Part 2: Godswill Akpabio has no investment in my Newspaper—Moffat Ekoriko + “How I got money to run The Moment”

Moffat…..’We need to restructure values in the media of today

In this concluding part in the
exclusive encounter with Moffat Ekoriko, publisher o the defunct The Moment
Newspaper months before the paper went off news stand, the publisher debunked
heavy rumor that his state Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio is the chief
sponsor of his newspaper.

He initially burst into a roaring laughter when we
threw the question at him; he equally shared many other revelations about his
private life with us which you will find so interesting in the
Never-heard-before-straight-from-the-archives series from asabeafrika. Enjoy the excerpts.


That Akpabio is my financier? The
funniest thing I ever heard
 When asabeafrika told Moffat to confirm or disown the
strong rumor around Nigeria that Governor Godswill Akpabio wh is the Governor
of his state of origin is the Chief financier of The Moment Newspaper,
the young man burst into a roaring laughter that lasted for a while. He
stopped momentarily to steal a glance at this reporter and continued before he
finally spoke “You know that is the funniest thing I have ever heard. The last
time I saw (God’swill) Akpabio was when he came to the UK in August to have a
chat with Akwa Ibom indigenes in the Diaspora. That was when we had our own
Akwa – Ibom meeting. As I am talking to you now, I don’t have God’swill
Akpabio’s phone number”. So, what is Moffat trying to say, we asked as like a
mother querying an erring son who just stole a portion from the meat in the pot
but Moffat insisted he had no phone contact of his Governor “What  I am saying is that we do not have that kind
of link. I cannot call him now, because I don’t even have his number, and he
picks the call and say ‘oh, how are you?’ I do not (expect) that even in the
next one or two years to get a call from him. I respect him as my state
governor because every follower must have a leader. And to a great extent, you
have to respect your leader. It is biblical that you respect whoever is your
leader because they carry the burden of every one. But to say (Governor)
Akpabio is involved in what I am doing, that is absolutely not true, absolutely
not true. Now, people talk about how are you able to mobilize fund and we will
answer that question”
The GDA with another copy of the well defined newspaper brand
How I sourced fund for The Moment
 Moffat went ahead to tell us in his own word
how he sourced money to fund his project which is now defunct “There is so much
money in this country and you can mobilize it. But the problem is this; if I am
an investor I need to ask a simple question ‘can I trust this man with my
money?’ That is one. The second question is if I can trust him with my money,
can I trust his competence to use this money judiciously because you can give me
money to start a newspaper and the next thing I have two houses in Abuja
meanwhile the newspaper is faltering. This is real life; these are the things
that happen. There are so many funds. Go to Abuja, you will see certain
properties being bought for five hundred million, one billion. So, if people
have money to buy those properties, who told you that if, you can convince one
of those people to give you like in the case of The Moment, maybe a few billion that you can not set up a news
paper? You can do it. You just need to command the pedigree. In overseas,
things are being structured. You have investment houses. So if you come over
with a good idea, you can go there and then you have a venture capitalist
coming in and say ‘ok, Moffat, we are going to put in this money. If this
project works, we will take so-so percentage of your share. If it doesn’t work
too bad’.

“So, in Nigeria, we just do not want to be a pastor with the highest anointing, we want to be the richest pastor. It is not enough to be the most brilliant journalist in this country; we want to be the richest journalist. You now create a situation whereby you can no longer draw a connection between somebody’s income and the person’s wealth. In essence, somebody is actually earning a hundred thousand naira in a month but he is driving a ten million naira car. You tried that in England, they will get you to the bottom line because it means that something is wrong.”

But the
problem we have here is that we do not have business men. Those who have the
bulk of money with them are the politicians who are even afraid to invest the
money in certain outlets because they dont want society to question the source
of the funds. And then you have traders masquerading as business men. So, when
they come and give you money, they are expecting urgent returns. They are
expecting immediate returns. Anybody putting money in a newspaper project must
not expect returns in five years. The best you can expect is that in two years
the newspaper will run on its own. That is the basic fact. For us, we have
reputable investors and we are working hard to justify the purpose for being in
this business”.

