He is Peter Iluobe Aisagbonhi, but most people simply know him as Pacqueens. Today he attains the diamond age of 60. NewsPlus had an exciting interface with him recently during which he shared his thoughts on some crucial national and personal issues. On the front burner was the issue of political brinkmanship all over the country, particularly Edo State, and what motivates his humanitarian and philanthropic disposition. He also provided us with some insight into the basic principles of the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) to which he proudly belongs.
We bring you that interview to commemorate his birthday and we trust you will enjoy it!
NEWSPLUS: Welcome to Newsplus, Sir, and congratulations on your upcoming 60th birthday.
PIA. Thank you very much.
Permit us to begin on a political note. It is said that man is a political animal. In Nigeria, you sometimes have the feeling that animals are better than some politicians. Animals struggle for food but they do not normally hoard food that they cannot consume. Some of our politicians not only struggle for food, especially a piece of the national cake, but they stash, both at home and abroad, what they and generations of their families yet unborn cannot finish, while majority of the people wallow in want. Some behave like predators and exhibit unbridled arrogance towards those that elected them into office. What’s your take on this attitude?
PIA: Holding a leadership position, as far as I am concerned, is not a ticket for arrogance or oppression or bad behaviour. I guide my humility jealously, with a consummate inclination for humanistic ideals and using every ounce of myself to fight societal ills. May God guide and protect me, give me the grace and good health all the days of my life to serve my community and do his will at all times. To that effect, I owe my community, peers, friends and indeed posterity the obligation to remain honest and straight forward with people.
I pray that my continuous sense of duty and responsibility in drawing attention to societal ills with a view to influencing positive redress remains intact. I hate Social or any type of status comparison; it will always steal your joy, since it is the parent of envy.
NEWSPLUS: You must be concerned by the seemingly intractable state of insecurity in the country. One would have thought that by now the Boko Haram menace would belong to history, but the reverse appears to be the case. It got so bad recently that the convoy of a state governor was attacked by insurgents. Why, in your opinion, are things the way they are?
PIA: Poverty, (caused by Corruption in the midst of plenty), as is the case with Nigeria, is the worst form of terrorism. I have never thought that Boko Haram is doing as much harm to Nigeria as Corruption does. Actually, Corruption may have caused BH and is definitely making it difficult to eliminate. We must resist corruption in whatever form. Corruption is still the fundamental problem in this country. It is still corruption stupid! We have enough for our needs but not enough for their greed.
NEWSPLUS: You are a bona fide citizen of the Heartbeat of the Nation, even though you enjoy dual Nigerian and British citizenship. What’s your take on the political meltdown in Edo State right now in the run-up to the September Gubernatorial Election?
PIA: On Edo State 2020 election, one person will win. Whoever becomes the governor should drive implementations with new ideas and not new ideas for implementation. We all know what should be done, so there is no lack of ideas; fix education, fix infrastructure, fix security, fix the health sector and that will unleash the full potentials of the creative people of Edo State.
Dreams become reality when you turn intentions into action. I try to always act over yap, because ideas are useless unless implemented. My father used to tell us never to build castles in the air, so I try to be much more realistic in my decisions and actions.
Some ideas are good, some fair, others may be bad and some are despicable. A Pyrate, for instance, would have to bring in the principle of NFNF to bear by listening and brainstorming to agree on which/what to implement. Implementation is the main challenge to ideas. Act over yap. Complaints and excuses have a shelf life that expires very quickly. If you are not helping to make your state and the country to be right, please stop complaining about what is wrong with it.
NEWSPLUS: But to complain is human….
PIA: And to provide solution is divine… (Laughter)
But seriously, I have long decided that I will never allow pain to make me hate or bitterness to steal my joy which I derive from my being a Nigerian. We have been complaining for how many years now? We chronicle what was good in the past that have turned worse today. The longer you live in the past the less future you will enjoy. I look forward to the rest of my life more than the happiness and pain of the past and hope in God to allow the best part of my past to be the worst aspect of my future. A comfort zone is a nice place to stay or farm, but nothing good grows there. A good farmer will not farm on the same plot continuously, every year. We, as a people, must learn to move on. Life is a problem itself.
NEWSPLUS: You mentioned just now Pyrates and NFNF (No friend No Foe); one of the guiding principles of the National Association of Seadogs (NAS), otherwise known as the Pyrates Confraternity. You are a proud member of the Confraternity, which some still regard as a secret cult and, thus, an enemy to the society. How do you assure those with that perception that they are wrong?
PIA: First, let me say the perception is rooted in ignorance. NAS, as the name indicates, is a duly registered National Association. I’m not aware that secret societies are formally registered in Nigeria. But more importantly, I’m very sure many would discard that perception if they were familiar with the basic elements and guiding principles of the Confraternity.
