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Maduka: The flip side of being a brother’s keeper

By Edet Udofia

The current media war between Dr. Cosmos Maduka, president of Coscharis Group and Ifeanyi Ubah, the owner of Capital Oil, over a business transaction that obviously went haywire is a rather sad commentary on the shenanigans and misdemeanors that characterise business dealings in Nigeria. The dirt that is being thrown in public by the two brothers from the South East geo-political zone, over a transaction that was done in private, based on trust (as businesses are usually done), is not the best way to encourage people to go into partnerships.

I have friends who hail from Anambra State. They tell me that the secret behind the phenomenal progress of businessmen from Nnewi is their religious adherence to the practice of being their brothers' keeper. I am told that unlike the practice in some areas where a man would cover behind him, a bush track that he opened, which leads to a gold mine, because he does not want his brother to follow him, the average Nnewi man would cover the track quite all right, but for the purpose of preventing a stranger from treading the same path, so he can call his brother to follow him.

This explains the preponderance, in fact, the dominance of Nnewi people in the auto spare parts business, in which they enjoy monopoly. It is the industry that made the Madukas and Cletus Ibetos of this country.

If Maduka's testimonies during his appearances on AIT and Channels Television are anything to go by, it may be safe to conclude that he got into his present predicament because he allowed sentiments to take the better part of his sense of judgment. Those who know the Coscharis boss say he is a very shrewd, calculating businessman who thinks twice before taking a risk, even if the business has the potential to shoot him to the top of the socio-economic ladder. Maduka himself has said that much at different fora, including his interviews on the raging war. In other words, he is a man that looks before leaping. He calculates the risks, weighs the benefits, before taking the plunge. Naturally, the benefits must outweigh the risks to make the venture an attractive one. Like other successful businessmen, this is the golden rule that has seen Maduka succeed in every pie into which he has dipped his hands. If that is the case, why did a man with his business acumen go ahead to help secure a facility for a man whom he says the banks would not touch with a long pole? Why did he put his hard-earned reputation on the line to make the banks help a man he says they were not willing to help? Why did he bow to the ethnic sentiments that he says Ubah played up, against his better sense of judgment?

Now, it is Ubah's word against his. He says he helped the Capital Oil boss secure a loan when no bank would look at him twice; the latter says the help was the other way round. Ubah says he pledged nearly all he owns, to help Maduka secure a loan for the fuel importation business which they both agreed to do. Maduka says a debt of $150 million is currently hanging on his neck, which he secured for Ubah. He says the issue has nothing to do with inability to repay the loan. Far from it. He has the resources to repay the debt many times over. But if the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and even our own Aliko Dangote and Mike Adenuga would not toss $150 million down the drain, he, who cannot be compared to them, would not do so.

If Maduka's statement on the circumstance under which he assisted Ubah is true, then the issue that is playing out in the courts and in the media is one example of how not to be a brother's keeper. The Coscharis owner has shown that this is one risk that he did not quite calculate; not in the manner he is known to do. He must have been taken in by the runaway success of a kinsman in a supposedly hostile environment, to get involved in an enterprise that has now put him in the spotlight for the wrong reason. I have the feeling that the 54-year old businessman is not enjoying all this. I'm sure he wishes the current war was a bad dream that would just go away.

Ubah is not helping matters, either. From his utterances, the 41-year old gives the impression of a fighter who is ready to fight dirty. It's as if he has nothing to lose. In one breath he denies that Maduka is from Nnewi; in another he calls the Coscharis boss his uncle. He calls the business of the Coscharis Group, which has been in existence for more than three decades, pure water business that employs no more than 800 people, compared with his 'solid' business that employs 3,000 (the Capital Oil commercial that is running on Channels Television claims the workforce is 1,000) – an allusion to his contributions to the growth of the nation's economy. He alleges a gang-up by Maduka, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, finance minister and Aig Imokhuede, managing director of Access Bank, to drive him out of business. He has gone a step further to petition the inspector-general of police, alleging threat to his life – the familiar path of people who employ unorthodox means to win public sympathy. Now, if a man who badly needs credibility in a matter of this nature resorts to the use of uncouth language in the public arena, it is not difficult to know who, between the two, is trying to drag the other down the valley.

Maduka's decision to assist Ubah secure a loan from Access Bank to finance the importation of petrol was not only informed by the age-old practice of being a brother's keeper, but, most importantly, to help a younger brother succeed in a sector in which his kinsmen are very few. It therefore rings hollow, Ubah's allegation that his current travails are Maduka's handiwork that is aimed at running him out of business. He alleges envy. By who? It was the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola who said that the space in the sky is wide enough for all the birds to fly at the same time without two birds colliding with each other. For a man who has a record of success in every endeavour he ventures into, I guess Maduka does not need to go through Ubah to join the league of players in the downstream sector of the oil industry. His entry into the fuel importation business should not pose a threat to Ubah, because the field is big enough to accommodate all the players.