Worst fears & none!
 This blog wanted to know as an investor if
Moffat nursed any fear concerning failure but the very confident Moffat again
assuage us of his faith in the power of possibility “No, no, no. like I said I
don’t have fears and I can tell you why” he said and continued “I started from
a very humble background and I have seen how far God has taken me. So, the
grace of God has led me through life, it is a far longer journey but I believe
God is the author and finisher of my faith. So it is His journey, why should I
be afraid? And I tell people that if you want to do something, have faith. You
must believe in something. If you are a Christian or you are not, you must
believe in something. And my own attitude is to have absolute faith in the
limitless grace of God. Because of that absolute faith in the limitless grace
of God, I fear no failure. That is just my stand”.
Moffat…..’Our Media Sector can work if only we have brilliant investment bankers’
How feasibility study failed me in
Nigeria
 When asabeafrika asked Moffat to describe his experience as a daily
publisher he breathes down before lifting his confidence to answer the question
“Well, it is challenging. I will tell you the key problem–Infrastructure. All
the things I took for granted in England, I came here and met a
totally different experience. I will give you one illustration; when we did the
business plan, there was no provision for diesel. Because in my mind in
England, I didn’t believe that I will have to run two Generating sets, that
will  run twenty four hours a day to be
able to keep the business going.
When we did
the business plan, I had a provision of twenty-five thousand naira per month
for one mega bite band weight for internet connection. That same internet
connection is costing me five hundred thousand naira every month right now. In
England, it would have cost me less than twenty five thousand naira. But in
Nigeria it is the same service but very, very unreliable (He pulled out the
internet modem of a famous telecommunication firm to show this reporter). This
is costing me five hundred thousand naira and I wish I was paying five hundred
thousand naira for a very reliable service. The truth is that for you to be
successful and for your business to work, you have to have back up even for the
back up we are still challenged. So, if PHCN is my main supply, I have a
generator that backs up PHCN and another generator that back up the back up.
The internet connection in this place… I have a micro wave link which you can
link anywhere. I have a personal link in case the micro wave fails and even if
the micro wave fails, I probably have up to twenty MTN modems in this office
just in case all three fails, we can be working. So, we have the challenge of
infrastructure. We also face the challenge of distribution, in England, from
the printing press, there is a company that picks your paper and it reaches all
parts of the country.
In Nigeria
you don’t just set up a news paper, you have to set up a logistics company as
well. Buy vans to run the paper all over the country or you are not serious.
You have to become a utility company as well in order for you to be using your
electricity and water. You have to become even a bank to your staff, granting
staff loans so that people can pay their house rents. And then you have to
become a social welfare department again that must be able to sort out personal
problems of staff, If they are getting married, if they are burying their
parent or doing any social outing, you must be the social welfare office to
draw money from. I just do not see anything improving. Let me put it this way,
‘this economy amazes me’, this economy just amazes me. That is the challenge I
am facing in Nigeria”.
GDA and Moffat poses with a copy of the newspaper
How Nigeria decayed
 Moffat
who was in between anger and dismay when he was speaking on his business
frailties traced the genesis of the present economic problem in Nigeria to the
military era “I think the worst thing that happened to Nigeria was that the
military intervened. When the military intervened, a few things happened. The
first thing is that it destroyed the institution of state that we were
building. Don’t forget that like our country, India for instance was a British
colony. We shared the same colonial fate but since their independence, India
has never witnessed a military coup. There has been no military coup in India.
The military destroyed the institution that would have strengthened our
national life; they also brought in the military culture in to the civil
society. Something very simple, you see a typical Nigerian saying ‘with
immediate effect’. In the business world you could not write ‘with immediate
effect’. You will say ‘we appoint you and the appointment take effect on so-so
day’. There is nothing like immediate effect and because the military ruled by
force, corruption could breath; because there was nobody to challenge them. You
couldn’t challenge the military. The system is not open, it is not transparent
but very opaque. You don’t even know what is going on. The beauty of democracy
is you can do a lot of things but somebody can ask you question and say ‘please
what is going on?’. By the time the military handed power to civilian, they
didn’t also gave the country a chance to purge itself of the legacies of the
military era before they intervened again on December 31st 1983. And we had another very long term
rule by very strict soldiers. Then, we had another era when we had a
soldier who was a PR man
ruling us. We kept going on and on and on
until we got to where we are now.
Moffat…..’In Nigeria of today emphasis have shifted from being ”
The Most Anointed Man of God to Richest Man of God,
the most brilliant journalist to the richest journalist’
Now what is
the overall impact of that? That has also destroyed the (moral) value of the
society. When the politicians came in, they were not seeing themselves as
public servants. They were seeing themselves as lords of the manor just like
the soldiers. So, when you now go to fix salaries, you fix the salary in such a
way that a councilor earns more than a university lecturer. And you expect such
a country to work? And of course everybody now started seeing money as the
ultimate value. So, in Nigeria, we just do not want to be a pastor with the
highest anointing, we want to be the richest pastor. It is not enough to be the
most brilliant journalist in this country; we want to be the richest
journalist. You now create a situation whereby you can no longer draw a
connection between somebody’s income and the person’s wealth. In essence, somebody
is actually earning a hundred thousand naira in a month but he is driving a ten
million naira car. You tried that in England, they will get you to the bottom
line because it means that something is wrong. We have also started believing
in miracles. That is why when you go to the church the prosperity message is
thriving. Nobody in church preaches the message of salvation anymore. So, I
think if the military had not intervened in 1966, by now we would evolve a
distinctive democracy and a strong state that can create the platform for
Nigerians to realize their aspirations. What we need do now is to start to
change ourselves; change our attitude to life, our attitude to money and
gradually we will get changed by the day”
Moffat…..’Journalism will only work when we start
seeing it as a service rather then a career’
Why I call the paper “The Moment”
This was
just another question that made Moffat laugh after the tense interregnum of
speaking of the pains of a country; where did you call the brand “The Moment”
and he went like this “ It is just one of those names we chose. We could have
called it anything anyway but we looked at the philosophy behind the name, we
are saying that this is Nigeria’s moment. We have never had an opportunity like
this as a country. We have seen the other side of it. We know what it means to
fail as a country. We have seen the dark side of our political evolution which
is the military era. Do you see any Nigerian calling for a military coup again?
No , We have seen a civil war, we have experienced the out come of cancelling a
free and fair election in June 12. We have gone through everything. So, at this
stage, the next stage Nigeria is going is up. We believe this is Nigeria’s moment. The moment for us to
start the journey to greatness and that is why we believe that we have come in
at the right time to join in pushing on the road to greatness”.

