Chief (Barr.) Dumo Lulu Briggs is one of the front-running PDP candidates in the 2015 Rivers state guber race, son of an oil magnate and legendary politician, Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs, who was National Vice Chairman, South South of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the Second Republic.
Tall, handsome and soft-spoken, he is down to earth and street-smart. Dumo is an accomplished businessman, technocrat, politician and grassroots mobilizer on his own merit. He sits atop the board of several companies and has been chairman of the National Maritime Academy, Oron, Akwa Ibom State, as well as the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, Imo State. He recently fielded questions from PATRICK OKON on his life, inspiration and his politics.
Why did you decide to contest the 2015 guber elections in Rivers State?
The 2015 gubernatorial elections in Rivers State, I believe, should be about who will take the state to a greater height and not about which of the ethnic nationalities in the state will produce the next governor.
I have looked around deeply and consulted widely and I believe I am the man that can move and liberate Rivers state from the shackles of poverty, joblessness and hopelessness that presently pervade the land. Rivers state is very rich, yet our people are poor, jobless and restive. That means something is wrong. The abundant resources need to be harnessed, hence I have said Rivers people need liberation in 2015.
My candidacy is creating excitement amongst the political class and has received endorsement from various political associations and groups across the state but I know it’s going to be a long drawn and tough battle.
There has been a clamour for zoning of the governorship to a particular tribe. What is your opinion?
I don’t believe in tribal politics, the party should decide who the better candidate is. The people will access everybody based on merit and hand the ticket to that person. 2015 is too important for us as a state to start playing tribal politics because if we lose it this time around, it will be disastrous for our people.
What are your political antecedents?
My foray into politics started in 1992, when I joined the Social Democratic Party (SDP). That same year, I was a candidate for the House Of Representatives in Akuku Toru Federal Constituency, in Rivers State. Between 1986 and 1998, I was National Assistant Legal Adviser to the Grass Roots Democratic Party and in 2003, I contested for the governorship of Rivers State against Dr. Peter Odili.
What is your advice for Rivers people?
As the politicking gathers momentum, I believe there is need for all Rivers people to unite under one umbrella. We must end the divisiveness and polarization and bring everybody together under one umbrella. At the appropriate time, the PDP will pick their best material.
What, in your opinion, is the responsibility of government to the people?
In my view, the responsibility of political leadership and government is to create opportunities for everybody so that the corresponding expectation for responsibility from all is also deserved. Like you know, if you don’t provide the opportunities, then it becomes difficult for you to insist that they must lead very responsible lives. Rivers State needs liberation and I believe I am the man that can make it happen with the support of the people.
You are reputed to have transformed the National Maritime Academy (NMA), Oron, during your tenure as chairman. Tell us about the experience.
We knew when we came on board that we had a serious job to do. We knew we had to make a mark before we leave the academy. What we looked at was to see how we could move the academy from where it was to a world class academy.
First, we thought we could have the academy as the best maritime institution in Africa within the first two years and then make it one of the leading academies internationally within five years. Accordingly, we asked the rector to work on a programme of activities for the academy between one and five years, structured in two phases.
Our vision was to ensure that the students were the best you could find anywhere in the world, well-equipped and well-trained and could be gainfully-employed by international maritime companies. That’s the minimum of what we planned to achieve and we did.
You are just rounding off another shot at public service as chairman of the board of the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri. How would you rate your performance?
It was another opportunity to add my quota to national development, but this time in the health sector. The experience was wonderful, very challenging, it was an eye-opener.
I had a great team; we had very experienced technocrats and professionals on the board; people like M. Ibrahim Shettima, Usman Ibba, Engr. Don Chibundu Njoku, and Senator (Engr) Onyema Amadi Okoroafor. With all modesty, we left the place better than we met it and I believe posterity will judge us positively someday.
Why do you think you were chosen for both assignments?
They think that it’s a job that I would be able to deliver. Also, it must have been borne out of my well-known enthusiasm and interest in anything that relates to education and human capital development. They must have thought that, this is somebody who has over time spoken so much about this; it would be nice to see if it is not just talk.
