I AM A VILLAGE GROOMED BOY LIVING WITHIN THE CONFINES OF MORALS – Lucky Egede, Chairman/CEO, Supersavers Stores Ltd
I Was Built from Home-Lucky Egede,
Nobody Can Reduce You If Don’t Reduce Yourself- Lucky Egede.
In recent times, we have observed some Nigerians recall with nostalgia “those good old days” in the history of Nigeria. This fact prompted us at the Ika Weekly Newspaper to ask: What really happened in those good old days?
To provide answer(s) to this nagging question, Ika Weekly Newspaper as part of its Easter Cover story/edition staged an interview with Barrister Lucky Egede, Chairman/Chief Executive, Officer, Supersavers Stores Limited, as he recently celebrated his 60th birthday.
Barrister Egede’s response to questions thrown at him were not only soul-lifting and illuminating but aptly described ‘the good old days’ as an era when our value system was very sound with integrity and good name mattered much. Then people had value for handwork and honesty and corruption was not an institution as we are now experiencing in contemporary Nigeria because the society then frowned at unexplained sources of wealth of individuals. In those good old days, people did not lose their consciences as is the case today. Those good old days, he lamented, have gone for good.
The interview was conducted at his Magodo, Lagos specious office and anchored by Jerome-Mario Utomi, our Special Project Officer. It is a delectable encounter/conversation.
It is a must read!
Ika Weekly; Happy 60th Birthday celebration Sir. Now, looking at this office, it is evidence-based that you are a busy man and by virtue of this fact, I must say that we are here to spend time and not to waste it. So, given this fact, we go straight to the business of the day. Now, at Ika Weekly Newspaper, we have a tradition of giving our personality/interviewee the opportunity to introduce him. Bearing this in mind, I ask; who is Lucky Egede?
Answer; thank you very much Sir for the opportunity and privilege to speak to Ika Weekly Newspaper which was conceived as a local newspaper but has gone viral. The whole world is today covered by Ika Weekly. My recent article you published, I have received calls from the United States of America (USA), and I have received calls from Canada. This tells me how widely read Ika Weekly Newspaper is. Lucky Egede is a village-groomed boy that lived within the confines of morals because that was what we knew growing up.
When we were growing up, you will always be reminded to remember the son of who you are. We were also taught to maintain our self-esteem. That good name is better than all the money in the whole world, so nobody will use money to intimidate you. We were also taught not to look for money, rather, we should look for what we can do for people and money will follow you. Those are the ethics that I grow up as a person coming from the rural background of Ewuru. My parents were both famers and I attended public school all through – from Uweifo Primary School Ewuru, Agbor, I went to Elahor Grammar School, another local school in Oriowhon Local Government Area. I attended Bendel state University then, now Ambrose Ali University in Ekpoma, Edo state.
We were in the second set. People referred to us as glorified secondary school and all manner of things. But that did not discourage us as it will to most people today. When people try to drag you down, you prove a point by taking yourself up. I was in the faculty of law. What we did was that in our first set, the first set we sent to the law school produced the best overall-the 1986 set. Let people come from Cambridge, Harvard and from everywhere, we all meet at the Law school, that is the testing point, all we were set to do was to prove a point. I was in the second set, 1987set at the Law School, 1733 candidates; we were 32 second Class Upper, no first class in that year.
‘When people try to drag you down, you prove a point by taking yourself up’.
What were we trying to do? We were all brought up to prove positive points. When somebody tries to drag you down by saying that you are from a gloried secondary school, you can prove to him that your school is better than Harvard. Let them come to the same law school, under the same environment, given the same opportunity; they are not meant to be better. And when you come to the business world today, you can see that it reflects. For example, Tony Elumelu was in the first set, the 1986 set of Ekpoma. I was in the second set and there are so many that you can name, like the nation’s current Minister for Budget was in the first set of Bendel state University Ekpoma, Festus Keyamo was so much our Junior. We have produced people who are changing the face of the nation today from that same university people once referred to as glorified secondary school
SO, WHAT ARE WE TAKING AWAY FROM THIS? IT IS NOT WHAT THE PEOPLE CALL YOU; IT IS WHAT YOU CALL YOURSELF. NOBODY CAN REDUCE YOU IF YOU DON’T REDUCE YOURSELF.
Ika Weekly; Looking at this account, it says one thing; you owe the school a lot. What is the Alumni Association doing to ensure that this quality does not diminish or get adulterated?
Answer; what we are doing is impacting the nation. We are not specific about the university. What people do is, I came out of this university, therefore, I owe the university a duty. I am a product of Nigeria and when I celebrated my 50th birthday, I looked at life and classified it into three.
