FORMER National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur became governor of the defunct Gongola State in October, 1983 and following the General Muhammadu Buhari-led military coup of December 31, 1983, Tukur returned to business, capping his endeavours as President of the African Business Roundtable. Tukur was also a presidential aspirant on the platform of the National Republican Convention, NRC in the early 90s and between 1994 and 1995, he served as Minister for Industries in the Sani Abacha government.
Bamanga Tukur from 2012 to January 2014, had in the course of his career in Nigeria’s public service, served as the General Manager and Chief Executive of the Nigerian Ports’ Authority (NPA) from 1975 to 1983. Alhaji Bamanga Tukur was also the Vice Chairman of the International Ports and Harbours Association; Chairman of the International Cargo Handling Association; President/Chairman of the Governing Council of Institute of Business Development; Member, Ghana Investors Advisory Council; Member, Presidential Council on Investment of the Republic of Benin in February, 2007; and Member of the Presidential Advisory Council in 2010.
When he resigned as PDP National Chairman, he became the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nigerian Railways Corporation and former President Goodluck Jonathan later appointed him as Ambassador-At-Large. Ahead of today’s award ceremony, Tukur granted an interview in which, he, opened up on issues relating to his sojourn in the the Maritime sector, especially while he held sway as NPA helmsman, as a business man, as a politician, among others. Excerpts:
What makes you very happy as a successful business man in Nigeria in spite of the hassles that Nigeria is going through?
Iam always happy when I put up an objective, I work tirelessly for it, achieve it and it is a success because it is important. You have to decide by yourself what can make you happy, in addition others around you can be happy, then you may be an achiever. But what makes you happy as an individual is your ability to say these are my goals and you reach the goals by going straight to them and focus, with all the difficulties if you don’t achieve it today, don’t be discouraged, move tomorrow and achieve it. So success is sweet and it is a thing that will make you happy.
You have been doing business in Nigeria and you have carved a niche for yourself. If they ask you now, the country business system seems to be collapsing and people have brought various reasons. But from your own point of view having seen it all, if we like we can say so, what is really wrong with the Nigerian business environment?
You are doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
Can you explain further?
It means you try something and it doesn’t give you the result you want and you start to repeat the same thing again without you changing direction to try something else. Don’t be afraid to fail, make sure you try to succeed, that is the idea. As regards Nigeria, the tendencies that make you believe that you are different from the rest must be jettisoned — whether it is religion, tribe — you must jettison them, not that they don’t matter; they do but they can only be the foundation to what you want to do to become a nation. I always say no child is born to hate or to love. The mother, the father, the sister and the brother and the environment are the one to mold him to love or to hate. So why can we not find a formula of making sure that right from the home, we inculcate what the society needs?
What has kept Bamanga Tukur growing over the years? What is the driving force behind that name?
I grew up to be a Pan Africanist in the sense that in my home, in my family, I didn’t even know my real mother in our house until I was about seven or eight years old because they all worked together, my father was very clever, we were many in a polygamous house. Adamawa as you know it today comprises many tribes, different languages, even the different languages they speak differently in the house, but they all worked together and that influenced me. So that is why I said no child is born to love or hate, it is what you are taught.
From the defunct Gongola state your name was there and to national politics, PDP but you finally retired from active politics. Nigerians may want to share in your experiences while in Gongola, PDP then before you finally retired, even including the NPA.
NPA in my time was a multi-discipline, multi-ethnic organization. In NPA you find Englishmen, Germans, Chinese, also accountants, medical doctors, lawyers, engineers and so on, it was a multi-ethnic and a multi-discipline organization. So in this kind of context, you should be able to relate to all of them and be relevant to all of them also.
In effect, when I decided to retire — Shagari did not want me to go — and you know it is difficult to refuse what the President wants. During the Gowon’ s administration, besides being the managing director in NPA, I was a director in the national shipping line, I was a director in the Airways, I was a director in NMA and in some other places. So you learn in these positions and if you learn to make sure you follow the straight path, you give what is called equity and justice in the way you deal with issues, it is very important. You must be able to create capacity all the time and make sure that you accommodate your needs and your demands.
As a Maritime expert, what would be your assessment of the state of that industry now? I am sure that you are aware that you cannot even get to Apapa port.
When something is to grow, it needs a new space, you must expand it in all directions but you wait until you cannot wear your trousers because it is a bit tight and you have grown fat and you say you don’t change the trousers. The moment you discover that you cannot get your trousers in, you look for a tailor quickly to change, but they don’t do it until it is a bit late. So this is the kind of thing; you do the same thing and you expect a different result, it is not possible. You must change, there is nothing wrong in change, but positive change is what is required for any change.
