Dr. Theodore ‘TOE’ Ekechi, a front line marketing communications practitioner, was the director of planning and monitoring of the Buhari Presidential Campaign Organisation. In a recent encounter with Shola Oyeyipo, Ekechi explains why he has been out of the scene, the change mantra of the Buhari administration, the fight against corruption and why the president has to take strong political decisions to improve the economy
He was neither seen nor heard during the campaigns for last year’s general election that brought the present government to power. But for Theodore Okwu Ejike Ekechi, his role as director of planning and monitoring of the Buhari Campaign Organisation was very strategic in ensuring that his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), came tops at the polls. But since then, TOE, as his friends and admirers call him, has been keeping a low profile and seems to have recoiled to his professional shell: advertising and marketing.
When THISDAY cornered him last week, Ekechi said he had his life before his assignment for the Buhari presidential campaign. Even before then, when he served as the commissioner for information and strategy for his native Imo State, he had always kept one leg firmly in his chain of businesses, which span interests in advertising, brokerage, manufacturing and consulting.
“I had a life and career before those assignments. For me these assignments were calls to national duty which I accepted with very sincere enthusiasm and discharged with utmost dignity to the best of my ability. I am not a ‘natural’ or career politician as it were. After every public outing, I easily retract to my natural habitat which is nurturing and exploring genuine business opportunities.
“If I am perceived as keeping low profile, it is only a reflection of the low visibility of private, corporate identity pari passu the natural high visibility of public life. I recommend national responsibility for all professionals to open their eyes and thoughts to wider perspectives of nationhood and governance. This process will make them whole and complete.”
On Buhari’s Campaign Assignment
With his role as director of monitoring and planning of the Buhari campaign group, many would have expected him junketing the corridors of power for recognition and ‘compensation as it were. But Ekechi said it does not necessarily follow. To him, that was the old thinking among politicians. He believes that President Buhari is ready to do things differently. This, to him, is a new era.
“It doesn’t follow and it shouldn’t follow. That is the old order. Old thinking which breeds favoritism and nepotism. In the old order, every party stalwart was almost sure of an appointment as soon as the party assumed power. In fact, positions were assigned in advance depending on the strength, status or influence of the politician.
“As you would have noticed, none of the members of the present Federal Executive Council or indeed other announced appointees was sure of his nomination until the names were announced and cleared by the Senate. That is the new order; the change order.
“In other words, within the context of the change mantra, a senior presidential campaign role or any partisan party role for that matter is not a magna carter for automatic presidential appointment. While I am always willing to serve at whatever level, it should be appreciated that such an opportunity is not a right but a privilege exclusively at the discretion of Mr. President.”
‘Change is in Operation’…
Ekechi is not one of those, who believe the change mantra has lost its appeal. In his opinion, change has not only come but is duly in operation.
“The APC entails a paradigm shift from the old order to the new order: that is to say from the traditional ways of doing things to new ways consistent with world best practices. A quick example is the issue of appointments to political offices which I discussed earlier. Change encompasses indiscipline to discipline, from wasteful African time to respectful time management, from sentimental decision-taking to dispassionate considerations of issues, from playing to the gallery to gaining cheap political pyrrhic victories to bold position which though may be unpopular on the short run, but in the long run, in the best interest of the nation.
“Change includes fighting corruption not only in the low places but also in the high places irrespective of position, class or creed. Change entails leadership by example; not ‘do what I say but not what I do’. Change is courageous, not cowardly. Change in Nigeria is real, particularly in the eyes of those who appreciate the mantra in its total ramifications.”
Economy Needs Strong Political Culture
TOE has not forgotten his first love, which is business. And he is not unaware of how tight it is for the country presently in terms of economic situation. Ekechi is also aware of the foreign exchange squeeze that is affecting many businesses. But he says it could have been worse but for the Buhari intervention.
“The free fall in oil price was obviously beyond the control of this government and was not its making. On one hand, it was unfortunate situation that the price of oil collapsed just when this administration came into power as the concomitant burden of a stressed naira and therefore a constrained economy fell squarely on its shoulders.
