Can we meet you sir?
I am Otive Igbuzor. I was born on the 5th of September 1963 in Ugono Orogun. My father is from Emonu-Orogun, while my mother is from Ugono-Orogun. I always say that I am an Orogun boy. I attended Local Education Authority Primary School in Ugono Orogun, Baptist High School Eku, Government College, Ughelli, University of Benin and the University of Maiduguri. My first degree is in Pharmacy; my second degree is in Public Administration and the third is on International Relations and PhD in Public Administration specializing in Public Policy Analysis.
My first job after youth service was in a pharmaceutical company, Oliha Chemist in in Benin City. From there, I moved to People’s Pharmacy in Maiduguri for two years from 1988-89 and by 1990, I established the Frankotive Pharmaceutical Company Limited which I ran for about ten years. I made a career change in the year 2000 when I started teaching at Delta State University Lagos centre and at the same time working with the Centre for Democracy and Development(CDD). In 2004, I joined Action Aid International and became the Country Director in the same year. By 2009, I became International Head of Campaigns of ActionAid International working across 53 countries. By 2010 I established the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD) and grew it from a small organization to a national organization today with offices in four locations- Delta, Kebbi, Yola in Adamawa State and with headquarters in Abuja
In terms of the positions held, I have always been a leader right from when I was in the university. I was a member of Student Parliament. I was the National Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigerian Students (PANS). I was the President of Orogun Students Association (OSA) at the University of Benin. I have held several positions in several organizations. In Urhobo Social club, I was the spokesperson in Borno State. In the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria(PSN), I was Chairman of the Nigerian Association of General Practice Pharmacist (NAGPP) now Association of Community Pharmacists. I was the Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Borno State. In recognition of my contributions, I was made a fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) in 2012 which is the highest honour you can give to a member of the profession. I was also made a fellow of the Institute of Strategic Management Nigeria (ISMN). I was elected president of the Institute of Strategic Management Nigeria (ISMN) from 2012 to 2014. I sit on the board of many organization including Police Health Management Organization limited, Oando Foundation, International Governing Council for Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), and other several non-governmental organizations. My area of work in the past eighteen years has been in the development sector. When I became Country Director of Action Aid in 2004, it was a small organization with a staff strength of twenty, and annual income of two million pounds. But by the time I left Action Aid in 2009 I have grown the organization to become a large organization with a staff strength of over eighty and an annual income of 6.8 million pounds (equivalent now to over 3 billion naira). I also started the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development from the scratch and we have grown it to a national organization today with annual income of over three hundred million naira. I also started the Ejiro and Otive Igbuzor foundation. For the past fifteen years, I have given scholarship to primary school students, I have been organizing the Chief Demas Akpore annual memorial lecture, and we set up a resource centre in Ugono-Orogun to give people access to internet, news and books. We also support widows. Every Christmas we cook food and add money to be distributed to widows across Orogun clan. We also set up the Odeyovwi cooperative society where we give seed grant to support people’s businesses, I have written quite a number of books.
Awards received so far?
I have received several awards from several organizations including the most sensitive gender man in Nigeria, Humanity award, Trumpet magazine award, then in recognition of my contribution to humanity, in 2012 I was appointed into the network of men leaders to end violence against women by the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon. We are thirty-seven across the world, I am the only one from Nigeria, and we have Desmond Tutu from South Africa, Ocholi from Uganda, and others.
How did you get born again?
I was born again in June 1993 at First Baptist Church Maiduguri in a public program; I gave my life to Jesus Christ. Even though I was going to Church back then in primary school, when I was in Baptist High School Eku and university of Benin. In fact, at a time, I was a member of the Baptist Student Fellowship but it was in June 1993 that I gave my life to Jesus Christ.
After then, how did you get called into ministry?
It is a very interesting story. After giving my life to Jesus Christ, a few months later, there was training on gifts and I was able to identify my gift. That I am gifted in the area of teaching the word. So naturally, I joined the Sunday School department and I rose to become the Sunday School Superintendent. But around 1996 I went for a programme in Gombe State to train Pastors on church and human rights. It was then that I received the call clearly, audible voice of the Lord into the ministry. I struggled then because I felt I have already responded to the call by being involved in teaching but it was later that I got the understanding that the fact that you are called as a teacher does not mean that you cannot become a pastor. So, it took almost eight years for me to finally respond to the call. Even at that I was struggling because of the kind of behaviour that many pastors put up nowadays. Not everybody wants to be called a pastor but the call was so strong that I had to bow to the will of God and I was ordained in 2004 almost eight years after I received the call.
