It is important for me to congratulate Sahara reporters on the achievement of exposing corruption and fight against oppression in Nigeria. This story I am about to give you will shock everyone but if you do your own investigation you would be surprised that corruption is gone deep in Nigeria. I believe that if corruption is within any part of Nigeria it should be exposed whether from the south or north. However, my story is about the southwest and the young people of Nigeria are tired of the corruption and wants revolution. I am an indigene of south west myself and from my story that would be proven to be true. Please do allow me a space to publish my article in SaharaReporters.
Let me start the story by telling you what happened in 1976 which I believe that anyone would be able to follow. The western region at that time embark on the free education programme in all parts of the south west, this free education was expected to produce highly literate young population and the plan then was to be able to give these young talents opportunities to develop their country. You will remember that this was the basic motivation that made the old western region government to plan for how to create employments for the people of south west.
At that time, the western region has been able to gain a number of part-ownerships of foreign firms who came to set up companies in Nigeria, for instance, Guinness, Dunlop, Pepsi etc. The strategy used was to provide infrastructure for these foreign firms and take percentage of ownerships in shares. This strategy worked because a number of foreign companies who came to Nigeria at that time started doing business while allowing the locals to manage the logistics. By 1976, the western region government saw that they have been able to accumulate huge wealth. In fact, some foreign companies sold their shares and left.
The western region government at that time decided that it would be necessary to accumulate all these wealth together and use their proceeds to develop the southwest by setting up of new companies and creating employment. Amazingly, the wealth of 1976 has now increased such that the capital assets alone are over N76billion ($500million), despite massive looting. The managing company formed in 1976 was Odua Investment Company Limited and the annual dividend received is in excess of N5billion. For instance, Odua Group has 40% shareholding in Nigerite Ltd. 25% in West Africa Portland cement, 100% of Lagos Airport hotel, 60% of Cocoa Industries Limited, and 40% of Wema banks PLC, 100% of premier hotel, 100% of Wemabod Estate with choice properties at Victoria Island, Ikeja and Lagos and other companies that are over 20. Odua was set up to be able to influence these organisations in job creation and opportunity for the people.
If you wonder why I am giving this statistics, it is because a lot of people always do not take issues of Odua Group as serious either because they are naïve about the amount of wealth that is involved or because they want to think of it as Yoruba issues. However, corruption is corruption and should be exposed wherever it exists.
Now, let me give you the back story. Immediately, after the exit of the military rule in Nigeria, the then Alliance for democracy (AD) gathered together to deliberate how to generate employment in the south west. The governors at that time included Lam Adesina for Oyo State, Bisi Akande for Osun State, Olusegun Osoba for Ogun state, and governors from Ekiti and Ondo states representing all the governors from the southwest. Odua Investment Company came up as a very viable and collective option. The main reason was that there is a large amount of money in terms of dividend that could be used to generate employment and the entire necessary infrastructure such as banks, estates, manpower and international affiliation are already available.
The leaders at that time decided that they would employ first class directors and business managers to present a strategy that would definitely work for the south west. The directors that were appointed include the late Chief Rufus Giwa, Chief Kola Bajomo and Sir Remi Omotosho among others notable and highly respected business managers with outstanding success and experience.
In the early 2002, a meeting was conveyed in Osogbo and a strategy was presented to the five governors of the Odua group. In the meeting, the strategy that was to be used was deliberated, agreed and approved. Let me try and give you an insight into one of the strategies (Agriculture) presented by Sir Remi Omotosho:
· Each of the state of the Odua group would commit to donate 10,000hectares of land to a company that is known as Odua farm.
· The produce of this land is expected to be sold or processed into semi-finished goods. For instance, a new company would be incorporated that might be able to process tomatoes, mangos, oranges and other perishables. Farmers would be able to get adequate returns on their produces and wastages would be eradicated. Exports opportunities would also arise
· Odua would open corner shops (similar to shoprite and like the ones found in the USA, UK etc) all around the southwest that would be an outlet for the sale of these goods. This company was then named Bakuta.
· New companies would come up for transportation and logistics to move products around and generate employments for drivers and mechanics
· This strategy was approved and Odua was allocated the 50,000 hectares of land at that meeting by all the five states
There are other strategies that were adopted in this meeting such as mining and bitumen exploration and it is believed that at least job creation within the next five year should be able to hit the 3million targets. This strategy may look primitive on the surface but the details are very comprehensive. For instance, the south west can control what they eat for the first time knowing that it is safe to eat them and would be able to challenge excessive increase in food prices. Hawking in the sun would be greatly reduced as jobs would be offered at the corner shops which are going to be situated within reasonable distance all over the south west. Existing farmers would also be encouraged because their produces could be bought at market rate and processed or sold even if they are not using Odua farms.