NEWSPLUS: I guess this is a good opportunity to acquaint them with these principles.
PPA: Sure, why not? Let me begin with the principle of All before Self.
All before Self is a good recipe for real national transformation. Selflessness is the pivot of development. As leaders in our respective areas or communities, we should place the development of the community of man above self-interest. Woe unto those who convert the money that should be used for the development of our community to personal use.
To really practise the principle of All before Self in leadership, we should be ready to share our true feelings (genuineness), encourage each other (mutuality), support each other (empathy), forgive each other (mercy), speak the truth in love (honesty), admit our weaknesses (humility), respect our differences (courtesy), be self-disciplined (focussed) and make community our priority (regularity). When summarised, it means giving up our self-centeredness and independence in order to create a strong, virile, interdependent, a united and forward-looking community.
The principle of All before Self supports the people’s desire for a better country. Religion or ethnicity notwithstanding, the principle can help recapture the dreams of our founding fathers, while we earnestly begin the all-important journey to true nationhood.
Now, let’s zero in on political leadership. The principle of All before Self does not allow for this madness of pursuit of unjust wealth. These days, our so-called leaders are not just stupendously rich at our expense but also vulgar. Everyone is so desperate to be a big man or woman that they are just thinking of self, self and self – hoarding and abusing our collective wealth for self instead of for all. Many of our politicians make democracy look like a system that was never intended to serve anyone other than those who control it. Or that citizens can’t succeed in Nigerian politics by putting the needs of the people before their own.
Though our tribes and tongues may differ, the principle of All before Self shows the capability to create and ensure that the common good of all Nigerians can be vigorously pursued. It encourages good leaders to be more positive and bolder to recapture that true spirit of Nigerianness, of selfless service, of maximum sacrifice and of “action over yap”.
Then there is the principle of Truth before Cant. According to the celebrated novelist, Ben Okri, “Nations and people are largely the stories they feed themselves. If they tell themselves stories that are lies, they will suffer the future consequences of those lies. If they tell themselves stories that face their own truths, they will free their histories for future flowerings”. I think Okri says it all there.
Change over Stasis is another basic principle. There must be change over stasis. The main search for an enabling environment that can successfully draw real strength from Nigeria’s multi-ethnic and multi-religious society has to be created by all of us, the “people”. This is best defined by our own ability to understand what changes we need to make in order to create a society in which all citizens can share a sense of belonging, in which an effective balance between equality, diversity and justice can be struck for our peace, unity and progress.
NEWSPLUS: The late literary giant and legendary novelist, Professor Chinua Achebe of blessed memory, left the following words on Marble:
“The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership”.
Do you consider this a fair assessment of the trouble with Nigeria?
PIA: Let me attempt to answer that question with a short anecdote. On the first of every October month, we celebrate independence anniversary which has now become a ritual for social commentators to chronicle all that has failed in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, every year, things continue to go from bad to worse. One fact though is, as at today, we have had too many false starts, too many dashed hopes, perennially low expectation and outright disappointments. Lamentations and enumerating our numerous problems today is not just inadequate, but unsuitable for the point I am making. I shall only make one exception; Corruption.
The fundamental problem in Nigeria is still corruption. To eliminate corruption, we, the followers, must stop being slaves to dogma. We must demand from our leaders ethical behaviour that places the needs of our community at the centre of their thoughts and deeds. We must refuse to be blinded by mere politicking or dishonest leadership, dissecting what are hidden behind seductive policies and asking instead: what’s in it for our national interest, for our state and local government, instead of what’s in it for me? We must all determine to think and act right for the only nation that we can call our own. In order to enthrone excellence, we must not only ask questions, but actively participate in order to raise our nation to the highest level of fulfilment.
If governance is about improving the wellbeing of the citizens, if governance is about the needs of the have-nots, above the selfish interest of government officials and politicians, this trend of growing poverty and the need to reverse it must be of concern to all of us. The average Nigerian politician and leader, most times, shows that it is a sin to put the needs of the have-nots before the needs of the haves, or, put more accurately, the have mores.
Again, we all need to imbibe the principle of All before Self which ensures that the good of any society and, to a large extent, its progressive future depends on the altruistic pursuit of collective goals. The principle of All before Self will encourage a different but positive culture of leadership which is capable of galvanising Nigeria in a totally new and result- oriented direction for our national development. When applied in leadership, it can help in the elimination of corruption from our polity, and in so doing reduce our socio-economic inequalities. Let’s all accept the challenge to protect the unity of our country and intensify the fight for good governance using this principle. Remember that Nigeria has enough for her needs but not enough for the greed of her leaders.