How did you come about Palace of Priest Assembly?
I was ordained in 2004 at Compassion of Jesus Global Mission and I worked in Compassion of Jesus Global Mission for twelve years I was the resident Pastor in Abuja before establishing the Palace of Priest Assembly. Again, in 2012 God spoke to me clearly to start this ministry, Palace of Priest Assembly. He gave me the name and I wrote it down in the back of my bible it is still there till today and when I went to the CAC to register it, it went through effortlessly. I found out that the name was not anywhere across the world. But I also struggled because I received the vision to establish the ministry in 2012 but it took four years for me to finally respond because I was just imagining the ministry I was in, how will it be, I play a key role in that ministry but at the end I could not resist the call I had to respond to the call and what God has done in the last two years has confirmed the calling. Because it is after I received the name that I started studying to know that there is a neglected area that God wanted me to focus upon. Because when you look at the history of the church, you will find out that, the history of the church has been dominated by three main issues: Authority of the Scriptures, Justification by faith and Priesthood of all Believers. You will find out that the authority of scriptures and justification by believers are almost settled issues. But the issue of the priesthood of all believers is not practiced widely. The bible is very clear in Rev. 1:6 “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his father; In Rev. 5:10 the bible says And hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth”. So, the priesthood of all believers is well established even if you look at Exodus 19:6, God was speaking about the children of Israel and He said He will make them a kingdom of Priest, also 1 Peter 2:9 say “you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood”. So the question of priesthood is settled in the scriptures but the practice is not widespread. That is one area that God has impressed in our hearts to emphasize in the Priest Assembly. The other area is the social dimension of the church. You will notice that the first Pentecost took place in the bible in Acts 2 ground AD 100 and from AD 100 to 1901 about eighteen thousand, six hundred years there was no Holy Ghost Baptism manifesting in speaking in tongues, signs, and wonders until it happened in USA where the new Pentecostal movement started in the twentieth century. But the new wave of Pentecostalism led to a neglect of the social dimension of the church. We saw a lot of focus on prosperity, materialism, individualism, with neglect of the social issues confronting society such as democracy, poverty, social justice and humanitarian issues. So that is the second area that God impressed in our hearts with regards to the establishment of Palace of Priest Assembly. That is why from the beginning we set up the Priest Peace and Justice Initiative (PPJ) as a social arm of the church and since establishment the Priest Peace and Justice initiative (PPJ) has done a lot of things with regards to girl/child education, rape issues, governance and democracy issues and we are implementing a major project called SHUN CORRUPTION Project with support from MacArthur Foundation which is to mobilize Pentecostal leaders and ministers to Shun corruption and join the fight against corruption.
What was your experience going into full time ministry and establishing Palace of Priest Assembly (PPA)?
That is where the grace of God come into play. We experienced the grace f God. Before we established, we went to a lot of people to seek counsel. But it has been so smooth and easy. Despite few challenges that came. Why do I say so, during that period, God brought a lot of resources to us; so we were able to rent this space, got all the materials we needed. In fact, we had the musical equipment we needed for all the branches before we started- the branch in Lagos and the branch in Delta and then we furnished this place and we started. It was amazing at our inauguration service; we had to go and borrow seats and since then people have coming in their numbers, testimonies abound about the power of God changing and transforming the lives of people. In fact it has been really wonderful.
Are you saying that one can practice Christianity in politics?
I know the source of that question. Many people think that Christians should not be involved in politics, that politics is dirty, politics is carnal. But it is ignorance that will make people to think like that, because if you look at the scripture, you saw the role that Joseph of Arimathea played in the burial of Jesus Christ, you saw the role of the Ethopian Eunuch and if you look at the history of the church, by the 4th century, Christianity was the official religion of the state and at that time, there was no election, the state and the church were fused together. The bishop of a place was the governor of the place but with development in society, there was a movement to separate the church from the state. So, I do not know which church the people are talking about. If they say Christians cannot participate in politics and the bible is very clear in Prov. 29:2 “when the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” so Christians are encouraged to participate actively in politics otherwise, you will be living in a society where you will be committing structural sin. Sin that everybody in the society commits because of the prevailing order and the way things are done in the society.
