Segun Kolawole profiles Atedo Peterside: He’s an exemplary Nigerian citizen (Y!/ Person of the Year 2014 Nominee)

by Segun Kolawole

He’s an entrepreneur who seems to not really ‘give a damn’ about the powers that be that most other entrepreneurs are happy to kowtow to.

What he does give a damn about are the same things that mark him out as an exemplary Nigerian citizen – his business acumen, his passion for good public and corporate governance, flair for talent development affinity for sport and his sense of style.

He’s a rare Nigerian business thoroughbred who made his name and fortune breaking the bounds of Nigerian industry and proving the value inherent in the Nigerian financial system.

His career started at NAL Merchant Bank, still only 22 years old with a master’s degree from the London School of Economics. His decade spent at NAL Merchant Bank in a variety of roles set him up well to start his own bank, the Investment Banking and Trust Company (IBTC).

IBTC was an investment bank that has now morphed into the holding company, Stanbic IBTC Holdings, a publicly listed company that features a full service bank, a pension fund administrator, an asset management company among others.

His profile as a business leader has recently leaped into a realm that’s unheard of for any Nigerian entrepreneur till date. He is the only locally based Nigerian on the board of a foreign international company, actually Africa’s largest financial services company, Standard Bank Group.

He also won recognition from CNBC Africa, a few weeks ago when he was named, Business Leader of The Year. His public sector credibility is firm and increasing, however he defies Nigerian norms by also being an active participator in public circles.

In a recent cover profile by Forbes Africa, Atedo Peterside is described as “a devotee of the greater good”. This is an apt description.

In pursuit of the greater good, Mr Peterside has publicly voiced his stand on various social and political issues this year. A move that is surprising in this country where a lot of wealthy people are only so because of government favours and patronage. His preferred issues and opinions on them include:

a. National citizenship: Mobility across the country must be encouraged and legislated upon to let someone from Calabar move to Sokoto and after paying taxes and being resident there for a while, have full rights to take part in elections and claim all the privileges that ‘indigenes’ get.

b. Local derivation: All proceeds from mineral exploitation, including oil, currently go directly to the Federal Government from where it is disbursed to states. This should change to favour the communities being inconvenienced. From gold mining in Zamfara to oil drilling in Bayelsa, locally communities should get royalties directly as a percentage of proceeds.

c. Cost of government: Mr Peterside’s business background is most noticeable here as he proposes a part time legislature that would cost “less than 20%” of the current cost; scrapping of obscure and moribund government agencies.

In contrast to the typical tendency to deploy citizens with some measure of integrity as the heads of public intervention schemes to little effect, Mr Peterside has soldiered on creditably as a member of the National Economic Management Team, outspoken delegate at the 2014 national conference (or confab) and Chairman of the Technical Committee of the National Council on Privatisation the (NCP), the body with the responsibility of formulating and approving policies on privatisation and commercialisation of certain public assets.

In the recently concluded privatisation of the PHCN assets, Mr Peterside was widely reported to have admirably stood his ground in the face of pressure on the payment terms for the various power assets. The scandal-free conclusion of those transactions is indicative that private sector execution is replicable in the public sector.

His presence gives us hope in the present. It shows us that courage and independence of mind can thrive despite the fawning, disgusting clichés, the cloak and dagger euphemisms and downright lies – masquerading the struggles to get a bigger piece of the never-ending cake baked in the corridors of power. The ray of life-giving sunlight that’s Atedo Peterside’s active citizenship is something that is in short supply.

Dear Nigerian corporate titan, in Atedo Peterside’s example lies your call to courage and character.

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