From zero to 25 years, I called the learning years. Those are the years where you are from your parents, they are training you. You gain admission, school is training you. You do your National Youth Service, is all training. From 26 to 50years, you’re earning years. You are doing everything; what can I eat, what can I wear? Should I buy clothes? Should I buy car? All these things are within the 26 to 50 years. After the age of 50 years, from 51 until God calls us home, I call those years our returning years; years of returning to society. You have collected learning from the society, you have collected earnings from the society, it is your time now to return to the society. You invest in the society.
I left school and somebody employed me and at 51, I should employ somebody. So, I set a target of creating one thousand jobs within ten years from the age of 50 years. I have started pursuing it. So, we are about 420 now, we couldn’t meet our target but it is good that we started and before the organization will be 10 years in February 2023, we are hoping before then, we would have reached 600 to 700 members of staff in employment of super server. If we all focus on Nigeria, eventually we would find the school everywhere, whether the school you attended or the one another person attended, everyone will be beneficiaries.
People clamour for their tribe, their religion, those are things that destroy us. We cannot focus on Nigeria as a society and say; let’s build this nation. Everyone will be a beneficiary. When I was growing up, nobody was talking about tribe, about alumni. You just go to school. The children of the poorest of the poor get educated and when you get education, you become a person of impact in the society. You are able to relate to the society what the society needs. What can I put into this society? I have taken enough out of the society. My education coming from parents that father was a farmer, mother was a farmer, and they were in the village. None of them could speak a sentence in English. You find people coming from such a background today, they are the deprived of the society because we have killed the school system, we have killed the hospital system, and we have killed the infrastructural system. You want to travel from Lagos to Ibadan, you are afraid because you don’t know whether you will get there. It was not so in the past. You travelled when there was no telephone.
You move from Agbor going to school in Edo State, your parents will take it for granted that you will get there. Nobody is phoning to know whether you get there or didn’t get there. Until you come back for holiday after three months and they are at peace, because they are sure that you will get there.
Do you send a child now 50 kilometers away and be sure that the child will get there? No phone calls and you did not hear from the child for two or three months and you are certain that the child will be there and that he is coming back home.
Ika Weekly; this is very touching, but if I may ask, what brought us to this sorry state?
Ika Weekly; On whose part, Sir?
Answer; On the part of humanity. You see, I teach in the churches and I write articles. These are my contributions. No matter how busy you are pursuing money, you must have time for humanity. I think; if you want to be rich, don’t look for money. Look for what you can do for people. Like if you are a journalist, assuming your organization pays you say one thousand Naira for every interview you conduct, that is the service you are rendering to the organization. Then, aspire to interview two hundred people in a month; you will get two hundred thousand naira in a month. When you interview four hundred people in a month, you get four hundred thousand naira. Just increase the number of people you serve in a month that’s all.
‘I THINK; IF YOU WANT TO BE RICH, DON’T LOOK FOR MONEY. LOOK FOR WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR PEOPLE’
If you are frying akara, (beans cake) and your akara serves the population of fifty people per day, try to fry akara for one hundred or two hundred people in a day. If you increase the number of people you serve, money will follow you and everybody that have become rich all over the world, always look for what they can do for humanity.
So, what brought us to this sorry state is that people want to make money without adding value. If we all start looking for the value we can add to the society, for instance, if I say I want to employ one thousand people, will I become poorer employing one thousand people? It is not possible because the way it works, I will take time to explain to you.
The drama I have done in the church, I have written scripts, of which I get people to act on. Assuming you know how to clap, and people come to watch your clapping because this lady knows how to clap very well. And they pay fifty thousand naira for your clap. From the Fifty Thousand Naira, as the owner of the place where you do your clapping, I take five thousand naira and give you Forty-Five Thousand Naira every month, is that a fair deal? Now, I add four more people to do the clapping, they all generate Fifty Thousand Naira each and I take five Thousand Naira in five places, I get Twenty-Five Thousand Naira. So, I have moved from five to Twenty-Five Thousand Naira because I have increased the number of people that I employed.
Meanwhile, they are still at Forty-Five Thousand Naira because they have not increased the number of people they serve. I now increase the number to ten. Each of them is still serving the same number of people and making Fifty Thousand Naira each. I take Five Thousand Naira from each of them in ten places, I get Fifty Thousand Naira. The only thing that has changed is that the number of people I serve has increased to ten. I now move to number of people I serve to one hundred. They get Fifty Thousand Naira each and I pick Five Thousand Naira from each of them, I get Five Hundred Thousand Naira. The only thing that has changed is that I have just kept increasing the number of people that I serve.
