By Simeon Mpamugoh
Blakey Okwudili Ijezie was the fourth foundation branch manager, Zenith International Bank, Onitsha, Anambra State. A chartered accountant and Managing Partner, Okwudili Ijezie & Co, he is the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, I&I Investments Limited, an investments advisory and financial management firm.
In this interview, he noted that comparing and reviewing budgets of the 80s vis-à-vis current budgets with a view to looking into the future, and how it will affect businesses and the people is a waste of valuable time. He regretted that the federal government “does not have the compass to tackle economic depression and get the country out of it. He forecasted that Nigeria will migrate from economic recession to depression next year. He speaks more on this and various socioeconomic issues.
It is most unfortunate that the government we voted into power in 2015 told us they were coming for change, and in 2019, they said it was the next level. Unluckily we didn’t ask them the next level of what? Is it next level of prosperity or poverty? But now we are beginning to see that it is the next level of poverty. I predicted many months ago in our forums that we would end up in 2020 with a dollar exchanging for N500. When I made that prediction in June 2020 many people argued it wouldn’t happen. Someone sent a message on our Whatsap platform called ITE-OZ Intellectuals Forum some days ago that he bought a dollar with N517. I have also read it in some newspapers that a dollar exchanges for N490. This is stupid! It shows that the government in power has no answer to our economic woes. Let’s call a spade by its real name; the federal government has to agree that it has failed Nigerians. Nigerian elites have not been speaking out but I believe it is high time we start talking so that we know how to pull the economy out of the woods. I was happy when Nigerian youth started the #EndSARS protests. I believe a lot of people were also happy but the ending was very sad. I suggest that the Nigerian youth should get their acts together and register a political party or go to a smaller party since we have more than 10 registered political parties in the country so that come 2023, we would have youth everywhere contesting the election. Why are we scared of voting for a youth? Gowon was a bachelor in his early 30s when he became Nigeria’s head of state. Buhari that is ruling us now was then Minister for Petroleum Resources in his late 20s and early 30s as head of state in 1984. So why would anyone say that today’s youth who are computer literate and internet savvy should not be in charge of governance in Nigeria?
I retired from the corporate world because I felt I have given my all. So let all the old men who are still serving in political and economic space in Nigeria leave the stage and mentor young ones to take over governance at the centre and some strategic public enterprises in 2023. When one doesn’t have the leadership acumen, there is nothing anybody can do about it. Most of my mates and those older than me don’t know how to surf the internet. We have one cliché now that it is a ‘globalized world,’ and that is why we were able to monitor the elections in America. Some of these people ruling us in their 70s are not ICT compliant. They should go for retirement. Somebody would for instance finish serving as governor of a state for 8 years, he moves to Abuja to become a Minister. I think after finishing his tenure, one expects he would have gone to rest with his wife and mentor other people. Senators could be coming to him for advice. One of the luckiest Nigerian I have seen in the country’s leadership is Rotimi Amaechi. Since 1999 he has been in government. He was the speaker Rivers State House of Assembly from 1999-2007, Governor of the state from 2007-2015 and 2015 to date Minister of Transport, and he is already angling to become the president of South East extraction. He is quoted as saying that the 2023 presidency is not zoned to the South East but to Igbo so that he would become the president of Nigeria from 2023 and probably 2031. These people should go and rest, and allow young people to preside over the affairs of this country.
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I trained as a Chartered Accountant at Pricewaterhouse now PricewaterhouseCoopers. I joined them from September 1, 1983 to March 1990 before I moved to All States Trust Bank as Chief Inspector and Head of Internal Auditors and Control Division. In July 1992, I joined Zenith Bank, then known as Zenith International. I was the bank’s fourth branch manager in Onitsha, Anambra State. The head office has a branch called the foremost branch, and then the Idumota branch Lagos while Oba Akran Avenue hosts the third branch. We were more or less the foundation members of the bank. I left the Onitsha branch of the bank in 1993 after a couple of months to Lagos because Onitsha then was still a village even till today and I couldn’t live in a village. So I came back to Lagos and joined a mortgage outfit called Duncan Mortgage Savings and Loans on Adeniyi Jones Avenues as the Acting Managing Director. In May 1993, I set up I&I Investments Limited and Okwudili Ijezie &Co, a firm of Chartered Accountants in 1994.
