By Jude Atupulazi
When I said earlier that the 2021 guber election in Anambra will be the most hotly contested, I was not talking because I loved the sound of my voice. As that election zeroes in, a look at the would-be gladiators reveals an intimidating array of personalities, eager to bring their expertise to bear in the development of the state. One of these personalities is Amesi-born Mr Val Ozigbo, who even before age 50 had made waves in the country’s corporate world.
Although he’s still making consultations before throwing his hat into the ring, Ozigbo is easily a personality you can’t ignore. My encounter with him opened up more insight about the man, his achievements and his vision for Anambra.
You’re the President of TRANSCORP, very quickly, what’s it all about and how do you fit in?
As President and Group CEO of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc, (Transcorp), I lead a conglomerate of three businesses: Transcorp Power, one of the largest power generation companies in Nigeria with 972MW installed capacity; Transcorp Hotels, the owners of Transcorp Hilton Abuja (the leading business hotel in Africa) and Transcorp Hotels Calabar; as well as Transcorp OPL281, an oil and gas company.
Prior to this role, I held the position of MD/CEO of Transcorp Hotels Plc for seven years where I led the positive transformation of the hospitality subsidiary. Specifically, I led a $100m project that successfully upgraded the multiple award-winning Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, winning several personal awards, including Seven Stars Luxury Hospitality CEO of the Year, 2016 (awarded at a global event in Spain). In October 2019, at a red-carpet event in Athens Greece, I was voted Seven Stars Hospitality Personality of the Year for 2019.
Fitting in came quite easy. My background in banking, finance, accounting and management, coupled with my core strength in emotional intelligence, means that I am exceptionally qualified to build any organization to last. My robust analytical skills and continuous improvement culture orientation, means I can lead any transformation in the knowledge economy that we have today. And finally, dynamic leadership style and ethical orientation means I can lead sustainable business underpinned by strong governance ethos.
How has managing it prepared you for leadership?
Sure, very well. John Donahoe, the CEO of Nike, once said that “leadership is a journey, not a destination. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It is a process, not an outcome.” Great leaders, according to Simon Sinek, another great man, a leadership guru and Professor at Columbia University, United Sates of America, usually have deep underlying belief in something bigger than themselves. And the best leaders are actually best followers because they don’t see themselves as the thing to be followed. They see themselves as following a cause bigger than themselves. They actually see themselves in service to something else. The cause for me, far greater than any of us, is the rapid development of any system or community I engage myself with, and governance of Anambra State has come to my attention. The singular most important goal here, the elephant in the room, is its rapid development and the overall wellbeing of Ndi-Anambra.
Leading a large corporation like Transcorp with diverse interests in hospitality, power and oil and gas, in addition to other experiences I have gained in community development, sports administration, tourism and entertainment promotion, is akin to leading a state. It is the same basic principles of leadership that are at play. Being opportuned to lead the conglomerate with the largest shareholder base in Nigeria has actually taught me how to manage people of diverse backgrounds and yet lead and achieve outstanding results, because leadership is both a science and an art.
For me to make phenomenal impact as CEO of a State like Anambra, my responsibility will be to listen to Ndi Anambra and then work with a strategic team to craft a proper bottom-up vision which must be understood, owned, supported and propagated by the key stakeholders of Ndi Anambra, and to work seamlessly and methodically to efficiently execute the mandate, and through this, transform Anambra, impact lives and leave a credible legacy. Above all, managing Transcorp for over 8 years and leading a $100m project that successfully upgraded the multiple award-winning Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, have equipped me with a unique insight and network into leadership and a clearer understanding about goal-setting, galvanizing and mobilizing men and women and materials to achieve performance. I am ready, eager, passionate and enthusiastic to bring this wealth of knowledge, experience and uncommon insight to bear, in charting a new and noble cause for the Light of the Nation (Anambra State).
In what ways do you think you can bring your wealth of experience in the corporate world to bear in your home state if given the chance?
