GETTING NIGERIA’S ELEPHANTS TO THE DANCE FLOOR

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BY TIM AKANO

“Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?” This is the title of Louis V. Gerstner memoir. The “miracle-manager with a magic wand” who midwifed IBM’s historic turnaround that begot IBM 2.0 in the 1990s. By 1993, before Louis’s appointment as the new CEO, IBM, the company that revolutionized the technology world, was on its way to extinction.

It was projected to lose over $16 billion that year alone. IBM’s fate of dissolving into a confederation of autonomous corporations was signed and sealed but not yet delivered. This situation was similar to Nigeria’s fate on the eve of May 29th, 2023, when President Tinubu collected the leadership baton.

IBM, which was incorporated on June 16th, 1911, three years before Nigeria’s amalgamation in January 1914, was a victim of its lumbering size, an insular corporate culture, and insensitivity to modernization, even in the face of the irreversible wind of change blowing over the PC market it had helped invent.

The birth of IBM 2.0 was not an accident or luck; its extraordinary second coming was a byproduct of audacious, hairy visioning and strong political will. Louis paid the full price through the strength of his character for the prize he later won as one of the greatest turnaround CEOs and heroes of the 21st century.

He carried out wholesale restructuring of IBM, rebuilt the leadership team, and gave the workforce a renewed sense of purpose. He led by example, ran a lean management, and made accountability, prudence, and innovation his priorities.

Promptly, IBM’s dry bones heard the word of Louis; new breath entered into IBM, and the dry bones became whole. It roared back to life, became stronger, bigger, and better. Louis streamlined the company’s product portfolio and carefully defined the kind of parties IBM would attend, which were only those where IBM had both comparative and competitive advantages.

On May 1st, 2006, IBM sold off the hen that laid the golden eggs, i.e. IBM’s PC hardware business units (equivalent to Nigeria’s NNPC), to Lenovo, a Chinese company, because the hen had since become barren in IBM’s cage. The PC business had become commoditized and, like NNPC, was burning money for IBM rather than making money.

IBM and Nigeria share several things in common. Aside from being age mates, both are “ELEPHANTS”, in their own right, two conspicuously consequential entities with untold potentials. IBM is to the global corporate world what Nigeria is to the Black race.

However, while IBM 2.0 has turned the corner since the 1990s, Nigeria has remained
static in the same corner for 40 years as a spectator in a sorry state, a fragile, fractured, fragmenting, federation, always failing and fumbling at the edge of every fundamental turning point, perpetually on the brink with no voice, no vote, no veto, no victory!

The best-run countries in the world operate like the GLOBAL500 corporations. They are target-driven, sharply focused on the BOTTOM LINE, which for corporations, means profit, and for nations, means PEOPLE.

Similarly, smart nations feature only in a few parties where they have natural endowments, skills, and resources to out-compete other nations.

Norway is one of the smartest nations on earth. With only 7.5 billion barrels of oil reserves, she is accountable for over 2% of global oil consumption. Norway has sharpened her skills in oil business management.

Conversely, Nigeria’s oil numbers don’t add up: with over 30 billion barrels, she is accountable for a mere 0.4% of global oil consumption, sitting in the 37th position despite having the 10th largest oil reserves globally.

NNPC has made a profit only twice in 40 years according to its GMD, whereas Norway’s savings of $1.62 trillion is the world’s largest sovereign wealth asset, built from her oil profit, holding on average 1.5% of all the world’s listed companies’ stocks.

This translates to over $295,000 per Norwegian citizen. Nigeria has a comparative advantage in crude oil reserves but has zero competitive advantage in production and oil business management.

South Korea is another smart nation, focusing on dominating steel manufacturing (POSCO being the world’s 7th largest steelmaker), car manufacturing, shipbuilding (Hyundai is the global number one shipbuilder), and electronics.

South Korea is the world’s second-largest producer of semiconductors, which represents her main export and textile. Just five areas of focus.

