Sunday, 18 May 2014

Part 2: Godswill Akpabio has no investment in my Newspaper---Moffat Ekoriko + “How I got money to run The Moment”

By on 10:30
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Moffat.....'We need to restructure values in the media of today

In this concluding part in the exclusive encounter with Moffat Ekoriko, publisher o the defunct The Moment Newspaper months before the paper went off news stand, the publisher debunked heavy rumor that his state Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio is the chief sponsor of his newspaper.
He initially burst into a roaring laughter when we threw the question at him; he equally shared many other revelations about his private life with us which you will find so interesting in the Never-heard-before-straight-from-the-archives series from asabeafrika. Enjoy the excerpts.

That Akpabio is my financier? The funniest thing I ever heard
 When asabeafrika told Moffat to confirm or disown the strong rumor around Nigeria that Governor Godswill Akpabio wh is the Governor of his state of origin is the Chief financier of The Moment Newspaper, the young man burst into a roaring laughter that lasted for a while. He stopped momentarily to steal a glance at this reporter and continued before he finally spoke “You know that is the funniest thing I have ever heard. The last time I saw (God’swill) Akpabio was when he came to the UK in August to have a chat with Akwa Ibom indigenes in the Diaspora. That was when we had our own Akwa – Ibom meeting. As I am talking to you now, I don’t have God’swill Akpabio’s phone number”. So, what is Moffat trying to say, we asked as like a mother querying an erring son who just stole a portion from the meat in the pot but Moffat insisted he had no phone contact of his Governor “What  I am saying is that we do not have that kind of link. I cannot call him now, because I don’t even have his number, and he picks the call and say ‘oh, how are you?’ I do not (expect) that even in the next one or two years to get a call from him. I respect him as my state governor because every follower must have a leader. And to a great extent, you have to respect your leader. It is biblical that you respect whoever is your leader because they carry the burden of every one. But to say (Governor) Akpabio is involved in what I am doing, that is absolutely not true, absolutely not true. Now, people talk about how are you able to mobilize fund and we will answer that question”
The GDA with another copy of the well defined newspaper brand
How I sourced fund for The Moment
 Moffat went ahead to tell us in his own word how he sourced money to fund his project which is now defunct “There is so much money in this country and you can mobilize it. But the problem is this; if I am an investor I need to ask a simple question ‘can I trust this man with my money?’ That is one. The second question is if I can trust him with my money, can I trust his competence to use this money judiciously because you can give me money to start a newspaper and the next thing I have two houses in Abuja meanwhile the newspaper is faltering. This is real life; these are the things that happen. There are so many funds. Go to Abuja, you will see certain properties being bought for five hundred million, one billion. So, if people have money to buy those properties, who told you that if, you can convince one of those people to give you like in the case of The Moment, maybe a few billion that you can not set up a news paper? You can do it. You just need to command the pedigree. In overseas, things are being structured. You have investment houses. So if you come over with a good idea, you can go there and then you have a venture capitalist coming in and say ‘ok, Moffat, we are going to put in this money. If this project works, we will take so-so percentage of your share. If it doesn’t work too bad’.
“So, in Nigeria, we just do not want to be a pastor with the highest anointing, we want to be the richest pastor. It is not enough to be the most brilliant journalist in this country; we want to be the richest journalist. You now create a situation whereby you can no longer draw a connection between somebody’s income and the person’s wealth. In essence, somebody is actually earning a hundred thousand naira in a month but he is driving a ten million naira car. You tried that in England, they will get you to the bottom line because it means that something is wrong.”
But the problem we have here is that we do not have business men. Those who have the bulk of money with them are the politicians who are even afraid to invest the money in certain outlets because they dont want society to question the source of the funds. And then you have traders masquerading as business men. So, when they come and give you money, they are expecting urgent returns. They are expecting immediate returns. Anybody putting money in a newspaper project must not expect returns in five years. The best you can expect is that in two years the newspaper will run on its own. That is the basic fact. For us, we have reputable investors and we are working hard to justify the purpose for being in this business”.

