By Philip Ugbodaga
Prince Clem Ikanade Agba, the Honourable Minister of State for Budget and National Planning by all standards is a great leader, a consummate politician, a disciplined technocrat, a gift to our generation, and a great mentor to many, including myself.
As a prince of Uzanu Kingdom In Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State, Clem Agba grew up like many young people of his era without allowing the allure of his privileged status detract him from the path he had set out to accomplish in life as a change agent.
Today, I join millions of people around the world including his friends, colleagues and his numerous associates to celebrate this extraordinary Nigerian, who is unarguably one of the most influential personalities in this century, a leader of leaders, a patriot to the core and one of the best minds of our generation who turns 56 years old today.
His selfless and impressive humanitarian engagements for many years is unparalleled as he remains a role model to the youths as a gentleman of honour, courage and integrity. In August 2013, I had the opportunity to lead a group of forward looking Afenmai personalities to his office in preparation for an Afenmai Youth Conference. One of the activities of the programme that immediately caught his attention was the proposed free medical mission to several local communities in Edo North Senatorial District. He requested that I met him up the following day for a brief discussion.
At the meeting, he intimated me of his then forthcoming 50th birthday celebrations the following year and the need for me to play a role in its planning. He told me how he was aware of plans by his friends in many walks of life to throw a big party for him including plans to insert several full-pages of newspaper advertorial to congratulate him. He maintained that he would rather encourage them to channel such outpouring of financial support and camaraderie to his soon to be established Non-Governmental Organization which had the capacity to reach thousands and perhaps millions of underserved people especially in the rural areas to render to them free medical services instead of engaging in embellished depictions in newspaper congratulatory messages.
The concept of the Non-Governmental Organization emanated from the circumstances surrounding the death of his beloved mother. In his account, his dear mother fell ill in September 2010 to what was assumed to be just “the normal malaria”. However closer examination discovered that she had Hepatitis C, which had advanced and had led to cancer of the liver. Despite spirited efforts with the best medical help available around the world, she succumbed to the disease and passed on in the early hours of 29th November 2012. The diagnosis of Hepatitis C and its attendant relationship to cancer sparked his interest in this disease condition and to pay a closer look at the damage being caused to the society by it. His discovery was shocking – Hepatitis was doing more damage to people than the dreaded HIV and AIDS and was causing more cancer and deaths than he had imagined. More worrisome was the glaring ignorance of the condition even among the read and elite of the society.
He therefore decided that he needed to intervene to stop these avoidable pains and deaths associated with Hepatitis. The decision birthed the idea to organize a free medical programme on the eve of his 50th birthday, borne out of a deliberate attempt to draw attention to the silent and neglected killer, hepatitis that has infected several millions of people and responsible for almost 1 million deaths annually globally. For him, it was inconceivable that despite being a major global health problem and although infection with the causative virus, especially B and C causes chronic liver disease, it had received little or no attention in Nigeria, thereby making it a major public health hazard.
His unquenchable and irrepressible desire to express love to the underprivileged in the society led to the formation of The Clem Agba Foundation (TCAF) for which he is the President and Co-Founder, alongside his amiable, lovely, dutiful and supportive jewel, Princess Catherine Orobosa Agba.
The Foundation was formed as a vehicle for philanthropic activities but with a primary focus on the education, enlightenment, testing and treatment of different strains of Hepatitis (A,B,C,D and E) and its associated ailments, especially Hepatitis B & C. The Clem Agba Foundation also collaborates and synergizes with like-minded organizations and individuals to help in treatment and research of an alternative medicine approach to put a permanent end to this scourge that is ravaging not only Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa, but several other places around the world.
Since inception, the Foundation being the first and only indigenous NGO dedicated to the fight against hepatitis in Nigeria has organized hepatitis awareness programmes, screening and vaccination of hundreds of thousands of at-risk people in Nigeria.
This exceptional act of humanitarianism, compassion and love for the health of the less privileged in society further endeared him to me as I had also been involved in rendering free medical services in various local communities for many decades.
In the course of his services to the fatherland, he has offered his intelligence, energy and devotion to duty into helping in the socio-economic and political rejuvenation of our dear country.
