Why presidential speeches no longer move a needle in Nigeria – Omotola
In this second part of the interview with Lai Omotola, group managing director, Masters Reality International Concepts Limited (MRICL) and chancellor of E-Boot Camp Limited, and political commentator, he told ZEBULON AGOMUO that some of the projects by the current administration may not last beyond the tenure because they lacked business model, but built on political sentiments. He also said that many Nigerians have become psychologically traumatised as a result of the quality of leadership that does not instill hope in them. Excerpts:
It has been said over and over again that rail infrastructure is important for any development. How would you describe government’s investment on rail transportation?
All the rails that Nigeria is building today, they will stop working in the next three years. You know the reason? It is because they are not profitable. They are going to run into cash problem in the next three years because it is not built on sound business doctrine or model; it was only built on sentiment – let us tell everybody that we are building rail. It is political. That’s all. Check in the next three years, if the rail will still be there. And that’s a major problem.
Why politicians behave the way they do
Anybody that goes into government is like someone that travelled out of the country. They don’t live among us; they live in a secluded place of their own. They have everything; the only thing they don’t have is to think. There is nothing that has come out as a result of critical thinking in the last five years of this administration. Since this government came into power, you cannot say they had a strategy session of thinking about the nation; or that the government has called for a strategy meeting where strategic policies would come out from to turn things around. The only thing they do is FEC (Federal Executive Council); where they approve all manner of things that cannot take the country to anywhere.
Do you see a silver lining in the clouds?
A time will come Nigeria will get out of all these things, and it is not going to be far. All these leaders will be on their sick beds watching as Nigeria does the rail; the road, fix the power problem and get out of the troubles. The time is just around the corner. Most of the things they refuse to do; they would just see that those things can be done easily. Nigeria has no business borrowing money from anybody. If the full potential of Nigeria is harnessed, the country can be Number 4 country to America, China and India. In fact, Nigeria can be number 3 or number 4 globally.
How did you arrive at that?
It is very simple for you to know. There is no university in the world that you will not find a Nigerian professor; there is no bank in the world that you will not find a Nigerian working there; there is no top 10 hospitals in the world that you will not find a Nigerian working there; today, in the American cabinet, you find a Nigerian working there; deputy treasurer. There’s no country in the world that you will not find a Nigerian; there is no profession in the world that when you count one to 100, that a Nigerian is not there. When people get outside Nigeria they do well; but when they are here, there is a different story. We have everything but we don’t have leadership. We also have a confused followership. Because of what has been happening in the past, when you listen to people talk; or you go on social media to see people’s comments, it is like a mad market. Psychologically, people are being affected.
Are you saying that quality of leadership has dropped or what?
What is the essence of having a leader that speaks and nobody is paying attention? In those days, when a president spoke in Nigeria or whenever he delivered a speech, the speech is taken to Mass Communication Departments. They’ll begin to analyse the speech. That speech will form another person’s thesis. The analysis will include – how did the President start; was he able to capture his audience? It is a doctorate thesis; to examine the speech writers and the policy pronouncements contained in the speech. Did they achieve the goal at the end of the speech? Various aspects of the speech would be looked at and dissected, but today, all the presidential speeches are inside the dustbin. Even the man reading the speech does not understand what he is reading; because he’s been told that’s the way it must be delivered. Ordinarily, when the President speaks, it should affect the stock market; it should affect business decisions. If you look at the #EndSARS protest, you will see that it’s the failure of leadership that made it to go the way it went. For instance, when those youths came and said we want to do a peaceful protest; government would have said, ok, but we like your idea, but we must agree on what is called the rules of engagement; what is the definition of a peaceful protest? Would you agree with me that a peaceful protest is one that does not inflict pain on any other person that is not participating? You must also agree that everybody can’t participate in a peaceful protest; and you should not be angry if another person is not participating. If they had agreed on those rules; the day the protesters went to lock the Lekki Toll Gate; the government would have said, but no, this is no longer peaceful protest you said you were going to do, because it is hindering other people’s peace. If a pregnant woman in labour, for instance, was denied access at the tollgate or anywhere else during the protest to get to the hospital and something happened to her, that protest was no longer peaceful. So, there must be designated areas to do your peaceful protest; but the government did not engage them properly before the protest.
What then is the way forward?
The politics of today and the future is essential in choosing the next generation of leaders. The majority of people have lost hope in the two dominant parties i.e. APC and PDP they are waiting for a 3rd force. As good as this may sound, it remains a tall order to dislodge the two parties in elections. Politicians must give space to new leaders, otherwise, the agitation will continue. The Government at all levels has not been able to show the people that they are capable of confronting the daunting challenges of present and of the future. We see a reactive government more than a proactive government.
From what you witnessed last year in business and life generally, how do you hope this year will fare?
This year will be more difficult than the year 2020 because what we saw was that year 2020 set a foundation for the current year. The Covid-19 may not end this year. The economy will not recover to blossom level. Insecurity is a major factor. I have not been able to see anything in government to suggest the availability of resources to meet these challenges.
Despite the challenges you have listed, is the CFL Group hopeful of carrying out big projects this year?
Yes. For us in CFLGroup, despite all these challenges, our solution is to do big projects in the
midst of lack. Therefore, in the first quarter of this year, we shall be commissioning our app to be known as LONGUDU. This will be the first mobile cinema in Nigeria to rival Netflix, and also have features to rival Instagram and YouTube. We shall also start off Agric project known as Imota Farm Estate on 100 hectares of land at Imota, Ikorodu and also, Isiu Industrial City on 1,000 hectares of land at Isiu, Ikorodu, Lagos.