Strategic Visioning Key To Rebuilding Nigeria’s Economy, Says Onuekwusi
Despite the current gloomy state of Nigeria’s economy, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bifex Consultants Limited, a management consultancy firm, Dr. Ndi Onuekwusi, believes that if the Federal Government under the new administration of President Muhammadu Buhari takes certain strategic steps and institutes them, there can be a turnaround, which would take the country into the club of vibrant economies of the world within eight years. He spoke in an interview with ONYEDIKA AGBEDO.
FOR Dr. Ndi Onuekwusi, a management consultant of international repute and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bifex Consultants Limited, Lagos, any thought of rebuilding the country’s comatose economy should start with strategic visioning. To him, in spite of the immediate challenges of dwindling oil revenue which has put the finances of both the state and federal governments in dire straits with the attendant result of backlog of salaries of civil servants and slow execution of capital projects; youth unemployment, poor power supply and infrastructural decay, among others, it would be disastrous for the country should President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), adopt a short-term approach in providing solutions to the problems. He maintains that short-termism is never a part of nation building.
“Looking for any short-term answers to gigantic national problems is a very disastrous tendency particularly for a new government. If we were at war, you could take some emergency measures to hold back the enemy while you plan properly,” he says.
Onuekwusi notes that the Nigerian problems, which only Nigerians would solve, grew out of years of poor vision, poor strategies, poor implementation and total lack of monitoring and evaluation.
“So, if you move away from the signs of leading and managing and go back to ad hoc measures to white-wash issues, then we can never get there. Therefore, there is tremendous need for us to have positive change. The APC campaigned on the platform of change. What they did not actually say is the direction of the change and I do pray that the change would be positive.
“The question now is what should we do to have that positive change. In management consultancy, the first thing you tell anybody who wants to be anything is to do strategic visioning. And Nigeria ought to have done that before this stage. So, one wants to believe that the APC has a strategic vision of what it wants Nigeria to be when they leave office. That is what strategic visioning does and that must be a clear picture in the mind of President Buhari and all those in the inner caucus of delivering this vision into reality,” he notes.
To buttress his position, Onuekwusi gives the example of the United Arab Emirates, which was virtually an empty desert but has been turned into a tourist’s delight.
“By the time the princes wanted to convert it to a modern world, they had a clear picture of what it would be like and 25 years later, you see where Dubai is now. So, strategic visioning is the strategic point of rebuilding Nigeria’s economy. And there has never been strategic visioning in Nigeria and that is why we are not going anywhere because nobody has it in his mind what the Nigeria he wants to deliver to the Nigerian people is.”
Onuekwusi explains further that with a strategic vision in place, the current leadership of the country must have the political will to drive that vision.
He notes: “If you take China emerging to become the second strongest economy in the world as an example, they first had a clear strategic vision of a China that was for Chinese but driven by communism. Then after Mao Zedong, the new leader then had a strategic vision of a China that was a powerful economy and that would have free enterprise. But it was clear that it could not transform from communism to capitalist free enterprise economy suddenly like Russia did and crashed. So, China is doing it by lyses rather than by crisis as happened in Russia. So, I believe that with the political will, Nigeria should have a graduated process because our problems are deep and require that people know what they are doing and do it in phases.”
Onuekwusi also wants the new administration to co-opt intellectuals into its economic reconstruction plan for the country, saying intellectualism is the basis of positive change. “The Nigerian society spites intellectualism and everything in life has a theoretical basis. It is the intellectuals of the world that transform the world. Look at the current problem in the global oil industry. The Americans and the Saudis are fighting over who controls the global oil industry. The Americans are fracking while Saudi and OPEC countries are in the normal drilling system. The OPEC system thought that they could drop the price of oil to such a point that fracking would be eliminated but they stimulated the Americans who are driven by intellectualism, not politics, to curb costs in fracking. So, they are ready to play the game and they have said, ‘let’s take oil to $8 a barrel because it is the whole world that would benefit’. So, the key thing here is to give respect to real intellectualism because that is the basis of positive change in the society.”
Onuekwusi believes that Nigerians, not foreigners, must be positioned to steer the economy forward. He notes that Nigeria is a country where foreigners dominate and have advantage over citizens and wants the Buhari administration to curb the attitude. “It is such a stupid situation that doesn’t happen in any society that can ever progress. There is no society that has developed in which foreigners have overwhelming advantage over indigenes. You can see how Lebanese, Indians and all kinds of immigrants oppress Nigerians in Nigeria. Today, if a white man and a Nigerian seek something from a Nigerian government, the white man has 80 per cent chance of getting it over the Nigerian. This is reality. So, access should be primarily for Nigerians. And that is when you can begin to talk about improving the economy by cutting down importation and increasing local production,” he submits.
Reminded that the country might not be able to boost local production without fixing the power sector, Onuekwusi says: “The power problem is a big shame and we know that it can be solved. But if you look below the surface you will find that it is beneficiaries of undue advantage that is perpetuating the power problem. So, it requires strong political will, as I said, to change the things that need to be changed that don’t require any cost to be changed to the benefit of the economy and the Nigerian people.”
He, therefore, believes that the President must live up to his campaign promise of stamping out corruption from the country.
He says: “The corruption in Nigeria is not the mild corruption you find in every society. There is corruption in America and the United Kingdom and other countries. But the problem in Nigeria is that it is not just corruption; it is impunity. It is the impunity in Nigeria that is destructive; it is just like what is unfolding in FIFA. We had a system that was not being managed so people were just doing whatever they liked. With proper management systems, you can never have impunity. Once you introduce proper management systems, you will eliminate impunity, reduce corruption to a manageable extent and the economy will be freed.”
He adds: “It is important to mention here one of my pet subject matters about Nigeria. Some people killed shame in Nigeria and shame is a major social sanction against corruption and bad governance. In every society right from creation, shame has been the major sanction for managing a normal 95 per cent of the population. The extreme 2.5 per cent of the population behave according to moral dictates; they are spiritual people. The weakest 2.5 per cent of the population is the criminal fringe. They go to prison and come back and commit another crime and go back to prison. They are the people you create the criminal justice system for. So, 95 per cent of the population is managed by shame (social sanctions). People don’t do certain things because of what their neighbours, parents or friends would say or how they would feel. But in Nigeria people are stealing and we are clapping for them. So, the thing to do is to stop the impunity and strengthen the criminal justice system, which is now corrupt. The criminal justice system is at the base of the monitoring evaluation and control of society.”
Onuekwusi, however, warns that without bringing down the cost of governance, there would be no sign that the new government wants to change the direction of the country’s economy. “They should cut down all those paraphernalia of office and reduce structures of government to what is necessary to drive our economy at the moment. We have far more departments of government than great economies like the U.S. I believe that the Nigerian government can be run with 30 per cent of the structures that are in place at the moment.”
He concludes: “These are major macro economic issues that must be dealt with without which you cannot create a functional society. It is when you tackle these issues that you can now go to specific issues in the economy like diversification and all that. I believe that if we start today with the proper strategic vision and adjust to the strategies and processes I have mentioned, we can say that in eight year’s time, we can join the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) as vibrant economies.
“Don’t bother about the rebasing of our economy. The greatest measure of an economy is not in rebasing; it is on unemployment and the unemployment you measure is youth unemployment and in Nigeria it is almost 100 per cent. And the level that is allowed for an active progressive economy is three to seven per cent, in which case 93 to 97 per cent of the people must be actively employed. So, you see that where we are is so far into the gutter and we must wake up to deal with this problem.”
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