In the penultimate month, precisely on Saturday July 25, 2015. The President of Bush House Nigeria, Akparawa Michael Bush at the corporate headquarters of the organization played host to a cream of media professionals from Akwa Ibom state who paid him a media visit along the Lokogoma Express Way in Abuja. He spoke extensively of Bush House Nigeria and the new kid in the bloc, Bush House Foundation and the expected Eldorado of Bush House Nigeria. He also delved into the corruption drive of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari as well as the industrialization policy of Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State. EXCERPTS:
NEWSFRONT: For the records, may we know you, please?
MICHAEL BUSH: Well, I really don’t know whether it is possible for me to talk about myself. I am simply Michael Bush. I sit as the President of Bush House Group and I run Bush House Nigeria. My CV is very short and very small. I always like talking about the other part that most people don’t like to hear and that is, that I’m the son of an illiterate fisherman and an illiterate petty trader- my father and mother. I am very proud of both of them and I’m happy that I came from them. I come from a village called Obio Ikot Anua in Ekpene Ukim in Uruan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. As I said, there is really not much to talk about me.
NEWSFRONT: How did you come into broadcasting?
MICHAEL BUSH: It’s a long way; I grew up in a fishing port, I grew up in the Republic of Cameroun. My father was a fisherman. In those early days, the only sign of modernity that you could have or sign of luxury at that time was a four-battery radio set that my father had, and every time my father will go out fishing, I will take out time and listen to the radio and I used to like the sound that I heard. In fact, once in a while I will actually take one of his cassettes and press the recording knop of the tape and try to run mock football commentaries and when I played it back, I used to like it and I said, when I grew up I would be a broadcaster, I would be in the media and that was when I was 6,7,8, not more than 10. But here we are, in 1992, I got involved with the student union radio, University of Uyo, in 1993, I got involved with the AKBC (Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation) radio, in 2003 I started what is today Bush House Nigeria. So you can see that my life has entirely been about the radio, the TV and the media.
NEWSFRONT: Have you encountered challenges along the line of work?
MICHAEL BUSH: Of course, you know the answer to give; that will be a “yes”, of course a resounding “yes”. But that would also be like dignifying the devil, which I never do. I think that all the challenges that we have had been taken squarely and the question that you asked that seems to say that we have arrived, I’m not sure, we are not even near our destination. I cannot tell you that we are near anywhere that we want to be because even having a one-stop media house like the radio, TV and newspaper operating from one building and trying to better the world is not our arrival point. The dream is far bigger than that and while we may not have arrived, we are not where we were when we set out. We’ve made meaningful impact, we’ve made tremendous progress but we are still light years away from arriving where we want to be. By the way, this is the first thing that I would have loved to say and that is to welcome you formally to our Corporate Headquarters but let me say that very soon, I am going to get you back again, it will not be 2019 because in 2019, I will invite you for something else but before 2019, I will invite you for something again that I think you’ll come and we’ll celebrate.
NEWSFRONT: Talking about your sudden movement from Akwa Ibom State, did you design it or was there anything that occasioned it that the people did not know?
MICHAEL BUSH: I think it was a design, clearly but it was not by me, it was by natural forces. It was by God really, that’s how my life has been programmed. Things just happen in my life and while people are mourning, people are unhappy, people are sad over it, I rejoice. I remember for a number of reasons, anytime Mr. Ekpe makes a call to me, I’m happy to meet with him. When that event happened, he was one of those few journalists or few individuals in Akwa Ibom who said something that I can never forget. I actually read it online because I got it in Abuja, I will go back to that event; but it said: ‘Governor Akpabio must use this event, this bad occurrence to Mr Bush to reward him, appoint him as commissioner’. He wrote this in his paper, I can never forget it, it was 2009. I read it online; I didn’t get to see it. But what actually happened was: doing my thing, you know, as far as I am concerned, I do it honestly, I do it with all the passion and love in my heart for our people, for society, for our state, for our Local Government and for our village. I’ve never had any ill feelings against anybody. Even politically, you would notice that you would not see me write or say anything to abuse anybody, it’s not my style. But on the 5th of July of 2009 and it’s something that makes me very sad because I don’t believe that Akwa Ibom should do that to anybody, let alone somebody who was trying to also help Akwa Ibom. Five young men, all of them from Akwa Ibom, all of them armed with AK47 each walked into, no they didn’t walk into, they stormed, they rammed into my bedroom, you know, and I lived in a duplex in Uyo. You come in just as we are in this office, my living room is down stairs, my bedroom is one of the 3 or 4 bedrooms up stairs. So it’s difficult except you really know me, you would not know my bedroom. But here they were, four of them climbed, they left one of them to guard the gates and they went straight to my bedroom and when they entered there they said all these… I don’t want to dignify them, I don’t want to talk about it because I don’t even know where all of them are now but they took away my wife at the end when they couldn’t find me. They took away my wife. For as long as I live, I cannot forget that incidence, I cannot forget what Akwa Ibom would have done that to somebody who had not taken anything from the land, had not stolen anything, had not hurt anybody, so when they did that on a Saturday 8.30pm, it