by crossriverwatch admin
Ken Egbas is a young Public Relations professional from Obubra in Cross River State. He is the managing partner of TruContact PR, a consortium of firms dealing on image management. He spoke to CrossRiverWatch recently about his desire to represent the Obubra/Etung Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, his professional career and other sundry issues.
Let’s meet you, Sir!
I am Ken Egbas. I am forty years old. I come from a family of five where I am the eldest child. I hail from Ofodua, Adun in Obubra local government area of Cross River state. I majored in public relations and hold a postgraduate degree in Marketing from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I am a chartered member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) and was also Chairman of NIPR’s 21st and 22nd AGM of 2010 and 2011 where I introduced the very first competitive awards in 55 years of organized public relations practice in Nigeria known as The PR Golden Eagle Awards. I lead a group of companies operating from Nigeria’s economic capital – Lagos. In the group we have TruContact PR – which is today rated amongst Nigeria’s top ten public relations consultancies. Others include, LightView Media – which specialize in audio-visuals, television content creation, and documentaries productions.
We also have Homelands Films- which has also grown to become a major distributor of local and international movies. Our license covers Nigeria as well as east and southern Africa markets; and lastly we have CSR Nigeria – a consultancy that promotes and has championed corporate social responsibility amongst corporate organizations in Nigeria. To this effect, in partnership with the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), we organize an event that has become Nigeria’s biggest corporate awards known as The SERAs – Nigeria CSR Awards – an annual project which aims to promote as well as raise awareness about the roles organizations play with emphasis on their responsibility towards stakeholders and the social development of Nigeria. The SERAs, Nigeria’s first and premier Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Awards, aims to substantiate the case that corporations who are socially responsible stand to gain huge benefits in regards to the triple bottom line – economic, social and environmental capital.
I am also the publisher of Nigeria Social Enterprise Report – a publication on Social Responsibility and sustainability. This publication circulates around Africa, United Kingdom and USA.
Over the years I have served as a marketing communications consultant to several of Nigeria’s leading companies and also a number of international development agencies. I am widely travelled. I also work as leadership coach or trainer for organizations and also keep a very busy schedule as a motivational speaker. Besides these, I am a regular contributor on national issues on politics, economy and sports on Channels television and Africa Independent Television (AIT). So as you can see, I have been an avid player in the private sector over the last eighteen years and this now accords me the benefit of experience.
We are aware of your success in the private sector in Lagos where you run your private firm as CEO, tell us your achievements and what you’ve done so far?
Some of my activities I have already mentioned above. I have achieved quite a lot. But by my nature I find it very difficult to blow my own trumpet about what I have done or where my sojourn has taken me. I rather choose to focus on the impact of my work or activities on others around me. My whole work evolves around marketing and development communications majoring in innovation and deployment strategies, social entrepreneurship/ CSR/ sustainability advocacy. And those areas are where I have made the biggest impacts.
For Example, in 2006, when I began to speak publicly on corporate social responsibility as the next platform for stakeholder engagement and the need for organizations in Nigeria to urgently adopt and perfects its practice within and without, many people took a good look at me and thought – this guy must be crazy. But what they failed to understand at the time was that issues of how companies made profit to the detriment of communities as well as the physical environment and suspected sharp practices within organizations as it affects corporate governance was going to be the key determinant of how buying behavior of the future market could negatively impact on their businesses. Today, nearly every company in Nigeria has a CSR/ sustainability department. Not only that, in 2006, Nigeria’s leading 100 companies spent a total of approximately 600 million naira on communities around where they do business in the 36 states of the federation including FCT Abuja.
But by our activities and the SERAs platform, we have seen those figures increase to about 30 billion naira by the last reporting year of 2013. We have made organizations understand that true development is not the function or responsibility of government alone but through a United Nations advocated model of public, private sector partnership (PPP). Around the country, we have seen so many companies going into intervening in areas of the Millennium development goals such as poverty alleviation, education, maternal mortality, healthcare, equal opportunity for all etc. And our gain from all this as purveyors of the project has been seeing people have access to opportunities that were hitherto seen as exclusive preserves of a privileged class. And in this, our project has been embraced by government and endorsed by key international development partners. Next stage for us is to get these corporates to move their interventions also to areas or states where they may not have strong economic presence. So that is a summary of one of the many activities I am involved in.
