A couple of weeks back when the ongoing fuel scarcity was at its peak, Nigeria was in a state of confusion. Most businesses and social activities were crippled. The worrisome situation, however, informed the quick intervention of Capital Oil boss, Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah who issued a press statement, directing that the product be lifted from his source at the official price of N87 per litre. This singular act of the Anambra born billionaire mogul cum politician has generated reactions, especially on social media. Some appreciated it, while some didn’t.
ENCOMIUM Weekly took Ubah up on this and other issues when we had a chat with him…
Days back, Nigerians went through hell due to acute fuel scarcity which paralysed almost all businesses. Most people appreciated the fact that you waded in and you’re able to break the ranks of the oil marketers. Why did you single yourself out to do this?
I realized that the masses were suffering, and because of that, we needed to alleviate their pains. And we understood the situation was getting out of hand. First, we didn’t even know those who instigated the strike. The strike just came from nowhere. So, it’s a scam on Nigeria, and Nigerians need to know. Left to me, I don’t know.
But do you think it could be sabotage?
Yes, it was. I even wrote it in my press release that we couldn’t be part of the sabotage.
What of your other colleagues that were not carried along, did they not accuse you of single-handedly doing it?
No, everybody is on his own. Like I said, when I took the action, I was under obligation to service people that are storing products with me. And because of the size of our operation, there are so many conglomerates. We have a facility that stores above Nigerians’ needs. So, there were so many issues bordering on our clients. And some of these issues would have driven us to libels, I mean people suing us. So, we looked at other options but the most important thing was because of the suffering of Nigerians.
But even at that, a lot of people couldn’t believe you did something great to alleviate the suffering of the teeming masses of this country at that moment, hence jealousy, gossip and all that about your person. Why?
I strongly believe that as so many people like me, some will also not like me. And one thing is that when God has made you a success, so many people will be there appreciating you, while some may be antagonizing you. Some people will be praising you when you’re helping them but when you stop doing that to them, they will start fighting you. One thing that’s sure is that you can never please everybody. Even Jesus Christ wasn’t loved by all.
It’s obvious that you really stood by former President Goodluck Jonathan during the elections but he eventually lost. How did you feel when he lost out?
I felt bad like somebody who had invested his time, energy and money in something he believed in and the thing failed. Let me even make it clear, when we entered into Goodluck Jonathan’s project, it was him all alone. Nobody had pledged to contest with him. We publicized what he did for Nigerians which no one for a day faulted. So, we did our job by showcasing his performances. We ran this till almost the end of the year when it was very difficult for him to come in to contest, looking at the security situation. So, we forced him and said he must run for the presidency because at that time, he was the best candidate. And to us, he was because you can only say what you know. So, we ran this thing till they said okay. The opposition party was going for a congress to elect its presidential candidate. So, we looked at the whole analysis but before then, we had endorsed him and it was coming late. So, we needed to start campaigning for him, I mean the organization. We looked at what Rochas Okorocha was projecting in his own strategy, we were projecting that he’s going to mop out South-South and South-East and he may even encroach on the South West, knowing full well that there is always a divided line in the South-West. So, we looked at it that if Rochas Okorocha becomes the APC presidential candidate what happens. To me, Okorocha has issues because I helped him to become the governor of Imo State, but since he became the governor, he has not done well for the people of Imo State. So, I won’t have any reason to package him. So, if it were Rochas Okorocha that emerged APC presidential candidate, do you think he would have defeated Jonathan? Another thing was that the political strategy in the North was that the Northern votes would be shared. That Atiku Abubakar would have his votes, Kwankwaso and Buhari would have their own votes as well. And you will agree with me that in politics, so many negotiations go on overnight. If it were to be as anticipated, it means Rochas Okorocha would have carried the day. The game was between Okorocha and the rest of the Northern aspirants. So, nobody anticipated Buhari. But immediately Buhari got the ticket, we knew there was an issue. So, we went back to re-strategise. The case was like that of a soldier that was already in the battle field, you can’t come out again. And that’s why we never criticized or abused Buhari. We continued to respect him. We played a level ground game. If Rochas Okorocha had gotten the ticket, I personally would have opposed him because he doesn’t take care of the people that helped him.