When they were earning Forty-Five Naira and I was earning Five Thousand Naira, it looked good in the eyes of the people. But by the time I get five hundred thousand naira and they are still at Forty-Five Thousand Naira; they begin to call me oppressor. Have I oppressed anybody? No. I just increased the number of people I serve. So, if you are frying akara for one hundred people, the moment you change the number of people you serve to two hundred or five hundred, you become big suddenly and that is the road to wealth. Just serve people. Look for what you do for people. The more you do it, the richer you become. There is no magic about it.
Ika Weekly; Very simple. The issue is this; what you are doing runs contrary to the belief of many about your profession. Many believe that lawyers are not good when it comes to the running of businesses. Is that assertion, correct?
Ika Weekly; it’s very wrong. It is people who have not interacted with lawyers. Any economy that has gone down anywhere in the world was revived by lawyers. So, if you want to wake up the country, you hand it over to a lawyer. Buhari was sick for about one hundred and ten days, and he handed over this country to Osinbajo to run, oil production rose astronomically in that period, all the banditry and Boko Haram went on holiday for that period until Buhari came back.
If you put a lawyer in charge, you find peace, you find prosperity. Why? Society is a product of law. It sets boundary for everybody. If a lawyer cannot regulate the society, nobody can regulate it. Before, there was the reign of myth where it is said that myth is right. That was an era. Then law came, law set boundaries. This is my compound. My neighbor has the next compound. I know I have staff; I am richer than him. Without the law, I will just pull down my fence, add his compound to my own and tell him get out. You cannot do anything. And if he talks, I will release my workers and say beat up this man. But the law forbids that. No matter how choked I am in my compound and no matter how weak my neighbor is, by law he maintains his space. In the days of myth, it was right, somebody can say to you, you have married your wife for too long and it is time for me to marry her. He will beat you up and take your wife. But why will somebody not do that today? There is law.
The boundary for nations, for kingdoms, for society, for individuals from one plot to another, they are all set by law. Ownership of property is set by law. Regulations of behaviors from one human being to the other are set by law. If you remove the law, there is no society. I don’t know whether you were in Lagos during the Endsars protest, law was suspended for about four days. Were you happy? Is that a society you want to live in? Nobody wants to live in a lawless society. Lawyers are trained to keep society, to run development and to build nations.
You know what the economy of the United States of America was when Obama took over? Just name it anywhere in the world, if the economy is so bad, give it to a lawyer, you find the difference in six months.
Ika Weekly; I have no reason to disagree. So, I concur.
Ika Weekly; Now, back to your most recent intervention ‘Law And Society’, you presented some alluring arguments. But then, there is this belief in some quarters that the faulty nature of the Nigeria’s constitution remains the major factor and actor fueling disorder in this country. Do you believe in that argument?
Answer; I don’t agree. As faulty as the constitution may be, if the human beings are orderly, such challenge will not arise. We operated parliamentary constitution; it didn’t work for us. We operated the regional constitution; it didn’t work for us. We operated the presidential system of government; it didn’t work for us. So, there is no document you will bring to the wrong people that will not go wrong. It is not the document that is the problem, it is the people. Human beings are not interested in the reign of justice. Documents cannot make its right. The Bible is a perfect document. Is it not? Has it been able to straighten the human conduct? No.
‘AS FAULTY AS THE CONSTITUTION MAY BE, IF THE HUMAN BEINGS ARE ORDERLY, SUCH CHALLENGE WILL NOT ARISE’
The human being just has to make up their minds to obey. The constitution is a law in its self, if we all obey it, which part of the constitution says only one should occupy all the positions. People will say that the constitution made it possible, no. We put a democracy down. Every four years, if you oppress me too much, after four years I will vote you out. That is one of the benefits of democracy. You can threaten a leader. You are my staff I will sack you after four years. Americans did it to Trump. As much as people trooped out, he scored the highest votes that any Republican candidate ever scored. But democrats trouped out en-masse to say you must leave.
Leaders will begin to recognize that they are hired by the people and can be fired by the people from their offices. But in Nigeria, we have followers that no matter how much I oppress them, at the end of four years, I give you noodles that will serve you one meal and you will sell the next four years for one plate of food –that is the Esau’s spirit. I am hungry and you are talking about development. Give me food let me eat. How many meals will you eat from those noodles for the next four years? You are eating your children’s education; you are eating your medical/health services. You are eating up infrastructure inside this plate of food.
So, if leaders know that after four years I will go to these people and by the time I bring noodles, they will push me down and force that noodles into my mouth, whatever constitution you present, the people will learn to behave.