NEWSPLUS: Just as you believe in action over yap, some would say talk is cheap. They would ask, for instance, why people like you do not go into politics to make the desired change.
PIA: The reason is simple. You do not need to hold a political office to impact your community and your country. There is what is known as advocacy – support positive efforts to better the society, support those in positions of authority that are doing the right thing. Do the right thing yourself at every given opportunity and be a shining example for others to emulate. Help your fellowmen when you are able to do so. Be a catalyst for positive change.
NEWSPLUS: Indeed! We are familiar with your disposition towards supporting good causes. We are aware that you practically support community and human development efforts within and beyond your place of birth, Ubiaja. You made your facilities available for the accommodation of youth corpers deployed in the town. You initiated, funded and physically trained the trainers that kickstarted an innovative ICT skills acquisition programme at St. John Bosco’s College Ubiaja, even though you are not an alumnus of the school. Now that you have attained the statutory retirement age, are we to expect that you will deploy more of your time and resources in serving your community?
PIA: If by my community you mean Ubiaja, the answer is a definite YES. But beyond that, my primary community is humanity. As long as God spares my life and provides the enablement, I will continue to contribute my quota to the good of humanity.
NEWSPLUS: At 60 you are already a senior citizen. If you were in the village, you would long have been initiated into the Elders Cadre. As they say, the words of our elders are words of wisdom. We would like you to spare some more wise words for our people and our government.
PPA: First, let me say we should all learn to face reality. We create pain for ourselves when we refuse to face reality. Never allow self- interest to becloud your sense of objectivity. Only Pigmies need self-puffing. People who shine from within do not need the spotlight. As for Nigeria, for the country to reach its highest level of fulfilment, we must use the full potential of the people and natural resources for the good of all.
Governments at all levels should always “act over yap”, for “all before self”.
Let’s take the important steps that create the socio-economic development which enables the citizens to be happy and patriotic. I pray that the course of Nigeria be directed by the peaceful rule and reign of God Almighty; so that we may be less troubled and, in the end, rejoice in good health, unity, peace and progress.
NEWSPLUS: Hmmmm! I suppose to have peace of mind it’s important to keep good friends. How do you choose your friends?
I deliberately select my friends and I am lucky to have so many friends across the globe and one thing I like about them is not just for the “like minds getting involved in humanity”, but the alternative arguments to any issue, excellent advice and yabis, wonderfully serious company to keep, intensively alive with exploding ideas, the most vivid representation of what it is to be human.
NEWSPLUS: That sounds like a good note to end this interface. But permit me to still ask for your last word on how you would like people to regard you.
PIA: I love to be identified privately and publicly as a man of positive character, kindness, uprightness, integrity and strong moral courage. May God guide and protect me, give me the grace and good health all the days of my life to serve my community and do his will at all times. To that effect, I owe my community, peers, friends and indeed posterity the obligation to remain honest and straight forward with people.
NEWSPLUS: Finally, we would like to ask a very important question – and please don’t dodge the question – what is the meaning of Pacqueens?
PIA: (Laughs) Well, in those days at Ishan Grammar School (now Esan Grammar School) Uromi, one had to have a guy name. From year one, I had a lot of female friends. Plenty love letters. Plenty Queens Packed together. Do the Maths!
NEWSPLUS: Aha! The cat is out of the bag at last. Thank you very much for your time and happy 60th birthday.
PIA: Thank you for the marvellous job you’re doing.
CLOSE SHOT: THE MAN PETER ILUOBE AISAGBONHI IN BRIEF
Date of birth: 01/08/60
1966-1971- Local Government Authority Primary School, Ubiaja
1972-1977: Esan Grammar School Uromi. G.C.E/ W.A.S.C
1980-1983: College of Education Abraka, National Certificate in Education
1995-1996: Tresham College Kettering, CLAIT
1998: In-house Management Training
2000- 2003: University of East London. B.sc, Information Communication Technology in Education
2003-2004: Tresham College Kettering, Certificate in Education, ICT Skills and ECDL
1977-1979: Teacher, Okhuesan Primary School Okhuesan
1983-1984: National Youth Service
1985-1986: Bus/Taxi Driver in Lagos
1987-1998: Production Operative, Supervisor and Manager, Finnegans Famous Cakes, London/ Corby, England
1998-2000: Production Manager/Trainer Sara Lee, Bridlington England
2000-2002: Quality Controller, Oldfields Quality Foods, Canning Town England
June/July 2003: Teaching at Porters Grange Primary School, South End, England
2000- 2006: Director for Public Relations/ Fundraiser NAS International Charity
2003-2006: Taught at Corby Community College, Corby Northants England
2006- Present: Country Representative for KBA-NOTASYS of Switzerland
NP/Editor in Chief