It requires leadership in the sector. You have seen the problem, it happened before, you suffered it, why do you want to repeat the same thing? You should know it needs planning. If you travel to Europe check every time you are passing through London airport or Frankfurt or Paris, you will find that they have put infrastructure, they are doing something, the same thing with the ports.
You are building bigger ships, cargo ships, but you still remain with the same way of doing things, why do you do that? We haven’t expanded, it happened before and that is the reason. From what is going on, is it that Apapa has been overburdened? Do you need to take out some of the activities? You know that there is one very funny policy in the shipping or maritime industry, why do they have to assign certain duties to certain ports instead of importers to decide where to carry their goods to?
The first one is conditioned by the manufacturers themselves where you need to carry the raw materials. The reason why you don’t understand it is because you are only a receiver. If you are to source materials and when you are importing, you always look for the nearest part of the sources so that you reduce your cost of transportation.
So the consumption shows you the nearest place you can land your cargo so that you will reduce the intermediate transportation need. It is easy to understand. In Nigeria today why do you employ? The multiplicity of organisations and so many regulations, unnecessarily they put clogs in the wheels so that it will not move well, that is all.
There is NAFDAC, there is Customs, there is Standards Organisation of Nigeria, there is Immigration and NDLEA inside the ports, everybody, including clearing and forwarding people. I say, put all these agencies under ports operation committee but somebody sits down and say you cannot do it. Everybody does what he likes. It is just like going to play a game of football, everybody is dribbling to score goal but without a referee.
Given your knowledge and experience in this country, if you were to design a business template for this country that will improve the economy, what would you write?
I did it for Ghana; the President of Ghana paid me as an adviser for six years — I did all the reforms for them. When they were having problems they came and I did it. If you give an advice when you are not asked, it is not highly appreciated.
Yours is also an audible voice on the continent, what has been your contribution as chairman of the African Business Roundtable?
I gave them three principles; the power of market, the power of trade and the power of free movement. Market is the only place where the willing buyer and the willing seller come together, nobody invites them and when they are there what do they do, they create a trade. Supposed they were not allowed to move freely will they be able to do so? No! So these are the principles.
Nigerians will want to learn from you what you did in the area of politics before you retired? The young politicians would want to know what can they learn from you today?
You don’t go into politics like that, you find out what you want to do there. Make sure you know what you want, your needs are understood, you want to go there to influence what you want so that it can happen. In politics, it is something that the entire nation and people can have, what they choose as a democracy. But you know one thing about politics, a very strong political party will also give you a strong government, a strong government can always give you a strong economy, a strong economy always gives you a strong development and then it gives you peace and security because always you are gathering things that are there and as mutual benefit for everybody that they can see. You know when people understand that you get and I get, there will be no fighting, but if you get and I don’t get, then we will fight.
When I came to PDP as the National Chairman, I told them that I was coming because I was one of the founders of PDP, I am not coming here for name or riches. I told them that I was coming there so that we can accept the supremacy of the party. For instance when we say PDP, we say the slogan, power to the people that means they own it, one man, one vote, one woman, one vote, one youth, one vote. But the day you want to disenfranchise them on that, they will be fighting, so don’t dare. Here your biggest weapon is persuasion. If you don’t want a particular person but you want the other one, persuade people to do it; not impose. So when I said to them election and not selection they said no. It is wrong to select. If you say democracy and you say imposition, it is wrong, they are two different things they cannot work, it will scatter.
I gave them triple R, triple E, triple D and consequences. I told them, first of all, reconcile your differences, reform your attitude, rebuild, but based on equity and justice. I give you triple E; I tell you God has given everyone land, water and people. Now what do you do with it? Environmental sustainability, make sure the land He gives you, you sustain it, education make sure you educate the people, they can be anything. Now you are fighting for power, is it the only thing you can get? For power, there are three sources, hydro you get power, fusion air you get power and sun you get power. You can choose. But it is only when you educate your people to understand the difference in taking a decision, so that is triple E; Environment, Education and Economic Empowerment, if you do that, you achieve the needed success.
For Triple D, in 2013 when I was coming back, I told them Boko Haram started just small, I said to Nigerians at that time, they said no, nobody wanted to believe it, take a chance, you don’t understand, I told them that Nigeria is under attack. I said that we should employ the principles of fighting a war — strengthen your defences both for military and paramilitary; dialogue and employ diplomacy. Call Chad, Cameroun, Niger, bring them in, then you can completely overcome Boko Haram.
So these are the things you gave them?
Yes, it is true. They said I am a sympathizer of Boko Haram simply because I said there should be dialogue. And one of the first things this administration did was to gather the presidents of these three countries. I told the last administration we are dealing with a different phenomenon; they carry the name of Muslims, they are not Muslims, Boko Haram is a lie.