• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Tinubu won but Obi, Atiku did not lose (2)

Tribunal upholds Tinubu’s electoral victory, what next for Atiku, Obi?

Introduction

There has been much talk about a Second Industrial Revolution for the Third World. The so-called Asian Tigers doggedly researched and produced themselves out of Third to First World, to believe Lee Kuan Yew. From obscurities India and Pakistan detonated atomic bombs to announce their arrival at the industrialised nations’ rendezvous. All eyes are now on Africa, especially Nigeria, and Latin American countries.

One plausible interpretation of the 2023 presidential election is that Nigerians are impatient to industrialise. They want a business-minded leader to lead them into the industrial age. On the very edge; just one little push and we are there. That is why you won’t be wrong seeing not just Industrialist-President Bola Ahmed Tinubu but also Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar as an idea that comes of age. The triumvirates are industrialists. As employers of labour, they feel the pervading national angst.

The period preceding their emergence was manned by presidents completely at a loss on managing the economy. Under the old guard mutual suspicion greeted your honest opinion on how to run industries since such experience was alien to them. Convincing a Nigerian president to implement business-friendly policies was like one taking advantage of him and cold shoulder was the reward for your pains.

But today, voters’ awareness, mass participation in elections, a vibrant press and vocal young Nigerians shifted the scale of political evolution in favour of these tested investors. The processes that produced them may not be perfect but the beauty is that we had three industrialists vying to lead this great country out of which one was elected president. What it simply means is that Tinubu won but Obi and Atiku did not lose. Whatever shortcomings witnessed in the election must be juxtaposed against the immense benefits it holds.

One of such benefits is that the trio know what to do to bring down the cost of shipping a container from anywhere in the world to Nigeria. Almost all the containers used in importing goods leave empty because we are not exporting. We are not exporting because we are not producing. We are not producing because of acute energy crisis and the falling naira. Today, however, it is the moral burden of these three patriots, working together for Nigeria and our collective survival, to come up with ways and means of reversing the exorbitant freight charges.

Tinubu started well signing the Electricity Act into law. This instrument allows corporate entities, private citizens, local and state governments to generate, transmit and distribute electricity. With this singular act he created the right condition for newer, cheaper and better ways of producing goods and services- being what Industrial Revolution is all about. It is for this reason that we prefer to define him as industrialist-president.

Great expectations

Nigerians expect the new leadership to make it possible for those interested in starting businesses to have access to capital. Mechanised agriculture, reorganised maritime, ease of doing business, etc, must be favoured. We should journey from Calabar to Lagos in passenger ferries; just as our teaching hospitals are expected to carry out complicated heart surgeries using pharmaceuticals and machines produced locally. Ordnance employed by our military should be locally produced by private industries.

Read also: Tinubu won but Obi, Atiku did not lose (1)

In “University Funding: Adapting from Teaching to Production,” I made case for our universities to go into production and generate alternate revenue since porous funding from governments was their bane. We want to see industrial parks in our universities. That is what obtains in China, Europe and elsewhere. Our lecturers and their students should work in their departmental factories producing solar panels, fridges, dredging machines etc. Tinubu should make this possible fanning out projects to our higher institutions in addition to leading in consuming Made in Nigeria goods.

The myth of state-sponsored monopoly at the expense of free trade must be laid to rest. Minority Omoku and Eggon industrialists should be extended the same benefit reserved for their majority counterparts. Industrialists from every ethnic group and proto-group must be seen carried along. Any Nigerian willing to go into production, import or export must be given level playing field without let or hindrance.

Those in the know are adamant that the status quo discriminates in commerce and industry. Some privileged Nigerians are empowered while others are deliberately frustrated out of business contrary to the One Nigeria dream. Even in the critical media industry, the Federal Government brazenly discriminates patronizing some favoured media houses/newspapers to the exclusion of others. Tinubu must ensure equality in the dispensation of state resources and privileges.

Caveat: Nigerians don’t want to “hear” about technocrats. What they want to “see” are rugged industrialists sweating it out on the factory floor with their workers. So fire the factories and let the production lines rumble.

Recommendations

We need an overhaul of the three legislative lists to unleash creativity. More power must flow from the center to the periphery if Nigeria must do things differently and attain Industrial Revolution. None advocates the breakup of the federation but we must accept that in its present configuration progress is no longer tenable as the system stifles individual initiatives. Lest we forget, it was centralization that bogged down China from attaining Industrial Revolution ahead of decentralized but competitive Europe.