How has Cross River state or your constituents benefited from your deep rooted involvement so far with the corporate world, or what would they stand to gain going forward from your involvement with the private sector and experience that you have?
I am glad that you asked that. Firstly, if you are in my shoes where through my effort and those of members of my team we have been able to attract social and physical investments to the economies of other states such as Lagos, Rivers and a few of the states in northern Nigeria, then you ask the question- why can’t I attract all these people to Cross River state as well? Out there, the wrong notion the corporates have is that our state is a civil service state where the ratio of disposable income in the hands of the populace is quite low compared to what they would require to engage full steam out of their activities in other states. There is also the wrong notion that outside of Calabar, Ikom and Obudu (because of the ranch) economic activities in other areas are nearly none existent. Over the past four years, we have also built into our strategy to bring many of these organizations to set foot here and even explore the terrain.
Now they are beginning to see for themselves that beyond the famed Calabar carnival, unrivalled opportunity exists almost in all local government areas in the state. Cross River State is a massive market! As sad as the loss of oil wells to Akwa Ibom was, I was one of those who recovered very quickly. Reason is I am one of those firm believers in the dictum that what God bequeaths under the ground or earth is only five percent of what He bequeaths in the people He put on the earth. As such, economy first resides in people before what is on the ground. Look at places like Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore….what did they have compared to what they have now? They grew because they focused on human capacity development. More so, if the purpose of the corporate social responsibility is to intervene and help improve the quality of lives of people in a tangible manner, Cross River at present provides the biggest opportunity for them to get involved in ways that helps them create future markets and profits and channels to drive new and innovative products. That itself would create job opportunity for our youths. In 2012, we led a team that involved two big telecom and an agro based company to study how the government’s agency– Cross River State community Development Agency (CRSDA) — intervenes in education, health and infrastructure in far flung localities with huge success. This visit even earned the state government an international recognition in the same year.
This was done to prove to them that there were opportunities for them here. And during our trips, they discovered that things were not as they assumed. In fact, with the focus on construction of rural roads over the last few years, many of these places are now easily accessible. With the agro- based company, we had this interphase with local farmers in Obubra on how to improve yam seedlings and more yield for highly nutritious specie of rice that they found rare and are ready to invest in. The prospects of economic transformation that is possible in cross river state is so gargantuan in nature that all we need is to have people or leaders in right positions who have capacity to think of the dreams we have of our state 30 or 40 years from now juxtaposing again likely occurrences in the largest economies of this world. Only then would we be planning for growth and development bearing in mind the rapidly increasing population of our people and how their emotional, financial, social, educational and infrastructure needs may quintuple over the next ten years.
In Obubra, we actually intervened directly in the area of sports by sponsoring a soccer competition that has run the course of four years now. The purposes is getting the boys off the streets and engage them in an activity that can gainfully engage them while also creating an opportunity for them to play football professionally. The competition have been so well organized that people are shocked that such level of organization is possible at that level. For example, through my long-standing involvement in football administration, we were able to attract two national coaches to the finals to help inspire these boys and perhaps discover one or two that may be good enough for the age group national side. And just in January 2014, we took the message of inspiring our youths through football to Etung when we hosted the finals of the Obubra/ Etung Constituency cup. Besides, over the last few years I have also been involved in mentoring some young people on how to start and run business from the comfort of their homes.
And you can see the shock on their faces when I declare to them that they don’t need tons of money to begin a venture as I began mine with just 5000 naira. They even find it hardest to believe that there was also a time as a young man when I hawked water and oranges in Lagos traffic. Our people are in dire need of motivational and aspirational leadership. Social entrepreneurship is one key to gainfully engaging our youths in the future. That is one way of engendering value creation and putting an end to this life of perpetual dependency that sadly our people have come to accept.
It is no longer news that you intend to represent the people of Etung and Obubra Federal Constituency in the House of Reps, what informed your aspiration and why do you think you’re the man to beat?
