By Jaluchi Chikelu
MOHAMMED Hayatudeen, the intelligent and well focused founding chief executive of the defunct FSB Bank, a few years ago made a passionate appeal to the Nigerian political leaders which unfortunately fell on deaf ears. Hayatudeen told the political class that the country would leapfrog developmentally if they see the six geopolitical zones as development centres rather than platforms for pushing sectional and divisive interests which at the end of the day leave the overwhelming majority of the Nigerian people shortchanged. Not even the media or development-oriented organisations helped to spread the Hayatudeen gospel. Most of our political leaders are obsessed with power for its own sake, or what Professor Pat Utomi of the Lagos Business School calls “power without responsibility”. This is why in spite of the fact that citizens of northern extraction have been leading Nigeria since the greater part of our independence from Britain in 1960, the North still lags far behind the South in all human development indices (HDI) like access to education, healthcare, etc.
One top government official who is most likely to move in a different direction is Malam Nasiru el Rufai, governor of the strategic state of Kaduna who had been the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory as well as the director general of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE). Like thousands of other Nigerians, I watched on Channels Television with keen interest the recent two-day investment summit in Kaduna which the state government organized from April 5-6 el Rufai characteristically spoke eloquently and with conviction, disclosing that the state could give South Africa a good run for its money in terms of huge gold deposits. This revelation must have come to most Nigerians as a pleasant surprise because the only business in the state known to most Nigerians is textile. Interestingly, the governors of Bauchi and Kebbi states attended the investment summit where the Dangote Group announced the decision to invest $10m in tomato business in the state and Olams of India followed two days later with laying the foundation stone of a $150m investment in livestock. It is good that leading northerners took the summit seriously.
Yet, one state from which Gov el Rufai can learn so much is Anambra State in the South East geopolitical zone. Anambra has made tremendous success in attracting investments in the last two years but for some reason this fact is unknown to most Nigerians. Set up only two years ago as a one-stop investment organisation, the Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA) should serve as a model for not just state governments keen on diversifying revenue sources in an era of dwindling resources from petroleum, but also the Federal Government whose Nigerian Investment Promotion Council (NIPC) has by all accounts underperformed since inception. Mandated to bring two billion dollar investments by 2018, ANSIPPA had by the first quarter of 2016 exceeded the target by some $300m, with agriculture alone accounting for 40% of the investments.
The first factor responsible for the ANSIPPA success is internalizing what Adam Smith famously called the ‘profit motive’ and communicating it to investors. Businessmen and women are not driven primarily by patriotism or altruism but by profit motive. Smith has told us that neither the farmer who makes food available to society nor the butcher who gives us meat is guided by selflessness but profit. In the process of trying to make money for themselves, they provide critically needed products and services. If former President Olusegun Obasanjo had borne this fact in mind he would succeeded in attracting key multinationals in his first term in office when he embarked on almost non-stop foreign trips in search of foreign investors. He was innocently telling business executives like Sir Christopher Gent, CEO of Vodafone of the United Kingdom, the world’s largest mobile phone operator, “to come to Nigeria to help us”.
The second factor for the success of the Anambra investment agency success is the quality of persons driving ANSIPPA. Gov Willie Obianor, a former investment banker, resolved from day one not to make ANSIPPA a haven for political associates or sycophants. The board is headed by Dr Cyril Enweze, an economist who was until recently, the number two man in the African Development Bank (AFDB), having worked at the IMF which he joined straight from Cambridge University and later attended Columbia University in New York.
Also on the board are Ifeatu Onejeme, a former executive director at United Bank for Africa; Dr Ifediora Amobi, who worked under Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the World Bank; Ambassador Uche Ajulu-Okeke, Nigeria’s counsel general in South Africa; Solo Okonkwo, a former economics professor in the UK and now secretary to the government; and Greg Obi, an ex chief executive of Manny Bank who is the state finance commissioner. The management is headed by Joe Billy Ekwunife, an accountant and retired top investment banker.
The third factor for ANSIPPA’s success is security, an issue of interest to Kaduna since the 2000 riots over Sharia law and worsened by the Boko Haram menace and a new spate of kidnappings. Anambra was until recently bedeviled by armed robberies and kidnappings. Ending this menace is a key achievement of Gov Obiano who recognizes, like any other investment banker, that capital is a coward, and goes to only places where it is not likely to be threatened. The next factor is availability of infrastructure. While most Nigerian government officials consider the provision of basic infrastructure an end in itself, Obiano regards it as a means to an end, that is, it must be linked to economic and social development, leading to enhanced living standards of the people.
Both Obiano and el Rufai obviuosly belong to the Hayatudeen school of thought which believes that Nigerian political leaders should see their areas as development centres instead of platforms for divisive and sectional politics. The two development-oriented governors represent a paradigm shift. A new generation of thought leaders is evolving in Nigerian politics.
.Chikelu is Chief Executive of a leading marketing company in Lagos.