How do you intend to cope with this new administration if the government decides to move against you, knowing full well that you supported the opposition?
I don’t have any skeleton in my cupboard and I don’t depend on government patronage. I have business that sustains me as a family man. I have never been a man that chases government. So, I strongly believe government will respect me. I have my fundamental right, I have my business right. I pay my dues. I am not going to seek government patronage. Why must Nigerians be thinking that anytime a new government comes in, they will start killing people? No, things don’t happen like that. In the United States of America, there are always a dividing line during politics but once after politics there is one president and one nation. And everybody respects the president. But in Africa, it’s always not the case. As the case is right now in Nigeria, those in the new government will even like me for being myself and standing on my point.
How were you able to deliver Abia State to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), despite the complexity in the politics of the state?
I am a party man, and remember I was in Labour Party. When I came, I became a PDP man. And I am like a soldier, I only understand forward match. When Jonathan lost, I still went to Lagos. I fought for my party and delivered the party in Lagos. And when elections were going on in Lagos, Abia people were on their own. I had to concentrate on Lagos election because Anambra State where I hail from, we had no governorship election. So, immediately they had this supplementary election, I went in there, and I helped in my own way. The same way so many people went to Imo State and did the same. I know of Chris Ngige and other APC members from Anambra who were more of electoral officers for Okorochas in Imo State. So, I went for my party in Abia State and rendered necessary support. We worked overnight, using our structure, Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN), asking everybody on ground to help deliver the state.
Your incursion into the politics of Lagos State became an issue, especially when you threw your weight behind the candidacy of Jimi Agbaje of PDP. Considering the fact that you have the bulk of your business in Lagos and now your candidate lost out, how will you feel if the APC government decides to move against your business in Lagos?
It’s the same thing I have said. That’s if I have any skeleton in my cupboard that I will be afraid. It’s all a party affair. If really, for example, politicians chase people, maybe they have not done that good job by saying come and enter or work with us. But in fairness to myself, I tried to reach all of them. Tinubu is like a godfather to me. Babatunde Raji Fashola is a very good friend, I reached almost all of them but I don’t have relationship with the new governor, Akinwunmi Ambode. So, I try to keep to myself. I remember that even His Royal Highness called me, and I went to his palace. I tried to reach also to so many people. But the point remains that, I asked a question when I was approached by some APC members, I told them that I am aware that APC is very strong in Lagos but we will not say because you’re strong and run away from the battle. We need to understand one issue, we’re in a state where Igbo are many, and you cannot give a ticket to an Igbo man or where we have a lot of Hausa and you can’t give a ticket to a Hausa man or any non-indigene, it shouldn’t be. Today, a Nigerian, an Igbo man to be precise, Mr. Chuka is trying to become the British Prime Minister. A Yoruba man from Nigeria bought some terminals in Heathrow Airport, UK and much more. If the British were so desperate, they wouldn’t have allowed all these happen in their country. Even the president of US today is an African. And we’re preaching change, we are preaching democracy. So, change will start from somewhere. If you practice it, other people will emulate you because you’re the hero of change. You’re the grandfather of change and people appreciate that.
How does it feel being one of the most talked about Nigerians right now?
One thing is that I am a highly misunderstood person. And Ifeanyi Ubah means so many things to so many people. But the good thing about me is that for those who know me, I am a very straight forward person. And I have a very strong character. Again, I am not going to deny the fact that my name is all over the place because I have a very strong fan base. So, anytime my name comes up with anything, you will find so many people reacting. Those that love me and those that don’t like me.
– TADE ASIFAT