In many ways. First, experience is defined as the process of getting knowledge or skill from doing, seeing, or feeling things. I know how to motivate people towards a cause, I know how to get the best out of people, and I know how to achieve a defined purpose. One of the immediate things I want to do in Anambra State, if given the opportunity to lead the state, is to use the human and material resources in Anambra to solve Anambra’s problems.
It may sound like a cliché; but seriously speaking, Anambra has sufficient capacity to solve Anambra’s problems. One of the immediate things I will like to do is to bring the elite, the well-to-do, the billionaires in the state, together (in a manner that will be beneficial to all concerned); motivate them massively and well enough to develop the state jointly, for the benefit of Ndi-Anambra. We want to achieve a paradigm shift in governance, in the way people are governed in the state; in the way and manner people perceive governance and the way they respond to governance.
For the first time in the history of the state, we are going to run a “people-first government.” We shall run not just a government which places high premium on its citizens, but a government which also entrusts ownership of developmental and development efforts in their hands. In a manner of speaking, we shall hand power over to the people. Let the people drive the development of the state; let the elite, the well-to-do, take ownership of strategic development of Anambra. My role will just be to ensure focused and efficient execution to ensure set socioeconomic developmental milestones are attained.
Do you think Anambra is where she ought to be, 28 years on?
No. Anambra is however work-in-progress. It’s not a finished product; and we all know this. That is why we are having this discussion in the first place. Anambra has what it takes to significantly outperform other states in Nigeria, including Lagos. I will dwell on this when I formally declare my interest which will happen as we get closer to the election time.
If not entirely, what’s been the problem and what way forward?
Our understanding, our appreciation, our approach, our response to governance has to change. Governance should transcend transaction. The era of governance being merely transactional should be over. We must have to start constructing a holistic approach, a whole new approach to governance at the state level.
To underscore this point, I will not hasten to jump into stating the problems. Some of the problems affect Anambra as a whole and some are community specific. What I have already planned, ready to launch soon, is a state-wide opinion poll to carefully identify to pain points, as a first step towards finding the right solution. Our solution will be data based to ensure we monitor progress.
Could same be said about the country?
Certainly, a lot of the problems of Anambra can be likened to problems of Nigeria, but this is not my immediate focus now. When we fix Anambra, hopefully the rest of the states will model after our template and Nigeria will be better for it.
What’s your take on the border closure? Good or bad for business?
This is outside the scope of our discussion today. But let me simply state that state policies should always be done as a strategic intervention and not a reactional measure. We need to always apply robust thinking and constructive debates in an efficient manner and come up with solutions and applications that will not lead to unintended consequences. I am more for border protection than border closure. Movement of people and resources must be monitored with Nigeria-first mindset, and if this is not what is being strictly done, then we need to adjust.
2021 is around the corner. Are you interested in serving your state?
I am. I have consulted with select key stakeholders, and the Christmas season afforded me with opportunity to do a lot of that. Based on feedback I have received so far, both from spiritual leaders, traditional rulers, party leaders and grassroots, I believe I am not only eminently qualified, but it does appear I will have better offer for Ndi Anambra as I come with many advantages that others can’t match for now, and this includes names already being mentioned from the three major parties that will be contending. However, there are still a number of my leaders, friends and mentors that I would like to engage formally before I make a public and formal declaration. And you could observe that I refrain from going too partisan because I want to comply with expectations from the regulators given that I am a CEO of a publicly quoted company. I will have to engage the Nigerian Stock Exchange first before making any public declaration.
How would you describe yourself: technocrat, business man or politician?
A man with a mission; a man with a burning desire to transform Anambra. I combine the titles in an optimal balance that aligns to what Anambra needs, especially at this time.
Are we going to be hearing more about Val Ozigbo in the months ahead?
Certainly. I have been very actively involved in provision of scholarships and food items to the less privileged, youth empowerment, entrepreneurship promotion, leading praise and worship events, and developing new talents in the entertainment world. Through my foundation, the Chineto Ozigbo Foundation, you will hear a lot more of me. Days back, we started massive support for select widows from every single one of the 177 towns in Anambra State. We will follow this up with a number of other activities targeted at youth and women, and to help promote unity in Anambra. So, yes, you will be hearing more from me.