A Republican politician and one time New York City Mayor (between 1994 – 2001) Rudolph Giuliani speaking sometime in 2006 in a forum titled “On the road to White House in 2008” organized by the Victory Group in New Hampshire, United States of America was quoted as saying that “the way out of poverty is not through socialism but through capitalism.” By this; he means making people to be educated, work and add value to them.
Latching on this statement to discern who among Nigeria’s presidential candidates for the February 16 election is in a position to take Nigerians on the part of value addition to themselves through education, self employment and outright entrepreneurship, the electorate should be more circumspect. From the pack of the gladiators, it is quite revealing that even though a good number of egg heads exist among the presidential candidates, only Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has what it takes to meet the challenge not necessarily in terms of the intellectual capacity but both the knowledge and clout to do so given his pedigree as a man whose entrepreneurial tendency is not in doubt.
The country’s incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari has come to power in 2015 with three main agenda one of which was to develop the economy through job creation. On assumption of office, many of the citizens particularly the unemployed youths and even those in under-employment had looked forward with expectation. Three and half years down the line, the expectation has become nightmarish as no fewer than 10milion (according to media reports) employed Nigerians in different sectors of the economy had lost their jobs within this period.
In addition to this, is the inability of government to generate new employment opportunities in public institutions to a reasonable standard. Neither has the Buhari administration been able to create an enabling environment for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) to thrive. As some multinationals and companies closed shop due to the harsh foreign exchange regime that began soon after Buhari assumed office; some SMEs whose existence depended on the big companies have equally closed down, thereby worsening the unemployment situation. Regrettably, rather than apply some ingenuity in reversing the trend, Buhari has continued on blame game, insisting that the immediate past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan did not save for the rainy day.
With enough evidence to show that the Buhari administration is inept in reversing the ugly economic scenario, more people are losing their jobs. As it is now, the citizenry particularly those affected directly or indirectly would have no choice but to look in another direction for solution.
As Nigerians eagerly await a paradigm shift, Atiku Abubakar’s manifesto and campaign promises give enormous hope that there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Known for his audaciousness with respect to entrepreneurship, Atiku comes with a pedigree that unarguably diminishes whatever economic agenda Buhari may have in his second coming since his current outing seriously falls short of expectation.
In his policy document released to the Nigerian public on November 19, 2018, Atiku highlighted his job creation and entrepreneurship development plan. If elected president, he has targeted the creation of up to three million selves and wage paying employment opportunities in the private sector annually. By this calculation, about 12 million jobs would have been created in the four years of his presidency.
According to him, he would also launch a new, more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable national entrepreneurship development and job creation programme which would target all categories of youth, including graduates, early school leavers as well as the massive number of uneducated youths who are currently not in schools, employment or training.
His administration if elected, would also create incubation centres, clusters and industrial/commercial hubs to provide a market place for Micro Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and champion the repositioning and streamlining the activities of the existing federal and state government job creation agencies. Towards achieving this, he hopes to increase the MSMEs funding window currently from N200billion to N500billion while $250 would be facilitated for SME venture capital fund by the private sector to provide for longer-term capital for targeted small firms.
In making these projections, Atiku with a benefit of hindsight as a capitalist with human face has at the back of his mind the belief that creating jobs and economic opportunities for millions of unemployed Nigerians will be vital both for reducing the pool of easy recruits for violent groups and reducing underlying grievances that feed the conflict. His government would stimulate the growth of the Nigerian economy with a view to enhancing its capacity to provide opportunities for the economically active population and participate in the economy through wage or self-employment.
The man Atiku Abubakar may seem to be of no consequence to his traducers in a time of electioneering like now but one cannot take away the fact that he stands taller than the incumbent president who is aggressively seeking re-election as far as bringing entrepreneurship to governance is concerned. One of the greatest challenges of the Buhari administration is the fact that he does not have an in-depth knowledge of political economy either from the classroom perspective or practical acquisition via entrepreneurship over the years. His only known entrepreneurship venture is the cow husbandry that leaves him more as a peasant cow breeder whose understanding of macro economics is limited, hence the slowness of his action in the economic front.
On the contrary, Atiku is a co-founder of Intels; an oil serving business with extensive operations in Nigeria and abroad. He is also the founder of Adama Beverages Limited and the American University of Nigeria (AUN) in Yola, Adamawa. Apart from the afore-mentioned ventures, Atiku is said to have other economic ventures which collectively provide employment for no less than 50,000 Nigerians with the least paid receiving above the proposed national minimum wage of N30,000.
With these credentials, Atiku is unarguably qualified to lead Nigeria into prosperity because the roadmap is unambiguous. He has a clear understanding that governance is business and business in itself is value addition. His appreciation of the fact that Nigeria of today needs more of self-employment in the private sector rather than wage employment from government testifies to the fact that his understanding of political economy is not pedestrian. The PDP candidate is in sync with the global trend of a clear departure from all appearances of socialism to capitalism, which brings out the ingenuity, creativity and entrepreneurship in the citizenry whose own destiny lies in their hand.
It is also interesting to note that Atiku is mindful of the increasing spate of criminality particularly violent crimes stemming from the joblessness of the youths in contemporary times. Kidnappers, cultists, armed robbers, ritualists and so on are ravaging Nigeria of today.
Shittu writes from Lagos.