(Laughter)…well, when you say I am the man to beat, I may not necessarily agree with that. I would say, I am one of those who have signified interest in filling the massive shoes Honorable John Owan –Enoh would be leaving behind and is prepared to go the entire hog.. I like the fact that you described it as an aspiration not an ambition. Sometimes…in my understanding, that word –‘ambition’ can sometimes tend to have a negative connotation, depending on what propels one. For others, their quest is for power… just to prove that they also can get power. Even on a national level I never cease to wonder why the fervor with which politicians prosecute campaigns for office is never matched by performance when they get to office. What I understand is that it is what you do with this acquired relevance that power brings that determines if your place place would be in the footnotes of history or a headliner for future generation to gain positive inspiration from.
I have seen a lot in my short life. I have learned so much also. Outside of Cross River state, people describe me in complimentary adjectives. Yes, it makes me smile sometimes and gives me that momentary satisfaction that all my nights of sleeplessness have not been in vain. Each time, I visit my village, my LGA, my state…I am humbled by the reception I get and what people say of me. But despite all these, I am sad at the state of being of my people. I have never had to ponder a paradox stronger than the dignity with which our people toil day and night, yet live in such abject poverty. When I think of the fact that as much as 80% of the approximate 400,000 thousand inhabitants of our constituency are farmers and have yet to master the art of bountiful yields and crop storage and also discarding by-products of present processes that can further fetch them income, then I worry. Twenty years ago, the big issue was that our people were disinterested in going to school.
But that problem has taken a different turn, by my research; our constituency currently produces one of the highest numbers of fresh graduates from all the tertiary institutions in Nigeria of all the constituencies in Cross River state. Today, many of these young men and ladies return back to the village with no hope of gainful engagement for a large number of them. This makes me worry also. In this day and age, we should not be losing mothers or babies at childbirth due to preventable causes. This also worries me. At that point, all the praise means nothing to me. That dream of what I can do to better the lot of the people of the Obubra- Etung federal constituency is what drives me. I believe I can add to what my predecessors have already done. The rich experience I already have garnered has made me perhaps the most prepared to utilize this opportunity of a shot at the seat in the federal parliament for the benefit of our people. I intend to present my campaign to our people as not just an opportunity to hold office, but to gather with them to transform our constituency.
What’s your assessment of Hon. John Owan-Enoh’s representation thus far?
To be honest with you, his impact has been phenomenal. I first got to know him by his works. I recall around this time in 2009 in Abuja, when I was hired by then senate committee on establishment headed by Senator Uche Chukwumerije to help prepare a bill they intended to push on the floor of the senate on corporate social responsibility. So after our meeting, we sat in the Senator’s office when he turned the television on, and there was this on-going debate…I can’t remember what it was about again. But on the floor was this young man who held the listeners and viewers spell bound with his oratory and sound argument. And when he was done, his colleagues applauded him.
I was really curious about who he was until NTA scrolled up his name and the constituency he represents. Then with pride, I almost lost all decorum as I began bragging to the Senator that that was my representative. I recall Senator Chukwumerije saying to me at that time, “That guy Owan-Enoh is one of the soundest of those lot. When he speaks, I like to listen because he always makes sense.” Since then, I have followed him closely. And from a distance, I have learned so much from him in the process. I find him very unlike most of our politicians. By his words and mode of his works he seems very intelligent and a deep thinker. He has this deep connectedness with the people he represents. They really love him. In some ways, he appears more popular even in Obubra than Etung going by what people have said to me in the course of my consultations. But if you ask to say one major thing I have seen in him, it is that he has demystified that thing about being a big man or a big fish in the political stratosphere the way he is very accessible to people he represents. I see him as a dogged fighter and an ultra focused human being.
I was so filled with awe watching him from the gallery of the federal house as he gallantly fought against Cross-River state losing the oil wells to Akwa Ibom. And to tell you the absolute truth, one key motivation for my seeking the seat in the federal house is because Honorable Owan-Enoh has laid such a solid foundation for his successor that in actuality, there would be no need to re-invent the wheel. All that has to be done is build on the many initiatives he had already begun but not quite completed as well as introduce other key innovations and continue to draw federal attention to the plight of our people and our constituency. He is not the first individual to hold the position of the member of federal house from our constituency, but surely history will signpost him as the most successful and impactful yet.