You support voice of priest against corruption #shun corruption, what is it all about, what message are you people trying to pass?
The message is that a Christian, should live by certain ethical values as stated clearly in the scriptures, the value of discipline, holiness, righteousness which demands that in his or her private and public life should shun corruption. But beyond a Christian should join the fight against corruption. If you look at the scriptures in Psalm 82:3-4, it encourages Christians to defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy and deliver the poor and needy from the hand of the wicked.
And part of the wickedness going on in society today is that public resources are being stolen by a few people, which has led to a wide disparity between the rich and the poor. The level of inequality is in society today is unacceptable so the shun corruption is to make Christians not only shun corruption in their private lives but be involved in the fight against corruption. And the voice of the priest against corruption is calling on Pentecostal leaders to bring their voice against corruptible transaction in the society.
Recently there was training on election observation for Pentecostal leaders, how was it, how is the response?
The response is wonderful. In fact, before that training on election observation for Pentecostal leaders, we have also done training of Pentecostal leaders on anti-corruption issues. We have trained them on Christianity and anti-corruption; looking at the scriptures, we identified at least one hundred and fifteen scriptures that are against corruption, we have trained them on issues of social dimensions of the church, Christianity and accountability, the way they need to be accountable in their private and public life, accountable in their churches and to members. We have trained them on issues of social Justice and the response has been wonderful, we have Pastors who came back to ask us to come and step down the training in many regions; we have done that in Markudi. In fact, we are planning to do that in Bayelsa. Across the country it is catching fire.
You are of the view that political leadership should be from good men, and good women?
Exactly because when the righteous are in authority the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule the people groan. Edmumd Burke counselled us that for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
But how do you now convince such people to come into politics because from afar they see politics as dangerous?
That is what we are doing in the capacity building. We are training Pastors, and those Pastors will go back to encourage their members to participate in politics and the response has been wonderful.
We have noticed that the drive for struggle for equity, fairness and Justice runs in your blood and this has led you into politics, how has it been?
When I was growing up, I have always wondered why society is the way it is. So even though I read Pharmacy, the Journey of trying to find answer to why society is ordered the way it is, why are some people poor and some rich led me into the League of Patriotic Students (LOPS), which is a Marxist organization at the University of Benin. From there, I learnt a lot about society. From there I committed and dedicated my life to struggling for the betterment of society and improvement of the working people and so naturally from there on I have been involved in politics, not partisan politics, but politics of development, politics of society, mobilizing citizens to demand their rights, mobilizing against structural adjustment programme, mobilizing against military rule and mobilizing for human rights, democracy and good governance.
In struggling for change, you made an attempt to get into the government house but lost, how do you feel about the whole process?
In 2015, I attempted to run for governor of Delta State under the platform of All Progressive Congress (APC) and I must say that it was a very enriching experience in that our programme, our candidature, our approach, was received with enthusiasm especially by ordinary citizens. We set up a movement- Delta Rescue Mission (DRM) in each of the twenty-five Local Government Areas of Delta State. We were building a momentum but the party hierarchy at that time did not welcome the kind of politics and we were side lined in the process but since then we have maintained contact and touch with the movement that we have built. We are nurturing that movement. The desire to rescue Delta State from the clutches of the wicked is still a continuing one. If you look at the resources that come to Delta State and you see the level of infrastructural decay, it is lamentable. Even we can see our poor neighbours like Edo State with less resources have made monumental progress. Other states like Ekiti State, especially under the leadership of Dr Kayode Fayemi has made a lot of progress when he was there for four years, going back there now means more progress, even states that do not have money like Osun State, their children in Secondary School have access to computers, internet and others, so the attempt and the desire to rescue Delta State is still a work in progress.
Now you a member of APC with so many irregularities in the just concluded primaries, how do you see the party coming together before the general elections?