Coming back to your question, I’m a mentee of Warren Edward Buffett, an American investor who turned 90 years recently. He is an acclaimed investor globally and the third richest man in the world but he has been displaced by Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg who are now the second richest. Buffett said. “Without integrity everything is lost.” Integrity is honesty. When we were at Pricewaterhouse every January people in the taxation department hardly go on Christmas break because the budget of the country would be released on January 1st during the military era and we would do a summary and advisory part of it, and send it to our clients. And when it is read, then Head of State will give a review of the previous year’s budget by saying we budgeted X amount of money for this and that, and the government would also review the performance of the budget as it were, so we used to track the budget, performance and how it would turn out. But since democracy came in 21 years ago, we hardly hear comparison of how the performance of the budget the previous year went. And without a review of how we spend the resources of this country, we are joking.
The Ministers know that since there is no budget review, nobody would ask them how the budget for their ministries went, and the surplus would just be pocketed. It was viral in the social media recently that the Chief of Staff, Anambra State was alleged to have bought a house worth about N674m in America. The house was sealed and its picture went viral on social media. Where did he get the money from? Why is he buying a house in America when he can use the money to set up a factory in Anambra State? There is no integrity in Nigeria and our governments are not innovative. We are also aware of what happened in Ebonyi State recently where the governor David Nweze Umahi left PDP for APC, claiming that PDP has not benefited the South East. Here was someone who was the chairman of PDP, Ebony State for about four years, and deputy governor of the state for 8 years, and now in his fifth year as Governor of Ebonyi State leaving PDP for APC on grounds that PDP hasn’t done well in the South East. He is talking rubbish! I’m happy that members of the State House of Assembly, the House of Representatives and Senators condemned his action. The former governor of the state Senator Sam Egwu told it to his face that he is talking rubbish. Ordinarily he should resign as governor because the constitution of the country says if you are moving from one party to another, you should resign except there is a division in the party. To the best of my knowledge, there is no division in PDP today. And the governor of Yobe who is now the acting chairman of APC had the guts to tell the whole world that there would be a massive movement from PDP to APC. I think with due respect, some of these governors should get their head examined. Umahi has moved because he thinks APC will give him the ticket in 2023. It would be a heresy if Nigerians vote back APC in 2023. They have been there since 2015, what have been their socioeconomic achievements? Developing Niger Republic? That is not what we voted them for. Nigeria entered economic recession many years ago but it was officially declared in November 2020 and we are on the route to economic depression. It is not that Nigeria doesn’t have the money but integrity and honesty are the issues bedeviling us. One can see how our politicians are living large while the citizens are impoverished. Every time you open print, electronics or the social media, you are depressed because the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is charging one prominent government official or another to court over multi billion naira frauds, the other day former Chairman Nigeria Pension Reform Taskforce Team Abdulrasheed Maina was charge to court over N14 billion frauds. We have many of the public officers in that shed. All the people who have had access to Nigeria till at different levels have disgraced us. What we are having now is a president who doesn’t know the difference between Nigeria and Niger Republic as all our resources are being used to develop Niger Republic. But why would he be developing another country when he hasn’t developed his own? It is a misnomer.
As a chartered Accountant of 35 years experience, it is only this year I didn’t bother to listen to President Buhari when he was presenting the budget before the National Assembly members. My TV set was on, on that day but I didn’t bother to listen because it was a waste of my valuable time. I haven’t read anything about the budget for this year in the newspapers and how it will impact positively on the lives of businesses and people of this country despite the fact that I buy two to four newspapers every day in addition to reading online. When we were in Pricewaterhouse, the budget of the 80s used to get priority attention every January 1st. The department in charge would be in office analyzing it and by January 2nd and 3rd, we would have sent out circulars to our clients about the budget comparing and reviewing the past vis-à-vis the current budget and looking into the future but if you do that these days, you would just be wasting your valuable time because recent budgets are what my children describe as ‘audio’ during the Coronavirus pandemic implying what you don’t mean to happen. So Nigeria’s budgets are ‘audio,’ and a waste of time trying to analyze it.
When VAT was increased to 7.5 per cent last year August 15, 2019 I held a lecture at Sheraton Hotel and Suites, Ikeja Lagos which I started 22 years ago after retirement. The topic centered on Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). I brought industry egg heads from different parts of the country under one roof for the event including Executive Chairman Anambra State Board of Internal Revenue Service and Honourable Commissioner for Finance, Anambra State and his counterpart at the Lands and Urban Development. Hamzat Ayodele Subair a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and Executive Chairman Lagos Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) was also present to do justice to the topic. Subair was the keynote speaker and the idea behind the lecture was to get various state governments to come and key in and see how they can raise their IGR. It costs us close to N1 million to organize it but you can’t believe that there were no fee paying participants in spite of the fact that we publicized it.