Tuesday, May 22, 2018 10:51 am
Rupert Ojenuwa is the Managing Director of HoG Awards. The company has grown over the years in profile and has honored extremely notable Nigerians. However, what makes it tick and different is the fact that it doesn’t honor just anyone. You’d have to deserve it. The Awards team visits the state, constituency of a potential awardee and does due diligence and not rely on media reports. In this interview, Ojenuwa talks about the company and Atiku Abubakar who the company will honour this year.
You are preparing for the 8th Annual Session of the HoG Awards. How does it make you feel?
I understand that the awards will be inducting and decorating Vice President AtikuAbubakar into its hall of fame? Why Atiku?
I knew from when I sat for this interview that a question like this will be asked. The question I should have asked you is why not Atiku? You know, every time we hold our annual session, we tie the event to a particular national issue, hoping that we would be able to use the platform the awards offer to give voice to it. This year, we are looking at Democracy, Job Creation and Restructuring Call. If you look at those 3 critical issues, then the answer to your question pops at you. Atiku Abubakar has done creditably well in those three aspects-he was a fighter for the return of democracy, he is one of the highest private employer of labour and about the loudest advocate for restructuring.
But doesn’t it bother you that he is seen to be corrupt?
This interview centers on our event not on Atiku Abubakar. Don’t make me his mouth piece or PR Manager.
Yes, I know but he will be more or less a major center of attention during your awards this year. Shouldn’t that bother you then?
Anybody who accepts allegation as facts is only displaying ignorance. But the truth is that I was once in that shoe. I thought of Atiku not as being corrupt but that he is corruption itself but when we had the opportunity to do a research into his person, preparatory to our awards, we found out that, in no court of law has Atiku been condemned. Not in Nigeria and not anywhere else in the world. So what is anybody’s prove that he is corrupt except that somebody said so. I could call you a thief now. Does that make you one? Rather we saw that this man has been quietly empowering people, giving scholarships and undertaking community development. If every politician did that, even in their states and community alone, Nigeria would have been better than it is today. This is not about 2019, it is about what is right. Nigerians should jettison campaign of calumny and celebrate its own.
But Obasanjo was very clear…and Atiku didn’t fight it at the time?
You are correct in a sense. I also felt that way when I had the opportunity to deliver our nomination letter on behalf of the Chairman of our Board, Chief Alex Akinyele and then in an interview session. I asked him why he kept quiet when Obasanjo alleged that he was corrupt and he told me, ‘Rupert, you may not believe me but I was brought up properly…I was brought up to respect my elders and so I didn’t want to fight dirty and to join issues. Obasanjo was my boss and he did me a favour when in 1999, after everyone agreed to give him the ticket, I wasn’t expecting anything when he asked me to become his running mate. So, in the face of provocation and labels, I always remember that he is my elder, my former boss and that he picked me to be his running mate, that was a favor he did and I didn’t think I should be fighting him dirty. My politics has always been issue based and not name calling’. And let me add that last year, he gave a challenge that anyone who has evidence of corruption on him should put it forward. It is wrong to label a man corrupt simply because he is wealthy. If that should be the case then one of the most corrupt men in the world should be Bill Gate. Don’t you think so?
Well, Atiku is…
Cuts in…No more Atiku, let’s dwell on the awards. If you want an interview on Atiku, fix another date. However, after diligent search, I have come to the conclusion that Atiku should be celebrated in Nigeria not vilified. I was in Adamawa and it will shock you what he has done in terms of employment, go to the South South and the impact is even more. A man who has several businesses to cater for the youths should be the one celebrated. Those who are bullionares without any known physical business are the ones to be probed for corruption. I’m sure you will agree with me.
Your major attention this year is the Senate and its president?
Yes. The 8TH Senate under Bukola Saraki has done creditably well. They have scored many firsts. The level of proactivity of this Senate is phenomenal. The number of bills and motions, the number of corruption exposures, the number of critical national interventions even in the midst of face offs and perceived intimidation. We believe that the Senate President and his team are doing well and are deserving of honor.
How do you feel about the many face offs and the impediments the Senate under Bukola Saraki has with the Federal Government of Buhari?
I think you have a clear desire to either make me a spokesman today or get me into trouble but I think you should know that the Senate isn’t supposed to be a rubber stamp. That they disagree once in a while with the Executive doesn’t necessarily make them into enemies. It is only about saying, we think this doesn’t serve the best interest of the nation and so we will not confirm, etc. That is the way democracy is supposed to be. Bukola Saraki for example was one of those who made the Senate stand down on the desire to impeach President Buhari. I think in his wisdom, he felt that wouldn’t serve a greater good. Shouldn’t he be applauded? I don’t see the Senate as impediment, I rather see it as a catalyst.
Where and when is this event holding?
That’s what I expect to hear. In Lagos on the 24th of June.
Who are the awardees
Alh. Atiku Abubakar, SP Bukola Saraki, Sen. Ben Bruce, Sen. Shehu Sanni and one or two governors.
For participation and reservation?