PCA @ 60: The Man And His Niche In Life

By Sufuyan Ojeifo

Alexander Pope, the English poet known for his satirical and moralizing verse, is quoted to have said: “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan: the proper study of mankind is man.” Pope’s position, which eternally resonates in human consciousness, is that man should not try to scan the ways of God, for the mysteries of God are beyond the human intellect. Man, therefore, should limit himself to his own study, a curious paradox.

Interestingly, the attempt to limit man to his own study has not really helped the process of proper deconstruction of mankind, as man always gets trapped in the conundrum of subjective rather than objective study of himself (read another man). This is not surprising because the study of man naturally and always presents a kaleidoscope of traits that form his quintessence and offers varied perspectives as observed by others.

The study of mankind by man, when likened to the perception of blind men about an elephant, would be influenced by the trait or feature that he is exposed to. A blind man who touches or feels the tusk of the elephant would describe it differently from the one who touches the trunk, and another who touches the leg.

The same process applies to the appreciation of the character of a man. I have decided on the occasion of the 60th birthday of the immediate past Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Ikanade Agba (PCA), to take this route, instead of the routine, predictable and certainly jaded style of paying tributes to birthday celebrators by talking about the schools attended, positions held and achievements, if there are any, and so on and so forth.

My task today is to deconstruct the individuality of PCA within the context of how our paths crossed, leading to an intercourse that has been largely anchored on the capital of my media proficiency. This is how it all started: in 2019, my friend, Ifere Paul, who was an Assistant to Prince Goddy Jeddy Agba, former Minister of State for Power, asked if I could do a piece focused on his boss, who had just been nominated as a minister by Muhammadu Buhari who was then in the saddle as president of Nigeria. I found it somewhat difficult to deal with without being seen as a procured writer.

When Paul’s insistence became too much, I sat down to think of how to creatively and professionally navigate through the labyrinth of a friend’s mischief that must be cured. It struck me at the point of interrogating the list that there was Prince Clem Agba, not related to Jeddy Agba, on the list of ministerial nominees and he is from my state—Edo. I had never met him before then. So, I decided to do a piece entitled: “Harnessing the potential of two Agbas in Buhari’s cabinet.” The title was derived from the result of the google checks that I ran on both of them: both of them were from the oil and gas sector; while Goddy Jeddy Agba retired from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as it then was, Clem Ikanade Agba would later retire from Chevron Nigeria Limited at the point of his confirmation as minister. Both had royal blood, and both were into charity, among other similarities.

That piece would turn out to be the point of contact between Clem Agba and I. Two days after he assumed office as Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, I received a telephone call that the minister would like to see me in his office. We met for the first time in his office. He took me to his inner office, where he told me a short story that set the tone for his offer of Special Assistant (Media and Strategic Communication), which I accepted.

He said: “My younger brother, Solomon, who works with Oando (Oil Company) read the piece you wrote on me and was so impressed and said that whoever wrote the piece must be a genius. He said the writer is the kind of person I should tap as my media assistant.” Agba said he penciled down my name and when the time came to make some appointments, he shared the list with his benefactor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, whom he said was excited to see my name on the list and having made some complimentary remarks about me, asked him to go ahead. Agba then asked if I would like to assist him with his media projections. I replied: “With this story that I have heard, I find it difficult to say no.”

Immediately, he jumped to his feet and led the way while I followed closely straight to the office of the Permanent Secretary (Dr Ernest Umakhihe, now retired) where the matter was consummated. This was on a Friday. I was assigned an office immediately and asked to furnish the office with my CV on Monday for onward transmission to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office, which had offered some funding support for ministerial aides.

That was how I became the SA (Media and Strategic Communications) to Prince Agba from August 23, 2019 to May 29, 2023. Why have I decided to recount this story? It is simply to present to the world the unique taste of Agba, an Etsako man, for merit. He could have behaved clannishly by saying that I did not come from his part of Edo State. He discountenanced my Esan identity and gave me the job. He was not short of journalist friends who could have been appointed, but he decided to give the job. For me, Agba trumped ethnicity by that singular gesture. So, when he was talking about his signature-promoting Edo Agenda during his electioneering for the governorship ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the just-concluded primary election in Edo State, I understood exactly what he meant. As an Edo man, much more than an Esan son, I was a beneficiary of his benevolent and result-focused approach to life in general.

Indeed, I should place it on record that I was not the only Esan person among his SAs. There was one other person. Moreover, he had SAs and Technical Assistants (Tas) who were of Igbo and Nupe extractions. Beyond Edo State, that accentuates and reinforces his pan-Nigerian proclivity, which gained traction in the course of his duties as he also facilitated infrastructure development projects especially under the Economic Sustainability Plan (to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic) across the country. That plan largely afforded him ample opportunities to attract well over 75 infrastructure projects to Edo State.

While in office as Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Agba entrenched a disciplined work ethic: he provided sharply-focused leadership, always time conscious and getting to events and waiting for organisers to start. He is a man of character, conducts himself with dignity and propriety, and anyone who has worked with him will attest to his intellectual productivity.

To add to all that, Prince Clem Agba (PCA) is a high-level performer—of course, he has to be, in order to rise to the higher echelons of the oil and gas sector. With his innate integrity and posterity-guided moral compass, Agba is an indispensable resource person for government and governance at the highest level. This, then, is me wishing this Prince of Uzanu well on his Diamond Anniversary. Long may you live, my good Sir. And may your pristine legacy continue to grow.

Mr Ojeifo is Publisher of THE CONCLAVE (an online newspaper).