The question is: where does Nigeria have both competitive and comparative advantages vis-à-vis other nations? Or, put differently, which five problems are we solving or can we solve for the world, better than any other nations?

Nigerians knew things were bad on 29th May, 2023, when President Buhari handed over to President Tinubu. Nigerians knew that the treasury was emptied by President Buhari’s administration, which was why the mind-boggling revelations that came out from the CBN audit report by Jim Obasi did not come as a surprise to many. (By the way, where is the report, and what is the government going to do with Obasi’s findings and recommendations?) Nigerians knew President Buhari and his men soiled the chairs before leaving Aso Rock.
But things are getting worse. The hurt, hunger, and hemorrhaging are on an astronomical ascendancy. On May 29th, 2015, Nigerians voted for “CHANGE” because the pieces of meat on their plates, which used to be five under President Obasanjo, had earlier reduced to four under President Yar’Adua.

By the time Jonathan handed over to Buhari, only two pieces of meat were left on the plate. However, under President Buhari’s watch, the “change agents” left people with an empty plate.

Sadly enough, in one year of TINUBUNOMICS, the empty “plate” broke! The plate of hope broke under the unbearable weight of the cost-of-living crisis, multitude of taxes, sundry levies and fees, subsidies removal, and seven other demons.

Leaders need to act cautiously whenever despondency descends on a nation because, when hope is lost, the people become as wild and dangerous as a pride of hungry lions. Leaders should not assume that loudness means being strong and quietness means being weak. It is the lion’s silence that signals danger, not its roar.

The seven demons wearing new ranks of a 4-star general each today are: devaluation, stagflation, financialization, de-industrialization, dehumanization, insecurity, and corruption.

Call it a perfect storm. You are right!

A situation where food inflation is now in excess by 40%, currency devaluation is in excess by 100% in an import-dependent economy, unemployment is going through the roof, a 300% increase in electricity in “Band A” where manufacturers belong, a bank interest rate on loans of about 40%, surging insecurity with random kidnappings for ransom, financialization with banks being the only ones declaring profits at a time of massive factory closures, coupled with unbridled corruption, is nothing short of a perfect storm.

There seem to be seismic sea waves blowing over the real sector arising from the imbalanced gravitational pull of Government’s macro economic policies, leading to the ongoing de-industrialization of corporations.

The pattern is worrisome: the Western corporations that are rule-based and process-driven are the ones exiting Nigeria with their know-how.

In 2023 alone, according to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), 767 manufacturing companies collapsed while 335 became distressed.

The exit of multinational giants in a row, GSK, P&G, PZ, etc coupled with the waves of divestment and downsizing of operations by almost all the MNCs, e.g., Unilever, PepsiCo, Mobil, Shell, and Chevron signals danger for the economy.

These are corporations that have operated in Nigeria for over 100 years, providing quality jobs and adding value to the communities. What do they know that we don’t know?

The pockets of Chinese companies coming to set up factories in Nigeria can not fill the gaps being created by the departing Western corporations.

The companies from the East hardly transfer technology and know-how. Besides, corporate values, business etiquette, transparency, accountability, and deliberate staff training and international exposure are alien to Asian employers.

ATTRACTING FDIs: ONCE THE GRASS IS GREEN, THE SHEEP WILL GRAZE

Since the day he took over power, President Tinubu has been globe-trotting, marketing Nigeria. But where are the foreign investors with their dollars?

Money has no religion, race, tribe or emotion; it goes to smart nations where business can be done with ease. In 2023, Nigeria was ranked number 131 globally among 190 countries regarding ease of doing business (EoDB) by the World Bank, scoring 5.69 on a 10-point scale.

Worse still, Nigeria is not even among the top ten in EoDB in Africa. Nigeria is number 18, Rwanda is number one, while Ghana is 10.

