Muhammad Indimi and the primacy of education –Chima Akwaja

Muhammad Indimi and the primacy of education –Chima Akwaja
Muhammad Indimi

One of the biggest trending news over the Christmas weekend was the commissioning of a multi-billion naira complex at the University of Maiduguri by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.

The complex which was built and donated by businessman and philanthropist, Alhaji (Dr.) Muhammadu Indimi will now house the Centre for Distance Learning as well as the International Conference Centre. Facilities at the purpose built complex include Exam Hall, conference room, e-Resources Centre, laboratory as well as staff offices and recreational areas.

The news was particularly heartening and exciting not just because it will enhance the aesthetics of the Unimaid campus but on account of the pedigree of the giver and his intentional and strategic philanthropy which is indeed worthy of commendation and emulation.

Who is Muhammadu Indimi and why must we commend the building of a complex? Born in Maiduguri 74 years ago, the young Muhammadu began life as a student in a Qur’anic school. Maybe because of lack of resources or access to a formal school, Muhammad’s father, Alhaji Mamman Kurundu a trader in hides and skin could only send him for religious instruction.

But once he encountered the written text, Muhammadu Indimi realised that he needed to be able to read, write and speak English and so was born an autodidact who today is fluent and proficient in six languages: Kanuri, Hausa, Fulfulde, English, French and Arabic.

It must have been from that encounter with the written word that the man who would go on to found Oriental Energy and emerge one of the richest men in Nigeria with a net worth estimated at over $500m by Forbes internalized the primacy of education as an urgent imperative not just for developing the mind but building capacity and empowering the masses.

Alhaji (Dr.) Muhammadu Indimi seems a firm believer in dog eared aphorism which counsels that ‘to whom much is given, so much more is expected.” His journey to immense wealth began auspiciously in his late teens when upon exiting the family business he used a £100 loan from a family friend to establish a business selling clothes which he imported from Chad and Cameroon.

By the eighties, Muhammadu Indimi had become well known as an enterprising businessman and when the opportunity of the discretionary bid round to help grow indigenous capacity in the oil and gas industry presented himself, he was one of the lucky recipients of an oil licence.

Applying his famed diligence and sense of purpose to the new enterprise he built up Oriental Energy (OML 115) into one of Nigeria’s most successful and longest running indigenous oil and gas companies making himself a massively rich man in the process and a bonafide member of Nigeria’s business elite.

But Muhammadu Indimi quickly made a realization, one in consonance with Warren Buffet, the famed billionaire philanthropist who once advised that “If you’re in the luckiest 1% of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99%.”

Cognizant of the fact that those who have, must of necessity raise those without, Alhaji (Dr.) Muhammadu Indimi set up the Muhammadu Indimi Foundation (MIF) as a vehicle for helping him carry out his philanthropy in a deliberate, intentional, strategic and targeted manner.

Key areas of concern remain Education, Health, Social Enterprise Development & Support as well as Special Emergency Interventions based on exigent circumstances.

By defining and targeting where to give, Muhammadu Indimi is making not just positive but maximum impact and the multi-billion naira Unimaid complex is the latest example.

The targeted and strategic nature of his philanthropy is evident in the complex which has facilities for e-learning amongst other. Speaking at the commissioning Alhaji Indimi had noted that “I believe that the Centre will help the university in the way it delivers learning, training, and skills, as well as to those who will be taking their courses remotely.”

This is not surprising since it is a center for distance learning but the deliberate provision of remote learning facilities acquires specific gravity when viewed vis-à-vis the current Covid-19 pandemic which has imposed social distancing protocols and accelerated the migration of instruction from the class room to the virtual space.

The University of Maiduguri is not the first nor only recipient of Alhaji Indimi’s large hearted generosity. Since 2009, 1,000 indigenes from his company’s host community in Mbo and Effiat local government areas of Akwa Ibom state have benefited from scholarships provided by Alhaji Indimi.

Still targeting denizens of his host community, the philanthropist donated a Science Laboratory Complex to Community Grammar School, Mbo to help facilitate STEM scholarship and has also organized capacity building workshops on sustainable community development planning and management for the host communities.

To build further capacity, he built and donated a Youth Empowerment Centre in Mbo LGA where he also sponsored a Sustainable Business Development and Management training for 15 members of the Board of Trustees and management staff of the Center.

All these are eloquent testimonials to the premium he places on education as a formidable means of building capacity and empowerment.

While the guiding philosophy behind philanthropy is one of altruism, it is heartening to note that the world is taking notice of Alhaji Indimi’s magnanimity. A recipient of many awards and honours, a count will show that aside from the national honour, Officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (OFR) bestowed on him in 2012, the bulk of his recognitions have come from educational institutions at home and abroad and the list includes – honorary doctorate from Lynn University, Florida in 2013; honorary doctorate from University of Uyo in 2017; honorary doctorate from the Nigeria Defense Academy (NDA) in 2018; Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa from the University of Lagos in July 2021 as well as an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Technology from the Kwara State University and another Honorary Doctorate Degree in Entrepreneurship by the Kaduna State University, Kaduna in December, 2021.