Ezekwesili vs Omojuwa – Tony Ademiluyi

Brands are not restricted to companies. Successful or distinguished individuals in all walks of life are also elevated to the status of a brand. Many companies realized the importance of successful individuals in more effectively selling their goods and services that they are co-opted as brand ambassadors under contractual terms to market their products to their massive fan base.

This practice was first made popular by Telecommunications Giant, Globacom who enlisted the services of some successful artistes and actors/actresses as brand ambassadors. Brands have gone beyond the using of entertainers to sell their products. Samsung signed up popular public relations expert and writer, Anthony Kanayo Onwordi a.k.a Toni Kan as an ambassador. Not waiting to be outdone, Globacom once signed up Debola Williams, the Co Founder and CEO of Red Media and the organizer of the popular Future Awards as an ambassador.

Dr (Mrs) Oby Ezekwesili came into national prominence at the young age of 36 when she was the presidential aide on Due Process to former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. The former Co Founder of Transparency International greatly helped curbed corruption by way of inflated contracts. This earned her national and global recognition which saw her elevation as Minister for Solid Minerals and later Education. She was later to become the first World Bank Vice President for Africa. She has gone on to become a respected voice and commentator on issues with regards to Nigeria. Pundits will recall her role in the campaign for the release of the abducted Chibok girls in 2014 through the ‘Bring Back our Girls Campaign.’

Japheth Omojuwa is a highly respected social commentator and public affairs analyst who started with a blog named after himself – www.omojuwa.com in 2009. He came into national reckoning in 2012 during the subsidy removal crisis during the Presidency of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. He has gone on to travel round the world and consult for a plethora of foreign donor organizations. He used to be a columnist for Punch and Legit.

A few weeks ago, the news broke when Ezekwesili accused Omojuwa of forgery and fraudulent misrepresentation in the use of her name as a Director in his company – Alpha Reach. The news literarily broke the internet with bloggers having a field day sharing it to all the nooks and crannies of the blogosphere. Omojuwa reacted saying that he did it with her express permission and the current Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai was also a Director as well before he stepped down in 2015 when he became the Governor of the state. The latest is that Ezekwesili has petitioned the Inspector-General of Police calling on him to thoroughly investigate the issue.

The allegations leveled against Omojuwa are extremely weighty and in a civilized nation could carry a long jail term. The critical question to ask is whether her consent was first sought before her name was included on the board.

It is clear that the once chummy relationship between both of them has irretrievably broken down as Omojuwa revealed that she worked clandestinely on behalf of Buhari in 2015 and only found her ‘critic’ voice when she was sidelined in the ministerial appointments.

He has been insistent that he sought the consent of the former Minister as revealed by his response to her through his attorney. Some of his supporters opine that the raison d’etre of the conflict between them is as a result of his refusal to fight her wars through his immense social media clout in his bid to be his own man.

Nigeria’s international image at the moment is at its lowest ebb. Foreign Direct Investments are drying up as evinced from the decision of Twitter to cite its African Headquarters in neighbouring Ghana. Amazon is citing their African Headquarters in South Africa. The likes of Dunlop, Michelin etc have relocated their operations to Ghana which has now assumed the status of the beautiful bride by foreign investors. Shoprite is relocating back to South Africa having sold its Nigerian interest to an investor. For an Omojuwa who is a global figure to be accused of forgery is a gargantuan dent on our national image since his vast social media skills especially on Twitter where he is an influencer as well as ambassador for some brands can be greatly tapped to clean up our dirty image.

Omojuwa is a person that I personally admire and hold in high esteem and I only hope that the allegations are false.

There is a clamour for power shift to the younger generation all over the globe especially in Africa with its avalanche of sit tight dictators. Change makers like Emmanuel Macron became France’s President at 39, the legendary John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected the youngest President of the United States at 43, Tony Blair became Britain’s Prime Minister at 43, Bill Clinton became the United States President at 46, David Cameron became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at 44. All these men made a huge mark while in office and were all coincidentally elected while in the prime of their lives. Coming down home, the ‘Not too young to run’ bill made serious gains with the election of some young people into public office in 2019. Omojuwa may not be an elected or appointed public office holder but he is undoubtedly a young trail blazer who burst into global consciousness at the age of 27. He is a role model to many beleaguered Nigerian youths who have been consistently shortchanged by successive governments. He is a sought after public speaker and his writings are read far and near. His influence was cemented when he became a British Council Chevening Scholar in 2019 where he did his Masters Degree in the prestigious University College London in the United Kingdom. The collateral damage if found guilty will be huge – lost voice, loss of deals with leading brands, loss of a global speaking platform and a further dent on our international image. It is my prayer that he is vindicated so that the youths – the most populous in the country’s population can prove that they have what it takes to lead the nation and get her out of the woods.

This is a lesson to all entrepreneurs and budding ones – take documentation seriously, keep evidences oral and written of agreements and transactions so that in the eventuality of a soured relationship, there will be no needless backlash.

Omojuwa you are in my prayers and hopefully it will be Uhuru for you and the Nigerian youths. Floreat Brother!

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