INTERVIEW: What I did after Nigerians criticised my donation to American University — Top businessman, Indimi

One of Nigeria’s richest men and best known business moguls, Borno-born Muhammdu Indimi, was recently in the wrong side of the news where he was criticised for donating a lecture hall for an American university when same institutions in his home country Nigeria are begging for such gesture.

Last week, Mr Indimi’s foundation launched the building of 200 units of 3-bedroom flats for persons displaced by Boko Haram. 

In this exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ Abdulkareem Haruna, the money bag, who is an in-law to President Muhammadu Buhari, spoke elaborately on his foundation’s philanthropy, why he built a hostel for a U.S.-based university and how he was able to rise as an accomplished business man without any background of formal western education. 

Excerpt:- 

PT: Your Foundation, the Indimi Foundation had last week flagged off the building of 200 units 3-bedroom houses which it donated to persons affected by Boko Haram conflict in Borno state. What informed this gesture, sir? 

Indimi:– The reason is obvious – to help the IDPs. Well, it is just our own little contribution to assisting government in rebuilding and resettling of IDPs. The people of Borno state have suffered so much in these past years; and people in position of means have left everything in the hands of government. So as a son of Borno state, I have to think of how I could come in to assist our people because government alone cannot do it.

I also felt if I should take the lead, perhaps other top businessmen from Borno state may also follow suite. I am calling on my colleagues in business to come in and do whatever little they could do to help.

This is the time our people need our help, especially when government is considering the possibility of returning the IDPs to their ancestral abode as soon as the security officials give the go ahead.

PT: What is the time frame set out by your Foundation to complete the first phase of 100 bedrooms houses?  

Indimi: As I am talking to you now, we have reached about 60 percent stage of completion of the first phase in Bama town. Our target is to see that everything is completed before the end of the year – that is by December. Our hope is to see that we flag off the second phase of 100 houses in Ngala town if God permits. We hope the security situation will be good enough for us to mobilise the  workers to site there in Ngala. Our contractors are ready because we have made available all the resources that will enable us deliver yet another 100 houses next year, insha Allah.

PT: Is there any plan of extending the same gesture beyond Bama and Ngala towns? 

Indimi:– Well, this is just the beginning, we hope to do more as far as Indimi Foundation is concerned. Remember this is not the only kind of intervention that we have been doing for the IDPs here in Borno state; we have been doing other things like provision of food relief, distribution of cash token and even helping out with scholarship.

PT: What is the cost of these housing projects?  

Well, you can always contact the management of the Foundation to inquire about such details because we all know how prices of commodities change in the country. What is one naira today might change tomorrow. But I believe the Foundation should be able to furnish you with such details.

PT:- Can you tell us more about the scholarship programme? 

Indimi:- You see, all my life I have been engaged in scholarship support for people across the length and breath of Nigeria. By God’s grace I have been able to sponsor students to America, to Europe and Saudi Arabia. Now God has even placed me in a strategic position as one of the board members on the board of the International African University of Sudan – mind you, this is not a Sudanese University, but an international university supported by various international organisations, but located in Sudan. I represent Africa on that board, which has a worldwide membership of its board of trustees. IAU is a reputable university which has nothing to do with religion or any form of creed. It offers all kinds of course ranging from engineering, medicine , information technology, social sciences and so on.

Coming to the issue of scholarship I had just discussed with some governors of northern state that I am going to run another phase of the scholarship and I am considering about five states in the next segment.

PT:- What does this scholarship entails? 

Indimi:– Well apart from payment  of their tuition; the scholarship package still goes with their air tickets to Sudan, their accommodation needs, their feeding allowance and so on. I had just returned from Khartoum about two weeks back, and while I was there, I met with students from Borno state who were very happy to see me. And I am very pleased that they are doing very well academically. I told them that they have to be good ambassadors of Nigeria in Sudan. Some of the girls who are about concluding their first degrees asked if they could continue with their masters programme and I told them that you can even go ahead and do your Phd; that will not be a problem. In fact, it will be a thing of pride for me to see the girl child acquire such degree of learning because when you educate a girl you educate the entire world.

PT:- How many students are we looking at to benefit the scholarships from these five states you talked about? 

Indimi:- I know in the last batch of scholarships that we issued I gave 37 slots to Borno state and 61 slots to Kano state. In the next batch we are giving the states of Adamawa, Yobe, Jigawa, Kaduna and Gombe 20 slots each. We have concluded the modalities, the next is just to issue them the letters of scholarship.

PT:- Could you kindly shed light on the controversy that trailed your building and donation of a lecture hall for an American University? 

You see, about 10 of my children studied in America and in that particular university where I made the donation. And each time I go there to visit them or to attend their graduation ceremony I meet with other students especially Americans who knew me as an accomplished international businessman. And somehow, some of them came to find out that I have no advance certificate of education and yet I was able to accomplish all that  God has blessed me with. So being very inquisitive as they are by nature, the students approached me and asked if I could be available to give them an insight as to how I was able to accomplish such business successes without any form of formal education.

What they wanted was some kind of talk or lecture. And when I went to share my experience with them, I found out that the venue was too small for the crowd that attended the programme, and it was from there I pledged to help them build a better and befitting lecture for the faculty.

I did that in my kind gesture as a father to many children that graduated from that school; and also in appreciation of the recognition and regard they gave me. But what will I hear back home, all kinds of insinuation. Sadly, some persons, especially those from a south south of the country, felt it is their money I took to go build a lecture hall for an American university.

But little did such persons know that all my active life as a businessman I have never shied away from my basic social responsibility in every place I do my business. It was even in the recognition of such kind of efforts that the University of Uyo sent me a nomination letter awarding me an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Business Administration. That is because in that state I am fully committed to my corporate social responsibilities as a businessman. I have an ongoing 100 housing units that is going on in that state. Besides that, I have contributed immensely in seeing that the University attains all the requirements that enabled them get their Department of Petrochemical Engineering get accredited and certified as an affiliate of the University of Texas. I have offered more than a 100 scholarship in that university; I have also given about 500 women in the business community there in Uyo soft loans to start their own businesses.

Though some people were blind to all these efforts we have been making in the areas of our corporate social responsibilities, the University community has appreciated us; that is why on the 4th of November, they will be conferring me with an honour of doctorate degree in Business Administration.

It may interest you to know that I have never been to any formal school all my life. No teacher of western education can say he or she had taught me how to pronounce the alphabet ‘A’ in my life. But here I am helping people to get educated in the Western baccalaureate because I know how important it is.

PT:- So, how were you able to master the art of reading and speaking in English. 

As I told you I have never been to any kind of school. I simply learnt by listening and association with people. I am a very committed person when it comes to learning and adapting. And thank God today, as an unlettered person by Western standard I still supervise people with masters and Phds who are working in my organisation.

As a matter of fact, if any of my employees want to approach me with any project proposal or some kind of memo or  presentation, they have to be well prepared and make sure they did their home work well because they know I will definitely point out any error therein. So Alhamdullillahi, I thank God for his kindness upon me; and I do all that I do for the sake of God. I hate mentioning or celebrating our acts of kindness in the past, but the times have come that people will want to drag your name in the mud with lies. So we have to beat our drum for our selves even though with all humility and comportment. Thank you.

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