Chief (Ambassador) Ode Ochi Emmanuel, Chairman of the Middle Belt Traditional Council (MBTC) in the South West Nigeria and a Benue High Chief (Ojikpururu 1), is an integrity ambassador. He’s also the Chief Executive Officer of Dominion Global Logistics Ltd. In this interview granted JAMES IBECHI of jamesibechi.wordpress.com and City People Magazine, he quashes the notion that Benue is the poorest state in Nigeria. He also speaks on his family, business, and social life, among others.
How do you combine being the chairman of MBTC and running your business organization together?
MBTC, as you called it, is Middle Belt Traditional Council, South West. It is not easy managing it but one has to cope. It is not a paid job, it is a community service. So, you have to combine that with business to be able to make ends meet.
How do you take care of the needs of the component groups?
Middle Belt Traditional Council South West Nigeria, it is our umbrella body that takes care of the needs of the residents of the Middle Belt extraction in the South West Nigeria. We address their needs and issues as they come.
As our faces are different so also are our needs. As the needs arise we attend to the aids. MBTC is a body that is recognised by government. It is a body like this that takes care of specific needs of the subject that arise.
You have been the chairman of the organisation since last year, what are your challenges?
The challenges so far, like every other organisation or body, have been ones of harmonising the different characters that constitute the body. We cannot always think alike and think aright. But my prime objective as the head of the body is to harmonise the different ideas, characters in a way that makes a common meaning in achieving the goals set for the organisation.
MBTC was among several groups whose support presidential and governorship candidates sought during last year electioneering campaigns. Does it mean it is a political organisation?
No. A traditional organisation plays a fatherly role. MBTC is apolitical. It does not belong to any political party. It can only advise or be advised where necessary regarding who to support and all that, maybe for specific reasons. Maybe one or two candidates have come to sell their manifesto to the organization. And where the body in council considers a particular candidate has the ‘interest of the council and the generality of the people’ then the council in its advisory capacity might advise the subjects that this candidate has special interest for the Middle Belt Council and should be considered. It is only on advisory capacity. We don’t coerce our people, because the idea is to tutor them towards where we achieve optimum benefits of the dividends of democracy.
Do you nurse political ambition or does the organization belong in politics
No, we don’t belong in politics. We are a traditional council that holds the norms of the society. We don’t work hand in hand with politicians. We are not politicians but traditional rulers. We are the custodians of cultures, customs and the traditions. In Africa, we hold dearly to our traditions and that is why our characters have not gone haywire in terms of the way and manner we relate with our elders, relations, sisters, brothers and extended neighbors. We are guided by the principle of our forefathers’ traditions and we hold them to success. It is the western education that our children these days are trying to embrace that is now infiltrating into our African traditional way of living. As a traditional council, we hold in high esteem the African culture. So we try to make sure that we inculcate this into our upcoming generation, so that they don’t depart from it. So that is what the body is all about.
What is your comment on the election of the principal officers of the National Assembly?
The election has come and gone, and we have now what is generally referred to as change. Muhammad Buhari as a person, people have generally regarded him as an upright man, a no-nonsense and incorruptible man. Nigerians are waiting to see that he performs, to give Nigerian populace the promises of his mandate. Buhari was once the leader of this country under the military era. Now times have changed. He is now a civilian president, we hope that he performs. The Nigerians that have entrusted him with the leadership of this nation once again hope that he will perform. It is our hope and aspiration that he gives us the dividends of democracy.
Is Benue the poorest state in Nigeria as some people hold the opinion in certain quarters, despite that the state prides itself as the food basket of the nation?
I don’t think so. Benue State can never be the poorest in Nigeria. Though one must admit that the state has been mismanaged, yet that is not to say that the state being the food basket of the nation, if that is the truth then the notion of the state being the poorest in Nigeria cannot hold. They might not live in affluence, but as an agrarian state that has been adjudged to be the food basket of the nation, I disagree for someone to say it is one of the poorest state. It should be regarded as a mischief.
Why is David Mark representing your senatorial district for the fifth time? Does it mean there are no other qualified to do so?
By law, he is qualified to go as many times as he wishes if he has the support of his people. I think for now he has the support of his people and legally he has the right to go.
But there are other people in that position that can change people’s lives
You might have people but if they are not presenting themselves, the option left for the people is whoever presents himself. If there is any alternative, then the people will decide to vote who they like.
What about your social life?
I am a very shy person. Though very sociable but not on a fast lane. I have a family training that I so much comply witth. It might interest you to know that I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I don’t womanise. Those three things, I am very grateful to God that He has helped me to maintain them jealously. I am grateful to God because it is hard for a man of my type that by the special grace of God that can fend for his immediate needs that does not indulge in such things. I see it as a pride, I see it as something to hold on to jealously, even though some people mocks me; ‘oh you don’t drink, that you a very difficult person to interpret. You can make me happy it is not through drinks or anything like that. To summarize it, I am a very sociable person being guarded with shyness, trying to maintain on the the non-speed lane.
What about your family life?
I have a very lovely family. Maybe that’s why I don’t go out. My wife is lovely, she makes me happy. She doesn’t give me trouble at all and also I have lovely children. My life is triangular-like – office, home and the church. My wife doesn’t give me trouble at home. So, I am happy to run back home after every event outside home. I try as much possible to give the children the home training they deserve, but somehow I have relaxed a little, because you know children of these days if you want them to behave the way we behaved in maintaining our culture they might say it is old school, so I try to bring them closer to myself and try to make them understand not too harshly.
What advice do you have for the youths and the upcoming generations?
My advice to the upcoming generations is that they should maintain high level of integrity in every thing. They should know that the rash way of making money is not good; money does not necessarily give happiness. So when you maintain integrity in everything you do, whatever comes out of it comes as a willing gift from God, but there is noting you can achieve without it coming from above. I know that God in his infinite mercy has provided more than enough for every individual; it is just for you to identify where yours is and tenaciously run after it through absolute track of integrity. Look at somebody as a role model, don’t envy him, emulate him and persistently keep trying things which you’ve tried and failed because there is no success without failure. Failure is a preparatory avenue for trial success.
Due to the high rate of youth unemployment, how do you assist them in getting jobs or getting them involved in any business?
There is one basic problem in this country; we all want to work in the offices, putting on tiles and wearing skirt and blouse. It is not possible for everybody to work in offices in skate and blouse. That, to me, is old school. I have traveled round the world. Most people that you see didn’t go to formal school, they attended technical school, they learn skills and when they are good in that skill they can be what they want to be in that field. But in his part of the world you must have formal education; fine, once you can read and write and be able to interpret what you read you are already a literate. With that, you can achieve what you want in any given area or field of endeavour. Once you can read and write and be able to interpret what you read you can go into farming. The new farming inputs is being brought, you can go there and understand their uses and applications of theses things and there are various areas of farming, there is cassava farming system, aqua culture even service industry, you can go into manufacturing and even tailoring. We have big names in tailoring like Tommy and Nike, that is a known name worldwide. Somebody started it in a bedroom or parlor. They grew gradually to world renowned names. I used to tell people, you know I have worked in the private and public sectors and there is one thing I used to tell myself: somebody established that company and employed me that I must pay back that opportunity so I decided to fall on this, I have about 8-9 staff that I am paying their stipends, sending their children to school and helping to keep their families. So, if I had hung up to the position of envy and did not establish this, the people that are now under me would have been jobless. So people should not always look for white collar jobs.
Sir, you said you have traveled round the world, is it for pleasure or business purpose?
It is for business.