The reasons are obvious, without confronting the following ten business limiters, no genuine investors will come: epileptic and high cost of energy supply, poor infrastructure, government policy somersault, low consumer purchasing power, a complicated legal system (it takes on average 164 days for a standardized commercial dispute to be resolved in Singapore, while in Nigeria “go to court” means a death sentence, high cost of funds, Naira volatility, absence of reliable data making business forecasts difficult, unacceptable bribery level (Nigeria ranks 150 in the corruption perception index-CPI) globally, political instability, unending insecurity and JAPA leading to acute shortage of good skills.

Nigeria needs to create specialized BUSINESS COURTS, whose sole objective is to resolve commercial disputes within 90 days. It needs to overhaul the appointment of judges to ensure only competent hands make it to the bench. The judiciary and civil service need to be sanitized of corruption, and all the investment laws and guidelines must be in a single portal online for global accessibility.

Finally, monopoly, reckless taxes, and duties wavers given to a privileged few by the government should stop. A situation where two cousins are treated like kings , especially with regards to foreign exchange allocation in the major commodities business in Nigeria puts foreign investors at a disadvantage.

What will be the Policy thrust of Louis V Gerstner on May 29th, 2024, if he were to be in President Tinubu’s shoes?

Dear folks,
I am not going to bore you with a long speech today. Below are my 12 policy thrusts for the next three years:
1. Food Security: An empty sack cannot stand; therefore, we are decentralizing agriculture. The horizontal farming method we have practised for 50 years has not met our collective aspirations as a nation. Therefore, I am devolving the power to feed Nigerians to the 774 local governments. Each LGA should come up with specific crops and quantities they will generate yearly, making use of half of the 40 million hectares of arable land in Nigeria. A quarterly report will be posted on the Food Security Portal (www.feednigerians.ng.org), which will be unveiled in the next 72 hours. My government will train and empower 100 mechanized farmers per LGA. Food is local, solutions should be localized.

2. Provision of 24/7 Electricity: To this end, I am appointing Professor Barth Nnaji as our new Minister for Power & Gas (MPG). Barth gave birth to 24/7 electricity in Aba, we are challenging him to do it for the whole country. His target for the next three years of my administration is to light up 10 major commercial centres in Nigeria as Phase 1. Gas is added to Prof. Nnaji’s portfolio to ensure there are no bottlenecks in his way.

3. Re-industrialization*: No industrialization, no transformation. Therefore, I am setting up 8 Industrial Parks immediately where electricity will be 24/7. Foreigners can own land, and each industrial park will have a business court, police stations, banks, schools, modern hospitals, DSS offices, etc. It will be a complete self-sustaining ecosystem where the ease of doing business will be world-class. To this end, I beckon on Professor Pat Utomi to coordinate the Re-Industrialization of Nigeria Project (RINP). Additionally, Patito Gang is hereby mandated to submit a report on the exodus of Western Corporations and what can be done to stop it. Secondly, against the background of the emerging new world order, the team should review our solid Minerals strategy and come up with a new road map. Also, which five industries should Nigeria focus on in which we have comparative advantage. Furthermore, do a review of our Oil business management and recommend best options to handle the nightmare which NNPC has become.
Additionally, what changes should we make to our education curricula to align it with the above re-industrialization objectives so that universities, industries, citizens, and government can sing from the same song sheet.?
4. Ending Poverty Task Force: My administration intends to halve the poverty rate in the next 3 years. I am setting up a Presidential Task Force today to be headed by Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, former CBN governor.

In 2019, Nigeria replaced India as the world’s poverty capital. In 2022, 133 million Nigerians were categorized as extremely poor. Between January and June 2023, another 4 million Nigerians fell into the deplorable poverty basket. Sanusi’s Task Force should study the following models: India, Thailand, Israel, South Korea, and China. How did China manage to lift 800 million Chinese from poverty in 30 years to the middle class, and how can Nigeria lift 30 million Nigerians yearly from poverty to the middle class?