“On the other hand, it is fortunate that it is a person of the character and calibre of Mohammadu Buhari that is at the helm of affairs while this is happening. Imagine the disaster and catastrophe that would have become Nigeria if we were still under a cash and carry government. Indeed, God loves Nigeria!”
He added that the present prescriptions for saving the Nigeria economy are commendable. To him, these include checking and discouraging our ostentatious life style, discouraging luxury imports, encouraging consumptions of locally made goods, fighting corruption especially at high places, reducing cost of governance and instigating investment in the real sectors of the economy. But he has this to say: “However, these prescriptions should be administered in very higher doses.”
Addressing the Dollar Puzzle
When Ekechi speaks, you know he is a businessman to the core. He believes for any meaningful economic impact on the people, there must be strong political will on the part of the leadership. And he wants that political power to be deployed in making some key economic decisions; especially in the area of freeing idle dollars with the Central Bank which, to him, encourages corruption and money laundering.
“I would suggest that as a step towards reducing the quantum of idle dollar cash amassed and stacked away in local banks by fleeing corrupt public servants, the CBN should prescribe a minimum dollar balance in every domiciliary account beyond which the custodian bank is authorised to purchase automatically at the official rate.
“This will significantly reduce the proclivity to convert wealth, especially stolen wealth, into dollar. This measure should also come with a corresponding minimum amount of dollar or foreign currency that any individual can stack and stock in his home. Above which it becomes an offence.”
He added that there is no way government can encourage patronising locally made goods unless it spearheads it itself.
“Government should spear-head this by patronising them. Imagine what will happen to our automobile industry if government directs that all motor vehicle purchases for this year’s budget must be of local production. The local automobile industries today in this country have the capacity to supply all government auto needs.”
Anti-corruption War not One-sided
This graduate of marketing from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, says it is very wrong for anyone to say the anti-corruption war of President Buhari is one-sided and not holistic enough. He says many people still do not believe that Buhari is one person that does not fear any individual. Therefore, he could not have been selective in his anti-corruption crusade.
“No doubt the war against corruption is being fought holistically. One thing we must sincerely admit (even if you bear grudges against his emergence) is that President Buhari is a respecter of no person when it comes to the laws of the land. He indeed belongs to nobody but is for everybody. I know one cheap argument some uninformed people are wont to make is that the preponderance of those being tried are of the defeated PDP. But why not? Look at the issue very critically and dispassionately this way.
“Corrupt enrichment, at least the ones that bled this nation badly, was committed by public servants and/or with those who appointed them to office. So which was the party in office in the last 16 years preceding 2015? PDP! Who were the key players that appointed and/or were appointed to key public offices? PDP!
“Even though some key APC personnel were on the other side of the divide, the fact remains that a far majority of office holders were of the erstwhile ruling party. Naturally, therefore, even with the law of average the preponderance of victims of the war against corruption should come from PDP.”
The EFCC and the Police
Ekechi also believes EFCC, ICPC and the police are not spirits with powers of clairvoyance to tell from their high offices corrupt practices at different posts.
“Let me tell you. These agencies work mostly on the basis of substantiatable public petitions. Let people who have cases against APC members come forth and make it public so that even if there is a selective agenda, the public hues and cries will at least drive the agencies to react. The agencies cannot work out of speculation. Let me also opine that some Nigerians are mostly opportunistic, willing and able to castigate and condemn erstwhile accomplices once they are out of power.
“Perhaps, that is what is happening to many a PDP corruption suspects. President Buhari should not be blamed for this. Or should he? Having posited as above, permit me to conclude that notwithstanding, Selective war against corruption is better than no war at all as we experienced in the last administration.”
Perhaps, with strong views like this on national issues, Theodore Ekechi might not be keeping low profile after all. Even when he has corporate life intact, his strong views on national issues show the mindset of a committed patriot.
No doubt the war against corruption is being fought holistically. One thing we must sincerely admit (even if you bear grudges against his emergence) is that President Buhari is a respecter of no person when it comes to the laws of the land. He indeed belongs to nobody but is for everybody. I know one cheap argument some uninformed people are wont to make is that the preponderance of those being tried are of the defeated PDP. But why not? Look at the issue very critically and dispassionately