- Lawson Omokhodion (2022), Powered By Poverty. Lagos: SME Media Limited 404 pages
- By Chido Nwakanma
Lawson Omokhodion, in this beautiful narrative, particularises the universal phenomena of poverty in telling “a story of adversity, ambition, diligence and triumph”. It is arresting and didactic. His story is a tribute of gratitude and reflections on many significant milestones in a life that intersects with Nigerian history.
Poverty serves as the peg upon which the author leans to share a rich account of his life, trials, and triumphs.
Powered by Poverty covers 22 chapters, a prologue, a foreword, and a preface. It tells the journey so far of the 70-years old Chief Lawson Omokhodion, Knight of the Catholic Church, an eminent citizen of Edo State, journalist, a senior bank executive and one of the pioneers of the structured management trainee programme of old.
The Lawson Omokhodion autobiography follows a trend of Africans bucking the Western literary canon that falsely claims that “poverty is rarely the main theme of a literary work” but a sub-theme arising from the fact that the main character or group is poor.
Omokhodion’s book addresses some of literature’s ten most common themes. They include coming of age, good versus evil, courage and heroism, health challenges, survival, love and marriage, and prejudice.
The time and place dimension enriches biographies. Powered By Poverty contains a rich depiction of time and place. The story of Nigeria from the 1960s to date is seen initially from the eyes of a daring and focused young lad to that of an adult with strong footprints in various areas. They include the Nigerian civil war, the merit-based school system, the influence of the Catholic Church, student unionism and aluta, journalism and the evolution, triumphs and trials of Nigerian banking.
Lawson Omokhodion hails from Ujemen, Ekpoma, Edo State. He went through Holy Cross Primary School, Benin City, Immaculate Conception College and Edo College, Benin City, and the University of Lagos, where he graduated with Upper Honours in Mass Communication. He earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Arizona State University, Tempe, the USA, as part of the Management Development Programme of the Centre for Management Development and back to higher levels in Nigerian banking.
His rich and variegated career includes returning to work in the Centre for Management Development, pivoting to his training as Business Editor of Newswatch and ThisWeek magazines, then Executive Editor of ThisWeek, on to AVC Funds and a banking career with All States Trust Bank. He then moved on to international development banking as an Executive Director at the African Development Bank in Abidjan.
Lawson Omokhodion earned the monicker OmoLaw as a student. It stuck over the years and described an aggressive yet friendly, courageous man of integrity, tested and proven over many encounters. OmoLaw courageously expressed his convictions through his schooling, career, and life.
He is outspoken in his views about his life’s time and place dimensions and its epochal events. That candour shows the most in the chapters on the unlamented Structural Adjustment Programme of General Ibrahim Babangida, the Prof Chukwuma Soludo Banking Consolidation programme that the author describes as a “fiasco” and the penchant of Nigerian leaders to shoot the country in the foot.
“Banking Consolidation Fiasco” in Chapter 16 is a must-read. It is a studied demolition of the bank consolidation exercise by a participant-observer. Chief Omokhodion was managing director of Liberty Bank when the new Central Bank Governor Prof Charles Soludo announced the scheme. Omokhodion disputes the touted claim of the success of the exercise but submits instead that it failed the system, depositors, cost loss of lives, disrupted careers and cost the economy huge losses.
Soludo raised the capital requirement for a banking license from N1b to N25b. Omokhodion notes that the similar provision in the UK was six million pounds, equivalent to N1.5b in 2004. There were 89 banks, of which 62 were operationally sound, 14 were marginal and 11 unsound.
The Soludo Consolidation dictated a uniform banking regimen with no room for different categories. He says it failed “because of the absence of product differentiation, lack of specialisation, and the existence of the one-size-fits-all syndrome.”
Omkhodion submits: “The CBN banking consolidation programme announced in July 2004 was not properly thought through. There were no consultations. The federal government was too distracted and did not subject the CBN governor to a session where experts and concerned public could participate in robust questions and answers. The policy was mechanical and anti-people; ill-advised and ill-conceived. It was an arrogant display of the naked power of coercion. Its imposition was reminiscent of the Nigerian military era. There were too many casualties. The consolidation exercise was an attempt to cure the ills of the banking system by killing the industry” -pp 253-254.
