Wednesday, October 3, 2007

This post is an attempt to continue the discussion generated by my "Who Will Develop Nigeria?" article from September. There, I posited that Nigeria must do a couple strategic things - take advantage of Nigerian skill and experience by ensuring that Nigerians are an integral part of the plans and policies to develop Nigerian infrastructure. I also opined that the government must require that any foreign companies that get large development contracts be headed by Nigerians/Africans.

The responses to these and other suggestions were varied, and some of them illustrated a genuine concern about the possible consequences of my arguments. Femme and Dami correctly pointed out that it is more important that the job (infrastructural development) be done well the first time, regardless of what company or persons spearheaded the task. Ijebuman addressed the strategy I sought to highlight by stating, "we allow multinationals to operate in our country without enforcing any quota on the number of expatriates they can employ despite having a large pool of qualified Nigerians who can do the job."

I thank everyone for taking the time to share their thoughts but will use this post to address a thread of thought that was pervasive in the comments of most of the other responders. A majority of the responses focused on a significant problem facing development in Nigeria - the Nigerian Factor. The Nigerian Factor in this case is a confluence of varied factors such as corruption and a lack of accountability. My sister from Abonema, Nyemoni, expressed the issue succinctly by stating, "we (Nigerians) have had so many issues of accountablity [sic] from our own so I believe that should not be the key element towards awarding contracts." Bro. Tee went further and argued that many Nigerian businesses "... believe that once they "settle" the government officials who are expected to inspect and certify such jobs, then they can get away with any shoddy job."

I agree with these comments and, like Ayo Adene and Beauty, I understand that Nigerians have been let down by their fellow country men in the past thus heightening the concern that a repeat is possible. However, I like to think that those contracts involved corrupt government officials giving plum jobs to their corrupt buddies, with the understanding that the work WILL BE SHODDY. Unfortunately, I, like most of the commenters, must acknowledge that although Yardy presents himself as an anti-corruption champion, I believe that the Nigerian factor is so entrenched in Nigeria so that the concerns posited by readers that a Nigerian company would fail to 'deliver' are reasonable and quite likely. See "Political Boxing Match: Round One!"

Despite that, I continue to believe that there are honest Nigerian establishments with the skill to do some of the work that will be necessary to develop Nigeria's power, energy and transportation infrastructure. (Note that I said some, because as Dami suggested, it is possible that no Nigerian company has the requisite experience to tackle the creation of a power plant.) Nevertheless, considering the number of highly qualified Nigerians at home and abroad, I still believe that there are Nigerians who given the right incentives and the absence of the Nigerian-corruption factor, could handle this and other jobs in the furtherance of Nigerian development.

The main point I wanted to get across was that our government MUST find ways to favor Nigerian enterprises over foreign companies. Why? Because, if we do not favor our own and support our own, NOBODY ELSE WILL. I have personally seen Nigerian businesses try to compete for contracts in foreign countries and even when their bid is the best presented from an economic and skill perspective, they still manage to lose to home-grown companies. This has happened to people I know all over the world and particularly in African countries such as South Africa and Mozambique. So, when our government fails to take advantage of a perfect opportunity to require that the companies we do business with either have a Nigerian/African in charge, hire a certain amount of Nigerians in various positions within the command structure, use a certain percentage of Nigerian products and minerals - well, na we wey dey lose. Trust me, those sorts of requirements are used by nations like the UAE and it helps them train their nationals and provide them with experience that they can again use when next such skills are needed. Despite its troubled existence and persistent psychological paralysis, Nigeria is a juggernaut, and it can thus make such demands on a company like GE. After all, GE is in the business of making money and believe me, when GE looks at the deplorable infrastructure in Nigeria, all it sees is the pot at the end of the rainbow - $$$. If they were obtuse enough to pass up the opportunity, they know someone else would not.

I just used the term juggernaut to refer to Nigeria and I must once again bring your attention to that term and what it means. The word refers to "[a]n overwhelming, advancing force that crushes or seems to crush everything in its path. I use the word to refer to a giant! Nigeria is said giant - its economy is growing by leaps and bounds (even if the masses don't yet reap the benefit), it boasts an incredible population size that if taken proper advantage of is an incredible bargaining chip, it boasts a serious cache of natural resources (and I am not talking about oil) that the world desires, and has an abundance of arable land and diverse flora and fauna, it also has geographic relevance/importance (located in the Gulf of Guinea, and of particular interest to America hence AFRICOM). I KNOW that Nigeria has what the world wants and needs. On some issues, this issue of requiring Nigerians to play an integral decision making role in companies that make money off Nigeria (their local subsidiaries at least) in particular, we have the trump card. If the Americans do not want to invest in Nigeria because we are placing too many requirements, then let the Chinese come in!

I am not trying paint the U.S. as the bad guy, they have their own problems to deal with, Nigeria is sometimes not one of them. I am, however, simply trying to highlight the reality. In this day and age, as has been since independence, there are enough countries, institutions, individuals and interests desperate to court us - we must use that fact as a bargaining tool. This bargaining tool and its possibilities, is what I want all readers to take away from the post.

Just because money grubbing Nigerians have failed in the past to perform does not mean that there are not Nigerians ready, hungry and even starving to outperform now and in the future. Please, let us not forget that when we make decisions about or country. These decisions, if made wisely can either enhance Nigeria and preserve its juggernaut status. If decisions are poorly made or not made at all (as can be the case in our motherland), then we Nigerians will simply relegate the Federation to a worthless wretchedness for future generations.

Further Reading:
- Who Will Develop Nigeria?
- Who Will Fight For Nigeria? (AFRICOM PT 1)
- AFRICOM: The Dotted Line Has Been Signed
- A Bush In Africa
- A Liberian's Thoughts on AFRICOM
- Nigerian Presidential Elections Back In The Spotlight

7 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

יש (Yosh) said...

So true, 'if we do not favor and support our own, no one else will". It can be seen that most employees are disgruntled where an expat comes in on the job and gets better treatment than his equivalent in the system. Sometimes, it isn't like he has more leverage than the indigene, but simply because na oyimbo, there is a lot of sycophancy.

Also, where we do not appreciate our own, there's room for people to work against the goals of the establishment. An unmotivated and unappreciated workforce can go a long way to ruin things in the long-run.

It'd be good for people to note, though, that supporting 'our own' here isn't blind allegiance. Rather, this will be by merit. The companies that'd be granted the insert developmental role here will have a clean track record to show that they deserve it, not simply just bcos it's indigenous.

Obinwanne said...

nigerians prefer to run nigerians down" if u get what i mean?

Oracle said...

Who will develop Nigeria?
What a question.

Who else if not Nigerians and God

pamelastitch said...

I agree......

I think it has to start from the fundamentals - kids learning to appreciate their own. Nigerians using products being made in Nigeria. A quality control body making sure those products are up to par.

Seriously, no one will help Nigeria grow but Nigerians. We need to start taking ourselves a bit more seriously.

femme said...

i posted a comment here early this morning, where did it go?
was that a dream?

Nyemoni said...

Too true girl...Nigerians as a whole need to wake up...I see us as a people who have accepted failure...we ahve accepted that the next person is as bad as the last...Our whole mind set needs to change..WE WILL DEVELOP NIGERIA, there is no other way around it...

trolololman said...


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