NLNG literary prize just held……could you make an assessment of the prize?
We have been very proud of Nigerian talents in the area of writing. The NLNG Award has certainly been like sunshine for writers both within and outside of Nigeria who are Nigerians. It has provided hope and something to strive for.
It has provided a sense of recognition and acknowledgment of the repertoire of the pool of talents that we have in the area of artistic and creative writing. And the result shows that the impact has been ubiquitous.
For instance, we feel the impact in the area of quality publishing, in the plethora of writing, in the sophistication of editing, quality of literary judgment. We have also seen the impact in the wide spread interest in the prize from across the country. We have seen the impact clearly as a target which some writers strive to aim for.
Again, we have seen the impact of the prize in the harvest of new books in our shelves and libraries. We have seen the impact in the manner in which Nigeria is envied by all of Africa and beyond for hosting Africa’s biggest prize . The impact it has made is unquantifiable.
Now kindly tell me; is this prize of 100,000USD for real? It’s whooping that some people doubt if you ever give it all….
Of course it is for real. Anytime we announce the prize, it means we are sure the winner would receive the money. There are two levels; we announce and later crown the winner who receives the symbolic cheque. Everything is for real.
Now we are not in Bonny where you are based; Could you take the reader on a mind tour of what you do at Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas Company NLNG?
Very simple…we buy gas from those who prospect and produce gas, transport it through our pipelines into mighty refrigerators called plants in Bonny. The gas is cleaned up and processed and cooled down to -600degrees. This processing is called liquefaction – that is turning the gas into liquid – reduces the size of gas which is loaded into mammoth ships about the size of four football fields to those who paid for them abroad. While abroad, the liquid is returned to gas for whatever use it wants to be made mostly for utilities.
In a nutshell what we do is source gas, process it and package it and then sell to those who need it. In so doing we make money for Nigeria and the company. As you may have known Nigeria LNG is owned by Nigeria represented by the NNPC as highest shareholder and oil giants like Shell, Eni(Agip), Total.
We have paid taxes, remitted dividends worth billions and excelled in Corporate Social Responsibility. You must have heard about the Bonny Bodo road and bridge project. You also must have heard how our mopping up of gas has reduced gas flaring in Niger Delta from 70% to 20%. We in the Niger Delta area are denied nights due to gas flaring. Nights are just like days. People are next door neighbours to furnaces. Thanks to NLNG which collects all these gas so it does not flare.
You talk about the new Bonny Bodo road project as biggest CSR so far, how do you mean?
I mean that this road project is the biggest CSR from a single company. 60bn USD devoted to one single project is unprecedented and I am particularly happy to be associated with it. You recall that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo came to Bonny to flag the road project off underscoring the huge importance of the project to Nigeria. It is the climax of our CSR efforts.
There have been attempts to do this all important bridge by successive governments but it has never materialized due to various reasons until now that the NLNG has waded in.
There is no doubt that the people are happy about this. It is going to be the first time that a road link will connect the island and the mainland and it would change lives. Bonny is beloved by the people but the big hazard has always been the turbulent sea in which many have perished. The NLNG plan to turn Bonny into African mini Dubai in the next 25 years is still on going.
Bonny must be lucky to be showered with all these…..
If you say so. It is a primary habitat where we have our base and offices. You could imagine what this bridge and entire vision for Bonny will turn out to be in the next 25 years. Hmmmm. Non could tell the extent to which life would change in Bonny with the road coming. The contractors say between four to five years, the road would be completed considering the difficult terrain. History will be made with this and generations of Bonny people and indeed many Nigerians who have cause to travel to Bonny will not go through the hardships like their fathers
Your job takes you around as one who resumes in one city and closes in another; how do you coordinate your department with offices scattered across Nigeria?
