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ICT4D Week 2018

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Hunger for Power

INTRODUCTION
My take is that this engagement is not a BOOK Review, but the Review of a STORY. A STORY well told by a seasoned STORY TELLER.

I have reviewed a couple of books in the past and my objective at all times is to make a short presentation of what, in my opinion, is the summary of a document that I have read, in a manner that simplifies the content, explains the complex portions, and decodes any technical issues in the book. I also take a critical look at the core message of the book, so the author and/or the publishers may have a takeaway while the audience gets an attraction to read the book.

But here we are, we have a book with a sweet storyline, beautifully written in the best tradition of the English language, that holds the attention and interest of the reader that makes it hard for the reader to put it down.  I bet that many of us will read this STORY at a sitting or two, have a laugh, have fun, and probably start all over again. The STORY is not complex, requires no explanation of any complex theories, and is simply a good read!! There is nothing to decode. It is written in short chapters of 4, 5, 6 pages and the one relatively long chapter is just 23 pages long. So what will a reviewer do? Make it more complex?

When Dr. Newton Jibunoh called to inform me that I was his choice to review a book that was at the time still in the works but should be ready for public presentation on the occasion of his 80th birthday on January 1, 2018, I was suitably humbled. I wondered what qualified me for the honour of reviewing a book that would chronicle three journeys through the Sahara Desert, amongst other life experiences, crammed into his 80 years here on earth. This is an adventurous man who has packed enough experiences in his lifetime that wuld require three lifetimes for most regular folks to achieve.
When you hear that Newton Jibunoh writes a book, most folks will expect that such book will detail his experience as a Sahara Desert traveler, an environmentalist, an art connoisseur. While the book HUNGER FOR POWER talks about those subjects, the story goes beyond those topics. I have read at least two books, in which Dr. Jibunoh discusses his Sahara Desert and Environment odysseys, and my opinion is that although his massive material and intellectual investment in the Sahara Desert, the environment, the arts and artifacts etc. were featured in this book, it appears the telling of those stories for which the author was well-known was really in aid of challenging the reader - TO TRIGGER VARIOUS CONVERSATIONS.

I believe that this STORY TELLER is telling the story so that we can start some CONVERSATIONS, a number of which have already been suggested but perhaps not taken seriously; some rather well known but by a general conspiracy of silence are regarded as no-go areas, while some have not even been mentioned.

It is those CONVERSATIONS that I want to use my privilege of being a Reviewer of the STORY to mention and draw attention to.

This story teller, I am sure, means different things to many people, and is known by varied and various appellations, but applying the content of this STORY, I can safely refer to him as: Newton Chukwukadibia Jibunoh, Desert Warrior, Environmentalist, Jibrin Makoda, “Baba Costain”, a Determined Good Houseboy, and the IsagbaOdua of Akwukwu-Igbo land and Obasoge of Oligboland which are not in the story.

These conversations are routed in subjects such as HUMAN BEINGS AND HUMANITY, CULTURE AND ITS AUDACITY, CORRUPTION AND ITS VENOM, POWER AND ITS ENORMITY, and the hypocrisy of Godliness vis-a-vis religiosity.

POWER AND ITS ENORMITY
There are more than one hundred and ten persons named in this STORY, and we can correctly say that these are friends and associates of the author. Friendship can be positive or negative, a point brought to the fore by Dr. Jibunoh with his POWER THEORIES, to the effect that we all possess the same amount of innate powers which do get shaped and affected by a number of factors including: our circumstances of birth, education, the peer group we relate to, and even the accidents of life that we run into. Positive uses of those powers deliver accomplishments, while negative applications lead to various troubling situations and turpitude. The differences in the use of our innate powers that we see as good or bad are applied by the author to demonstrate that few of us utilise these innate and God-given powers to positive ends. Hear him  

"When I think of Power, the only other thing I think of is Fire. Power is like fire; it can keep you warm and it can burn you. It can cook you a meal or raze your house. It can purify gold or calcify a human being. Ensconced deep within its core are elements of good and evil. It all depends on the choices you make when you handle it."

