In Anamero Dekeri, the Afemai people of Edo North, have found a new genre of leadership, Shola Oyeyipo writes
He may not have mastered the art of crude politicking that dominates Nigeria but Anamero Dekeri, a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) and Managing Director of Gulf Treasures Limited, may have lost to his resolve to play leadership from behind as he is fast gaining huge followership.
A thanksgiving service he recently organised to mark the success of Governor Godwin Obaseki in the last year Edo governorship election turned out a puzzle to those who thought the Okpella-born philanthropist was too young in politics to suddenly emerge as a key factor in Edo politics.
Interestingly, according to Dekeri (also known as Moore), he is not into active politics for fame but to seek the good of all. But fame has inadvertently found him.
The widespread opinion among the people has been that his personal determination was to a great extent the determinant of Governor Obaseki’s success in Edo North. The more reason some describe him as the Usain Bolt of the Edo North politics.
Though the thanksgiving was designed as a modest political event – a modest reception at Dekeri’s home was all that was planned to go with a church service. But unknown to the host, politicians were waiting to make a political statement with the ceremony. And indeed, a statement was made.
Dekeri was however quick to reiterate that he is not in active politics for personal interest, saying he lacked nothing a man of his age and status needs be comfortable. He said his involvement in politics is a continuation of his humanitarian activities.
Justifying his involvement in Obaseki’s campaign, Dekeri said the state needed a technocrat and prudent individual like the governor during a trying time as Nigeria is currently facing. He also assured the people that the Obaseki’s administration would not fail Edo people.
Addressing the congregation at The Apostolic Church where the thanksgiving was held, he said: “We are here to give thanks to God for the electoral victory of Obaseki who the people of Edo supported and gave their votes during the election. During the election campaigns, I had reasons to bring the people of Edo North together on several occasions. We met several times, and I must confess that I respect them for keeping their word. I assured them that Obaseki was the right man for the job in this trying times. And they promised me that they would give him their votes.
“As the people began to shift their support, the political fortunes of Obaseki began to improve. With that came another challenge – the opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), noticed the dynamics. They were left with no option than to start perpetrating violence against the people – people were beaten up; there were shootings everywhere. They tried all manners of intimidation. Yet, the people remained resolute even when we thought they would succumb to intimidation.
“On the election day, we were amazed at the number of people that turned out to vote. As a result of my intervention, Okpella, which people thought was a no-go area for the APC, changed. For the first time in the last 30 years, the four wards of Okpella were delivered to the ruling party. For this, I felt it was important we return to give gratitude to God and the people.”
Speaking on his philanthropy during an interview at his home, Dekeri said people were not equally blessed in a society, hence his resolve to use his fortune to support other people to attain their goals.
He noted: “I am where I am today by the grace of God. It is not everybody that would have the opportunity I have. I believe that if we give back to the society, we will put smiles on the faces of those who are not as fortunate as we are. This is what drives me; this is my philosophy.
“Giving, for me, has nothing to do with politics. It is borne out of my sympathy for the less-privileged people who constitute the majority of our society. I am close to my people. I was once in their shoes. I know them. I understand their challenges. These are the reasons people respond when I call. I am out to help”.
Motivated by his desire to impact the society, Dekeri set up a foundation about nine years ago when his involvement in politics was still at a nominal stage. Through the foundation, Dekeri executed several community projects that have improved the socio-economic life of his people.
“By the grace of God, the foundation has built town halls, given scholarships to several people, distributed transformers to communities, build blocks of schools, sunk boreholes in different communities in Okpella kingdom.
“In the last five years, I have distributed hundreds of exercise books to primary school pupils in the entire Edo North. This is just to give things I am passionate about. To me, these are what make life meaningful. God has blessed me beyond what I need for comfort. What else do I need to do than to give back to the people?”
Dekeri’s home town had witnessed electoral crisis in the past. any politicians dismiss the town as a hotbed of electoral violence. But the APC leader disagrees with the pessimistic view about Okpella, saying his people are not volatile but intolerant to injustice.
He said: “People mistake our people to be volatile. That is because they do not understand them. What the people do not like is injustice. They cherish fairness and honesty. When a few people are happy and the larger population are not happy, you cannot rule out revolt. Sooner or later, the majority who are disgruntled will challenge unfair system. You cannot convert the collective resources of the people to your personal use and expect them to keep quiet. They can only be quiet for a short time. But you can be sure that they will revolt one day.
