By Dul Johnson
It may be worthwhile to begin this piece with a series of questions. Whatever happened to the industries that existed in Nigeria in the 60s, 70s and early 80s? whatever happened to the groundnut pyramids, the cocoa pyramids and the palm drums? Whatever happened to the export of solid minerals such as tin, columbite, bauxite and many others. Whatever happened to our currency, the almighty naira that exchanged for 2 dollars in the 80s? Where are those foreign companies that made tyres, batteries, bicycles, assembled cars, tractors and other light and heavy machinery? Where are the textile industries that fed on the cotton pyramids that towered into the skies from the Middle Belt Region to the northernmost parts of the country? Why have we become a consumer nation, importing everything including toothpicks? Why should we import refined oil and other petroleum products when we have been exporting crude oil for more than three decades, when local refining was possible during the Civil War? The questions are inexhaustible, but there is only one simple answer: BAD GOVERNMENTS run by mainly clueless leaders and armchair technocrats. The main loser in this case is the business community.
I have heard it said many times before, that no military coup could succeed without the involvement of businessmen. This should be truer with a political coup. Looked at from any angle, a political coup is cheaper. It holds no risk to anyone’s life even when it fails. The chances of recouping one’s investment are also higher, what with the usual eight years or even more that the product in which you invested would last, with little or no risk of any sudden upheaval that would disrupt repayment flow.
Planning a coup, like going into a business investment requires intelligence—a lot of it. Therefore, you must be an intelligent person if you are a businessman or woman, which also means that you will invest wisely and for a worthy cause. Wise investors think of long-term benefits and steady returns. They are aware of the kind of power they wield when they have successfully installed a government. Or is it not a fact that he who pays the piper dictates the tune? This is what investing in the future of your country means.
Business people also know how to take risk, in fact they call it calculated risk which is different from just any risk that most non-business people take. Most business people succeed when they take calculated risk because they ensure that returns in the long run far outweighs the cost.
For you members of the business community, politics is, and must be seen as, a business. A wise businessman or woman would not put their money in a product that would not, a product that is not in demand even in the long run. But the success of any enterprise goes beyond the product itself.
The people you work with matter a lot. But most important is having an enabling environment. In political terms, this simply means having in place a government that creates a peaceful atmosphere, provides the necessary amenities such as electricity, good roads, security, water, fuel to run your cars and machines, health facilities, education, employment, regular salaries, and a whole lot of others. A government that cannot provide these needs is business-unfriendly. The number one impediment to business survival and growth in Nigeria has been an unfriendly business environment. No group understands and appreciates the importance of the business environment more than the business people themselves. Also, no group can fix the environment or elect those capable, and have the willingness to do so, like the business group.
All over the world, governments and the business communities of their countries work hand-in-hand in a healthy symbiotic relationship.
Apart from revenues generated through taxes and other levies, business tycoon do lend or even donate monies to governments when they are in dire need. But governments are also the major benefactors of the business communities, who give out contracts for road constructions, building of schools, offices and residential houses, purchase of vehicles of all kinds including air planes. We know how businesses have struggled and eventually crashed as a result of direct or indirect government actions. We also know how, in other climes, business enterprises are supported by governments when they are threatened with bankruptcy or economic crunches that threaten their survival.
That the situation is different in Nigeria is not because we have bad businessmen and women. No, it is because we have always had rulers that know nothing about economics and politics and how the two work together. You, members of the business community can help correct this anomaly.
This is the type of government we have suffered in the last two decades and we should never allow this to continue. Bad government is a cancer, it defies treatment.
Prevention is the best therapy for cancer. You, of the business community can help us create a healthy society where you can grow your businesses like other parts of the world. You have a concept in business parlance known as ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’. By this you mean the responsibility of the business as an entity not only to preserve but to improve on the society or community in which the business operates. To carry out this responsibility, you, as managers of your businesses have a responsibility not only for the survival of Nigeria but to ensure that it thrives. When Nigeria thrives, your individual businesses will also do well. So it is the responsibility of the business group to ensure that not only credible but capable people are elected into government even if it would mean some members of the business group offering themselves.
This is a clarion call on the business community to rise to the occasion and rescue themselves as well as the rest of the country. If you invest in the 2023 elections by coming together as a group, to support a worthy candidate, you would be investing in a bright social and economic future for Nigeria, a future that will begin come May 2023! This is a well calculated risk with enough short-term and long-term returns.
* Dul Johnson is a Professor of African Literature in the Department of English and Literary Studies, Bingham University, Karu
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