He has a formidable character. At the mention of the name Dakuku Peterside, people stop to pay attention and listen to this very articulate and engaging man speak. We are talking about a man who is widely regarded as a charismatic and disciplined leader who takes no prisoners whenever he goes about the discharge of his responsibilities.
Two years ago when this former member of the Nigeria’s House of Representatives was appointed as the DG of NIMASA, only very few people thought a big deal of his appointment at the time. In fact, many thought he was going to go the way of his predecessors whose tenures were nothing to write home about. But this man of integrity and strategic insight has proven every single one of them wrong.
With his tenacity, transparency and intellectual depth, he has turned around the fortunes of NIMASA and transformed it into perhaps Nigeria’s most flourishing government agency, generating incomes for the federal in mind boggling digits that were unprecedented in the history of the agency.
This prominent and illustrious son of River state is also a top politician and is regarded as one of the political ‘power houses’ in River state APC today. On Sunday 18th March, 2018, Dr. Dakuku Peterside was honoured at the 21st City People Award For Excellence that took place at the Balmoral Event Centre, Oregun, Lagos.
The hardworking and accomplished DG not only personally attended the awards ceremony, he also came with a powerful entourage made up of his top management staff. He also spent a great deal of time too. City People’s Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL, approached the DG and he graciously agreed to a few minutes chat. Below are excerpts.
In just two years, sir, you have made such a tremendous impact as the DG of NIMASA and you have enjoyed the trust and confidence of the people, how have you been able to achieve this?
I have been able to achieve this via three important things. One, I work with people as a team. I am working with stakeholders as a team, not stakeholders versus regulator. We all work as a team and agree on the things we shouldn’t compromise on and the things that are important. And also the things that we need build as a consensus. Then, work with your staff as a team. They are not on a different divide with you. So, I work with my staff as a team,
I work with stake holders as a team, that’s one. Two, honesty and transparency will always be acknowledged by everybody. I won’t let anybody take away my integrity. They can take away everything but not my integrity. So, I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I’ve been open with stakeholders.
I’ve been open with the people who work with me. And I’ve been open with my superiors, that’s the second important thing. Now, the third most important thing is that you just have to clearly articulate your vision, where you want to go and get everybody to agree with you on where you want to go.
Everybody must know where you’re headed. Where there’s no vision, the people definitely will not understand where you’re going. So, once you’ve identified your vision and get the people to agree with you, you must now mobilize resources, mobilize materials to actualize that vision.
When I came, we all agreed on the vision and the direction we’re headed and we’ve been pursuing that vision. We identified milestones, we indentified road maps, and therefore we created what is called the universal medium term great plans. That for us is a plan to achieve that vision all of us subscribed to.
We also agreed on core values. These values will guide us, they will serve as guide posts as we try to accomplish shared vision. So, these are the three important things I’ve done, one is team work, the other one is openness and transparency and the third is shared vision. These three have given us the results the whole world is celebrating today.
At the time you came in as DG of NIMASA, there were several issues dogging the agency at the time. Can you tell us what the major challenges were at the time and how have you been able to address them?
There were three major challenges. The first challenge is the public perception of NIMASA as a very corrupt organization. We had to rebuild that by rebranding and working very hard to convince the people that we’re not who they made them to believe we are. The second one is that we met a demoralized work force.
We found that with all their potentials, with all their knowledge, they were not willing to contribute, they were not willing to work as a team. So, when we got there, we made them understand that everybody is valuable, everybody is important, everybody has something important to contribute.
Over time, we built confidence and they began to contribute and work with us. Third important challenge we had was that clearly, the organization left its core mandate and people started thinking that we’re political. We brought them back to their core mandate. The Law establishing NIMASA gave her a clear mandate, we took it back to the core mandate. Those were the three most important challenges we faced.
I was going to ask, sir, how you were able to depoliticize NIMASA because I know that was a major issue with the agency at the time you came in. And anyone who’s been following you closely would know you’ve been trying very hard to make sure people can draw the line between NIMASA as an agency and the politics of Rivers state. Tell us, sir, how have you deal with this?
I’m a politician, but I don’t mix politics with national service. I don’t use national service to play politics, that is important. I’m legacy minded. What I mean is that I know that I will give account of all I’ve done, not just today, but in the future.
I will give account in posterity and that’s important. So, having that background, that someday I will be called to give account of the mandate of the Nigerian people encoded in a Law passed by the National Assembly, and I accepted that power on behalf of the Nigerian people, not on behalf of a political party. You need to separate the two. I’m not the strongest man in the land, it’s just that I’m backed by Law passed by the National Assembly.
That Law wasn’t passed by the APC, it was passed by the National Assembly of Nigeria, and they are representatives of the Nigerian people, so the Law I’m implementing, the Law I’m enforcing was passed by the Nigerian people. The organization belongs to the Nigerian people. The funding we get is for the Nigerian people and so we must serve the Nigerian people and not a political party. So, we’re focused on serving the Nigerian people, changing the narrative, delivering results and making a difference.
Whenever you speak passionately about NIMASA, people see a man with sincerity, a man with integrity, that’s not something everyone will agree is common with people who hold positions as powerful as yours. What part of your background, sir, prepared you for this humongous responsibility?
Three important things prepared me. One, my parents never compromised on integrity. They were not very rich people, but they were comfortable. They never at any time compromised on integrity. Two, I have a mentor who also will never compromise on integrity, I won’t go more than that. The third one is that, over time, I had my own experience, my religious experience that made me realize that someday all of us will give account to the Almighty God and that’s very key. Then, finally, over time, I’ve realized that so many other things are transient, but a good name will endure.
One last question, sir. what do you think, sincerely, are the chances of your party in your state, Rivers?
The chances are very bright because we have a government in the state that has failed in every respect. In security, it has failed. In creating employment, it has failed. The government cannot say they created one employment. Rather, companies are leaving the state in droves. A government that has put more people in poverty. A government that has killed more people than any other group in the history of Rivers state. A government that promotes criminality. There’s no one aspect that the government has done well. And so, it is easy to predict that the government will be thrown away by the people. It is just a matter of time that the government would be put into the dustbin of history.