A list of his friends (See LIST), especially those who are here at this time, will signify that yes, he is a big man of means and that is why all his friends are equally men and women of means.  But that will be wrong going by the story that he tells! All the people on this long list of friends can be compartmentalised into groups defined by the application of their individual innate powers. And that is where the differences lie; accidents of meeting, be it family, school, business, are not really the differentiating factors when the chips are down. It is the manner individuals use their powers that put them into these imaginary compartments.

THE LIST
Everybody comes into play in this story according to how he or she had used the power which the Almighty gave him/her.

BABA COSTAIN
The most revealing segment of this STORY is the record of the author’s time with Costain West Africa Plc.  (CWA), especially how Dr. Newton Jibunoh took the firm from the valley to a comfortable mountain of success within Nigeria's corporate landscape. I will commend a good read of Chapter 14, "BABA COSTAIN" to upcoming and young business managers who desire to build a formidable skills set in management for confronting the vicissitudes of industry upheaval, which has now and again terrorised Nigerian corporate conglomerates and multinationals many of which had dismantled their structures once the weather became turbulent.

The author’s time in Costain is also a good account a genuine effort at LOCAL CONTENT   DEVELOPMENT AND PRESERVATION that I am privileged to take away from this account. It is instructive to find the author revealing, in particular, that he lost a good number of the battles to powerful opponents of the subject matter, a greater number of which were Federal Government projects.  Hear him directly as he discusses an experience with a Shell Trustees building Project:

"My decision to bring up this fight over LOCAL CONTENT is a deliberate one on my part, designed to draw attention to the continuing struggles Nigerians face daily, to prove themselves. It was a fight I constantly took on as the CEO of Costain (West Africa) Plc., with the full support of my Board.

Unfortunately, I lost more of them than I won. And majority of the ones I lost were actually Federal Government projects, where the permanent secretaries and directors would have been feted lavishly abroad, or fed lies about us, which they would not bother to investigate. I had some of our competitors, expatriate controlled competition, claim at various times that we were going bankrupt, or in the process of being bought over by them. Ridiculous, unsubstantiated claims, all of them. Thankfully, Shell Trustees did not buy those lies. We went on to execute the contract, and delivered on the project in good time and with very high quality...."
Let's wrap up the STORY.

Here is a person who was orphaned in early life, and consequently suffered a bit of deprivation, as might be expected in his situation. However, He refused to be held back by the circumstances of his birth, and very early in life displayed the tenacity and single-mindedness that would take him to the heights of his professional life as well as fuel his adventurous spirit. He overcame fear easily and consistently focused on things that he considered important. Unknown to him, people noticed his drive and focus, and he became remarkably successful because he attracted opportunities and challenges in life, which he diligently accepted and successfully prosecuted. He learned more from the “book of life” than he did from just books, and he became perpetually hungry for POWER to change things, especially those relating to poverty, squalor and a degrading environment, without any desire to seek political office.

THE BOOK
Let us talk a bit about the BOOK, now that we are done with the STORY.
We have been presented with an interesting book, published in today's tradition and classic production of Paradigm House.

Its 328 pages are divided into four parts, within each part lies, at least one interesting CONVERSATION.

In discussing the author's EARLY LIFE AND FAMILY, we get a sense of Newton Jibunoh’ s deep root in tradition and culture, which will eventually manifest in his love and support for the arts. We must note his concern about a number of contentious traditions, for example, one that makes children born for men whose names the children do not adopt but rather names of their separated mothers’ former husbands simply because a dowry paid on their mothers are yet to be repaid. The matter is worsened by the fact that such children not only find themselves in an awkward situation of suspect identity, they also are denied some rights, even as the same cultural norm offers no form of protection. Worse still when some of the rather educated and affluent ones among them challenged the matter in court, the court ruled that 'This is a traditional thing, go back and settle it amongst your people". I believe that calls for some serious CONVERSATION!

The part that discusses the author's CAREER, MARRIAGE, FRIENDSHIP and ASSOCIATIONS is unarguably the most remarkable of the four parts. Here Newton Jibunoh presents a story that should be read by all young persons who are transiting from adolescence to maturity, and desirous of climbing the ladder of professional and corporate life in an economy that is, at best, emerging. 