The challenge of bourgeois politics in Nigeria unfortunately is still fraught with a lot of irregularities. Many politicians in Nigeria think that politics is the same thing as deceit and scheming which is what some of us are trying to correct and if you look at the leadership of Adams Oshiomole that is also what he is trying to correct that is why when he came in, he brought the idea of direct primaries but you know change is always resisted. A lot of people resisted it, if they have followed the direct primaries that Oshiomole suggested from the beginning some of these challenges would not be there. But despite the resistance, the struggle is on. In every party, you have two groups- those who want change and those who want the status quo to remain. The political philosophy of APC is very clear- Social Democracy. Social democracy is a progressive ideology but unfortunately, you still have some conservatives within the party so there is internal struggle within the party but we are confident that now and the future the progressives will over run the conservatives and there will be reconciliations and we will make progress.
So what is the best way forward for APC in Delta State?
It is reconciliation. In fact for some of us who belong to the Integrity Political Action Committee (IPAC) Ben Ogbalor, Ede Dafinone, Okonji, myself and a lot of people within the group believe that these several groups cannot help the party and that there is the need for unity of purpose. So some of us refused to belong to any of those groups so that it will give us an opportunity to unify everyone and efforts are on for that to happen because there is a collective understanding of the need to bring the ruinous reign of PDP in Delta State to an end.
Sir what do you see for the Urhobo nation five years from now?
What I will like to see is more understanding of dynamics of politics in Nigeria that Urhobo people will understand that given the history, demography and politics of Delta State, they need alliances with other ethnic groups. That they cannot on their own go to Uvwiamughe and make a declaration and make it to come to pass without alliances. Infact, for me that is what I have been preaching but not a lot of people have heard me so what I want to see in the next five years, the Urhobos would come to this understanding that even if you want to play a hegemonic role in society, there are responsibilities for the hegemon not just making declarations that you have no capacity to implement or declarations that will further alienate you from other possible allies that you can work with. Secondly, in the next five years I want to see Urhobo people working together more, we have a lot of Urhobo Sons and daughters who have made their marks, so I want to see them giving back to society especially in terms of mentoring, changing of orientations especially of the younger ones, you hear of IT hubs, young entrepreneurs emerging across the country especially in the South-West, but you do not see or hear of such things in Urhobo land. I have personally been initiating a lot of training programmes to re-orient the young Urhobo people. So I want to see more of those things happening because the average Urhobo person is intelligent, dedicated but they need a shift of orientation to be able to tap the potentiality of the 20th century. Five years from now will be 2023 I want to see at that time Urhobo’s providing or continuing to provide leadership for Delta State.
What role do you see UPU and the traditional rulers playing?
It is to play a unifying role, leadership role, it is to bring everyone together but more importantly it is to show the path so that others can follow and that can only be done if there is equity, justice and peace and if things are done according to procedure. What I want to see is that this fractionalization of UPU will stop and also the politicization. Unless UPU recognizes that they cannot be aligned to a political party, UPU will continue to be in crisis.
African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD): What are some of the giant strides it has brought to bear on the society?
In the past nine years, we have made monumental progress. We have graduated six hundred and thirty-one persons from our leadership schools, our leadership school is expanding. We now have campuses in Effurun, Delta State, Port-Harcourt in Rivers State. There are plans to establish campuses in other parts of the country. We have supported a lot of organizations to do strategic plans including United Nations, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Ken Nnamani Centre for Leadership, Tertiary Education Fund (Tetfund), Water Aid, Tearfund, Action aid International, Police Service Commission (PSC) and many other organizations. We have engaged with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and its successor, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We have engaged with Africa Union and ECOWAS in various policies that are being implemented. We have monitored all the elections that have taken place in Nigeria since 2011. We have deployed election observers in all these elections. We have engaged with the budget process across the country. We have done things on livelihood. We have helped to give conditional cash transfer to people in Kebbi State and graduated over sixteen thousand people out of poverty. We have been involved in advocacy against gas flaring in the Niger Delta, We have engaged in advocacy for the cleanup of Ogoni land and other impacted areas in the Niger Delta. It has been wonderful because of the leadership we have provided, and we have annual income of over three hundred million naira.
Coming to the Ejiro Otive Igbuzor Foundation, how do you give out your seed grant, who are those who are eligible for it?