5. Re-imagining Education Team: I am setting up a team to be headed by Dr. Oby Ezekwesili. I would like her and the team to visit five topmost education countries to study what makes them outstanding. Why is China dumping America’s STEM/STEAM education system of 50 years and replacing it with artificial intelligence? What is in the Israeli education system that makes them exceptionally innovative and dominating the Nobel Prizes? What is in the Scandinavian education system that makes unemployment alien? Why are the students in the little dragons’ nations (Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea) so good in math?

How do we end the exportation of PEOPLE and begin to export KNOWLEDGE instead? The JAPA model is like a poultry farmer selling her healthiest hens instead of eggs. A time will come when there will be no more eggs to sell because the remanants hens are too old to lay new eggs. We have lost a whole generation (1985-2015) of our best and brightest minds to JAPA. We are about to lose the second generation GEN Z). No nation can survive for long, losing two generations of competent nation-builders. Before darkness envelopes Nigeria, we need the Oby’s Team roadmap.
6. Ending Medical Tourism: There is a huge crisis in our primary health care delivery system. A situation where about 55% of competent doctors didn’t renew their practice license in 2023 is the reason why I am declaring a state of emergency in the health sector today .My administration is ready to set up 6 centres of medical excellence, upgrading the existing facilities we have in UCH, LUTH, etc. I need a team of 9 most competent medical doctors in Nigeria and overseas to re-work the health sector force. If you are the one that Nigeria needs, send your profile to my hotline immediately – 0803……..

7. Reducing Cost of Governance & Dismantling Corruption architecture: Starting with myself and the presidency, I am cutting the 2024 budget allocated to my office, VP, First Lady, Chief of Staff, etc. by 50%. I am auctioning half of the Presidential jets and cars in the presidential fleet to the highest bidders. Also, I enjoin all my ‘’bosses’’ in the National Assembly that the N500M-N3B each of them is to collect for community projects should be used to stop the crises in the education and health sectors.

More importantly, I need to recover the looted money. I hereby instruct EFCC Chairman that, going forward, that since his office has a budget, I will equally give them a target of $10 billion to recover from looters in 2024! The Chairman needs to prioritize VIP looters. Also, I am signing today what I tag DEAD PUBLIC OFFICERS ACT 2024, the goal is to empower my government with legal instrument to recover all the monies illegally acquired by dead public officers lying idle in different financial institutions worldwide. Anything found in their respective accounts that is far beyond their legitimate income and without any trace of business done to justify it while they were alive will be forfeited to CBN.

To this end, I am instructing all the banks’ CEOs to forward all the outstanding balances in the accounts belonging to dead customers who happened to have held public offices in their lifetime. For instance, the $400 million worth of assets belonging to the late Senate President, Evan(s) Enwerem  rotten away in the UK will be recovered and forfeited to FGN. I am also signing another ACT today tagged: 90 DAYS AMNESTY FOR TREASURY LOOTERS, this is to enable all the people who are holding funds belonging to Nigeria illegally to voluntarily refund such to the CBN dedicated account within the next 90 days. Those who comply voluntarily will be free from EFCC search.


8. Achieving Peaceful Co-existence and Security: To achieve peace in the East, I have decided to pardon Nnamdi Kanu, the IPOB leader, standing trial for sundry reasons to Ohaneze I would like Ohanaeze leadership to send a letter requesting for his pardon and stating their resolve and commitment that when released, Kanu will work for the peace, progress, and stability of Nigeria.

My thoughts are always with people in the Middle Belt and North East who have been living in the IDP camps for over a decade. I am strongly convinced that a country should not legalize or accept abnormality as the norm. To this end, myself as C-in-C with my VP, Minister of Defence, NSA, CDS, Chief of Army and IGP will be leading those internally displaced persons back to their respective villages symbolically on October 1st, 2024, (freedom day for internally displaced indigenous people of Nigeria) in a motorcade. Before then, I expect the security agencies to have beefed up security and empower the locals with necessary training and tools to protect themselves and their land. This far, no further, for terrorists.