was the 5th of July 2009. I got to find out like ten to fifteen minutes later when they had gone; I came to the house and all of that. They released her five days and five nights after. After they did that, I told myself, I’m done, I’m leaving. Before then as some guy who never even spent like a night or two outside Akwa Ibom; I love my people, I love my state. I’m married to a woman who is not from Akwa Ibom so once in a while, we used to discuss and she’d say, “O darling let’s move to Calabar, let’s move to Lagos, let’s move to Abuja” I said No, I didn’t want anywhere else other than Akwa Ibom. But now I’m not so sure after that event. So I just found myself in Abuja and I’ve been here ever since and I’m happy that I came here. For me, what I really rejoice about is the circumstances of coming to Abuja. Just to answer your question, it was designed, yes, but I didn’t plan it, I didn’t design it, I just came casually. Also to show you about how natural forces have designed my life have played a great role in my life, one of those days I was doing great programmes for Akwa Ibom people, the state governor and government at the time decided that whatever it was, they were going to remove my programme and get my programme off their station and they threw off the programme for nothing. Till today I still look at it and I’m wondering If I were them…, I don’t like to say those things because I don’t want to throw Akwa Ibom into any form of storm. So as they removed the programme, I found myself in the network service of radio Nigeria and I never dreamt about it, I never designed it but when they removed the programme, I said no, I need to do something so Akwa Ibom people will listen even though I am now in Abuja. But I can also give you another bad news which to me is very good. This is a Saturday, normally if it were until last week yes last Saturday, there’s no way you will catch me like this, by this time I should be in the network studio but before last Saturday, I received a letter from the DG of radio Nigeria saying, “We don’t want Bush House Nigeria on the network service anymore” and I’m like father in Heaven thank you and that’s what I always do when those seemingly bad things happen. So right now I’m asking you to join me and thank God for Bush House Nigeria on the network service of radio Nigeria, surely because of how the natural forces have designed to work in my life. That’s why I told you recently, just prepare, very soon we’re going to have a huge celebration. Why do I say that? Because something has just happened. Last Saturday, they removed the programme for nothing. They just decided to remove the programme from the Network Service of Radio Nigeria. That tells me something very big has been designed to happen and it should happen really soon. So I didn’t design it but those designs by natural forces, they always work in my life and I cannot but pray for more of such design to show forth. I’m not sure, I don’t know; just for instance when Mr. Ekpe wrote, Oh he should have an appointment, I didn’t have that appointment but I had a bigger thing, I’m here in Abuja today, this is where I’ve been in the last 5 years and all of that, you know, so I’m not sure what is going to be but I can tell you with all the blood in me that something is about to break. I can tell you that.
NEWSFRONT: I heard you talked about an NGO, do you have a platform?
MICHAEL BUSH: Absolutely, that’s a fantastic question. You know in Akwa Ibom, I gave myself to doing those things, there were no platforms. I just would wake up in the morning some of you remember Bush House fans club whereby we went to hospitals, cleaned it and cleaned up everywhere with my fans and then go in there and pay hospital bills for those who were there and all of that. So right now, we have decided to do that on a national scale. We are coming up with Bush House Foundation. An NGO we are trying to hire an Executive Secretary as we speak. Infact as we speak, I can tell you the panel has just recommended somebody and we are looking to working with that person. What I would like us to do is to clean up Nigeria. Get volunteers, our fans, young persons who want to volunteer .This is Abuja but when you drive, there are some places you see and you say, “Ah! Is this Abuja”. I’m sure, you know. This is because government cannot do everything alone. I am just looking forward to getting young persons with me. I will be there. I will also follow and clean, you know, carry cutlasses to cut and clean, we are not asking for anybody to pay up, it’s just to also contribute to making Nigeria a better country. So that’s what our NGO is coming up with. We also have the Academy. The Academy will focus on teaching people about leadership, about language and about business, because; you and I complain about government about the people who are in authority and in power in Nigeria, it’s because the leadership recruitment process in Nigeria has always been faulty. Some people who have no experience, which have no heart for the society- you don’t have a heart for the people but you find yourself in one big position tomorrow, what do you do? But if we had trained people to know how to give service, to know how to volunteer, to know how to love the people and love the society, they would come up and be great leaders when they have the platform. So that’s what Bush House Language, Leadership and Business Academy would set out to do. Whether we have the platform to start that now or later is another thing but we would continue to dream some of these dreams and continue to run. I’m just hoping that God provides the wherewith-out for us to be able to do these things. This is the 3rd year I’ve just been doing this informally but right now I want us to do it formally. I want us to do it and it has to have an Executive Secretary, somebody who runs it, let it not be run by me. The Executive Secretary will have his own office and run it. The only day they call me is “Oh we need to go and clean up Kubua, we need to go and clean up Uyo, we need to go and clean up Abia and we will mobilize our fans and go there and clean it up. So that’s it, it’s already in progress and sooner than later, you’d see us cleaning some part of Akwa Ibom as we had been doing.
NEWSFRONT: Mr. Bush, what’s your feeling toward Akwa Ibom right now after all this?
