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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

ANAMBRA STATE LEADS IN THE RE-INDUSTRIALIZATION OF THE SOUTH EAST



   When most Nigerians think about the South East, they think of a people who are mostly traders. Most Nigerian narrative describe the Igbo as traders or at best as business men. They may be right. But that is really not the whole story. The Igbo are more than traders.
  Those who are old enough and who are familiar with Nigerian history before the Nigeria- Biafra war and whose minds have not been biased by the trending characterization of the Igbo as itinerant traders in Nigeria, will admit that among the Igbo were the earliest political and Nation Builders who fought and brought Independence to Nigeria. The Story of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe is fairly well known. Perhaps not as much are the contributions of Dr Akanu Ibiam,Dr. Michael Okpara,Dennis Osadebay, Louis Mbanefo, Mazi Mbonu Ojike, Alvan Ikoku, Kingsley Ozurumba Mbadiwe, Abyssinia Nwafor Orizu, Jaja Nwachukwu, Aja Wachuku and Mbazulike Amaechi( the boy is good).Great Nationalists who were ably succeeded by some of the finest political actors such as Sam Mbakwe, C.C Onoh, Chuba Okadigbo, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Sylvester Ugoh,Ihechukwu Madubuike,Ojo Maduekwe, Ike Nwachukwu, Ogbonnaya Onu, Onyema Ugochukwu, John Nnia Nwodo etc
  The Igbo were top on the list of distinguished intellectuals in the first Republic and occupied commanding heights in the Nigerian University system. Names like Professor Eni- Njoku, Professor kenneth Dike, Prof Chike Obi, Prof Kalu Ezera, Prof Adiele Afigbo readily come to mind and these were followed by names like Prof Kodilinye, Prof Anya O. Anya, Prof Uzodinma Nwala, Prof Okoro Ijoma,Prof Felicia Ekejuba, Prof Titus Okereke, Prof Maurice Iwu and so many others.Even today, the Igbo have a fair representation of great intellectuals all over the World- And in the Professions- Medicine, Pharmacy, Engineering, Architecture, Geology, Accountancy, Law etc, the Igbo are well represented. Professional & Business giants like Dr Alex Ekwueme, Prof Njoku Obi, Joe Irukwu,Rufus Obi, Chris Efobi, Fabian Udekwu, Nath Okoro,Dozie Ikedife,Simeon Okeke, Gordian Ezekwe, George Obiozor,and Felix Oragwu have begotten an array of professionals like Prof Bath Nnaji,Philip Emeagwali, Aghaji,Okenwa Nwosu, Chris Aniedobe,Emenike Anyiwo, Pat Utomi, Dora Akunyili, Stella Okoli,Nath Aniekwu, Greg Ibe, Leo Stan Ekeh, Ambroise Orjiako,etc that hold their own all over Nigeria and in the diaspora. Economists like Pius Okigbo,Uma Eleazu, KU Kalu and KI Kalu preceded the stars of Today- Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chukwuma Soludo, Oby Ezekwesili, Osita Ogbu etc. In Literature and the Arts the Igbo have distinguished themselves with giants like Ben Enwonwu, Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi, Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike, Laz Ekwueme, Flora Nwapa, Onuora Nzekwu etc, leaving a thriving genre of exciting talents like Chinweizu, Jemie Onwuchekwa, Chimamanda Adiche, and the pioneers of Nollywood - Amaka Igwe, Chico Ejiro, Zack Orji, Pete Edochie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Patience Ozokwor (Mama G), Genevieve Nnaji, Stephaine Okereke etc. Do we begin to talk of great Musical talents like Chief Stephen Osita Osadebay, Eddie Okonta, Zeal Onyia, Celestine Ukwu,Oliver De Coque, Sir Warrior, Onyeka Onwenu and the latter day P-Square, Phyno & Flavour. The Igbo have been active in Sports producing the likes of Onyeanwuna, Onyali, Dick Tiger, Power Mike, and the latter day Sam Okwaraji, Christian Chukwu, Nwankwo Kanu, Chioma Ajunwa, Jay-Jay Okocha, John Mikel Obi, Chidi Imoh, Francis Obikwelu, and Christine Ohuruogu etc. In the Public service and in the Military, the Igbo occupied commanding heights. And that is why the characterization of the 1966 Coup as an Igbo coup is a misnomer. It is absurd to see how the Igbo organized a coup to dethrone themselves. That explains really why it was the Igbo that helped to foil the coup. Admitted though that the pattern of killing of key political office holders (which was due to the failure of the assigned troops), may tend to support this mis characterization. Anyone who reads Adewale Ademoyega, one of the five Majors who led the coup in his book" Why we struck" will know that the January 1966 was not an Igbo coup.
 So the Igbo have always not been largely traders as the popular Nigerian narrative implies. Yes, since the War ended, largely because of limited opportunities in the public sector and glass ceilings placed on them by the Nigerian establishment, the least line of resistance for Igbo was in private endeavors - Entrepreneurship: providing goods and services to fill needs and solve problems. That endeavor has taken them to all the nooks and crannies of the Country and this has exposed them to all the indignities and hostilities they face even today.
   Last week, the Business Development and Investment Promotion committee of the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) led a team of ADF members on a tour of Anambra State to evaluate the industrial activities in the State. Our tour took us from Awka to Ozubulu, Ukpor, Nnewi, Oba and Onitsha and what we saw and heard marvelled us. First I marvelled at the intensity of industrial activities in Anambra State in the last ten years or so. With all my assumed familiarity with the economic development of Alaigbo I was embarrassed to see the level of industrial activity in Onitsha of all places. If you asked me before the tour what was going on in Onitsha, I would have answered without hesitation “Trading and commerce". Who does not know that Onitsha is one of the biggest markets in West Africa?But Manufacturing ? That was for Nnewi or Aba. To my utter pleasant amazement, Onitsha is bristling with with Industries-Breweries and bottling plants, Vegetable oil processing and refining plants, feed milling plants, 