You see, I love my job which keeps me on my toes. I work in between Bonny, Port Harcourt, Lagos and Abuja. It is difficult to be in many places at the same time. But you never run from the challenge of duty. More so, when I am passionate about my country and believe in Nigeria. I love to communicate. I love to teach. I love to write.
My job revolves around these passions of mine. It has been so exciting employing these passions of mine to teach, to write to communicate to the world that Nigeria LNG is number one company in the world that Nigeria could be as good as any other company in the world. The job also helps me to make indelible impact and imprint on the nation. It gives me opportunity to work with a little bit of wisdom to ensure there is an oasis of peace in the midst of militancy, It is indeed challenging.
Kudo teaches, writes, sings, speaks, acts, dances etc…how do you describe yourself?
I think I am just a renaissance man, a man to whom there is no demarcation in professions who is ready to use any vehicles provided for him to actualize goals. One who is not quarantined to the arts or sciences or to management. This is how knowledge bearers, the classical philosophers of old like Socrates, Aristotle, Plato and a host of others lived. I see myself as a humble man who is out to help the next person.
You sang before, will you sing again?
I have no choice but to continue to write poetry and more poetry because it is my life. If these poetry come out in songs that producers help to put out that is it. The whole idea is that wisdom should no longer be hidden inside books. We should try to return wisdom to the market place where it used to be, so when we share folk tales under the moonlight or share everyday stories amongst ourselves we are spreading it.
We share poetry which helps us hand over from one generation to the other. I believe we should take our poetry from the rooftops where it is hung and bring it down to where the people’s hand can reach.
Did your parents have a hand in your early all out pursuit for academic excellence?
My parents did not influence my seeking academic excellence. My father even believed that people with doctorate degrees usually ended up wacko and behaved like mental cases. He was reluctant to see me move higher since he believed that my Bs.c was good enough. I was about to clock 30 when I got my doctoral degree in 1989.
I had a collision with my father over my choice of course at the very beginning. I had been successful at my prelim to study chemical engineering but I stumbled upon arts and mass communications. If I were in heaven doing mathematics I was in a bigger heaven in the arts. I took my result to the Professor of Chemical Engineering, Prof Ogunye who was happy that I was successful. All my tales of wishing to change course did not yield any fruits as he insisted I started before any change was possible.
He advised that I do a first year to prove myself and I did but he also screamed that with such a result, no one would let me go. Professor Ogunye went on sabbatical leave a few months after and his successor Professor Susu heard my tale and let me go. For my parents they had reasoned that a degree in Chemical engineering would provide for me in the oil industry.
However, I got the support of Professor Olatunji Dare who had told me of his coming into mass communication from a science related background. He was an excellent teacher of mass communication. I did not have the good fortune of him lecturing me but I was happy to note that . His reassurances gave me much hope that I was not really doing something really mad the way they made me feel.
Then we had Professor Alfred Opubor, prof Nwuneli, Prof Ugboaja. I did not want to do a master in mass communications because I felt that I had done almost all there was to do. I was contributing to Dele Giwa’s Page 7 in Daily Times and also did a stint with Radio Nigeria 2 with Jacob Akinyemi Johnson, Jones Usen and a host of the other guys. Dele Giwa made me realize that you could write in an artistic way, I won’t forget one of our great minds Ely Obasi who is no longer with us.
I chose Political science for a master’s degree, I felt I needed to sophisticate communication for social change. I needed to understand how society works. It was after my master’s programme that Late Prof Claude Ake came on the scene. It was under his wings that I did political theory which was very rare for several political science students. Ake was my supervisor. While running the doctoral programmes at Uniport where Prof Ake was my supervisor, I was close to Rivers Television.
What do you recall of your days at the Guardian?
When I graduated from Unilag, I was posted to Enugu to serve in the Customs service during my NYSC. Guardian was being packaged and I do not know who gave them my contacts. I guess it must have been one of my professors at Unilag. I was redeployed and whisked out of Enugu to work at the Guardian as one of its founding staff.
