or pander to the whims of popular opinion which in most cases may be a parochial view of some individuals forced into the public psyche by media spin doctors. I try to be blunt but fair.
In contemporary Nigeria, it is always a delight to see those who have achieved greatness especially among the youths in this era when the youths out of frustration have turned drug addicts, renegades and degenerate gamblers. Despite the frustrations and suffocating environment under which Nigerians live at present, there are still many youth achievers who have braved the storm. And when the history of youth achievers in this country is made, one of the names that will stand out prominently is that of Valentine Chineto Ozigbo. In this era when the youth are regarded as lazy in this country, Val Ozigbo has proved to be an old head on a young shoulder.
Like most Igbo people, Valentine Chineto Ozigbo achieved greatness by dint of hard work, not by patronage or godfatherism. From a humble beginning as the son of a village teacher he rose meteorically to the height of a corporate icon, a captain of the industry, and an established professional with sound professional affiliations and impeccable credentials with local and international recognition. Yes, he has risen from relatively position of obscurity to become a global icon, a distinguished business executive, and a manager of resources, a leader of people, a delectable brand and a king of the youths. He is a man of many parts—an entrepreneur, a corporate icon, a philanthropist, a youth leader, a trail blazer, a trend setter.
He has an enviable resume. The comments made by those who know him at close quarters—school mates, colleagues, teachers, clients etc—are all very inspiring. He is an intelligent, articulate and a resilient personality with an incredible people management and problem solving skills. His early education was in his home town Amesi before he attended University of Nigeria Nsukka where he had his first degree in Accounting and MBA and later MSc with a distinction in Finance from Lancaster University, United Kingdom. He is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), a fellow of The Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria and a fellow Institute of Credit Administration.
He began his professional career in banking where he had glorious career spanning over seventeen years. He seemed to be a highly sought-after commodity having worked in seven different banks namely: NAL Merchant Bank, Diamond Bank, Continental Trust Bank, FSB International Bank, Standard Trust Bank, United Bank for Africa and Bank PHB. He distinguished himself in the banking sector and since joining the Transnational Corporation, he has proved to be an invaluable asset to the conglomerate. In 2019, following his outstanding success in steering Transcorp Hotels Plc, a subsidiary of Transnational Corporation to a new height, he was appointed the President and CEO of transnational corporation a Nigerian conglomerate with diversified investments in many sectors of the economy.
In the course of his career, he has attended many courses and numerous business conferences at home and abroad and as a banker and a corporate personality has interacted with a broad spectrum of individuals in public and private sectors at home and abroad and has participated in the design and development of many multi-faceted projects and programmes. He has numerous awards in his kitty to exhibit for his enviable performance. He has the award of Distinguished Alumnus of Lancaster University. The National Youth Council of Nigeria gave him the award of Nigeria Global Youth Ambassador. In 2019, he was awarded Best CEO in Hospitality industry and Seven Stars Luxury Hospitality and lifestyle Awards also gave him the Seven Stars Personality of the Year Award. In fact, there is no space in this piece to enumerate the list awards and societal recognition in his honour.
One amazing thing about this corporate icon is that he is also an accomplished philanthropist using his personal resources to sponsor youth activism in his native Anambra. His philanthropy has not removed his sense of shrewdness and prudence from him as a trained accountant versed in financial management. His brand of philanthropy is not the type that gives out hand out to people. He believes in building capacity, sponsoring and empowering people to be productive and to contribute meaningfully to the society. Thus, he has an Entrepreneurship Financing Package for his people, those who have business ideas. He is involved in promoting grassroots sports development initiatives through many channels. He sponsors Talent hunt/development programmes for upcoming artistes among other initiatives in his state. My love for philanthropists is that they people-minded in their decisions always.
It is therefore heartwarming to hear that Valentine Ozigbo is coming out for governorship election in Anambra his home state. His coming out no doubt will add colour and verve and flavor to the race to government house Awka in 2021. In the current Nigeria democratic experiment, Anambra has been lucky to produce governors who are of professional hue, not the ‘traditional’ politicians.
My interest in professionals in politics is associated with their attitude to performance. Unlike the traditional politicians who are mostly interested in being in power and may not care about performance, the professionals are given to performance. They are performance and target driven. They want to make a mark. They want to leave a legacy. They want to be remembered for their projects and programmes. They are passionate about them. As they have done earlier in their business pursuit, they want to distinguish themselves in leadership and service to their people. They are used to pressure, deadlines and targets. They know how to work on challenges, constraints and tight or lean budget. They know how to rank their priorities and optimize resource utilization. They know how to motivate and empower their people. They believe in stakeholder engagement knowing how to network and get the people focused on shared goals. Professionals in politics are organized, dependable and articulate. The professionals are disciplined having been conditioned by regimented corporate life style. They know why they are coming out having done proper and realistic situation analysis. So they are coming out to make meaningful contributions. The traditional politician is selfish and greedy. His interest is the people being loyal to him. He will prefer to keep the people around him poor and pauperized so that he would be the last man standing. I once asked a traditional politician who was eyeing the governor’s seat in his state what he considered to be the main problem confronting his state. His answer was as shocking as it was farcical. He told me that he had nothing to do with problem of the state and that his ambition was to be in government house. The traditional Nigerian politician interest is winning election and holding on to power. He believes in winning at all costs. He believes politics is a zero sum game and a do-or-die affair. Instead of constructively engaging the electorates and articulation of interests and a workable manifesto, he would prefer winning through unorthodox means—rigging and violence. This is because most traditional Nigerian politicians have no other job except politics and so to them, losing would mean joblessness.
Our professionals should be encouraged and emboldened to invest and participate in politics in order to wrestle power from the drones that has mismanaged our state affairs. We need the likes of Val Ozigbo in politics to replicate that which they have done in the corporate world in our public sphere; to clean up the Augean stable and restore sanity in our body politic. Examples of professionals who have distinguished themselves in public service include: Okonjo-Iweala former Finance Minister, Peter Obi former Governor of Anambra State, Akinwumi Adesina former Minister of Agriculture, Emmanuel Udom current Governor of Akwa Ibom State among others.
By Gozie Irogboli
An economist, a consultant and public policy analyst