Ika Weekly; Thank you so much Sir, but still on the Constitution, in your latest intervention recently published by the Ika Weekly Newspaper, you made reference to the first page of the constitution where it was said; ‘we the people of Nigeria’. Now, looking at the way/manner the military in 1999 presented the constitution, can we truly call it the people’s constitution, is it in line with your position?
Answer; it is not my position. I was only quoting. I quoted as follows ‘we the people of Nigeria agree to give ourselves this law and live by it and this is what will govern our living. Assuming, like we are meeting now, whether we agreed to meet or we did not agree to meet, we have scheduled that by 4pm you are coming to interview me. If I met you on the road and you say ah that is Mr. Egede and you say oh! My name is Mr. Jerome, I want to interview you. And I start answering your questions; will it be a different answer or a different presentation than the one we booked the appointment? So you are meeting the same person, you are getting my opinion.
If we say we the people of Nigeria met in one room and we gave ourselves this law. We say ok, we never met in one room to give ourselves any law but the law has been given and we have agreed to operate it. We are seating down and we are operating it. We have not voted against it. All over the world, people revolt against what they did not want. Nigerians accept whatever that is thrown at them. When you reject things, you reject it in its totality. You don’t sit down and be grumbling –take charge.
‘ALL OVER THE WORLD, PEOPLE REVOLT AGAINST WHAT THEY DID NOT WANT. NIGERIANS ACCEPT WHATEVER THAT IS THROWN AT THEM’.
Ika Weekly; Sir, human rights activists and civil society organizations are calling for a brand-new constitution as it is evident that the generality of Nigerians had no hands in the production of the present constitution.
Answer; The one that they had hand in it, what did they do with it? We had the constitution that was written towards the 1960. There was a Constituent Assembly that well debated everything about it. We operated it for long? In 1963, we went for republican constitution; we said we are now a republic, what did we make out of it? Then the 1979 constitution was well debated, what did we make of it? So, we are not having problem because we met in one room or we didn’t meet in one room, we have problem because selfishness has become the order of the day. We think that we are trying to break law but what I am trying to point out is that you cannot break the law, you break yourself. So, the society is broken and it has become intolerable for everybody because you cannot live freely in Nigeria anymore-because people are deliberately chosen to be lawless.
‘WE CANNOT LIVE FREELY IN NIGERIA ANYMORE-BECAUSE PEOPLE HAVE DELIBERATELY CHOSEN TO BE LAWLESS’
You steal all the money and walkway; you think you have broken the law? No, the law breaks you. You cannot find peace. You cannot go anywhere without Mobile Police men. If I am leaving here now, I didn’t offend anybody, all that I am driving at is how can we make Nigeria and the people of Nigeria better, I don’t need mobile police men to escort me. I move freely. If I enter a market place, I move freely. People say oh that’s Supersaver, he gives us job. They will see services that I have rendered to them and nobody has any reason to begin to pursue me.
Ika Weekly; So, it is not the constitution that is the problem of this country but the people?
Answer; The people. Selfishness is the main problem.
Ika Weekly; As Nigeria is currently postured, we have two parties; the governors and the governed, if you are asked to share the present challenge among these two parties, is blame going to be proportionate?
Answer; Well, when you are talking about blame, I don’t like apportioning blames but I will say that the governed are as bad is the governors. Nigeria is a place where we like to point the blame mirror outside. The person who collects noodles to get a thief voted in is as bad as the thief he is putting there.
So, they will tell you oh it is because the people have become so impoverished. I lived in this country when there was poverty. I don’t understand what people are calling poverty today. Growing up at Agbor, in our own town when we were in the primary school, you can turn to Odeh. If you are sitting down without doing anything or wake up very late, my father will ask; are you Chief Odeh because Odeh was a man who was taken to have conquered the whole world. What did he conquer? He had a private car. That a man had a private car then; he was highly rated, and did not need to work anymore. So if my father comes to your room by 6 o’ clock and meets you rolling on the bed, he will say; odeh, so you have made all the money abi?
But today, do you know Odeh’s compound at Agbor today? He had a car and that was all. And that was when Nigeria was very rich-when you don’t have more than four cars in a Local Government Area.
Now, you want to build a house, Town planning regulation demands that you must provide two car parks per family. So, in a block of four flats, you are not going to get approvals until you make provisions for at least parking space for eight cars. It is recognized that Nigeria family has a minimum of two cars. Is that poverty?
Ika Weekly; But Sir, isn’t such planning pattern predicated on assumption?