A London court has given Access Bank the order to seize all Capital Oil assets worldwide. Last week, the Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) secured a court order to freeze the company's assets anywhere they are located in the country. Certainly, this cannot be a grand conspiracy to run Ubah out of business, as he is alleging. We cannot imagine that Maduka is capable of bribing Nigerian and British courts to assist in the grand design of killing Capital Oil. So, where does the problem lie? Is it with Maduka, who is crying foul because he has to cough out over 300 million naira monthly as interest on a loan that is now up to 21 billion naira, which he secured to help Ubah import fuel, which proceeds cannot be fully accounted for, or Ubah, who is trying unsuccessfully to portray himself as the oppressor in the tripartite business relationship involving him, Maduka and Access Bank. Now, what is the bank's interest in killing Ubah's business? I thought banks help businesses grow, since the growth of the latter automatically translates to the growth of the former.

The current war must not be allowed to destroy the spirit of enterprise for which the people of Nnewi are well known. If it is true that the town that prides itself as the Japan of Nigeria owes its success to the practice of being one's brother's keeper, then the people of Nnewi have a responsibility to wade into the current war and ensure it does not get out of hand. It is natural for Maduka to feel that he has been left to hold the wrong end of the stick, when all he did was assist a younger brother who was in difficulty.

While we wait for the courts to adjudicate in what was strictly a business deal, Ubah should spare himself the trouble of flexing muscles in a public show that does not serve him any good. His allegation of envy, witch-hunt and harassment flies in the face of the seizure of his properties by AMCON, which was not a party in the fuel importation business that has now become a sore thumb.

Udofia wrote from Lagos ([email protected])

Your Comment

Mrs Adeyemi Bukky | 12/12/2012 3:47:00 PM
Ubah has a bad reputation,he is a fraud delegate, his points are irrelevant, saying on national TV that he was mislead and lured into the signing of documents and denying the fact that he did not seek Maduka's help.
victor adams | 12/12/2012 4:27:00 PM
how could ifeanyin ubah be so confident of himself when he knew what he did was an act of been jail for and yet his still claiming to be the good one.
EDET OBONG | 12/13/2012 3:12:00 PM
The chairman of capital oil Ifeanyi Ubah is just acting like a little kid that fell from a bike and starts blaming the pedals and the chains for making him fall relishing the fact that it was the same bike he rode on before on earth will you just try to cry to the public on a business transaction that took place on the based on trust between himself and his fellow kinsman...he should just try to save some energy for tears latter because this is just the beginning of a catastrophe yet to unfold...
johnson | 12/13/2012 3:21:00 PM
The downward trend of ubah business pattern his that,he has always be running from pillar to post.Why is he now taken Mr Maduka kindness for st*p*dity.
Maduabuchi | 12/13/2012 3:17:00 PM
What Ifeanyi Ubah displayed or have been displaying in the media by denying all allegations made against him by Cosmos Maduka, whom i pledge my allegiance to are been practiced by our well known business icons in Nigeria, then i fear for the future of their offspring. Ifeanyi Ubah has to be brought to justice for fraud and dealt with severely by his kinsmen for betraying a brother. This is absolutely absurd.
Maduabuchi | 12/13/2012 3:24:00 PM
What Ifeanyi Ubah displayed or have been displaying in the media by denying all allegations made against him by Cosmos Maduka, whom i pledge my allegiance to are been practiced by our well known business icons in Nigeria, then i fear for the future of their offspring. Ifeanyi Ubah has to be brought to justice for fraud and dealt with severely by his kinsmen for betraying a brother. This is absolutely absurd.
victor adams | 12/13/2012 3:32:00 PM
Ubah is such an official fraudster, Maduka did mention of taking ubah to several banks to take a loan to carry out is obligations but the shocking story was that none of the banks were ready to loan him due to bad debtor he his... ubah and maduka did had an agreement and the aftermath of this was that maduka succeed in securing a loan for ubah in access bank which ubah denied point blank...
BIG MOUTH | 12/14/2012 1:59:00 PM
I thought the story of kinsmen betrayal was a thing of the past but entire hullabaloo about the failed business transaction that took place between cosmos Maduka and Ifeanyi Ubah is just another heart breaking betrayal tale that has just started but no one really know were it would eventually end.
dav52 | 12/17/2012 4:25:00 PM
Ubah owes lots of debt to pay, yet his still spending extravagantly well that's his own problem to fix if he likes he spend all he has made in capital oil on luxury things, I see no reason why that should affect the price of beans in market, all he needs is to repay all his debt and continue in his official fraud... nonsense
andersonJFK | 12/17/2012 4:47:00 PM
And more so I see this as a kind of betrayal since Maduka doesn't know anything about oil he only brought in the capital. I guess Ubah didn't give detailed information about the business and that's what caused the problem.
sharon | 12/17/2012 4:53:00 PM
From my own understanding the people of nnewi enjoy mo-poly business,the secret behind the progress of businessmen from Nnewi is their adherence to the practice of being their brother's keeper, to me Maduka was only trying to help Ubah from his present predicament but what has ubah done to pay him back nothing rather he turned back to bite the finger that called him to eat.