Benue-born Abuja-based insurance giant, MIKE ATSER, recently interfaced with select journalists at Doo Palace Hotels in Makurdi. He spoke on some salient issues of state importance. JAMES IBECHI and MORGAN ADIKWU were there for THE HAWK newspaper.
For the sake of our readers, who is Dr. Mike Atser?
I am a twin – a boy and a girl. First and foremost, I have been saying that if you believe in God you will never in your life have any problem.
While I was a young man I had a problem in my family: As I was about to enter school, my family gathered and said that I should not. They said if I go who would take care of my father who was already aged? Who would go to farm? It was only my mother who disagreed with them. She was angry and she sold all she had and put me in school. The story of my performance in secondary school was not a very pleasant one all that, because I finished with only one credit and a pass. But in primary school, I was made prefect in all the forms respectively, and even became the head boy at Form Five. Why my WAEC result was poor is because I fell sick at the time of writing the examination and was hospitalized.
But today it’s a different story, which is why I use to tell people that, ‘tomorrow is longer than yesterday’. This has almost become my slogan. I graduated from ABU, Zaria; and on my graduation, I went to Suleja. You know the distance between Abuja and Suleja, I used to trek it until the day I started doing Okada. I would go to Abuja from Suleja every morning and return by 5pm every day. One day, in 1994, they announced in our Church that there would be a National Constitutional Confab, and they needed 365 stewards. I applied with my school certificate and was appointed. I was the best steward that served the principal officers. From there, I began serving a Justice. I told him a story of my life, explaining everything to him and that was what brought me to where I am today.
I am a Christian and I used to tell people that one’s relationship with God and the company you keep is very important in one’s life. So, since I have decided to follow Jesus I will never turn back.
You have paid WAEC and even junior secondary examination fees to the tune of over N4million for candidates in Korinya. How and why are you putting so much to the education of your people, when rich men like you find it difficult to give back to the society?
It is not because I have so much money. We were the first set of students of GSS Korinya, and we were about 120 then, but only 30 of us graduated in 1984. I visited the school recently and discovered that majority of them don’t have anything; some can’t pay fees. These are some of the reasons I am doing that. Then I decided that as from last year by the special grace of God every year I will continue to pay WAEC fees for them until God takes me away, because that is the school that drove me to where I am today. I schooled at NKST Primary School Kwande. I know some of my old classmates that are big men now; some are directors, deputy-directors, etc. Also, when they hear about me they know that, yes, “this is my classmate.” Since I am alive and God has given me something, I will continue to pay those students’ fees until God takes me away like I said earlier.
You have done so much to promote education, scholarship; we also learnt you donated a bus to a secondary school. Besides the WAEC fees, you’re paying fees for Mbakaanga Primary School pupils amidst promising scholarships for tertiary students in Vandeikya. Why are you committing so much into education of your people?
Education is the most important thing in life. If you look at Benue for instance, there is no much Job. But if you are educated you will acquire knowledge and God will give you wisdom to think about yourself and start something like a business or how to scale through hard times through the wisdom. I discovered that if you are educated, God will give you wisdom to do many things, even to know God more. That is why I keep advising people around me to go to school. I am a businessman through education and I have employed many people. So, I can’t be a beggar. Education is key.
Many people who are magnanimous like you operate NGOs which help sustain their giving back to the society while others do so for pecuniary gains. Do you have an NGO or how will you be able to sustain all that you are giving?
I read veterinary medicine. But it has been God who brought me to become an insurer. In insurance which is my personal business, I have G-Broker Insurance Ltd., I have Mid-Aklis Global Venture Ltd, etc. So, with these companies I do what I do. I have don’t an NGO, because you know the problem of them requesting money every time.
Many people are calling on you to contest for House of Representatives seat. What is your reaction?
That is not what brought me here. Governor Samuel Ortom is the reason why I am here. I had never joined any political party; it was the governor that made me join a party which is why I usually say that I am 100 per cent behind the Governor. Any where he goes, I will follow him, forever,
One should not be desperate for anything; we should be very patient in life. One doesn’t know what lies ahead. But if one is patient God will see him through like our Governor. It has been God’s doing for Ortom to become a governor. If Gods want me to become something bigger tomorrow, better for me with God. So I am not in the party to contest anything, it’s God that will make you whatever you want to be.
Governor Samuel Ortom is your boss and appears to be doing well. Yet, there are some people who are bent on seeing that he fails; just today, one of his detractors was sacked by the Supreme Court of this country. What do you have to say about that?
Just like I said before, it is God. I do tell people to never think that they are gods in this world. If you look at Samuel Ortom, he was a chairman of a local government. Today, he is Governor; it is God. If one thinks that he is God then that is the beginning of his end.
Just last month we celebrated two years of Governor Samuel Ortom in office, how have you rated him performance?
If you look at the wage bill, Lagos is the highest followed by Kano and Benue is the third in country. For what reason should Benue be third? It is because of what the former administration did. Today, I went through some of the roads he is both doing as new and completing, and if you see what this man is doing despite the high wage bill and not enough allocation you would marvel, yet people don’t know that he has performed very well. That is why we keep praying for him and he is a man of God.
Recently the wife of Governor Samuel Ortom, Dr. Eunice Ortom, organised the first Benue youth Entrepreneurship summit themed ‘Made In Benue is Possible’, what is advice for the youths?
I am advising the youth not to be desperate about things. They should join the programme. All the youth blaming the governor should be patient because Samuel Ortom is a patient person, so let’s all be patient. And on Ortom’s wife, she is a very good person. If you have a good wife she will give you lots of wisdom, advising you on so many things, because what I am today is also because of my wife. So, I encourage all our youth to be patient and prayerful for God to prosper all of us.
Despite the backing of the anti-grazing law signed by the state governor, your kinsman, retired commissioner of police Abubakar Tsav and Miyetti Allah group are against the law. What is your take?
Those things they are doing are to make you not go forward. However, Governor Ortom is a man of God; no matter what they do they cannot block him. In the next two years, you will see how Benue will prosper and move forward. This is the first time a governor has handed Benue to God, and it is God that keeps giving him wisdom.
As a businessman, young people see you as a role model, what advice do you have in terms of doing business and what do we expect from you in the nearest future in business world?
If you learn from somebody that has wisdom you will be better than that person one day. Personally, I use to tell people that all this youth will be far better than me later. If you see a good man just follow his steps. So am advising the younger ones to make sure they go to school, believe in God and be prayerful because you don’t know what will happen tomorrow.
What is your comment on the anti-corruption fight in the state and the country in general?
Most of the people that indulge in corruption do so because of greed and desperation. They are not patient. I don’t have much to say, but if you believe in God and not desperate you will be something great without being corrupt.
On social media, there are posts that you have set aside N1million for the treatment of patients, how true is that?
If you go to Vandiekya, it is what I have done. The way that I have suffered in my life I don’t want others to. Vandeikya is my place and if you look at it, most of the people that come and wish to be treated cannot afford medical bills. And I believe it is the duty of the government to make healthcare availabe. Ortom has everybody in Vandeikya on his mind. On my part, I just decided that let me go and give that amount to the hospital. A lady called me yesterday for medical help and I directed her to Vandeikya and she was operated today.