Why I don’t have a role model
When we
asked if Moffat had a role model he
didn’t was time before discarding the question with a big NO but we still
pushed the question and this is what he said aftrwards “Yeah, not because I
don’t believe in mentoring but because Nigeria has become a society without
heroes. You can believe the man is so clean, so righteous and someday something
happens and you are like waoh?  And that
is why if you notice, I don’t believe in giving out awards. Throughout the
eleven years that I ran News Africa directly, I did not give
out award. Because I don’t want to give you an award today and tomorrow I felt
‘how I wish I didn’t do it’. Look at the recent episode of our razzmatazz
bankers. Two years ago if they told you some of those bank MDs were glorified
thieves you won’t believe. They were winning awards all over the country and
outside the country. If anyone told you they were glorified thieves, would you
have believed it? But now the cards have crumbled. That is why I don’t look at
role models. I look at what I can emulate in any individual that I come in
contact with”.
‘This is my brand for you’, Moffat seems to say to the GDA

Why my staffs don’t ‘shake for me’
If you visit
Moffat’s office, one thing you will notice is his flexibility with every member
of staff irrespective of their position in the organization. Both the cleaners
and the most lettered staff have equal access to the publisher.  With Moffat among his staff you will never
know who the boss is; is it the British influence or what? We asked and he
confirmed our insinuation “In Britain, you just want the job to be done right.
It is a leadership culture that respect and appreciate a man for his work
value. You are more interested in the job being done maybe because that society
evolves from the classics. There is this consciousness to do away with classes;
so you can enter the train in the morning and find your Prime Minister seated
with you”. But can this happen in Nigeria we asked knowing fully well that the
question was a bit mischievous and which Moffat reacted to with equally a
mischievous smile “It can’t happen in Nigeria, I mean to enter the train or bus
and the President is seated with you. So, when we get to the office, it is
about who is doing what job. What makes the difference between one people in
any organization is in terms of the amount of responsibility and maybe the kind
of remuneration. For us here, everyone is special because we respect you for
what you have earned and decided to offer us”.

How I start my day
“I start my
day with God. I love praise and worship. I read a lot. Apart from that, I am a
very, very private person. I hardly go out. You will struggle to find me in a
public place”.

ARE YOU A THINKER?
“Not
necessarily a thinker. I am just a normal man. I contribute to the society
through the work I do. You won’t even see my face in the newspaper, but what I
want people to see is the work I do. My work should explain my person”.
ARE YOU 50?
“Not up to
that. I am 47”.

AND YOU ARE A GRANDFATHER?
“I got
married at 19 and I had my first child at 20. I am married to a Nigerian from
my village. We are blessed with lovely children. We also have three grand
children”.

Last word for journalists of today
“What I will
say to them is ‘have a passion for journalism and a passion for a better
society’. If you want a career, if you want a job, don’t get into journalism.
The joy of being in journalism isn’t the wealth you acquire. Because it is very
difficult to acquire wealth if you practice journalism the way it should be
practiced. It is the difference that you are able to make to the society that
God in his infinite wisdom will use to bless you”.

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