80 years of Pascal Gabriel Dozie
Pascal Gabriel Dozie, founder of defunct Diamond bank, co-founder of African Capital Alliance and Kunoch Limited, opened the doors of his plush office to BusinessDay’s Lolade Akinmurele, Fikayo Owoeye and David Ibidapo, who wanted a glimpse into the life of the business colossus who has turned 80 today in a country where average life expectancy is put at 56 years by the World Health Organisation.
PGD, as he is fondly called by friends, is the father of five sons and says he has gotten over wishing for the daughter he never had, as his married sons meant he now had five daughters.
On the strenuous task of raising five boys, PGD says we should ask his wife. He now spends most of his time giving back to community. He turns 80 on April 9. Excerpts from the interview are as follows:
Life through PGD’s eyes
Life has been interesting. I have found this country very interesting, if I don’t find it interesting I would lose. I am finding this way because of self-preservation. It is difficult to say it, I love my county.
If you travel the length and breadth of the country, you will appreciate the beauty, natural landscape, and the people. Unfortunately, things have changed and we are now beginning to have a contactless society, where banking is done on phones away from the halls.
The more we do things that separate contact, the more life becomes difficult. We need to build relationships because unless we have a discussion, it will be difficult to know how the mind of other people works. Families don’t visit each-other again as everyone is looking for personal comfort, most are even afraid to travel to their village because of what they heard or read.
That is where the media must work assiduously to mould opinion and thoughts. We must live our lives the way our forefathers wanted us to do as evident in the National anthem. The majority are not true to that national anthem.
We need to re-evaluate our value system which is fast eroding before we lose it completely. Unfortunately, because of the exigencies of life and its struggle, we have stopped thinking. Our value system has changed completely. Sometimes I wonder how we descended to where we are now. Reengineering our value system is not going to be easy, because some people have made up their mind to go with the status quo, but we must try.
But where there is a will there is a way, so we need people who would champion this.
Not many would be interested in this cause, because it is a job that does not give you prominence.
The society must also start asking questions on how they acquired their wealth. In India for example, if you have a very big and lavish wedding, the next morning the tax people will be at your door.
We say we are fighting corruption and charging people who took government money but is corruption only about money? If I am not fair to my staff, that is corruption.
In my life, I have a good relationship with everyone from different tribes.
I agree with the fact that we are only human and hence they are fallible. We need selfless people in our politics.
To produce selfless leaders in this country, it would require education. The media must educate the leaders that they are there to serve the people and not to enrich themselves. The media must talk about the depersonalization of our public offices.
Our offices must function with or without the presence of the head. The media must do a lot in this regard through investigative journalism.
I hate when the Igbos complain of marginalization, because they don’t seem to realize what they have. If you look at the resources they have, I wonder what they mean by marginalization. Is it because they are not the President of Nigeria? It is only one person that can occupy that seat and it has to be a politician. I am not a politician and I don’t see why I should leave my business for a politician’s job. If the Igbos realize the enormity of the resources they have, they would stop complaining.
Media not doing enough in their reportage
The pen is mightier than the sword. I am sure you are not hearing this for the first time. The media has the power to shift public opinion wherever they want it. No administration in power can withstand the onslaught of the media. Take the on-going Brexit battle as an example. This week, they have raised 8 motions in the parliament thinking they would find a solution to the debacle but they couldn’t pass any of them. Why? Because the press was working by coming up with informed analysis which to a large extent shaped the opinion of the parliamentarians. The fact that your friend has a divergent opinion doesn’t make him your enemy. As individuals, we need to ask ourselves what is best for this country and the media should play a bigger role regarding agenda setting and holding government accountable.
I have a lot of expectations and disappointment in our media. The media must help society do better by pointing out faults; although I know it is not easy and could also be risky. However, the government must ensure that journalists are properly educated. I said this few years ago that the private sector has not performed because it has not been developed by the government.
Relationship with sons
My sons tell me I have spoilt their lives that they don’t have any private life as they can’t go hiding.
I say it is not my fault. I had wanted to have a daughter as my first child because I have a friend Maxell Ubani, whom I used to admire his daughter then in the U.S.
When I told him mine was coming, he would respond jokingly “You no fit get a daughter, daughters are for special people.”
When I was expecting my fourth child, I hoped for a daughter and said her name would be Ngozi Pascal.
When it turned out to be a boy I said his name is still Ngozi Pascal.
Family Business Pet project
A lot of SMEs are family based and we have not been able to transit our business from one generation to another. We lose so much in this country as a result. Where are the Fajemirokuns, Ojukwus, Abiolas Ugo Foam, etc.
Look at Heineken and Mercedez, whose founders have died a long time but because they have built structures that outlived them the brand is still out there.
We are working closely with the LBS and host of other partners from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to bring the knowledge of how to manage the family business. As part of my 80th birthday, LBS has partnered with other parties in Switzerland to organize a one-day seminar on sustainable family business. We hope to endow a chair for the study. The nitty-gritty that makes a national economy is the SMEs and must be sustainable. My wife’s foundation, the Janet Dozie Foundation for indigent widows, is also making impact with over 500 beneficiaries.
Ease of business in Nigeria
Doing business in Nigeria is like taking part in an obstacle race. That is why smart people like to short-change the system. It is not easy if you want to do it the right way.
