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An Exclusive Interview Patrick Atuanya, Editor, BuinessDay Media Limited

Patrick Atuanya is an MBA educated economist who is intrigued by global finance, stock bonds, securisation and the flow of money. Patrick started out at BusinessDay as an analyst and rose to the position of Chief Economist and in January 2019 he was appointed editor of BusinessDay Media Limited and currently leads one of the youngest and largest newsrooms in West Africa.

What was the last thing you did that requires courage?
In my line of work, you do things every day that require courage, and if I look back at 10 years, it will be hopping up and leaving the US to move back to Nigeria in 2011. I had been out of the country for about 8 years that was in 2004. Obviously, over that time period, there had been a lot of changes happening in the country, it was a young democracy when I left but by the time I came back, a lot of things had changed, we had a bigger private sector and there was still a lot of uncertainty. It could have been easier to have stayed back in a relative certainty of living in the west. So far so good, coming back has been quite an experience and it’s something I’m very glad I did.

What have you done recently for the first time?
As a leader, the pandemic experience was a first for a lot of people, it was something that nobody really expected to go this far. I remember in January this year, I was traveling freely, I went to Abia state and met with the Governor and that seems like a lifetime ago. So, I guess managing people during this pandemic/lockdown period, especially being an essential worker as defined by the government. Managing people and my home was quite challenging. It was something that we had to come up with a working solution almost on the fly, finding a way to get our staff to work effectively, finding a way to get them to be productive working at home, and just the uncertainty about the curfew. I remember having to be called numerous times in the first week of the lockdown, of policemen harassing/ arresting some of our staff and trying to reach the IG of Police and the commissioner of information Lagos to assist their release. That is something I’ve had to deal with.

Read also: Appraising cross-border operations of Nigeria’s tier-one banks

What apps do you use the most on your phone?
Whatsapp and then my banking apps i.e. GTBank, First Bank, Stanbic IBTC Bank, and UBA, those are my top banking apps.
What is the first thing you do in the morning when you wake up?
I wake up at 4.45 am, and the first thing I do is reach for my phone, as a news person I need to know what’s going on, and then check my laptop to check and send out emails and then I prepare for the day. I’m not used to having breakfast in the morning.

At the end of the long day, what do you typically crave?
At the end of a long day, sometimes I just create a quiet atmosphere with a friend, buy a bottle of Heineken and just relax. Other times I just want to go straight home, quite in my room, just watching some Bloomberg TV, round off for the day and plan for what to expect for the next day, and just enjoy the peace and quiet, after the long day.

What song is currently playing in your head?
I grew up as most generation of Nigerians, grew up on the ’90s 2000’s hip-hop, and lately, I’ve been a little bit jaded about the whole new school hip-hop especially in the west. I think Burna Boy’s new album is there, also Nas has a new album, but it’s in my top playlist.

I know about your love highlife music, care to share with our readers as well?
I am from Anambra state, and anytime I go to the village, it’s refreshing being around people that speak your language and the natural environment and the music is what you get exposed to. So, before most of the popular highlife songs gets to Lagos, it’s already circulating and being played on rotation in the east. I began to really get into the highlife music like the Flavours, Mobiligos. Every time I go, I feel like I don’t want to come back to Lagos, but when I listen to the songs, it makes me feel like I’m still in the East. The music passes across very strong messaging, usually around morality, how to behave, and good strong messaging that we used to get from our forefathers, that sadly these days doesn’t get reinforced. It just keeps me grounded in the craziness of Lagos.

Is there anything that you wish you understand more about, and what is it?
The universe, the nature of reality, the meaning of life, I guess we all think of that. But the universe is particularly interesting to me, the future of humanity, where will we be 100 or a 1000 years from now and could our species survive if we don’t become a specie that doesn’t inhabit more than one planet. I’m very keen on travel to Mars, the exploration of space , and the projection that by 10 years from now, there should be a colony in Mars, I’m quite excited about that and I follow that judiciously. How humanity is so small in the grand scheme of things and is it possible that we are the only living species in the universe, if that is, then we are really special, that means we should be careful about war and killing each other. I’m really curious about exploration and hopefully, if they ever build ships that would take us to Mars, I would volunteer.

How would you define success?
I think, first of all, success is HARDWORK, and also being able to enjoy what you do at any point in time. When you are enjoying what you do in your career or business, it brings you joy, you are solving problems for people, I think that is the height of success. I have always enjoyed writing, I have always enjoyed expressing myself, it has always been something that came naturally that I do, so finding myself at the top of my career, it was just natural that it would happen because I actually enjoy what I do. It is a little bit more difficult when people don’t enjoy what they do, it would be more difficult to find success, even if you are a politician or an investor like Warren Buffett or a pioneer like Elon Musk, you will find out they actually enjoy what they are doing, and they wouldn’t really be doing anything else. Once you enjoy what you do, you will find success along the way.

Are there any Ideas in your head that you can’t really seem to shake off?
I was an early skeptic of the cryptocurrency world, now I’m becoming more of a believer, after this COVID-19 and just the way the world is just moving rapidly. Something that always keeps coming to my head we will probably wake up 10 years from now and bitcoin is $500,000 or $1,000,000 or it would have a much bigger role in the global economy. Bitcoin market cap today is about less than Hundred Billion Dollars and it is still a very small part of the Global Asset classes. Lately, it’s been something like the cryptocurrency will probably be something in everybody’s life come 10 – 20 years from now and I think people should prepare for that.
Aside those, I also always wish that the asset classes that Nigerians have available to them is a little bit deeper like it had more depth and it had more people interested in them because that’s the only way you can build long term wealth and long-term capital. A lot are looking around for places where they can invest and something I always think about is how can we make investment (for lack of a better word) sexy. If a million people are tuning into Big Brother or Bet9ja, how do you get more people excited about buying a particular stock or invest at that same excitement level and at that scale, and I don’t know how we can crack that. It seems like people are more excited about raising money for someone that has a bad attitude, than the stocks.

What is worth paying for?
I think KNOWLEDGE is worth paying for because the world today is a knowledge-based world and the only way to excel is to know as much as possible about what is important to corporations, potential employers, even as a person, things you need to learn, if it’s coding, it is learning about how money works, just invest in your knowledge. I have been lucky that I have been able to impact one or two people who I have mentored, and I have tried to push them in the right path, to know what to focus on. A lot of people don’t know, so you’ll see someone that finished University 2-3 years ago, and finds out that the degree is obsolete by the time you want to work, with the way the world is evolving, so, identifying what other certifications your need to get, in addition to the course you are studying. I am able to show a few of my cousins and friends to get other certification in addition to what you have, but some of those things cost money and people should be willing to invest in themselves. Knowledge is something worth investing in.

To whom did you address your last hand-written letter/note to?
I will go back to almost 15 years ago; I had written a letter to a friend, she was actually living in the US, from Germany. She had written me a letter and I actually replied and wrote a letter back and gave it to her as I was dropping her at the airport in Philadelphia, and that was the last time. I think I still have the one she wrote me somewhere in my files.–

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