By Charles Kumolu
He was born into deprivation, and even symbolised it during his formative years. But the sheer determination to rise above those limitations saw him using education to become one of the top players in the oil and gas industry.
Apart from his successes in business, the Managing Director of Gulf Treasures Limited, and Danko Investment, Mr. Anamero Dekeri is a known philanthropist, whose passion for giving is impacting many lives in his native Edo State. Dekeri, who wants to represent his people in the Senate, narrates how a bitter encounter with soldiers made him more determined to defeat poverty.
In the beginning:
My life like most people from my part of the world has not been easy. But I am grateful for what God is doing in my life. The last time I found myself unintentionally hungry was when I was in Ibadan trying to secure admission into the University of Ibadan. On a particular day in July 1987, I had garri that I could drink for a meal but there was a dilemma whether I should drink it for breakfast or dinner. My instinct opted for dinner and I immediately followed my instinct because I was scared of spending the night hungry.
The next morning, I embarked on a journey from Agbowo where I lived to Felele to solicit transport fare from my uncle to enable me to travel back to Okpella, Edo State. Sadly, that day was a sanitation day. I thought I could beat the time before the sanitation began. Before I could get to Adamasingba Stadium, the time had already caught up with me.
With my belongings on my head, soldiers, who were monitoring the exercise apprehended me and wanted to take me to Agodi Gate Prison for violating War against Indiscipline, WAI. I pleaded with them that I was a student, who was forced out of my home by hunger. But all my pleas fell on deaf ears.
My imprisonment was later converted to hard labour on an empty stomach. I saw my experience as a declaration of war on my poverty status and I became determined to win the battle. This is one of the many factors that shaped my attitude in life. My background has thought me a lot about life. While I believe that it is my responsibility to give a future to my children, the best future I can give to them is to guide them through the part of life that guarantees their future. In other words, it is my responsibility as a father to teach them how to fish. I am doing that by giving them the necessary training that will help them confront the challenges of life in future. They just have to be better than me.
A lot of people influenced me. The late Obafemi Awolowo, for instance, was my role model. His approach to education in the defunct Western Region, which saw many sons and daughters of the region benefiting from his free education programme, was inspiring to me. That was what made the West the most educated region in Nigeria till date. Also, I am a product of the free education programme of the late Professor Ambrose Ali in the old Bendel State. I believe that an educated mind is a liberated mind. Awolowo said an educated man is easier to govern. When governance fails, it is partly because those saddled with leadership responsibility and their followers lack quality education.
Philanthropy as a calling
For me, philanthropy is a calling. It is a pledge I have made. One of the things that give me joy is giving. When I give, I get the kind of satisfaction wealth, fame and business success cannot give me. One thing nobody can separate from me is philanthropy. It is in the course of expanding my philanthropic works that I am seeking a political office. I see politics as a platform for expanding the reach of my humanitarian works.
The more I give, the more I realise the need to give more. It is an unending venture. So, I have realised how useless stomach infrastructure is. I have also realised the wisdom in teaching a man how to fish rather than giving him a fish. My intention is to focus on empowerment. We must get the unemployed youths and women to stand on their own. People will continue to run to others for help until they are able to stand on their feet. When they are independent, their thinking and orientation will change. When individuals vying for political offices on the strength of their merit are supported, the future of the society will not be mortgaged.
Scramble for rice
Poverty is the reason most Nigerians are naive. A hungry man can easily compromise. If you are hungry, everything presented to you will look like food. It is a psychological thing. I weep when people scramble for rice every Christmas when we go to villages to distribute rice. When the supposed breadwinner fights for rice, what would women do? That is the level of poverty in the society. Poverty has reduced us to a ridiculous level. We must, through legislative intervention, begin to guide people to create wealth. It is a revolutionary campaign that we have to embark on. We must teach and support people to work so as to earn a legitimate income. And the people must be prepared to embrace the revolutionary trend.
Anamero Idofe Anamero Foundation
The fight against poverty is the reason Anamero Idofe Anamero Foundation has been involved in educational development. Since 2012, every pupil of public school in Edo North gets, at least, four exercise books. Recently, scholarships were given to 10 students in Okpe, Akoko Edo Local Government Area. On the same day, 10 women were selected for empowerment.
Last October, two 10-classroom blocks built by the foundation for two public schools in Okpella were unveiled by Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki. Education is not optional, it is mandatory for everyone. Little wonder the holy Bible said that people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. It did not say they are stupid, hungry or poor. It said they lack knowledge. That tells how crucial education is to a man. When education is taken away from a man, he becomes useless.
Giving hope to people
I focus more on the number of lives we have impacted. The foundation spends millions of naira every year on many projects. We have also spent much on the building of community town halls and blocks of classrooms to foster positive interactions and quality learning. We are currently constructing roads.
I am not seeking the praises of men, so I don’t talk about how much we spend. In five to 10 years’ time, I want to see the number of lives the foundation will transform. That is the ultimate end and not the billions of naira we spend on projects. The joy is giving hope to people, not getting praises.
The rest of my life
Whatever I am doing today goes beyond impressing people. I also see it as a calling. I have lived close enough to the people and I understand them better. God has blessed me with what is enough to sustain me for the rest of my life. That is why I am duty bound to give part of my blessings to the society. I don’t have to be publicising my humanitarian activities the way some people are doing today. The important is to see giving as a responsibility to be performed without selfish motives.
What the foundation is doing is a reflection of my calling and passion. The foundation started operating formally in 2012. My plan is to ensure that it emerges as the biggest charity organisation in Nigeria. To own the biggest charity organisation in Nigeria had been my dream even before I started the foundation.
I have remained focused in pursuing that dream and make it come true. In 10 years from now, we want to see beneficiaries of the foundation come back to testify to how the organisation has changed their lives and also contributed to the moral and educational development of others. I want to see the foundation develop into a life-changing institution and a model in the humanitarian circle. Recently, professionals advised that the scope of the foundation is too broad. We were advised to focus on education, empowerment and community development.
Life of contentment
We must begin to address the challenges in the education sector in a strategic manner. When an individual is educated, many generations would automatically be liberated through him. That is because the level of reasoning and the worldview of an educated individual are remarkably different from others. Through lawmaking, we can reform the education system and make it more result-oriented. Through lawmaking, we can bring hope to millions of people through education. The liberation of every society starts with education. To achieve this, we must live a life of contentment. We live flamboyant lifestyles that we do not have the capacity to maintain whereas the critical needs like education suffer. We cannot develop if we continue like that.
This is why I invest so much in education. Every year, I distribute thousands of exercise books to schools. When I was in primary two, I could not afford exercise books. Whenever I remember what I went through, I acknowledge the deprivation some pupils go through and how useful I would be to them. That is why I have been actively involved in the empowerment of the youths and women. To reach a larger percentage of these groups, we need to put in place robust institutional frameworks that are supportive of the society we want to build. And I think the society we want, should be progressive, developmental and wealth-creating. Young men and women die daily of ailments that could be cured by common medical aids. Children, who are willing to learn do not have the basic facilities required for descent learning. If we cannot begin to think of how to address these challenges, it means we have lost the essence of humanity. We must create an environment that is supportive of quality living, education and healthy living.