“The best you can do as a leader is to spread the available resources. You may not be able to satisfy everybody. But we must ensure that a larger number of the people are happy. Nobody says one should not benefit from his sweat. Unfortunately, a lot of people see politics as their personal establishment. As long as that is the attitude, there will continue to be problem. We must also know that leadership is earned and not bought. When you treat people fairly and ensure that people get what is due to them, they will respond when you call them. That is leadership.”
The entrepreneur said nobody, except Obaseki, could preempt the programmes of the Edo State Government in the next four years. He also assured the people that the governor would not disappoint Edo people.
“Let me inform you that I supported Obaseki because he is a technocrat. One of the challenges he faced even within the APC during the election campaign was that he was not a politician. My question was – what kind of individual does Edo people need as a governor during a recession, a politician or a technocrat? And you will agree with me that the steps he has taken show that he is somebody who thinks outside the box. This is the right time to make Edo a model state. I know the governor will achieve that,” he said.
Guests at the event took turns to eulogise Dekeri, a lawyer by training, for his philanthropy and cultured political orientation. They pledged their loyalty to him.
The Edo North APC Senatorial Women Leader, Mrs. Angelina Egbokhai, who led other female politicians to the reception, described Dekeri as a man of integrity. According to her, but for his involvement in the Obaseki campaign, the APC would have lost Okpella to the opposition part.
“Dekeri is a man that knows his left from right. His involvement led to the victory of the APC in Okpella. For a very long time, the ruling party never won election in Okpella but because of his leadership capacity, Dekeri, a notable leader in Edo, fought very hard to make sure that he delivered Okpella to the APC. He used his personal money during the campaigns,” she noted.
According to her, Dekeri possesses rare traits of a good leader; humility and listening hear which she said were missing in many Nigerian leaders.
“Apart from spending his money during the campaigns, he was able to carry other people along. Dekeri is replicating what he was known for before he ventured into politics. He has donated several boreholes, school buildings, transformers and several other infrastructural facilities to many communities.
“Dekeri has impacted the lives of the poor people in different ways. He has empowered thousands of youths and women. And he started doing most of these things even before he came into politics. What else do we want in a leader? We can only pray that God continues to protect him for Edo people so that he will continue to do more.”
Also speaking at the event, Mr Ifedayo Eshieshi, said Dekeri had charted a clear path for the quality of leadership Okpella youths have been yearning for. He also listed humility, wisdom, simplicity and honesty as some of the qualities that endeared Dekeri to his followers.
Dekeri threw his gate open when Obaseki visited him in the dusk of the day of thanksgiving, thus allowing his followers to parley with the governor. During the meeting, which drew a huge crowd from the town, the governor entertained suggestions and questions from people some of his peers would consider as ‘commoners’. After the question and answer session, the governor assured the people that he would operate a transparent and democratic government.
That singular act further boosted Dekeri’s political ranking among his people. Some of the people who spoke at the meeting said the interface Dekeri provided showed a clear distinction between his style of leadership and the existing practice where politicians prevent those under them from accessing public office holders.
Former state chairman of the Democratic People’s Congress (DPC) in Edo State, Haruna Kabiru, said Dekeri is a man of integrity who invests in politics to bring the dividends of democracy to his people.
Haruna, who left his former DPC to join the APC, said he would work with the Edo North leader because “he is a man who lives by example”, noting that he has been putting smiles on people’s faces at different levels.
“We are going to work with him. He will make a great impact. He will take Edo North to a greater height”, he said urging the state governor to work closely with the likes of Dekeri to take the state to a higher height.
Also, a special assistant to former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, Ahmed Musa, said it was significant to identify with a person like Dekeri. “Given his support to the party in the last election, we look forward to seeing him support the party so greatly in the future even as we urge him to play active part in politics. We see him as someone who can pilot the affairs of Edo North in the nearest future irrespective of whatever he chooses to go for”, he added.
Abu Moses, a youth leader from the area, said Dekeri was the man who gave them the power and the enthusiasm to win election as far as Edo North was concerned.
“We never expected he could turn things around, but when he turned things around the only way we can appreciate him is to say thank you.
“He is an employer of labour. He is somebody who listens to youth on every issue. He is not easily cajoled, but he sympathises with everybody. He feels the pains of the youths and look out for the good of the entire human society,” he added.