“How SAP crippled Nigeria” builds on the narrative of the failure of the governments of Muhammadu Buhari, Sani Abacha, and Ibrahim Babangida. SAP was duplicitous in OmoLaw’s account and birthed a new Nigeria: “A new Nigeria had emerged. But it was not a better Nigeria. Shortages cost escalation, and penury intensified. The people became increasingly restive. The military government became more repressive and thinner in patience.”
The chapter “Struggle for the soul of Africa” narrates the author’s experience at the African Development Bank. It captures how Nigerian leaders regularly short-change the country in those international organisations.
This book reads in some parts like a racy novel that tugs at your emotions. Such is the experience following Chief Omokhodion’s battle with cancer. Powered By Poverty is a gratitude journal. Many reasons abound for his thanksgiving including escaping the determined effort of the Nuhu Ribadu-led EFCC to tar his reputation and career with the charcoal of a crime he did not commit.
OmoLaw anchors his narrative in “The Pains of Family Love” in Chapter 21. It is a primer on poverty alleviation through the tested and assured route of education, hard work and family love.
There are a few editing glitches. The standout error is the mention of “Dr Christopher Okigbo” alongside Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe as persons who visited President Babangida to intercede for Mamman Vatsa. It was Prof John Pepper-Clark.
Powered By Poverty is instructive and courageous and would stir debates. The author delivers straight punches and a thrilling narrative as a journalist.
The book is available on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Powered-Poverty-Adversity-Ambition-Diligence-ebook/dp/B0BBKDNC91.
Check out Laterna Bookshop on Oko Awo Street, VictoriaIsland, Lagos on tel 08034020299
- Nwakanma is on the adjunct faculty of the School of Media & Communication, Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos
Group Calls For Protection Of Journalists In Bayelsa, Imo, Kogi States
The Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has urged for necessary measures to protect journalists and other media workers during this weekend’s off-cycle elections in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi States.
The group sent the request to the federal and state governments, as well as law enforcement and security agencies, stressing that the role of journalists in disseminating information about the electoral process is critical to ensuring free, fair, and transparent elections.
In a statement issued ahead of the elections in Lagos and signed by the Communications Officer, Media Rights Agenda, Idowu Adewale, MRA also urged journalists to be cautious and to use its existing hotline (08138755660) to report any threat or attack they may encounter during the process, as well as any obstacle.
Adewale said in the statement: “Given the pattern of heightened attacks on journalists and the media during previous elections, including the recent 2023 general elections, as well as the tense political climate in the three states in the lead-up to the elections, measures must be taken to ensure general security during the elections and provide adequate protection for journalists covering the elections.”
“Access to information allows citizens and other members of the public to have the information they need about political and electoral processes, facilitating effective public participation in elections,” he says.
“Journalists and the media play an important role in ensuring residents and other members of the public have access to information and may participate in the process.
“As part of efforts to preserve the integrity of the polls, it is also critical that the safety and well-being of these interlocutors be assured and safeguarded.”
Lamenting the increased number of attacks on journalists in the run-up to the off-cycle elections, as well as earlier this year in the run-up to the general elections, he emphasised that “a free and vibrant media is fundamental to a healthy democracy, and journalists must be able to carry out their duties without fear, coercion, or violence.” During this vital phase, MRA stands ready to assist them and assure their safety.”
Police Nab Husband, As Mother Of ‘Mummy Be Calming Down’ Boy Takes Own Life
Men from the Edo State Police Command are said to have detained Mrs. Toluige Olokoobi’s husband after he allegedly murdered her.
Olokoobi was the mother of Oreofeoluwa Lawal-Babalola, the tiny boy whose video went viral in 2020 after he pleaded with his mother, “Mummy be calming down.”
Oreofeoluwa rose to prominence on social media after a video of him crying in an attempt to confidently appeal to his mother, who chastised him, went viral.
The film inspired Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who used it to deliver an Eid-el-Kabir appeal to Muslims and Lagos people in general to remain calm during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Following that, the youngster and his family met with the governor, who praised his bravery and poise.