There was another ambitious project that was undertaken which is the telecommunication system. The back story of the project is so amazing and accidental because the telecommunication opportunities came suddenly. Licences for fixed wireless access were been sold for southwest and Odua decided to buy the licences. This was as a result of deregulation of telecommunication sector during Obasanjo administration. The original plan was to run a telecommunication company that would provide all the telecommunication needs of the south west. However, at that time a number of problems exist:
· The southwest of Nigeria has no functioning telecommunication infrastructure. For instance the backbone was non-existence. The Nitel infrastructure is rotten, decayed and useless. The backbone is like a traffic carrier, for instance if someone is in Ota in Ogun State and would like to speak to someone in Ado-Ekiti which path would the traffic follow? The only thing to do would be to build a backbone infrastructure for the southwest so that traffic can be carried from one location to the other within the southwest. However, the cost is huge and the technical know-how is unavailable locally.
· The second problem is how the users are going to be able to use this technology. For instance, would it be better to have a land phone or mobile?
· Internet access deployment is better with a land line than the mobile because of the ability to provide broadband access. How can these be achieved?
Odua Group was faced with other problems such as low level of skills in telecommunication because at that time telecommunication technology was just becoming matured in Nigeria. I could tell you some of the ways Odua Group tackled these problems.
· Odua Group decided to venture into the building of backbone infrastructure for the southwest that would go through Sango-Ota in Ogun state to Ekiti State. Believe it or nor Sir Remi Omotosho and his team delivered on this project. A backbone was successfully built and still in existence till today running from Sango-Ota to Ado Ekiti thereby covering the entire southwest. The estimated value of the backbone today would be in excess of N30billion because it can last for 100years.
· The second challenge about the going mobile or land phone did not work well. The main error here is that the technology that was sold to Odua Group by the National Communication Commission (NCC) was a technology called the TDMA. This technology allows a large number of telecommunication lines to be deployed to a single spot. For instance in a location, 1000 telephone lines can be deployed at a time and at that location it would require that wired lines would now have to be passed to subscribers. However, it is possible to deploy these lines wirelessly but the equipment cost is just about N250, 000. This will deploy about 5 telephone lines and fast internet access to the receiving router. However, the advantage of this technology is that it is actually better than the mobile access because it provided better internet access and clear and solid voice communication despite its cost
· The intention was that large populated areas such as government secretariats, state universities and polytechnics, big hospitals(UCH) and heavily populated areas would be the main market for the mass deployment while the wireless would work within a block of four flats of residential buildings
· Although, Odua did not produce large numbers of working lines, the telecommunication services actually worked in all the five states with functioning backbone before the current management took over
· Sir Remi Omotosho later complaint to the NCC for mispleading licence and a new CDMA licensed was sold to Odua Group in February 2005 to help in the deployment of the mobile phones
· This infrastructure was portrayed as a failure because of vested interest but has now being fraudulently sold at an undervalued price to an unknown Canadian company owned by one particular powerful Nigerian that controls power in the south west.
During the election of 2004, the misfortune of Odua Group increased with all the five AD governors removed and replaced by the PDP governors. First, the business managers who have worked so far were sacked and replaced by politicians who do not know anything about business. Secondly, the politicians stormed Odua Group for contracts including governors, deputy governors, commissioners and all and sundry. Some governors started to nominate contractors to dig and deploy thousands of telephone lines at inflated prices while knowing nothing about telecommunication. The Group Managing Director, Sir Remi Omotosho resigned and left the company two years before the expiration of his tenure because of the aggressive corrupt politicians. The aggressive nature of the new government to award contracts to their own people whether or not they can perform and indiscriminate inflation of the contracts values ran the telecommunication company aground.
The new Group Managing Director was appointed and unfortunately he has no idea about the whole plan of job creation programme as laid down by the Late Chief Rufus Giwa and his team. Rather than studying what was happening, he started to harass the managers that were working with the old management. He sacked some unjustly, paid police to implicate others and accuse them of corruption that he cannot prove. The intimidation, harassment and threat made many of the top class managers to resign and they were promptly replaced by John Holt staff that came along with him. Some even accuse him of sending assassins after them and ran away which he did not deny. The main aim is to take absolute control of the company.
Since 1976, Odua Group has been managed based on rotational basis. There are five executives managers who usually worked with the Group Managing Director which are selected from each of the 5 states therefore representing their own states. There are also two director positions. One is the Group managing Director and the other is the Deputy Group Managing Director. When the new management took over he has 3 executive directors(Oludunsin Tayo, Jide Ikumoluyi and Abayomi Olanipekun) who were promoted to that position having worked in managerial capacity for 8years or more and five non-executives directors. The non-executive directors do not participate in daily business activities but the 3executive directors and the deputy group managing director do. Unfortunately, the new group managing director managed to forcefully retire all the 3executive directors (who were less than 45years) and representing Osun state, Oyo state and Ekiti state, and permanently scrapped the vacant position of the deputy group managing director for good.
The picture today is that Odua Group has only one executive director (who is the current Group Managing Director) and 6 non-executive directors. It means the Odua Group has managed to become one man business enterprise since the last 8years. The idea is to absolutely take control while no one is watching. Can anyone point to a company that has only one executive director with $500million assets?
