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OBE: THE KIND OF SENATOR WE NEED

By NBF News
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I HAVE only met his brains. Sometime ago, someone who had seen our imprint on a couple of books that he felt 'were of international quality' called to notify me that he had recommended our company to someone who wanted his book worked on. I got in touch with this author who sent me the work via email, and after a number of email exchanges and phone calls, the job was done - to his admiration. He had actually done an independent check on us. I only found that out on one of my occasional visits to the guestbook of our website, www.taijowonukabe.com, where he had posted 'I wanted to have a feel of who you really are. I did not (omission) it all but I feel better. Perhaps I should have met you sooner.'

Perhaps I should have met him sooner - either virtually (as has been our interaction thus far) or in person. Counting from when I was editor-in-chief of my departmental (really, college) newspaper, this is my 32nd year as an editor. This point is being made to show that in all of those years, this man's book counts among my most fulfilling editing jobs. I was (still am) captivated by his profundity, lucidity of language and the forcefulness of his viewpoints. Here is one person who's not afraid to canvass opinions which go against the consensus.

When I started working on his little book of over a hundred pages, a rich collection of his various speeches and papers on the Nigerian economy, particularly the capital market, a pioneer operator of which he is, .I couldn't stop till the wee hours when I lost the contest with nature. When you get to read NIGERIA: Stopping the NEXT financial crisis, you would wonder, why did they not hearken to his voice? This man saw the economic rot coming and he warned against it.

I have had no choice but to become the fan - as they say on Facebook – of Chief Dennis Onyemaechi Odife, MON, distinguished alumnus of University of Lagos, Columbia University, New York, founder of Centre-Point Investments Limited and variously the vice-chairman, chairman and chief executive of Centre-Point Merchant Bank plc until its merger in 2005 with Unity Bank plc and author of NIGERIA: Stopping the NEXT financial crisis and a dozen other books, including: Understanding the Nigerian Stock Market (1984), Privatisation in Nigeria (Concepts, Issues and Modalities) (1986), New Perspectives on Nigerian Economic Reform (1994), Collectively Guilty (2008) and Markets for the Poor (2008) and hundreds of academic and professional papers on various aspects of the Nigerian economy especially the money and capital markets.

Folk who relocated to Abuja after spending years in the hustle and bustle of Lagos are now witches and wizards - they pay only flying visits to Lagos, our beloved mega-city. So did Chief Odife early December. He called me from the airport as he was about to fly back to Abuja. He wanted to let me know that he would be contesting the Anambra North Senatorial seat under the umbrella (yes) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). We discussed his strategies and tactics but I was particularly excited by his slogan, Anyi Nwelu Mmadu; he was equally excited that I was able to translate it as 'we've got people.' He does not know that I sojourned in Enugu for three years - as a mass communication student of the Institute of Management and Technology, and staying off-campus throughout with Isiaka Guobadia, my beloved cousin and a truly honourable man whom we have lost to the United States of America – it was my responsibility to go to the Abakpa-Nike market to get utazi, ugwu and the like, and quite often cooked the stuff; until my cousin got hitched to his beloved Joy (nee Olumese).

To Chief Odife and the folk in his Senatorial District, 'Anyi  Nwelu Mmadu' is a 're-awakening that we have good people and that the pedigree and integrity of the candidate are what matter the most.' In a letter he sent to me following his flying-visit-I-am-at-the-airport-telephone-visit-chat, he noted: 'The good people of the Anambra North Senatorial Zone are agreed with me that the next election will seek to pick the best candidates rather than the parties.'

Even as political parties are expected to play a greater role in the affairs of politicians seeking elective offices, in the sordid situation that our country has found itself now, it really should be about electing good people and nothing else. If I was from Anambra North Senatorial District, I would be on the frontlines for Chief Dennis Odife. Just before I set out to do this piece, I read the paper he presented on 27 May 2010 at the 6th Annual Pearl Awards Lecture for Capital Market Development, entitled 'The Nigerian Capital Market, Yesterday, Today and the Future,' and I was like why would this nation have more of people who can't reason in public offices?  I would like to take two viewpoints which are of crucial national importance.

One, on the Naira: '…the monetisation of all our foreign exchange earnings and their translation into Naira at the prevailing exchange rate, which has continued to this day. This practice ensures that we shall keep devaluing our currency and that we shall keep getting poorer and poorer.' I note that the Vanguard columnist who writes under the pseudonym, Les Leba, has consistently and strongly made this point. The other day, he even presented it in the form of an illustrated story - as in bringing it down to the level of a kindergarten. If there is need for any open hearing by the Senate as soon as they resume, it should be on this subject.

The other point made by Chief Odife is on the newly introduced Assets Management Company. Quite long, this, but it's worth quoting: 'Let it be made clear as we go forward, that anyone can establish an Asset Management Company and that the banks and other finance companies are themselves 'asset management companies' of sorts. The main difference is that the (CBN's) AMC is otherwise a bank for holding the bad assets of other banks, a.k.a in the industry as a 'bad bank.' It would only be a half measure for our CBN and the legislators to be contemplating just a 'bad bank' for banks when so many Nigerian industries have gone under with their workers out of employment because of credit and infrastructure deficiency and high interest rates in the system.

Moreover, the Nigerian State including the CBN has not demonstrated sufficient competence to justify its being the only party in the Nigerian case to establish and run the sole or monopoly Asset Management Company. State or CBN dominance of the AMC implies that the CBN will still be in a position to direct the AMC as to which toxic assets of which banks to take or not to take….Whichever way, the further involvement or extension of State control in the management of these toxic assets by whatever name called, is not a positive step for the economy.'

Let the debates begin….
• Obe is executive vice chairman of TaijoWonukabe Limited