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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Clem Agba, a daring team leader, @ 56

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By Sufuyan Ojeifo

He is no less a child of providence, wielding power and privilege with fetching humility and exemplary focus.  He has demonstrated with his life’s trajectory that royalty, economics, philanthropy and politics fundamentally address transformation of the human condition for good. As yet, he unabashedly maintains this unique, philosophical footing in his private and public exertions.

Little wonder, the famous American poet and essayist, Maya Angelou, once observed that “nothing can dim the light that shines from within.” Angelou’s captivating insight into the existential challenges that confront great men in the making, fundamentally captures the life of Clem Ikanade Agba, who was, at first, providentially born into the family of the Royal Highness, Pius Kadiri Ikanade Agba – the Oliola of Uzanu – in Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State, before he subsequently passed through the mill, cutting a niche for himself in the intercourse between possibilities and the audacity to try.

Traversing the various intersections in life, Clem, as he is fondly referred to by friends, is in the saddle, at a critical juncture, as Nigeria’s Minister of State for Budget and National Planning where he, along with his colleagues in the federal cabinet, is putting his nose to the grindstone to deliver on priority mandates of the ministry towards achieving the overarching goal of national development.  And, this, in itself, is just a cusp in his enthralling odyssey, which further validates the enduring wisdom that challenging roads often lead to beautiful destinations.

Indeed, an unwavering sense of loyalty and duty, rigorous erudition, professionalism, stern discipline, demonstrable integrity and almost a child-like faith in his beloved God had activated and summoned to duty those enigmatic principles that guide progress. On Saturday, March 28, a cosmopolitan Prince Clem celebrates his 56th anniversary, not obligatorily with pomp and ceremony, given the gloomy socio-economic mood of the nation due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, but necessarily with gratitude in his heart to the Almighty God for the gift of life.

Significantly, the community close to him readily attests to the magnitude of his humanity anchored on his God-fearing and man-caring dispositions.  I belong to this community, which has continued to grow as a result of his liberal worldviews that motivate him to be good to all, irrespective of race and creed. Through the depth of his worldviews, Clem places premium on people even in contemplation of issues that should ordinarily engender self-interest and preservation of the same in the cosmos of rising complexities and defining battles for survival. He discountenances that first law of nature and provides others with ample opportunities not only to survive but also to flourish.  In the intervening periods in which beneficiaries try to accentuate their sense of appreciation and loyalty, the Prince affords them the benefit of the doubt even when there are strong reasons for doubts.

The scenario supra is the sterner stuff of which a quintessential team leader is made.  Again, as a member of one of Clem’s numerous teams, I doff my hat to his eleemosynary spirit. And, beyond his proximate loops, the chemistry of brilliance, resourcefulness, charisma, humaneness, generosity and discipline has endeared him to many in Nigeria’s political landscape, oil and gas industry and the private sector. More, he has earned a huge reputation as a change agent, mentor and achiever.

In recognition of these attributes and his unwavering commitment to service and development of society, Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole had invited him to join the Rescue Team to serve as a member of the cabinet of Edo State in 2009.  As Commissioner for Environment and Public Utilities, he brought in new energy and momentum to public governance; and, as Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Housing, he initiated the required fundamental reforms within five months, setting up the Edo State Geographic Information Services (EGIS). He had also served as a member of the Edo State Economic team.

For greater details, he had provided leadership in the urban renewal and drainage infrastructure drive of the Oshiomhole-led administration, which included beautification; greening the streets, planting trees and ensuring that the state capital had functional street lights, as Commissioner for Environment & Public Utilities. He had also played a pivotal role in finding solutions to Edo State flood and erosion challenge, about 30 years after the last major storm water project was done in 1979. This was in addition to the evacuation of the notorious Costain Isonorho dumpsite in just five days- a problem that dazed more than five previous governments (both military and civilian) for over two decades. During the same period, he had successfully increased the State Forestry nursery capacity from 200,000 to 650,000 trees with the objective of ensuring sustainable forest regeneration.

From Edo State, he had returned to his management position at Chevron Nigeria Limited consequent upon the expiration of his leave of absence in 2016. It was while at Chevron that President Muhammadu Buhari tapped him for appointment into his cabinet in 2019. Buhari had taken note of Clem’s power of articulation while briefing him during a presidential working visit to Edo State for the commissioning of some projects.  Remarkably, Clem’s intellectual capacity has a riveting educational history to it: after his primary and secondary education, he obtained the Higher School Certificate (HSC) from Advanced College, Igueben, and graduated from the then Bendel State University, now Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, with a B.Sc. Economics degree in 1985. He holds two Master’s Degrees in Business Administration from the University of Benin (specializing in Management) and from the Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA, (specializing in Supply Chain Management). Indeed, from academic preparations to the workplace, he had been upwardly mobile, even as his unremitting quest for professional excellence had continued to blossom.  

Consider another aspect of his individuality: while privileged royalty often exploits their subjects, Prince Clem is an exception.  Philanthropy is one of the important features that define his persona. He has unstintingly funded innumerable charitable works – from award of scholarships to provision of electricity, water projects and other humanitarian efforts. For instance, when in 2012, floods devastated some communities in Etsako East and Etsako Central Local Government Areas of Edo State, Prince Clem spent considerable personal resources on the provision of relief materials to them. His capacity to express love tangibly to the underprivileged in the society led to the formation of The Clem Agba Foundation (TCAF).

The Foundation is a vehicle for philanthropic activities but with a primary focus on the education, enlightenment, testing and treatment of different strains of Hepatitis (A, B, C, D and E) and its associated ailments, especially Hepatitis B & C. The death of his beloved mother on November 29, 2012 to hepatitis-induced cancer of the liver essentially motivated the formation of the Foundation. The TCAF collaborates with like-minded organisations and individuals to help in the research, treatment and alternative medicine approach to find a cure to the Hepatitis scourge that is ravaging not only Nigeria and Sub Saharan Africa, but also several other places around the world. Significantly, also, the need to intervene to stop these avoidable pains and deaths associated with Hepatitis birthed the idea of the Medical Mission to mark his 50th birthday, six years ago. Till date, TCAF has organised hepatitis awareness programmes, screening and vaccination for over 5,000 persons in Edo and Lagos States.

Society has helped to define Prince Clem’s eon. There is a vast spectrum of recognitions and awards to boot. He is a Professional Fellow of the Institute of Corporate Administration; and a Fellow, Nigerian Environmental Society, among others. The Prince has also been honoured as the Ofewosi of Uneme Land, in appreciation of his numerous philanthropic projects to his immediate community. On this voyage of altruism, he is constantly inspired by George Bank’s philosophical essence of life: “For the cause that lacks assistance; for the wrong that needs resistance; for the future in the distance, and; for the good that I can do.”

This provides a good plank on which to celebrate the life that he gives in his years as succinctly captured by Abraham Lincoln, US statesman and lawyer, who served as the 16th president of the country from March 1861 to April 1865, once quoted to have said on the issue of birthdays: “In the end, it is not the years in your life that count, but the life in your years.”

Certainly, a celebration of Clem on his birthday is a celebration of a wonderful, close-knit family-including four men (children)-that is constantly being calibrated and recalibrated by his beautiful, dutiful and hard-working wife, Princess Catherine, a scion of the famous Gaius-Obaseki family of Benin Kingdom. Yes, the rhythm goes on; though, many more birthdays are ahead. Happy birthday to a wonderful team leader!

·       Ojeifo, a team member, sent in this tribute from Abuja via ojwonderngr@yahoo.com

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