FORMER Group Chairman of Diamond Bank Plc, Mr. Paschal Dozie cherishes every aspect of man’s intellectual prowess. In love with artworks which his wife introduced to him, he has since become a patron of a sort. We met him recently at Chika Aneke’s Breaking Boundaries 2 (Art Exhibition) held at the residence of Liberian Ambassador to Nigeria, Amb. (Prof.) Dew Tuan-Wieh Mayson on Sunday, June 28, 2009.
Praising the Ford Foundation Artist’s 2006 prize recipient, the septuagenarian said Aneke’s artistic expressions brim with messages relevant to society. He also explained how art can become a revenue earner to artists and the nation at large.
And away from art, the respected banker equally talked about the economy and the burden of leadership.
What does art mean to you?
You never can exhaust the meaning of a piece of artwork. Look at this work (points at Chika Aneke’s painting of African Leaders Summit), if you look at the work, you see Nigeria as the giant of Africa. You don’t need to think in the abstract or you won’t solve any problem.
How can arts be part of our economic earning in Nigeria?
Of course, we can. How do you think that European and American artists make it? They have art galleries that generate money. Companies can also fund arts. I know of companies that sponsor permanent exhibitions. Even in Nigeria, if you go to Lagos Business School, you would see there is a big space where they exhibit the works of Nigerian artists.
So, how can we make this more productive in an economic sense?
That is what we are doing. We have to expose our arts to a larger audience. If one is sufficiently interested in his works, we can also help him sponsor an exhibition abroad. That’s how it starts.
Why are you passionate about art?
I think it is a kind of positive diversion that also helps the mind to continue to be creative. Because you are trying to find our what is behind the mask? So, to me arts challenge one’s intellectual faculty.
How did you pick up your love for arts?
Through my wife.
You have collections?
Yes, I do. I have a lot. Each artist tells you a different story. I have Bruce Onabrakpeya, Nsikak Essien, late Ben Enweonwu, etc.
How much have you invested in your art collection?
I wouldn’t know. The value of arts changes continuously. And it depends on how much I value it. There are some collections I have, no matter how much you price them, I won’t sell. So, you can’t afford them.
What about the biggest money you have spent on arts?
Until about five years ago, I was a paid worker. And what I earned as a chief executive of a bank at that time is nothing to compare with what these people are earning (laughs). So, like Gen. Obasanjo said, ‘Cut your coat according to your cloth.’ Of course, my purchases would be according to my purse. So, if you are thinking I am going to mention a figure, I won’t do that.
You recently marked your 70th birthday, how does it feel to be honoured with so many tributes when you were celebrating?
Life continues. I am grateful to those who thought that my age was worth celebrating. So, I am grateful to them. I also pray that they should be recipients of such lovely guests.
Instead of throwing series of big parties, you preferred a lecture by a renowned economist, was your decision informed by the global economic meltdown?
If you listened to the lecture, it had nothing to do with global meltdown. It had to do with wealth creation. But most importantly, capital. It had to do with what we are facing here in Nigeria today. What is the challenge? Nigeria has a dual economy, we have the formal and the informal sector. The informal is bigger than the formal. How do we integrate them? We have people with land, and you find oil there but it is not capital. Somebody comes with a title and uses that to raise fund. The ownership of the land is yours, but you cannot use it as capital without your title documents, you can’t use it as collateral. We have a lot of houses in the villages, we have all sorts of property but they are dead capital without titles.
Incidentally, the Lagos State government commenced its land titling project after the seminar talk.
The Lagos State government and the state should be congratulated for thinking in this direction.
What’s your take on the state of the economy?
What do you want to hear about the economy? It is difficult to answer this question. When you watch football, you can point at a lot of mistakes on the part of the players. You see a thousand and one ways he could utilize that ball. But the man in the field sees only one way. He sees only his opponents surrounding him. When he plays, they say look at this foolish man. Didn’t he see all the chances? That is how best to describe the running of the economy. We only look at it in a tangential way. But there are some people who are there, like the footballer, he does not know how to juggle it because he sees a problem here. He sees opponents here and there, he sees a leeway where he can pass the ball through. Unfortunately, for those running the economy, they are dealing with human beings and some of the most difficult things in policy implementation is that five of us can hear the same thing and get five interpretations. So, we need to be patient.
What’s your reaction to the appointment of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the new CBN governor? Do you share the view that the economy is systematically being Northernised?
There is no such thing. The economy is one. And I think, it is just naïve, it is about people who cannot think true before they start talking gullibly about Western, South East, South South or Northern economy. The economy is one. We have a new governor of Central Bank. We had Soludo who is not Lamido. They are two different personalities, therefore they come with two different styles. But they have one thing in common, they want to make sure that this economy functions well.
Many think that Soludo’s N25 billion bank consolidation was not based on solid foundation?
It is not easy for what he has done. He had guts to do what he did. Not everybody would like your policy because it may not favour everybody.
What’s your advice to Lamido Sanusi?
He has all the cards. So, I would be looking at it tangentially. As long as he does what is good for the country, I would support him.
- UCHE OLEHI
This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, October 1, 2013