The other important point was that since 1976, each state of Odua is expected to produce a Group Managing Director on a rotational basis for a two-term period. Each term is for four years and a second term of four years can be renewed after which another state is to step in. The current Group Managing Director has successfully complete the first term and second term of eight years is due in March,2013 but he is refusing to step down on the request that he would want a third term as a sole manager of the company that belongs to millions of people. With the rotational arrangement, Ondo State is expected to produce the next group managing director while Oyo State is to produce the Chairmanship. Oyo State has already started the chairmanship but the representative of Osun State has refused to step down after the completion of his second term of eight years. This is the first time someone would refuse to go after second term of eight years since 1976.It means the birth right of the people of Ondo State is being stolen while no one is watching. The sale of the telecommunication outfit was believed to be done to some powerful individuals in the southwest as settlements for the third term project and using a Canadian company as a cover up. There are other companies sold in disguised to some powerful politicians so that they can support the third term agenda.
There is no need to tell the story here because if you search the internet you will notice a number of atrocities that was done in the last eight years. A recent one carried by Nigeria newspaper showed how one of the staff wrote a petition to the ICPC that his signature was being forged to defraud the company some N10million ($67,000).This practise is very regular and common in Odua Group since 2005 and millions of Naira has been stolen. When the innocent staff challenged the Group Managing Director on why his name and signature were forged, he was sacked. The staff actually reported the case to the ICPC but the investigation of ICPC did not get anywhere. If you doubt, search the internet for the news.
Since the scrapping of the position of the deputy group managing director, the absolute power fraudulently acquired by the sole administrator has led to the secret sales of some of the major assets of Odua Group. For example, the propose sale of Premier Hotel was met by staff protest. Great Nigeria Insurance, Nigerian Wire and Cable PLC and so many others companies were affected. The lies here is to say, look we do not have expertise to manage this business let us have technical partners. Unfortunately, the technical partners are politicians pretending to be foreign interests. There are Nigerians with expertise in all areas of business and these types of lies do not work again in the 21st century. One interesting story is the sale of Lagos Airport Hotel where one of the non- executive directors has to drag the group managing director to court to stop illegal sale of the company to a particular powerful politician disguising to be foreign partner. It seems we have to wait when the company is under a new management to know exactly how many assets are left in Odua Group.
The corruption carried out in the last 8years includes the spending of Odua Group money for political propaganda. There is no meaningful employment generated project to create genuine employment unless there is something there for the sole administrator. He started awarding scholarships by paying out cash to selected people nominated by his political friends as a way of coming forward as a future politician. All the new employment initiative he has carried out includes buildings or construction and the main purpose is awarding of contract as a sole manager without a second opinion since he is the only executive director. The skill-based training is also to make a fool of people to see him as responsible candidate for future political appointment. People needs jobs and not fake scholarships and certificates. There is less employment opportunities in the south west in the last eight years of his management. Odua Group has also become so politicised that it is been seen as a government secretariat rather than a major business outfit.
The abuse of power is also unbelievable. The current sole administrator is the first group managing director who comes to work in siren with police escorts who beats up innocent Nigerians who are equally using the same road to go to work. Young children hawking on the road are sometimes beaten to make way for his entourage. He has become untouchable and immune against the law. It is unbelievable to see a business manager with personal federal police escorts and siren all paid for by Odua Group. It is believed that all major newspapers that could expose these corruptions have been bribed in fact there is a department within the company that handles settlements in this area (Corporate Affairs).
I was able to read through the background of the Group managing director that has ran the company and investment of the nation worth $500millions for eight years as a sole administrator and realised that he has only worked in John Holt as a procurement manager(buying and selling) and later became a director. However, his training, experience and skills do not justify his responsibility. He acquired Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) degree in Guidance and Counselling with a Master degree in Psychology and a distance learning MBA in Enugu State University. I should think a responsibility in education would be a better career? How do we come about this in the south west when we have outstanding scholars in business with high international reputation? I hope Nigerians can see and fight corruption where ever it exists; we certainly need to be on the street shouting revolution.
The question is now that he has served his two terms in office, why would he not step down for the people of Ondo State to claim their own birth right and honour the existing agreement? Why is he trying to impose himself on the rest of us? How would ACN explain this to voters who have trusted them in the south west? This is the true back story.
-Oluwole Aderinkola writes from Apata, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria
Links for your own research
1. The Realisation of the truth that made Late Rufus Giwa and his team to look towards agriculture.
Subsistence agriculture can’t grow Nigeria’s economy – Jimoh, O’odua boss
2. Fake foreign partner that has no business ties to Canada
Concave site – kangaroo Nigeria-owned Canadian fake company
3. Nigeria Tribune denying the obvious and Promoting corruption and covering up of lies. No conscience
Kudos Adebayo Jimoh , GMD, Odu’a conglomerate!
4. The stealing galore- one man show
5. The value or wealth of odua N76billion or $500million
6. The rotational agreement that is to be compromised
7. The stealing continues
8. False diversification
9. Discovering how to steal with executive power to solely award contract. Huge investment without any immediate employment generation