Answer; Ok if you say so, but I don’t know whether the hold ups I am seeing in Lagos are assumption. It is so bad that at times we don’t know if we are to drive on top of each other. I am talking about a time when you don’t have more than three cars in a Local Government Area. Do you go out to look for cars now? Today, once a graduate is leaving school the next thing, he is aspiring for is I want to be driving my own car and they know all the latest specs available.
I remember my first visit to Brussels, and then I have not seen any car with central lock –with electric window and they brought Alpha Romeo to come and pick me to the hotel for dinner. We came out of the car, I was looking for where to pin the door, I did not see. My host asked me to just leave it to jam. I was reminding him; you didn’t look your door. And just immediately, he pressed a button in his hand, the car flashed light. Again, I said; is like your car is trying to move without anybody inside. He responded; no don’t worry.
I was showing where I was coming from. And when we finished eating, we were going towards the car, the light came on and the door opened. I never saw such thing in Nigeria before then.
Ika Weekly; now, let’s move to the nation’s education sector. Without doubt, you have benefitted immensely from the then healthy educational system/sector in Nigeria. But such cannot be said today? What do you think is presently wrong with the nation’s education sector?
Answer; the same thing that is wrong with the entire system. You see, collapse is a systemic thing. You don’t notice when it happens. It just likes progress as well. Like when I celebrated my birthday and I heard people talking that he did this one and he did that one, like those who did good to Jesus; he said I was hungry, you gave me food, I was naked, you clothed me. I asked when did we see you naked or hungry.
‘YOU SEE, COLLAPSE IS A SYSTEMIC THING. YOU DON’T NOTICE WHEN IT HAPPENS. IT JUST LIKES PROGRESS AS WELL’
When you are doing something good and building up, you don’t even know when you are doing it. It is just the way you are. You are just behaving yourself, living your own life. And all of a sudden, you begin to realize that things are changing around you. The same way the people that did evil. He said I was hungry you never gave me food. When did we see you and never gave you food?
When we think that breaking the law was something fashionable and we all agreed to be celebrating criminals. I told you that when we were growing up, our parents will always tell us to remember the son of whom we are. And if you are coming back from school, and your mate calls you a thief, you will go home and inform your mother that so and so child called you a thief. Your mother will hold your hand, carry you to their house, the parents will come out and your mother will tell them; please oh, your child called my son a thief on the way from school today. We don’t answer such name in our family. May I know what he stole from you? The parents will apologize and say that it is childish play. Your son did not steal anything and they end it there. And you go back home satisfied.
When you now get to a society where you now call somebody a thief and they will sew Asoebi , the whole community go to the Court to celebrate that their son has been called a thief, what do you expect of such society? When somebody who attended school with you could not pass a single paper, all of a sudden became Local Government Councilor and he is using siren to chase you away from the road. He has money and can tell people to lock you up and nothing happens. Forget this man in the detention. When somebody will tell you; I will waste you. People can kill and go away for free. They are all contributing to the society that you find today.
When you now get to a society where you now call somebody a thief and they will sew Asoebi , the whole community go to the Court to celebrate that their son has been called a thief, what do you expect of such society?
I did an article some time ago that there is no beneficiary of corruption, nobody. A woman is bringing tomatoes from the farm to the market. The Police man stops the truck on the road and says you must give me money. The woman says no I cannot give any money after all I have not even sold anything. And you go and park the truck at the police station for four days, half of the tomatoes get decayed before you let the person go. The person will increase the price of whatever that is remaining to recover the money.
That policeman’s wife is going to the market to go and buy it. So, the school that has boarding house is going to buy expensive tomatoes from the market will increase school fees to cover up. The Doctor that is going to buy expensive tomatoes will increase medical consultancy to cover up, you find out that the Policeman that took ten naira has created an inflation of over Fifty Naira for his own family. He will pay more for school, pay more for hospital, pay for more tomatoes and for everything. You find out that your corruption is not enough to make your life better.
Now think of when I was growing up. The money budgeted for school was used for school. My father couldn’t write a sentence in English. We came from such background, yet, we had education. Nobody needed to fly to Canada or UK to go and look for education. It was here.
‘My father couldn’t write a sentence in English. We came from such background, yet, we had education. Nobody needed to fly to Canada or UK to go and look for education. It was here’.
People from Canada were doing Commonwealth exchange. Coming from Canada to go and study in the University of Ife. So, it was not Nigerians alone going out. If you want to go out, it was just for the fun of it not because the education here was inferior to what you are going to get outside because people observed the law.
If you steal at that time, you will be disowned by the community. But today, the community welcomes everything.
For the concluding part of this interview, keep a date with Ika Weekly Newspaper next week.