Hon Owan-Enoh has tremendous influence in your constituency and would determine who takes over from him moving forward. What’s your relationship with him and the key stakeholders?
There is no doubt right now that John Owan-Enoh is a politician of repute not only in Cross River state, he has also grown to become a phenomenon nationally. Truly, when you do any job given to you well, you grow in influence and support from the people. I think the choice of who becomes the next member representing Obubra/Etung federal constituency would be decided by God. Power comes from God. I believe this saying wholeheartedly.
My relationship with Hon. John is as cordial as him being my representative in the federal house and party leader in our constituency can be. I have had the privilege of meeting with him a few times. When I went to share my aspiration with him all he said to me was that I should go and sell myself to the people same way as he did. I want to believe that he may have given same advice to others as well.
My round of consultations has taken me round the twenty- one wards of Obubra/Etung. My team and I have met local leaders as well as others who live outside our constituency. And all we have been doing is trying to sell our vision of the future and the plans we already have that we would like to actualize to the benefit of the people of our constituency and cross river state in general. It has been a very rewarding and enriching experience indeed and I look forward to the future with great hope.
What are your highest selling points, strengths and appeal to both the powers-that-be and the would-be delegates in the primaries?
I am a young man who has excelled in the private sector. I am not only young but also very vibrant and innovative. We cannot solve tomorrow’s challenges with yesterday’s solutions. That is a recipe for failure. For the past eighteen years of my life, I have built a strong reputation as a solutions provider and a problem solver. Now, I want to use all those skills and abilities God has given me which have won me accolades and recognition around this country and even outside this country to serve my people and my state and thereby become a catalyst for growth and development. I have also been involved in politics for longer than people can imagine. The reason it appears to them that I have just come is because noise making is not my style. Go to Obubra for example and ask about my involvement with the youths, which alone would reveal a lot about me at the grassroots. I have not done all I have done because I want anything, but because I genuinely care and believe we are blessed with the sort of young people we have, just that quite a number of them have become demotivated.
Yes, I may not be a career politician, but I have been involved in politics nonetheless over the last decade in the PDP where I have been a card carrying and active member since 2007. I don’t think that is a pre-requirement for getting involved. I have started companies and kept them running successfully under difficult economic conditions. Over time, I have mastered the art of creating a lot out of nothing. I understand value creation. It is also to my advantage that I have a life outside of politics. I have a rich network of friends all over this nation; relationships whose strength I can bring to bear in getting things done. I have a rich track record of performance on every assignment I have been given to date. I am someone who has lived in the eyes of the public and as such all these things I have said can be verified. I think the fact that I have gained exposure and experience in Lagos and beyond, also put me in good stead.
Our erstwhile governor – Donald Duke came from Lagos, even His Excellency Governor Liyel Imoke built a name for himself in Lagos before getting involved in Cross River state and national politics. I think that at this time, we should be looking at giving the very best people we have, the opportunities so our people can reap the real dividends of democracy. Our focus at this time should be – who can deliver on this assignment? And I am saying to the people of Obubra/Etung, here I am…send me to the federal house as your representative.
Why should it be Ken Egbas and none other?
I have already said so much of the values I can add or bring to the benefit of our people. Having said all that, I would just like to add this; our constituency approximately twelve years ago was at this same crossroads. There existed a vacancy that required a capable hand to fill. That process threw up a young man who is today a credit not only to the process that produced him but also to the entire Cross River state. Today, we find ourselves at that same point. We must learn from history and put aside primordial sentiments and selfish interests and put our best foot or in this case- best man forward. A man who cares about the people and who will keep his doors open to them, a man whose only motivation is service to his people. That is what I represent.
Any words for your constituent?
I have a have a rich history of performance. I am a man of high integrity and character. I want our people to repose their confidence in me.
Today, the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a matter of days. However, I want them all to note that I say – they will all be met. I urge all members of our constituency to join hands with me as we choose hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. And I make them this solemn promise- that I would work day and night to ensure that their needs and interests are met.
In closing, I would like to borrow this quote from Barack Obama, “ With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let the journey end, we did not turn back, nor did we falter; with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”
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