Worst fears & none!
 This blog wanted to know as an investor if Moffat nursed any fear concerning failure but the very confident Moffat again assuage us of his faith in the power of possibility “No, no, no. like I said I don’t have fears and I can tell you why” he said and continued “I started from a very humble background and I have seen how far God has taken me. So, the grace of God has led me through life, it is a far longer journey but I believe God is the author and finisher of my faith. So it is His journey, why should I be afraid? And I tell people that if you want to do something, have faith. You must believe in something. If you are a Christian or you are not, you must believe in something. And my own attitude is to have absolute faith in the limitless grace of God. Because of that absolute faith in the limitless grace of God, I fear no failure. That is just my stand”.
Moffat.....'Our Media Sector can work if only we have brilliant investment bankers'
How feasibility study failed me in Nigeria
 When asabeafrika asked Moffat to describe his experience as a daily publisher he breathes down before lifting his confidence to answer the question “Well, it is challenging. I will tell you the key problem--Infrastructure. All the things I took for granted in England, I came here and met a totally different experience. I will give you one illustration; when we did the business plan, there was no provision for diesel. Because in my mind in England, I didn’t believe that I will have to run two Generating sets, that will  run twenty four hours a day to be able to keep the business going.
When we did the business plan, I had a provision of twenty-five thousand naira per month for one mega bite band weight for internet connection. That same internet connection is costing me five hundred thousand naira every month right now. In England, it would have cost me less than twenty five thousand naira. But in Nigeria it is the same service but very, very unreliable (He pulled out the internet modem of a famous telecommunication firm to show this reporter). This is costing me five hundred thousand naira and I wish I was paying five hundred thousand naira for a very reliable service. The truth is that for you to be successful and for your business to work, you have to have back up even for the back up we are still challenged. So, if PHCN is my main supply, I have a generator that backs up PHCN and another generator that back up the back up. The internet connection in this place… I have a micro wave link which you can link anywhere. I have a personal link in case the micro wave fails and even if the micro wave fails, I probably have up to twenty MTN modems in this office just in case all three fails, we can be working. So, we have the challenge of infrastructure. We also face the challenge of distribution, in England, from the printing press, there is a company that picks your paper and it reaches all parts of the country.
In Nigeria you don’t just set up a news paper, you have to set up a logistics company as well. Buy vans to run the paper all over the country or you are not serious. You have to become a utility company as well in order for you to be using your electricity and water. You have to become even a bank to your staff, granting staff loans so that people can pay their house rents. And then you have to become a social welfare department again that must be able to sort out personal problems of staff, If they are getting married, if they are burying their parent or doing any social outing, you must be the social welfare office to draw money from. I just do not see anything improving. Let me put it this way, ‘this economy amazes me’, this economy just amazes me. That is the challenge I am facing in Nigeria”.
GDA and Moffat poses with a copy of the newspaper
How Nigeria decayed
 Moffat who was in between anger and dismay when he was speaking on his business frailties traced the genesis of the present economic problem in Nigeria to the military era “I think the worst thing that happened to Nigeria was that the military intervened. When the military intervened, a few things happened. The first thing is that it destroyed the institution of state that we were building. Don’t forget that like our country, India for instance was a British colony. We shared the same colonial fate but since their independence, India has never witnessed a military coup. There has been no military coup in India. The military destroyed the institution that would have strengthened our national life; they also brought in the military culture in to the civil society. Something very simple, you see a typical Nigerian saying ‘with immediate effect’. In the business world you could not write ‘with immediate effect’. You will say ‘we appoint you and the appointment take effect on so-so day’. There is nothing like immediate effect and because the military ruled by force, corruption could breath; because there was nobody to challenge them. You couldn’t challenge the military. The system is not open, it is not transparent but very opaque. You don’t even know what is going on. The beauty of democracy is you can do a lot of things but somebody can ask you question and say ‘please what is going on?’. By the time the military handed power to civilian, they didn’t also gave the country a chance to purge itself of the legacies of the military era before they intervened again on December 31st 1983. And we had another very long term rule by very strict soldiers. Then, we had another era when we had a soldier who was a PR man ruling us. We kept going on and on and on until we got to where we are now.
Moffat.....'In Nigeria of today emphasis have shifted from being ''
The Most Anointed Man of God to Richest Man of God,
the most brilliant journalist to the richest journalist'
Now what is the overall impact of that? That has also destroyed the (moral) value of the society. When the politicians came in, they were not seeing themselves as public servants. They were seeing themselves as lords of the manor just like the soldiers. So, when you now go to fix salaries, you fix the salary in such a way that a councilor earns more than a university lecturer. And you expect such a country to work? And of course everybody now started seeing money as the ultimate value. So, in Nigeria, we just do not want to be a pastor with the highest anointing, we want to be the richest pastor. It is not enough to be the most brilliant journalist in this country; we want to be the richest journalist. You now create a situation whereby you can no longer draw a connection between somebody’s income and the person’s wealth. In essence, somebody is actually earning a hundred thousand naira in a month but he is driving a ten million naira car. You tried that in England, they will get you to the bottom line because it means that something is wrong. We have also started believing in miracles. That is why when you go to the church the prosperity message is thriving. Nobody in church preaches the message of salvation anymore. So, I think if the military had not intervened in 1966, by now we would evolve a distinctive democracy and a strong state that can create the platform for Nigerians to realize their aspirations. What we need do now is to start to change ourselves; change our attitude to life, our attitude to money and gradually we will get changed by the day”
Moffat.....'Journalism will only work when we start
seeing it as a service rather then a career'