Now that we have the opportunity, let’s see if he will be able to deliver. So, it’s not lost on me that the expectation is high. I take all of these assignments with all amount of seriousness and dedication. Sometimes they conflict in terms of timing with my businesses which are growing daily, but because this is national service, I create time and balance to ensure I give my best always.
Nigeria, I have always believed, can only truly be great when we all add our own quota to its development when called upon to do so. So, I cannot fall short of their expectations of me. God has always been helping and guiding me.
Tell us about your background
I am 50. I am a lawyer. I obtained my law degree from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1985, which is a great institute of learning and a citadel of excellence. In 1987, I crowned it with a master’s degree from the University of London. I also fortified myself with executive courses at Harvard University and Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, USA.
You are a carbon copy of your dad, what has been his influence over your life?
My dad has always been an inspiration. My foray into maritime industry, and oil and gas was because he was also in that business. He has a larger than life image.
Considering the circumstances of his birth, he has achieved outstanding success in business and politics and he has a large heart when it comes to helping society. He is truly one of the great men of his generation.
But make no mistake, I have learnt well. Under my dad’s tutelage, I have carved a niche for myself as a prolific corporate player, technocrat and grassroots mobilizer. Growing up, my father was very strict; I am a lawyer today, even though I didn’t originally want to become a lawyer. But of course, at that time when we were growing up, we couldn’t break from our parents. What you wanted as opposed to what your parents wanted would always be secondary. So, my father insisted that I must read law. And that training has also helped me to take on other challenges outside of the legal profession. I’m into oil and gas; I’m also into entertainment. And whatever field I find myself, I see that my law background has been very helpful. I am also into politics.
People talk about your classic turnaround of your father’s company, an indigenous oil exploration company in revered tunes. Tell us about it.
I joined Moni Pulo Limited founded by his father in June 1998, as company secretary and legal adviser. From inception, the company was under expatriate management. In 2002, I was promoted executive director and the year after, I was appointed managing director purely on merit. At this time the company’s fortunes had dwindled and I saw my elevation as a divine opportunity to prove my capacity and capability as a manager of men and resources.
Today, Moni Pulo is one of the most successful indigenous oil exploration companies in Nigeria and it continues to play a major role in shaping the industry and encourage local talents and growth. That feat has been hailed in the oil and gas industry but if you ask me, I think, we did what we had to do.
What of your private business; what are you involved in?
In November 2013, I and some associates formed Platform Petroleum Ltd of which I am Chairman, and since then there has been no looking back. Apart from sitting on the board of several blue chip companies all over the country, I am also chairman of several successful indigenous companies which employ hundreds of Nigerians in their various spheres; they include DLB Marine Ltd, De- Plaza Privilage, DLB Energy Services Ltd and Bluewaves Marine and Construction Co., Ltd, amongst others. As an entrepreneur and visionary, my role is to identify the potentials of the venture, set up the structures and bring in competent hands to run the business so they can actualize themselves. By so doing, I believe I am a focused and astute investor, manager of resources and motivator of men. I see myself as a man of great promise in my generation and I am dedicating myself to help galvanize the changes that will make Rivers State a better place for all.
It is said that philanthropy is one of your hobbies; what are the others?
My hobbies are writing, reading, sports and philanthropy. I am passionate about helping the less- privileged around me. Always, I seek out ways to meaningfully reach out to the needy. I have given out scholarships’; I continuously undertake women and youth empowerment programmes; helping the widows, the sick and orphans. Each time I do such, it gives me inner peace and joy knowing I am putting smiles on the faces of people and helping to give them hope for tomorrow. The rich amongst us must understand that we are only custodians of wealth and should therefore use it to uplift and better the lives and situations of those around us.
The true worth of a man is in the way he treats people who are absolutely in need. If you care about people in need, you are actually making a contribution to the development of the nation. We need to give life back to the people; democracy is important in governance. We need to see how we can use the available resources for everybody; create opportunities for all and care, especially for those who are truly in need. The gap between the rich and the poor should be bridged. Those of us blessed with material resources need to share with others. We must strike a balance with our resources.