The seed grant is given out through the Odeoyovwi Co-operative Society and what makes you eligible is that you are poor but doing little business like selling akara or Garri. We always have a committee that goes round the villages to identify people and when they identify those people, they register them into the cooperative society and we give them the grant. When we started it in 2003, fifteen years ago, it was ten thousand naira but last year as part of celebration of the fiftieth birthday celebration of Ejiro, my wife, we increased it to twenty thousand naira. So those who we started off with ten thousand naira, we increased theirs to twenty thousand naira and we gave new people, over one hundred people, twenty thousand naira each.
Who is it open to?
It is across Delta State, we have Odeyovwi Co-operative Societies in Asaba, Isoko land and other places.
How did you get into writing?
My motivation for writing is to change society so I do not write for writing sake. I do not write to please people. I write to change society for better and a particular society. A society where there is no poverty, people have equity and justice, where there is prosperity and I have written quite a number and my life ambition is to write at least twenty volumes. Following the tradition of V. I. Lenin I put my writings into selected works. So, I have selected works from volume one to seven.
How did you get into writing?
Actually, what happened is that because I work in the development sector, they invite me to present papers from time to time. Every time I am asked to present a paper, I do research and write a full paper like an academic paper even when it is just power point I will have the academic paper first before I translate it into power point and after sometime, everywhere I go people will always be advising me to put these papers together into a book. That is what led to the first volume in 2005, Perspectives on Democracy and Development and the second one was on Challenges of Development in Nigeria in 2009, around 2012 we brought out the volumes on Challenges of transformation in Nigeria, and National Security and Policing in Nigeria.
How do you share your time as a minister, family man, politician etc?
It is amazing but I think what has helped me is focus and priotization. Like you have mentioned them, my time is divided around four key issues, first is work either at the Centre LSD or consulting, second is ministering around the Palace of Priest Assembly and PPJ and the third is politics and then family. So what I do is that I cut out many things, unnecessary social gatherings, I do not watch football, so all the time others spend in watching football I put it on these things and I give quality time to my family, every year since 2004 I go abroad with my family, I spend two weeks with them, quality time.
Are you of the opinion that ministers should work and not just be full time ministers?
There is nothing wrong in ministers not working and there is nothing wrong in ministers working. But I have a major person that I love in the scriptures. Which I pattern my ministry after and that is Apostle Paul, he is a tent maker and I love tent making. So I work and in fact I use resources from the work to support the ministry but that is not to say that those who are full time ministers are doing anything wrong.
Advice the youths as elections approach
My advice to young people is that they should focus as there are possibilities. In fact people like us show that there are possibilities. I come from a humble background. When I was going to primary school even when I was less than twelve years, in the night I will go and tap rubber before going to school in the morning. The rubber plantation was not owned by my Dad; so I will tap the rubber and bring it to the owner and he will divide it into two and give me one part while he keeps the other half. But look at me today. I grew up in a mud house but because of hard work, focus and the grace of God coupled with education, I have overcome poverty. I have reached the peak of my career and by the grace of God working in the kingdom. That shows that there is possibility for anybody who focuses, works hard and follows God. So, my advice to the youths especially those from the Niger Delta is focus, work hard and follow God.
What will be your advice to youths who say they cannot participate in politics because of how much it cost to buy forms of interests?
That is an erroneous approach. Participating in politics is not about contesting. You can be a party official- that is participation in politics. Everyone should participate in politics and we are hoping that we will reach a level in the future where people will say this person is a good person, let’s seat down and raise money for him to go. In other climes, that is what they do. You do campaign fund raising. We are hoping that we will reach that level, but it is not by sitting in your house that we will reach that level. It is by participating and contributing and making the suggestions that this is the way we need to go.
Elections are around the corner, ballot snatching, violence, mayhem and the youths, what is your advice?
The time of snatching ballot boxes has passed. With the mechanism that INEC has put in place, we can even see that if you snatch ballot box, you cannot present the result. So there are systems now that have prevented that. That is why every politician needs to go back and mobilize people. One of the things we must realize is that we are developing. For instance in Delta State, in the past, it is the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), that has been using violence, intimidating people but today they cannot do that. There is balance of power and terror. That is one level. The second level is the multiplicity of parties. The third level is that it is easier to capture evidences. If you do violence, we take your picture and you follow the procedure and it is not like before when people were afraid, people are coming out now to challenge and defend their right and testify in court. So anybody who plans violence in this coming election will have himself to blame for it.