I was given a small room in Somolu to live. It was at the Guardian that I met the stars of Nigerian journalism; Chinweizu, Stanley Macebuh, Yemi Ogunbiyi, Eddie Iroh with whom I worked directly. They had read me a few weeks and realized that I was an unusual writer and sent me to Eddie Iroh who was heading a pool of elite crew including Ndayo Uko, Ely Obasi, Taiwo Obe, Afolabi Adesanya and a host of others. Readers would study the Guardian supplements for weeks. Those years were great.
You once resigned your appointment as editor of a Nigerian newspaper for reasons some people will not see; what spurred you to resign from Sunray newspapers
It was while waiting for my doctoral convocation that I joined Sunray to edit Point Newsmagazine, from the Sunray stable. You must have heard how I resigned the job. It was during that Abiola election period of 1992.
I had researched with my colleagues, Late Darlington Eziukwu and others and predicted with data from across Nigeria that Abiola of the SDP would win that election. Rivers state was under NRC and the government had tremendous influence over Sunray. They learnt that The Point Newsmagazine was about to publish that SDP would win the election. We had finished production and I left about midnight for the printers to complete printing. When I arrived early on that day to supervise circulation, I found out that the entire warehouse was littered with shredded pieces of paper.
Someone told me that the pieces of paper I was seeing were my newsmagazine shredded in pieces. I was transfixed. All the labour? All the work? All the creativity? All the risk we took. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I stood there motionless. I knew it was truth destroyed. I walked straight to my office and wrote my resignation letter.
I could not be part of any destruction of truth. I took my letter to Mr. Bobo Brown, Editor in Chief of Sunray. He advised me not to resign but I had had enough. I had driven to work with the 504 official car but I had to drop the keys and sent a message to my wife to come along with our old Passat car which could not start when I was ready to go except after it was pushed by some of my colleagues.
I knew I had no money to fend for my two months old family but it did not matter. It was a matter of principle. I am still very glad I resigned and gave it up. I went back to the University and got a job to teach political science at Uniport.
I also got another to teach mass communications at Rivers state University of Technology. While contemplating on which to choose, a mystery letter from my secretary at Sunray got to me. I had been appointed Rivers state Director of National Orientation Agency, Rivers state. Up till today, I still do not know how that job came, who gave my name or anything.
In the course of doing that work, then Rivers state Military Governor Col. Dauda Komo appointed me Commissioner for Information. But my boss Prof Elochukwu Amaucheazi didn’t feel I should leave the NOA considering all he thought I had done so we negotiated a way out which saw me doing the two jobs but earning only from the source. The two jobs enabled me to be sincere, to dare and also encourage young ones. It was that period that generated ideas for my book; How to make it.
How did the NLNG job come to you and what did you do differently to contain youth restiveness in your area of operation?
It was as I was preparing to leave the job as Commissioner that the opportunity to be Community Relations Manager at Nigeria LNG emerged. I wrote the community relations philosophy which was a complete departure from the regular way. Being a grassroots person who loves people, I couldn’t copy and paste what was handed down to me.
People were completely disconnected from the community relation plans because they were regarded as objects. The community was a nuisance and not a neighbor. Communities were regarded as impostor while we came to meet them.
If anyone was disturbing the environment then it must be us. Before now big men in the communities were awarded contracts to protect these infrastructure. Most of these contractors did not even know the communities well so the companies were alienated from the communities.
What we did differently was visit the over 100 communities first hand, break kola with them and we were explaining to them who we were and what we were bringing to the table. In doing this, we found out the real land lords and from there got to the focal points of who became a contractor which was made rotational.
In this way the people started protecting their own thing. This brought about peace. It’s as simple as that. It is like showing respect and giving what is due to Caesar to him. The land does not belong to us but to them. It is when there is peace that you could then develop human capacity programmes for the children. That is what NLNG did differently. It was originally challenging because there was no manual to refer to.