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Lessons from Adeyemo’s lecture at Lagos Business School

Fashion

Long before the recent visit of Adeyemo, the Nigerian-born, top American technocrat to engage in an interactive session with students of the Lagos Business School, yours truly had serially campaigned through my opinion essays, that it was high time for our political leaders to institute an annual forum to brain-storm with Nigeria’s best of brains. That should span different areas of requisite knowledge.

Related essays in this regard include: ‘Making use of our best brains’ I and 2,( Daily Times, July 18 and August 1, 2003), ‘Turning brain drain to economic gain’ (Daily Times, July 23, 2004)’.Others are: ‘Maximising the potentials of talented Nigerians’ (blueprint.ng https://blueprint.ng › Opinion, 3 Jan 2018’ and the latest being ‘Let Our Best Brains Move Nigeria Forward’ published by several newspapers and magazines, including YES International Magazine, New wTelegraph, BusinessDay on Sunday, Sunday Independent, the Punch, Daily Sun, the Guardian, amongst others.

In fact, in 2018 this writer made a passionate appeal to the then Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, through his essay to consider constituting a Presidential Committee on Impact Creativity. The aim was to bring together the creative works of our inventors, innovators, top scientists/technologists, thinkers, artists and geniuses.

Unfortunately, not one politician in the corridors of power has reached out to me to beam brighter light on my humble submissions, from 2003 till date. That is some 20 good years! Talk about our crop of leaders’ utter disregard for the power of reading and the needed action to be taken. Now back to Adeyemo’s lecture at the Lagos Business School.

Beyond the visit being misconstrued as influenced by President Biden and the United State government, surreptitiously to gain more influence on the country, with the aim to keep China away, with its expanding economy, as insinuated by some analysts are the lessons to be gleaned from his visit and the discourse.

Worthy of note is that Adeyemo reminded the students that Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa and will be the fourth most populous country in the world by 2050. He also recognized the fact that he was a child of the Diaspora, who has risen to become the U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, in a journey of more than four decades ago, noting that Nigerians are: “A people filled with so much potential but with too few opportunities.” But why is this so? That is the million-naira question begging for credible answers.

This is a statement of fact but millions of Nigerians keep stewing in the ignoble miasma of poverty because they lack access to quality healthcare delivery, clean and safe water as well as that of impactful and life-changing education. The obvious lack of the enabling environment for small and medium scale businesses to thrive has over the decades been exacerbated by the subsisting infrastructural deficit and the centripetal, bloated government structure.

The horrifying situation is worsened by the high cost of getting into power through the political parties, deceitful campaign promises, huge pay packages for the politicians as regularly approved by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC). Not left is a pauperised populace, mesmerised by the king-slave mentality to consider their political leaders as ones to be feared and worshipped. So, as long as such anomaly persists it would not allow the poor to breathe!

Adeyemo is however, ready to offer hope as he stated that: “I am here because unlocking Nigeria’s economic success can transform an entire continent.” In terms of economic opportunities, he reiterated that Nigeria’s greatest resource was not oil, but the Nigerian people, listing those who have built leading companies around the world such as the Dangote Group, Globacom, and Zenith Bank. He mentioned Wole Soyinka to Chinua Achebe as those who have made significant contributions to culture while also noting that Nigerian music and films have become global phenomenon.

To foster partnerships that work would involve thousands of Nigerians, especially those who study each year through educational exchanges like the Fulbright and Humphrey fellowship programs and the Mandela Washington Fellowship that seeks to foster the next generation of young African leaders.

And on the economic front, there are a number of American companies from Google to General Electric that have made significant impact in Nigeria, as the country stands as America’s second largest African trading partner.

Going forward, Adeyemo listed four economic reform priorities to include a stable Naira because currently shop owners and customers are bemoaning the lack of a stable currency. “Unifying Nigeria’s foreign exchange rates will create the kind of macroeconomic stability that is essential to attracting foreign investment,” according to him.

Secondly, he noted and rightly too, that the government needs to articulate and implement a fiscal strategy that will provide the resources that the government can use to invest in physical and digital infrastructure, education, and a strong small business environment. That has become imperative with the fuel subsidy removal.

That explains why partners like the World Bank and African Development Bank are committed to working with the Nigerian government to provide resources and advice to help cushion the hardship visited on the people.

The third factor for growth is a rooting out of corruption and the perception of corruption in the business environment. As he well noted, “a legitimate fear that corruption and mismanagement will dash their hopes that the benefits of these reforms will enrich the people rather than the powerful”.

Fourth, and finally, is the crying need for the protection of the integrity of Nigeria’s financial system. “The cowardly kidnapper, corrupt official, and fraudster all are seeking to launder their money. Taking steps to make your banking system more secure will help reduce the ability of criminals, terrorists, and others to illicitly use the Nigerian financial system.”

In light of this, he applauded the leadership of the Tinubu administration for committing to work with the Financial Action Task Force to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing.

Obviously, Adeyemo knows his onions on the economic challenges. He was not only the first president of the Obama Foundation but also served during the Obama administration as the deputy national security advisor for international economics.

This is also an opportunity for the government to be open and willing to listen to the annual reports from reputable organizations such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Oxfam report and World Poverty Clock. Such reports should inform our policy direction.

What matters most in all of this is for our political leaders to walk the talk on agreements reached between the two countries. For instance, the U.S. government provided Nigeria with over $1 billion in assistance last year, helping to support Nigerians with access to health care and reducing food insecurity. The onus therefore, lies on the President Tinubu government to muster the political will to ensure that the benefits are neither politicised nor exclude the poorest of the poor, the sick and the ignorant members of the Nigerian society.

“Our administration recognises that your economic success is not only important to the approximately 200 million people who call Nigeria home; it is important to the region, the continent, and the global economy.”

– Wally Adeyemo (Deputy Secretary of the United States Treasury)