The matter of CORRUPTION in all its importunate attachment to our lives as Nigerians,  is brought to the fore and treated in a manner that I feel will start A CONVERSATION but leaves for the reader to think about. Kolanut, a traditional symbol of appreciation becomes a metaphor for corruption. And the author uses his personal experience to answer the question "when and how did we get into this corruption mess in Nigeria?" I ask that all Nigerians read the "KOLANUT" as the “GIVE” example and the "GOLD PEN" scenarios as the “RECEIVE” example. While the country continues, with varying amount of success, to wage a war on corruption, the CONVERSATION that I feel should have preceded it, is yet to commence.

The POWER SERIES is the part that asserts the author's authority on the subject of "POWER". This part exists to distinguish the actual power of his interest from the ephemeral ones that are brought about by uniforms, the siren, position, addiction and all those man-made ephemeral manifestations as distinct from what the Almighty has created in all of us.

The fourth and final part of the book, THE ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCACY, is where the author gives short but gripping details of the planning and execution of his third travel from Lagos to London through the Sahara Desert. This, unlike the first and second journeys, was in company of other adventurous folks, including Joshua Adegbaju, Afam Ugha, Ebun Olatoye, Titi Laoye, Kelechi Amadi-Obi, and Adure Achumba. This chapter also highlights the author’s environmental advocacy, which covers projects into which he personally invested his own personal funds, as well as some that were eventually endorsed and supported by Governments at various levels. Of particular note is his FADE (Fight Against Desert Encroachment) project, an instant success and a project which brought tremendous endorsement of governments and citizens. The Makoda project, as an example, provided trees to check desertification, while also providing water for the villagers. This provision of water also led to a secondary positive effect of increasing secondary school enrolment in Makoda community, Kano State. The Jibrin Makoda title, which I mentioned earlier, is a worthy honour which the village bestowed on the Desert Warrior in appreciation of his work in the area.

Yes, this is the real conversation that the Desert Warrior, Dr. Newton Chukwukadibia Jibunoh, wants Nigeria, its people and governments to have, and wage a war against environmental degradation that is decimating the upper regions of northern Nigeria through desertification of their environments.
In this regard, he says:  “In developing countries in general, and particularly in Africa, a vicious cycle exists where land degradation is accelerating, productivity is decreasing and poverty is increasing”(Page 272)

STRANGE, ISN’T IT
You all wonder why the author did not keep the first car that did the London - Lagos trip as a souvenir and artifact.  It is not for lack of desire to preserve that car but a reason exists for why the car was not kept as such. Please see page 95 for details.

WHAT IS IT THAT NEWTON JIBUNOH DID NOT TALK ABOUT IN THIS STORY?
I tried unsuccessfully to find the name of the Secondary school that he attended just as I did not locate the maiden name of Mrs. Elizabeth Jibunoh. Yes he attended a few secondary schools, as was often with those who lived with itinerant teachers and any attempt to mention any of those schools may attract complaints by others. I have since found out that Mrs Elizabeth Jibunoh was Miss Elizabeth Okagbue.

AND WHAT ARE THINGS THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN WRITTEN DIFFERENTLY TO BE MORE CORRECT?
On the back cover of the book, “Newton Jibunoh is an 80 year old Nigerian national who has crossed the Sahara Desert by car thrice”, not twice as stated. 
The Managing Director of First Bank Plc. about 1979 was Chief Oluwole or Wole (not Wale) Adeosun. (Page 119) while one of the triumvirate that built the three tall buildings in Victoria Island is Mr. Adeyemi Bero, not Bello. (Page 143)
Page 255 starts Part Four, not Three as written in the book
The name Abdulrahman Dahiru is written as Abdulraham Dahiru in Page 96.

IS DR JIBUNOH STILL PLANNING OTHER EXPEDITIONS FOR THE FUTURE?
Page 227 provides an answer.

PETER FARRINGTON
Mr. Peter Farrington presents as the star of this STORY and one cannot conclude this review without making a special mention of this great gentleman, professional, and manager. In corporate life, there are a few people who are natural role models and I dare say Peter Farrington is one. I looked forward to meeting him at this Event but I have been advised that Peter would not be here. Ladies and gentlemen, please read about Peter in this book.

CONCLUSION
What have we done? We have reviewed a STORY which constituted itself into a BOOK that goes by the title “HUNGER FOR POWER”.
Thank you, and God bless.

*Reviewer: Titi Omo-Ettu, a telecommunications engineer, versatile writer and could be reached via titi@titiomoettu.com


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