BusinessDay

Nigeria in crisis: Where are the corporate leaders & organized private sector?

With the ongoing accusation and counter-accusations on the printing of about N60 billion by the Central Bank of Nigeria to support the three tiers of government, even the deaf can hear and the blind can see that Nigeria is in a deep crisis! Total debt has ballooned to over N33 trillion from N12trillion in 2015, unemployment currently at about 33% from 10% in 2015, Naira at about N485 from N199 in 2015, inflation at about 17% and total number of Nigerians described as extremely poor at over 80 million. In addition to the economic crisis, security is in crisis, agriculture and food production in crisis, governance and leadership in crisis, infrastructure in crisis! Nothing seems to be working in a positive direction!

Surprisingly, even with the litany of challenges we face, the organised private sector and corporate leaders maintain a kind of quietness and silence that is disturbing and somewhat conspiratorial. Are they in a kind of engagement recession or ban? Even when they comment which is rare, it is normally prevaricated and weak, a friend asked. With the current state of our Nation and economy, that approach is wrong and counterproductive. It will do no one any good and will make the recent EndSARS crisis a child’s play if urgent steps are not taken to arrest our rapidly failing economy and nation!

While it is fine to join in launching of books in Abuja and Lagos, it is also important for the organised private sector and corporate leaders to engage the government in a more productive way for feasible solutions to our litany of crises. The engagement should be proactive and not reactive. A recent example of the reactive approach is the Private sector Coalition against COVID 19 generally referred as CACOVID. With the emergence of COVID 19, it was apparent that we lacked the resources and preparedness needed and as such CACOVID was launched as a private sector support to fight COVID 19. While the support is commendable, a proactive approach will be more impactful. For instance, as it is well known that our health sector is poor and dysfunctional, a more proactive intervention from our corporate leaders will be to raise funds for the establishment of one world-class hospital managed by the private sector in each of our six geo-political zones.

As our litany of challenges exponentially increase, the question is the position or contribution of the private sector and leaders. When I ask for their contributions or position, I am not referring to their CSR projects or collective interventions such as CACOVID. I am asking for their position on key National issues such as the growing call for restructuring of Nigeria or the zone that should produce the President from 2023. While some people will argue that these important issues are for politicians to sort out, we must appreciate that we are in a precarious situation that require the involvement of all stakeholders. Moreover, given our poor institutions and the overwhelming power of the government which can make or mar the private sector or any business, it is in the self-interest of the corporate leaders to critically join to save Nigeria.

We cannot continue to claim to be business leaders and intellectuals when in brazen decadence of the economy and nation, we maintain a debauched silence or unconsciousness with an illusionary excuse that the challenges are not business problems. Nigeria is in a deep crisis and require uncommon synergy and strategy to survive and grow.

As the demand for restructuring of the country has reached an irreversible point, it is important to hear and read the position of the Organised Private Sector and Corporate Leaders. Interestingly, as most professional associations such as NESG, CIBN, NECA, ICAN, RIMAN, NIA are meant to be research oriented, it is expected that their positions on critical issues such as restructuring is known. From a business perspective, we need to read papers examining the impact of restructuring on unemployment, poverty reduction, inequality, insecurity, and other problems. With such research-led positions, they can better engage the government with convincing reasons on the need to restructure Nigeria due to the immense benefits as compared to the structure we have now. This approach is also expected of our very top corporate leaders. With such an informed position, collaboration and collective engagement, the pressure on government to take the appropriate actions will increase.

As the debate and tension on which zone should produce the president in 2023 rage, it is in the interest of the Organised Private Sector to state their position. If businesses thrive more in a stable and organised business environment, the question that should concern the private sector is which zone will the presidency be zoned to that will bring more national stability, inclusion, safety and business growth. Keeping quiet on some of these key national issues will never be in the interest of the private sector. While there is no doubt that some firms or individuals are benefitting from our present flawed structure and nature of governance, the question is for how long. Is it sustainable and is it the best for the country? The lamentable situation we have in Nigeria clearly calls for a new creative and strategic thinking, shared responsibility, collaborative leadership, proactive and patriotic engagement.

In the absence of such leadership, collaboration and engagement, our social problems and challenges will only escalate to nobody’s benefit! In agreement with our national anthem, may the labour of our heroes past not be in vain and may the God of creation, guide our leaders right!

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