I will build new army resettlement centres in those volatile communities from the 50% savings on the 2024 budget. I will recall some retired military officers (especially those who hail from that region) who are on the reserve list immediately and get them to live together with the indigenous people in those volatile places on rotation with a robust special allowance for their upkeep. This will provide another layer of security.

9. Re-work FEC: I have decided to inject new blood into the Federal Executive Council. All non-performers will be dropped. Consequently, 60% of the positions will be allocated on merit, while the remaining 40% will be used to service political interests and party loyalty. From the experience of Deng, the man who modernized China, a government must sit on 3 pillars, which are the Zacchaeus, the Builders, and the Balancers (ZBB). The Zacchaeus are the revenue mobilizers, of which we have more than enough in my government. The Builders are the people looking into the productivity angle while the Balancers ensure the budgets make common sense, align with the national priorities and are balanced. I will bring in more Builders and Balancers immediately.

10.Entertainment -as -a business (EaaB) Task Force: As a nation, we seem to have comparative advantages in music, movies, dancing, culture, humour, football, and some other traditional games. I am calling on Mr. Femi Otedola to head the EaaB Task Force and come up with a national road map on how to globally commercialize those opportunities profitably.

11. The Nigeria Re-birth Project: Every nation that is successful today went through a season of moral, cultural and social re-birth when the populace all came to the conclusion to modernize their behaviors and trash all animalistic traits. It happened in China, South Korea, UAE, Israel, etc.

To this end, I am calling on our dear Bishop Dr. Rev Fr Kukah to head this important assignment as Project Manager and come up with a road map on what Nigeria should do to acquire a new mentality, new philosophy of life bereft of primitive materialism and rapacious greed and wickedness.

Why would the Accountant General of the Federation who allegedly stole N109Billion be rewarded with a chieftaincy role in his community? We need the Bishop’s team to help us out of moral bankruptcy as a nation.

12. Restructuring of the Nigeria Superstructure: Unarguably, this current political structure is not working optimally and it seems unworkable, if after 40 years, Nigeria remains static at a per capital income of about $2,526. Indeed, Nigeria is retrogressing in several Human Development Index (HDI). Our national Airlines, Refineries, Shipping Lines, NITEL, etc. are all dead. Our economy remains a mono-economy, 50 years after the indigenization project. The IMF projected Nigeria to slip to 4th largest economy in Africa in 2024 behind South Africa, Egypt, and Algeria with a GDP estimate of $253 Billion from $500 billion a few years back, when we were number one.

Now that the wind of change is blowing globally, it is high time we looked into how to re-calibrate Nigeria to make it work and walk faster. To this end, I will set up a team of Eminent Elders Reform Group ( EERG) to be headed jointly by General Yakubu Gowon and General Olusegun Obasanjo. The secretary will be Commodore (rtd.) Ebitu Ukiwe to be assisted by Mallam El-Rufai.

We are lucky to still have these eminent personalities around, leaders under whose watch Nigeria conducted an experiment in centralization of a heterogeneous federation which has failed calamitously. Their task is to produce a document for national assembly consideration and approval for a new superstructure for Nigeria

CONCLUSION
President Buhari graduated with something worse than a 3rd Class, he almost got expelled for his horrific performance as President, Buhari got an Ordinary Pass with a GPA of 0.7/5.0 (let-my-people-go kind of result). Only President Obasanjo (2.0) managed to have graduated with a 2:2 from the Nigeria University of Nation-Building (NUNB). The inconvenient truth is that the first year’s performance of this Administration cannot be graded!

Nonetheless, we can see some oases of hopes in the desert of suboptimal performances. Some peak performers in the team include Dave Umahi in Works, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo in Interior, Wale Bashir Adeniyi in the Nigeria Customs Service, Festus Keyamo in Aviation with the Air Peace Lagos-London and Emirates -UAE breakthroughs, Wike in FCT and Dele Alake in Solid Minerals.