It is in recognition of these attributes and his unwavering commitment to service and development of society that made Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole invite him to join the rescue team and served as a member of the Executive Team of Edo State in 2009 following the laters triumph at the appeal court where he had engaged in a titanic battle to reclaim his stolen gubernatorial mandate by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Prince Agba was then a high-level manager with oil giant, Chevron Nigeria Limited with two Masters Degrees in Business Administration, first from the University of Benin, specializing in Management and then from the Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA, specializing in Supply Chain Management.
He served as Commissioner in the Edo State Ministry of Environment and Public Utilities from January 23, 2009 to July 25, 2010, where he demonstrated strong leadership skills and brought in new energy and momentum to public governance. On July 26th 2010, he was further saddled with a new challenge as Commissioner of Lands, Survey & Housing in Edo State where he initiated the required fundamental reforms within a record time of five (5) months including the set-up of the Edo State Geographic Information Services (EGIS). He was re-deployed back to the Ministry of Environment & Public Utilities on December 2, 2010.
On expiration of his leave of absence, he returned to Chevron in September 2012 as Manager Community Procurement Operations, but only for a short time as he was once again called back to the service of Edo State Government as Commissioner for Environment & Public Utilities on March 8, 2013. Clem Agba also doubled as a member of Edo State Economic Team. As Commissioner for Environment & Public Utilities, he provided leadership in the urban renewal and drainage infrastructural drive of the Governor Adams Oshiomhole administration, which included beautification; greening of the streets, planting trees and ensuring that the State capital had functional street lights.
He also pivoted the solution to major Edo State flood and erosion challenges which had become exacerbated for about 30 years since 1979 when the last major storm water project was executed. This was in addition to the evacuation of the notorious Costain Isonorho dumpsite in just five days; a problem that overwhelmed over five governments, (military and civilian) for over two decades. During the same period, he successfully increased the State Forestry nursery capacity with the objective to ensure sustainable Forest Regeneration. In December 2016, after eight fulfilling years of delivering excellent service to the Government and people of Edo State, he returned to Chevron Nigeria Limited as a member of the supply chain leadership team as head of its Transport and Travel Department, a position he retired from following his appointment and inauguration as a member of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
On assumption of office as the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba made it abundantly clear to all staff of the ministry that driving and actualizing the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration would require uncommon courage, determination and commitment. Minister Agba insists that responsible leadership through popular participation is the basis for the resolution of Nigeria’s crisis. Today, every staff of the ministry understands his vision that is steeped in tangentially deploying new thinking in the critical role of budget making and strategic National planning working closely with the very hardworking Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed.
On the Planet Earth, there very few individuals like Prince Clem Agba as the radiance of his personality has touched the lives of many. He is a leader of leaders, God’s wonderful tool to serve humanity with selflessness and humility, a star who is here to brighten the dark life of poor little children, the lives of young Nigerians, and the lives of anyone who has come in contact with him. As a leader, he has exhibited uncommon wisdom, remarkable vision and exemplary leadership. He has been a role model and a hero of selfless giving to his immediate and upcoming generations and we are proud to hold him as an example worthy of emulation. I am not surprised because the mark of a true visionary is his ability to imagine the future and act on it, yielding great results in the process and then using this success for the benefit of others. This he has done in a very exemplary manner. For a man who is making a success of everything he touches, the successes he has achieved so far is also not a surprise to me because he is with God and whoever that is with God does not fail but continues to triumph with His grace and more successes. His devotion to his strong religious belief led to his induction into the Advisory Board of the Eternal Sacred Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church, the highest decision-making body of the Church, a position he holds till date.
At 56, Prince Clem Ikanade Agba remains a suave gentleman, a workhorse, a highly introspective thinker, a political colossus, an astute administrator, an enthusiastic leader of impeccable value, and a great family man. He believes very strongly in President Muhammadu Buhari’s capacity to change for ever, the conditions of our existence as a nation. I believe that in the womb of time, your political destiny will fully crystallize and unravel so we can continue to drink from your river of humanity, courage, strong leadership with no compromise for self-interests, but of standing still and focusing on what is good for the majority of the people.
This is to wish a very cheerful and a great boss, a happy birthday and many more years of service to humanity in sound health.
· Dr Ugbodaga is a Special Assistant to the Honourable Minister of State for Budget and National Planning.