Pan Atlantic University: Days of humble beginnings
A group of us went to a Business School in Madrid, Spain
When the Lagos Business School was about to be established, first thing myself and the founders did was to go to a Business School in Madrid, Spain.
They talked to us about the ethics of doing business and how to do the right thing. On the side-lines of the meeting, we decided to go back to Nigeria to build what we called an “Oasis of Sanity” and with time the Oasis will come together to form a mighty movement.
But one problem in Nigeria is the instability of policies; you need predictability in any system. We don’t know the trajectory of government policies. A businessman can deal with risks but not uncertainties. So it depends on how you accommodate the challenges and climb the steps which require patience or cut corners to get things done. Unfortunately, those who cut corners often find themselves at the front and nobody asks questions.
MTN and early struggles
Before I met the MTN team, they had tried on their own and were already convinced about coming to Nigeria. But the people they were relating with were not co-operating. So when they met me, we agreed to work together. I did not know anything about mobile telephoning and with my experience with NITEL; I felt it was not the right way to go. The process of bidding was very interesting. If you belong to one box you cannot be in another box but my name came up in more than one group which should automatically disqualify me.
During that period, my name came out in every newspaper, saying I belong to several groups and boards which was illegal. So MTN wrote me a letter saying that we don’t want to have anything to do with you again because you belonged to a lot of groups. I said thank you very much and they left. I still have the letter they sent to me which I didn’t reply to. I have not destroyed the letter because there are some things in a man’s life you don’t destroy.
After a while, MTN came back to me saying they were sorry for accusing me wrongly while they found out that people I asked to work with me were the ones who tried to tarnish my relationship with MTN.
This is because they wanted to be chairman.
Fortunately, the then Chairman of MTN was going back to South Africa with the Chief executive of one of the competing groups and she asked, “How did you find this man called Pascal Dozie? He is everywhere and part of many groups”. The man answered and said he had never seen, met or spoken to me before.
So they did their investigation and found out that the accusation against me was false.
The moral lesson here is “patience”. I didn’t need to fight anyone trying to know who did what because it wasn’t necessary and I didn’t “want” nor “need”.
All the problems Vodacom had, we also had in MTN. It took us 5 years to sign shareholders agreement but nobody heard any noise about it. I had and still have one of the best boards in the organization. I had no reason to want a different board. They do their jobs effectively and efficiently and we have a very good relationship.
Diamond bank license came 5yrs after application
I put in the application for a licence for Diamond bank in 1985 and I got it approved in 1990.
Could I have gotten it earlier? Yes, but I didn’t want to short circuit the system. Not because I am an angel, I didn’t even have the capacity to short circuit the system. At a particular point in time, those who agreed to go into banking with me, some of them left. In those days you have to have 2/3rd of your membership from every part of the country, so you are forced to relate with everyone. Because I didn’t have the capacity to short circuit the system and I didn’t intend to, Diamond bank stayed 5 years in incubation.
I was running a consulting firm, African Development Consulting Group, and we planned certain things about banking. We watched television, listened to the media. Remember in those days, you will go into a bank and they will give you a tally which I perceived was nonsense. When we set up Diamond bank, it became technologically driven right from the world go because we wanted to change the system and eradicate the delay in making transactions. Diamond bank has been people-oriented right from the word go.
So we came up with the first DIBS (Diamond Bank Integrated Banking System) which eliminated the need to carry cash when trying to perform a transaction. All you needed was to prepare your cheques and when you arrive at your destination, you get your cash.
A year or two later, we came out with a payment card which led to value card. The rest they say is history.
Advice for new Access bank
If they work hard, they would achieve a lot. There is a Latin phrase that says “Festina lente” (make haste slowly). Also, the hood does not make the monk. Everything should be evaluated on its impact on the citizens. Every policy should have the people in mind because governance means the welfare of the people.
I have no doubt that they will uphold the highest standards in running the new entity.
I am a stickler to good corporate governance which I did by allowing every managing director to run the affairs of Diamond bank without any form of interference.
I have never been part of the selection of chief executives since I left diamond bank. Even when my son became chief executive, I wasn’t part of it. The chief executive before my son was selected when I was in an Intensive care unit (ICU) in Washington. I was very sick and couldn’t care less if there was any bank or not. In fact, as at that time, Nigeria and the world meant nothing to me.
Travails with Septicemia
(Septicemia, also known as sepsis, is a life-threatening complication that can happen when bacteria from another infection enter the blood and spread throughout the body. It needs urgent hospital treatment, as it can quickly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death).
I had septicemia.
After a biopsy, the doctor said everything was fine that I didn’t have any cancerous cells in me.
However, a day or two after, we were going somewhere and I began shaking. I couldn’t even sign my signature where I went to. Then I was taken to the emergency room. It was so critical that I was given the last sacrament given to Catholics. After that I didn’t know where I was, I was secluded from others and only my wife and my niece could get through to me. I became a risk to everyone for three weeks in the ICU. They were pumping antibiotic into me and taking blood samples every three hours. Then I developed something in the heart and they had to take me for operation and put into me a pacemaker used to treat some abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) that can cause your heart to either beat too slowly or miss beats.