Uranium is the new oil, Dele Alake can build a trillion-naira economy from it for Nigeria. In addition, this Administration has some good “yam-on-fire.” One of which is the student loans, if, if and if it can be free from corruption. Jim Ovia should see it as a legacy project and give it his all.

The biggest elephant in the room is NCCC (Nigeria Consumer Credit Corporation) headed by Otunba Aderemi Abdul, a man who has invested over twenty years of his life studying how Consumer credit works in America and Europe and how to make it work in Nigeria. NCCC is massive; therefore, CBN Governor and the Minister of Finance should do whatever it takes and make it work

Going into the second year, the President should:
1. Replace the ”plate” that broke and ensure there is, at least, one piece of meat on the plate as quickly as possible. People are at the freezing point right now, at zero degrees Celsius.
2. Stay more in Nigeria and confront the above identified 7 demons and Gerstner’s 12 Policy thrusts in order to fix them accordingly. Nigeria is 10x richer than most of those countries we are begging from. All we need, we already have, including First Class brains and untold wealth. The fault is not in our stars but in ourselves.
3. Stop all the ‘’Zacchaeuses’’ in his government from INVENTING novel taxes. It’s obvious that both the citizens and corporations have reached their limit of paying capacity.
4. Stop listening to those people telling him that there are no alternatives to his economic policies. There are alternatives, but it requires a kind of perpendicular thinking to obtain.

The deep calleth to the deep.

To strengthen Naira, we can save over $10 billion in 2024 if we prioritize local production. One, establish state-of-the-art furniture factories and training schools in Edo state immediately and bring trainers from Turkey to teach the artisans on Finishing.

There is no Turkey or Italian furniture that the artistically gifted Binis cannot produce. Binis are the world’s best in design that was why the Europeans stole their artworks 500 years ago. Two, according to CBN Governor, Nigeria spent $40 billion on both medical and education tourism in ten years, i.e. an average of $4 billion yearly. Policies number five and six above would save half of that money in 2024.

Furthermore, we spend roughly 13.3% of the country’s budget on alcohol, another 13.8% on electronics and billions of dollars on fish and sugar importation. These importations are Naira-killer, which policy number three above is meant to fix.

In addition, we can generate fresh $50 Billion if we put on our thinking cap. There’s a way, where there’s a political will. The Billions of dollars realized from Gold, Uranium, Cobalt, diamond, Rare Earth and other Solid Minerals mining are substantially in the private pockets of foreigners and their local VIPs agents. We don’t even know the quantities being illegally shipped out daily. We therefore need to set up multiple Solid Minerals refineries and laboratories using the NLNG model of PPP.

We also need to modernize the sector and review our route-to-market-strategy vis a vis our education curricular to reflect our new priority. Furthermore, whatever it takes, we need to reduce oil bunkering by 50%, reduce corruption in the civil service by 50% through scapegoating. Every street in Nigeria is paved with gold, but corruption, the senior Demon, has arrested our development

Lastly, the President should also get Jim Obasi Team to examine the state of the $5.28 Billion NLNG dividend remitted to the federal government through NNPC. Is the money still taking a nap somewhere? If yes , the President should tap it on the shoulders to wake up. He needs It to strengthen the naira, which is doing acrobatics from being the best performing currency in April to the worst performing currency in May. However if the money has been sent on an errand, President Tinubu should get the details of who, when and for what purpose was it used?

Did it pass through the National Assembly, as required by our constitution?

The long and short of it is that getting Nigeria’s Elephants to the dancing floor is one thing, and getting the Elephants to dance beautifully is yet another. Both are doable. We have incredible potential, limitless resources and resilient citizens.

However, as long as we continue to behave like an ostrich, rewarding the wrong people for the wrong values, deceiving ourselves and allowing the 1% at the top of the pyramid to capture 99% of the wealth of the nation, modernization becomes a will-o-the-wisp. But then, Nature does not permit a situation to be mismanaged in perpetuity.

So long!

timakano1@gmail.com

www.timakno.com
President, One Africa Initiatives.

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