MICHAEL BUSH: This is another fantastic question and I would tell you if I were not to help in the building and development of Akwa Ibom, we will not be having this talk. Do you understand? If I didn’t love home, if I didn’t love where I come from, You would call me, Mr. Ekpe would call and I will tell you, my brother I’m not in Abuja and you would never know where I am. But it shows you I have a heart for the people at home. Not a day passes without me being in contact with the people at home and trying to seek ways of helping or advising because I thing that even more than giving people money, words of advice, words of encouragement, words of – oh do this, don’t do that, stand here, don’t stand there, are important. For instance and I want it to be on record as having said this: Somebody made a call recently to me and said to me – “My brother, I know that you are on the other side but you know, there is a new governor in Akwa Ibom, this one, that one…” and I said please, please, please, which side? I’m on Akwa Ibom side and that’s the truth. I am on the side of Akwa Ibom and I remain on the side of Akwa Ibom. I have not seen anywhere in the Bible that I’ve been told to go and fight anybody, I won’t fight anybody, if God has made you something, that is who you are. I will support you and if God changes his mind tomorrow, I will support the new occupant and I move on. So I will continue to support Akwa Ibom. I’m not necessarily looking for a government platform, I’m not looking to get into government to be able to do these things, but I will continue. Unfortunately, there was a media platform we used to have in Akwa Ibom, I am not sure there still is, because there was no form of support, coming from anybody from any Akwa Ibomite, so these TV programmes, radio programmes had to be yanked off the air for lack of funding in a state like Akwa Ibom and it’s a shame. If you are not friends with government, you are a dead man, do you understand and it’s really unfortunate but even sometimes, you are also friends with the government yet you also have problems. You can have your friends in high places but they are not helping and all of that. So for me I will continue to work to support Akwa Ibom no matter who is there or who is not there because for instance, the current governor that you have, has his tenure and after that there is going to be a new governor. So it’s not my business, my own is just to give support as and when due and whether that person wants my support or not, am going to give it because sometimes, the support I’m giving is not for that person, it’s for myself and also to prepare a place for myself tomorrow because you never know what happens. My support is for myself, for the people and of course for God.
NEWSFRONT: Still on the Akwa Ibom project, now that there’s a new government, what will be your word of advice to the present leadership?
MICHAEL BUSH: Well, it’s good that somebody comes, takes off and knows his direction because it’s something that I say- all these 10 points agenda, 50 points agenda is unnecessary. Just choose one because the time is too short. Just choose one and run with it. Once anybody that is a leader knows that direction, he had better just stayed on that route and that kind of person needs no advice.
NEWSFRONT: What is your take on President Buhari’s stance on corruption vis-à-vis his probe moves?
MICHAEL BUSH: It’s a catch 22 really, if he goes forward, people are going to say, “he said he was Mr. Clean and didn’t cleanup anything, he didn’t even look at corruption, he didn’t fight corruption. if he also goes too backwards, people are also going to say he is wasting time, what is it, go forward, go forward”,. So I don’t envy the president at all. I just wish him well. He has to continue to focus on it. But what I want the president to know is that nobody is going to judge him by how much or how well he fought corruption. People are going to judge him by what he does when leaves. He has age, he has experience, so he knows all these things we are saying that at the end of the day, this is what is going to happen. He knows enough, so I think what we need to do now in moving forward is just to pray for him and wish him well and everyday prays for him. I have something very funny that I say: I run Bush House Nigeria; it’s not even half of a village. I know the headache that I have running just between 35 and 60 people then imagine a village, imagine a Local Government Area, imagine a state and then a country and a country like Nigeria, so I don’t envy the man, I just sit down there and pray for him because if you do, they say “Ah! he has over done”, if you don’t do, they say “Ah, he has not done anything at all” so it’s just to pray for him and wish him well and I hope that God keeps him. He comes with tremendous credentials, I’m sure we know, I don’t remember in all our entire history how a sitting Nigerian President would go to the United States and even if he got nothing out of it and the President of the United States would say “oh this is a man of integrity.” That alone shows you that even if it’s just judging by our Presidents alone, we are up there in the international community and that for me is something very very good.
NEWSFRONT: As an Akwa Ibom professional and broadcast icon that you are, how do you feel to be looked up to as a role model by fellow Akwa Ibomites in the FCT?
MICHAEL BUSH: I know that I am also a patron to the Akwa Ibom Community in Abuja and I am very proud to be that. They are doing a wonderful work there. But let me also tell you on a personal note, I have never wanted and I never want to be anybody’s role model. It carries too much of load. I just work to be Michael Bush. I just work to do stuff for my wife, my daughter, my workers and perhaps my immediate society my village and that’s all because once you say you want to be a role model, the baggage it comes with, I’m not sure you can but if as I do my thing, as I sit in my small corner and work tirelessly to better the society somebody sees or a young person sees and is inspired, to God be the glory. But to say that I have the ambition or I aspire to be anybody’s role model, it has never crossed my mind and I don’t want to be.
NEWSFRONT: Thank you very much Mr. Bush.
MICHAEL BUSH: You are all welcome.