While little has been heard about the family in three years, heartbreaking news broke on social media on Tuesday that the boy’s mother had committed suicide.
According to an X user, Olokoobi committed suicide in Benin, the capital of Edo State, for unknown reasons.
The X user, who stated that he was present at the site on Monday afternoon, went on to say that she had refused to disclose her difficulties with anyone before committing herself.
“The woman in the viral Mummy Calm Down video has just committed suicide here in Benin,” he stated in an email.
“She refused to discuss her problems with anyone.” She abandoned three children for her husband, including the well-known Mummy Calm Down boy.”
Meanwhile, confirming Olokoobi’s death in a chat with BBC Pidgin, the spokesperson of the Edo State police command, Chidi Nwabuzor, said her husband has been arrested and detained for questioning.
Nwabuzor said the husband reported the matter to the police.
The police spokesperson quoted the husband to have said that “he came home from the market when he saw his wife hanging with rope on her neck”.
Nwabuzor said she was rushed to the hospital and then to the mortuary after she was confirmed dead. (Adapted from a Vanguard report).
Anambra: CP Aderemi Adeoye Decorates Promoted Officers With New Ranks
The Anambra State Police Command Headquarters Conference Hall was a hive of activity Thursday as CP Aderemi Adeoye took turns decorating around 18 promoted officers of the command with their new titles.
The delight of some of the officers whose wives assisted the CP in decorating their husbands with their new ranks knew no bounds, as their husbands duly saluted their wives and the CP for their new positions and responsibilities.
Obi Innocent, one of the officers elevated to the rank of Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), whose wife joined CP Aderemi Adeoye in adorning him with his new rank, said it was wonderful that the Inspector General of Police thought him worthy.
CSP Obi Innocent, the officer in charge of the Legal Department at Zone 13, Police Zonal Headquarters Ukpo, stated that his new rank was a call to service and that he would do his best to uphold the charge given to them by CP Aderemi Adeoye to respect and protect the citizenry’s fundamental rights in the discharge of their new assignments.
Charity Akharame, who was honoured with the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) and was the only female officer among the 18 promoted officers decorated with new ranks, said it was not an easy feat but she was grateful to be among those who were decorated with their new ranks.
DSP Charity Akharame, the officer in charge of stores in the Anambra State Police Command, recalled how she began as a Police Constable and worked her way up to her current position as Deputy Superintendent of Police.
She stated that as a very disciplined police officer, she would follow the Police Commissioner’s directions regarding respect for all and sundry in the fulfillment of her constitutional obligations.
Jane-Frances Obi, one of the spouses of the officers elevated to the level of CSP, stated that being the wife of a police officer was not an easy assignment. As a result, she recommended any lady who is married to a police officer to be patient and understanding because the job is quite demanding.
Jane-Frances Obi, whose husband is Innocent Obi, the officer in charge of the Legal Department at Zone 13 Ukpo, believes the promotion is a reward for years of being patient, understanding, and standing in for them when they are not present.
Meanwhile, Emenike Chinenyenwa, who was decorated with the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) and presented a vote of appreciation, expressed deep gratitude to the IGP and the Chairman of the Police Service Commission for considering them worthy of being adorned in their new ranks.
ACP Emenike, the officer in charge of Medicals, stated that the elevation comes with increased responsibility and that they will work harder in their new tasks.
CP Aderemi Adeoye praised the current promotion winners in his remarks, noting that two aspects make the police career very interesting and eventful. He stated that one is for promotion and the other is for positions.
CP Adeoye, on the other hand, urged the newly honored officers to develop more empathy, compassion, care, and dedication in the performance of their jobs.
The police chief insisted that newly promoted officers must first recognise that they share the same humanity as others, and as a result, they must treat all people with dignity and protect their fundamental human rights at all times.
CP Aderemi Adeoye stressed that without the enormous roles of spouses, they wouldn’t have been successful in their careers. He therefore congratulated all the promoted and prayed that God gives them good health to enjoy the new ranks and the energy to discharge the responsibilities of their new offices.
- Source: Independent