Our first recommendation, therefore, is for Industrialist-President Tinubu to tame the monsters called regulatory agencies. With their impossible requirements, delayed documentation and outright hostility, government regulators frustrate our industrialists rather than encourage them. It is anti-progress for regulators incapable of running international trade to dictate to those who can. Regulatory agencies should be headed by Nigerians who have what it takes to run a successful business.

Solution is the reformation of the regulators to serve a time-conscious economy. They should reduce their requirements to the barest minimum. Groupage, a practice where up to five exporters put their goods in a single container for export, must be legalised. The most important thing is product arriving its intended destination on record time. If your goods are not properly finished you will be forced to sell at give-away price leading to loss. Demand, not regulators, will motivate exporters to improve on quality.

Most importantly, Tinubu should, as a matter of economic emergency, constitute a department of Ombudsmen to resolve conflicts between our industrialists/exporters and government regulators. Business is all about quick turnover and the arbitration process should not last more than two working days, at most. It must be emphasized, however, that the Ombudsmen cannot give loans not to be hampered by struggling entrepreneurs.

Secondly, Tinubu must look into the activities of certain Lebanese and Asians who imposed themselves as “consultants” and “middlemen” on exporters of agricultural products. Any exporter that refuses to hand them his goods and exports directly will have his products rejected as unfit for human consumption by the destination country. This is because these middlemen, embedded in our international airports, would petition against such export. Tinubu must arrest and prosecute these alien saboteurs.

Thirdly, Tinubu should forget about Dubai and live among Nigerians. You have a better understanding of the problems when you travel by road from Sokoto to Port Harcourt, for instance. The industrialist-president should ask to be taken by boat from Lagos to Oron. The sea is there but you won’t see modern cargo and passenger boats except wooden “Cotonou boats” notorious for all the wrong reasons.

Decommissioned passenger vessels, bought cheaply in Denmark, can be used to start a scheduled boat service between Port Harcourt and Banjul in the Gambia. From the ocean floor our industrialists can mine cobalt and make car batteries with it. Nigerians will benefit from the wealth of the sea if the new administration reorganizes our maritime.

Fourthly, we should have a Bank of Export to facilitate easy documentation and payments. You present a sample of your export to this bank and immediately it ascertains you have a buyer overseas will automatically help you ship your goods on record time. When the bank takes up the financing of your export, it automatically means regulators must give way.

Fifthly, we also need Land Bank to fund large-scale mechanised farming.

Sixthly, we must encourage buying and selling by building thousands of modern markets. I once presented a proposal for Rivers State to build, at least, ten new modern markets. Since 1970 Rivers has only three markets, namely, Town, Mile 1 and Mile 3 Markets. Modern markets encourage people to go into commerce with dignity. You cannot fight street trading without first making provision for hawkers to trade within secured business spaces. Most of us are products of modern markets before transiting to production.

And lastly, Industrial Revolution is all about cheap and steady energy for production. We have five hydro electricity generating dams and 27 Thermal Electricity plants in Nigeria. They are grossly inadequate translating to acute energy crisis. The solution is not, and can never be, pre-paid meters. Clearly, two things must be done for Nigeria to break even. The first is the rapid construction of, at least, two hundred Thermal plants that use natural gas to generate electricity. The second is ensuring that electricity so generated reaches our homes and industrial packs through well mapped out transmission and distribution facilities.

Conclusion

Since we desire change we must also change our mindset. We must appreciate industrialist-President Tinubu for his doggedness. Despite his age, he fought like a youth thereby justifying his Lion of Bourdillon appellation. In the state of nature, when a lion runs and looks back it is not afraid of what is chasing it. It is only calculating the distance for a quick counterattack.

People thought because of his age Tinubu was not going to cover much ground but he surpassed all expectations attending even town hall meetings. We must appreciate him to see the good in him. As a progressive, he might positively change satiated Nigeria, as well as Africa, hooked on an induced culture of consumerism.

But we must remember that evil is cyclic. Secondly, no evil is happy. And thirdly, there are consequences. Failure to quickly industrialise could lead to crushing poverty capable of triggering off social upheavals. Social upheavals will tempt the military to attempt another purposeless revolution likely to take us through another avoidable long night of nothingness.

Osiagor: [email protected]