Why I call the paper “The Moment”
This was just another question that made Moffat laugh after the tense interregnum of speaking of the pains of a country; where did you call the brand “The Moment” and he went like this “ It is just one of those names we chose. We could have called it anything anyway but we looked at the philosophy behind the name, we are saying that this is Nigeria’s moment. We have never had an opportunity like this as a country. We have seen the other side of it. We know what it means to fail as a country. We have seen the dark side of our political evolution which is the military era. Do you see any Nigerian calling for a military coup again? No , We have seen a civil war, we have experienced the out come of cancelling a free and fair election in June 12. We have gone through everything. So, at this stage, the next stage Nigeria is going is up. We believe this is Nigeria’s moment. The moment for us to start the journey to greatness and that is why we believe that we have come in at the right time to join in pushing on the road to greatness”.

Why I don’t have a role model
When we asked if Moffat had a role model he didn’t was time before discarding the question with a big NO but we still pushed the question and this is what he said aftrwards “Yeah, not because I don’t believe in mentoring but because Nigeria has become a society without heroes. You can believe the man is so clean, so righteous and someday something happens and you are like waoh?  And that is why if you notice, I don’t believe in giving out awards. Throughout the eleven years that I ran News Africa directly, I did not give out award. Because I don’t want to give you an award today and tomorrow I felt ‘how I wish I didn’t do it’. Look at the recent episode of our razzmatazz bankers. Two years ago if they told you some of those bank MDs were glorified thieves you won’t believe. They were winning awards all over the country and outside the country. If anyone told you they were glorified thieves, would you have believed it? But now the cards have crumbled. That is why I don’t look at role models. I look at what I can emulate in any individual that I come in contact with”.
'This is my brand for you', Moffat seems to say to the GDA

Why my staffs don’t ‘shake for me’
If you visit Moffat’s office, one thing you will notice is his flexibility with every member of staff irrespective of their position in the organization. Both the cleaners and the most lettered staff have equal access to the publisher.  With Moffat among his staff you will never know who the boss is; is it the British influence or what? We asked and he confirmed our insinuation “In Britain, you just want the job to be done right. It is a leadership culture that respect and appreciate a man for his work value. You are more interested in the job being done maybe because that society evolves from the classics. There is this consciousness to do away with classes; so you can enter the train in the morning and find your Prime Minister seated with you”. But can this happen in Nigeria we asked knowing fully well that the question was a bit mischievous and which Moffat reacted to with equally a mischievous smile “It can’t happen in Nigeria, I mean to enter the train or bus and the President is seated with you. So, when we get to the office, it is about who is doing what job. What makes the difference between one people in any organization is in terms of the amount of responsibility and maybe the kind of remuneration. For us here, everyone is special because we respect you for what you have earned and decided to offer us”.

How I start my day
“I start my day with God. I love praise and worship. I read a lot. Apart from that, I am a very, very private person. I hardly go out. You will struggle to find me in a public place”.

“Not necessarily a thinker. I am just a normal man. I contribute to the society through the work I do. You won’t even see my face in the newspaper, but what I want people to see is the work I do. My work should explain my person”.
“Not up to that. I am 47”.

“I got married at 19 and I had my first child at 20. I am married to a Nigerian from my village. We are blessed with lovely children. We also have three grand children”.

Last word for journalists of today
“What I will say to them is ‘have a passion for journalism and a passion for a better society’. If you want a career, if you want a job, don’t get into journalism. The joy of being in journalism isn’t the wealth you acquire. Because it is very difficult to acquire wealth if you practice journalism the way it should be practiced. It is the difference that you are able to make to the society that God in his infinite wisdom will use to bless you”.

Gbenga Dan Asabe

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