Dr Jimanze Ego- Alowes
Atedo Peterside is one of the few rich Nigerians one can bank on his ways and means as much as on his silver and gold. And we speak in earnest. For too many other rich or prominent Nigerians, theirs is a question of riches without records, of abundances without transparencies.
Let’s explain. During the Professor Chukwuma Soludo era of central banking, Peterside was into Investment and Banking Trust Corporation, IBTC, as Chairman or lead shareholder. Anyway, in those years it so happened that we were something of subcontractors to banks. In other words, we were in the loop of the news and the gist that the general public may not be privy to.
On one occasion, the Chief Executive Officer of a certain big new generation bank, was holding court with his senior managers. It so happened that we were like the legendary fly on the wall. While we were not to be heard, we at least had ears. The said CEO was confiding on an encounter with a consortium of South African prospectors. The South Africans were in Nigeria for acquisition, or investment into Nigerian banks. The game in town was to help the local banks shore up their capitalizations to the Soludo-CBN minimum.
The CEO reported the South Africans revealed that their due diligence pointed to IBTC as the lone bank open to shored up capital, that met and kept transparent accounts, apparently to international standards. What the South Africans found was that the rest of the banks had opaque or creative reporting systems. In short these other banks, despite their golden images, had things to hide.
From then on one had taken on Peterside as some icon, a man who is huge on the side of ethics and no less well achieved. And one took added interest on him. So, it was great seeing him on Arise Television last week.
Following are our impressions.
One immediate takeaway is that Peterside is a supremely self-confident guy. Apparently, he has the gravitas to so be. According to him he was the youngest of his class at Kings College. To be fair, Kings College in those days was a monument to excellence. You made it to Kings only on the basis of demonstrable excellence. Simply put, Kings College was hyper-competitive and to have made it as the ”badest” youngest youngster, says you are a super kid. Why this is important is that the fact of being, or considering oneself brilliant, was apparent from the manner Peterside took on his hosts.
But is Peterside a universal genius, if genius at all? Our answer and his manners tell that while he might be a genius, but universal genius? Nope.
First of all, let us recall that Peterside was out at Arise Television Studios in his capacity as President of ANAP, his pet foundation. Peterside, has retired from being Chairman of IBTC, to the best of our knowledge. However, it appears that ANAP has been in existence before this ”Common Era of Coronavirus.” Apparently, ANAP, has added the cure and containment of coronavirus etc. to its portfolio philanthropic gestures.
Peterside in trying to explain how he hired his ANAP Vice President [for coronavirus?], literally poured sand into his own garri. According to Peterside, and one recalls from memory, the guy, we can’t remember his name, is the only guy who knows more about coronavirus than Peterside. Or something in that frame. Also, as claimed by Peterside, the guy knows about seven times more than he does.
That was the red flag. If the guy is an expert as Peterside posits, then Peterside has diminished him to being a dilettante. The following are the reasons. Peterside, a trained economist, is a layman in epidemiology and virology. No matter his innate genius, if any, there is no way, he can understand anything substantial about virology or epidemiology in one year, not to speak of since the present age of coronavirus.
The points are simple. Epidemiology and virology are specialized and specialist expertise. They are ordinarily post-doc adventures. In other words, it takes a minimum of 9.5 post-secondary years of rigorous education to come into such an honor. The matter is so much that Peterside needs to be a deity, to cover such grounds in less than six months.
In other words, the state of his learning, no matter what he reads in epidemiology and virology should not come into comparison with that of any expert worth the salt. Things don’t just happen that way. To have compared his layman learning and that of his ”leading expert” is to diminish his leading expert into being a mere manqué, at best. Simply put, laymen don’t come into comparison with experts, unless such experts are of spurious pedigrees.
This is where the matter gets interesting. Too often, and this is not a Nigerian specific disease, many get exposed to magazine supplement readings on a subject and congratulate themselves for having come into expertise in the subject area. As far as we remember this incidence was first highlighted by Leo Tolstoy, in his Anna Karenina. It is just that many other nations have outgrown it, but not Nigeria, not Nigerians.
What these supplement readers forget is that supplements are entertainment, written as humor and so targeted. But to get an expert education worth the paper implies that you have passed through a vast curriculum. Such a training prepares you to tackle new strands of emergent crisis in that expertise. Supplements never beneficiate you so. Supplements are like ”for your information only memos.” On the other hand, education, especially of the expert kind in Ivy League schools, is a prompt to new actions, to new discoveries. So a supplements reader is never an expert.
Now, we have nothing for Peterside except high regards, but that is strictly as a businessman. We wouldn’t have bothered to write of him if this was an issue specific to him. It is that one observes that Nigerian successful professionals, especially the lawyers and economists, have become so self-absorbed they so becharm themselves they are universal geniuses. Unfortunately, the media so humors them. That explains why one sights the same platitudinous dudes lending their unknowing, commenting on any subjects under the sun on televisions, etc. To them, a genius in one area is a genius in all areas.
The trouble here is that the consequences of this passed-off universal geniuses are dire. Let’s illustrate. Coronavirus is a zoonotic disease, that is a disease that jumps species. It thus comes with some intriguing viciousness. Nobody understands it in its immanent or early hours. Just as it is with the rite of diseases jumping species, so also it is with the phenomenon of scholars or self-elect thinkers jumping specialties. One of the most famous and no less virulent examples is this. Professor Chinua Achebe, without any iota of doubt is one of the greatest fable makers in human history. That is his specialty. But once in his career he jumped. The unfinished consequence is that for 45 odd years, Nigerians have been frozen in the false Achebean bubble, that the problem with Nigeria is leadership. Yet, the facts as are is that there was never a more mistaken thesis in history. Achebe as a development scholar is, well, very well, let’s say, bunkum, ok, poorly briefed.
To summarize, diseases jumping species, and knowhow jumping specialties could be as dangerous as one another. If Peterside has the time, let him ”push the envelope” as a financier, not as some savant. There is of course the example of Jim Simons, a Peterside type American. Just like Peterside, Simons made tons of money in finance. A little bored, he set up a foundation to push and fund mathematical, etc. communications and research. His foundation finances the publication of the popular science magazine, Quanta, for instance. The man by the way, was not only brilliant, he made groundbreaking contributions to mathematics before he fled the faculty for Wall Street. Despite this, he does not delude himself he can catch up on the developments in mathematics while away minding the ticker tapes, hustling for kobo. You get?
Yes, there is boy George Soros. But his attempt at being a post-retirement thinker is anything but humor. The point however is not that these Peterside-type men, may not have been great theoreticians if they set their minds to it. The point is that they, including a Peterside, at 60 plus, have gone beyond their best by date for such change of directions.
Finally, if there is anything Nigeria needs, it is diseases not jumping species, and scholars not jumping specialties… of geeks sticking to their narrowcast lanes. All else is humor. Ahiazuwa.
Where are the Nigerian micro-biologist? Where are Nigerian virologists? We graduated thousands of them from the universities, but the Nigerian system has sent them to Event Planning, Chefs, Bakers, Fashion Designers…. This is the Nigeria we have created. Seun Anikulapo Kuti.