Metallurgical plants, plastic plants, furniture making factories, pharmaceutical manufacturing, soap & cosmetics industries etc.
  As expected and perhaps widely known, Nnewi is a beehive of Industrial activity. I salute the People of Nnewi who have long adopted the concept of Charity begins at home and the "Akuruo Ulo" philosophy. I felt really proud to see true Auto manufacturing in Nnewi. I had thought, that what was going on was auto assembly as elsewhere in the Country. In Nnewi I saw auto manufacturing- Auto Body parts being extruded from flat steel sheets. Motor cycle manufacturing, common home appliances and several consumer goods.
  Secondly I have long advocated for the enthronement of industrial supportive governmental actions. Industrial growth in Nigeria has long been stifled by very adverse operating environment. But I found Anambra State to be an Oasis. Industry after Industry regaled us with testimony of what Mr Peter Obi did for them when he was governor of Anambra State. He made land procurement easy, provided infrastructure and built Industrial Estates. The industrial Estate by the shores of River Niger in Onitsha has 24-hour Electricity supply from the National grid through the intervention of the governor. The Auto manufacturer in Nnewi told of how Governor Obi helped to stabilize his business. He gave order for several hundreds of buses for all secondary schools in Anambra State, hundreds of Jeeps for all the traditional rulers and mobilized him with cash. When this man had problems with the customs, Mr Peter Obi went to the President to intervene and resolved his problem. The Furniture maker in Onitsha told of how Governor Obi gave him contract for all the furniture in the government house and paid him in advance, helping to overcome the problem of chasing the bank for the elusive loan! One of the manufacturers quipped that if Nigeria had 20 Peter Obis our problems would be solved and another added that If Mr Obi was the Minister of Industry, there would be industrial revolution in Nigeria. Well may be or maybe not, but there was overwhelming evidence that the government did so much to ignite what looks like a re- industrialization of Anambra State and the sustained effort at building good roads across the State and maintaining  excellent security which has been sustained by successor governor till today makes Anambra state an investor's delight.
  Thirdly, I was amazed that all the industries seemed to be doing quite well, despite the economic recession in the entire Nation. The Brewing Company told us that the volume they sold last year (2016) was the volume they had projected to sell in 2024! That is to say that they achieved their sales target, eight years earlier. Indeed I could not believe my ears when the MD of the company told us that when the brewery opened in 2012, they broke even within 6 months. A large manufacturing company breaking even in 6 months? I told them that should be in the Guinness book of records. Little wonder that the company was looking for room to expand. Unfortunately they could not get additional land around their current location in Onitsha and have decided to build a new plant in Sagamu- Ogun State and this plant when completed will be the biggest Brewery in Nigeria! I felt like begging them to come back and follow me to my State- Abia where I have been given an assignment by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to help prospect for investments- Domestic & foreign. But they said, they were irrevocably committed to the Ogun site. Well this Ogun State seems to have become Nigeria's preferred investment destination, seriously attracting industries even from Lagos. We need to learn a thing or two from them..oo!
  Many of the other companies we visited in Anambra State were expanding their production capacities and undertaking new projects. Even UAC has established a very big new manufacturing plant in Onitsha. To maximize space, they excavated the site and built four floors underground and I think have another six floors above the ground and are currently operating at full capacity and also had to outsource the packaging of their brand of vegetable oil to another plant which in turn is looking for additional space. 
 To be true, if I was not in the team that saw and heard these things first hand, I would really have doubted some of these. Here am I struggling with my business, cutting back on production and shrinking operations because of the economic recession and related challenges, and these guys in Anambra State seem to be making a kill and having a bull run. May be what I am looking for in Sokoto may just be in my sokoto!! My hope is that the other States in the South East are following the example set in Anambra State. If they do, then the re-industrialization of the South East may be on the way and perhaps someday soon, the characterization of the Igbo as essentially traders may be adjusted!
  Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR


Friday, 23 June 2017

AREWA YOUTHS ESCALATE DISCOURSE ON RESTRUCTURING NIGERIA


  Last week I raised some issues on the Biafra struggle and opined that the Igbo have demonstrated that they loved this country and wanted its unity more than any other ethnic group in Nigeria. I further opined that indeed it looked to me that deep down,Nigeria did not really want the Igbo, but was merely tolerating them.And I concluded with offering my suggestion that if the Acting President and indeed this Government wanted true unity, the shortest cut was to try and look at all the reports submitted by PRONACO, the 2005 National Political reform conference and the 2014 National conference. In them, we can find good ideas on  how to make this arrangement workable and mutually beneficial.
  The next day, a motley group of sponsored youth groups, generally classified as Arewa youths, spoke from Arewa House in Kaduna. I have found time to read their press releases(1st and 2nd) and I have also followed comments made by other Arewa leaders especially Prof Ango Abdullahi and the ubiquitous Dr Junaid Mohammed. My deductions and comments are as follows.
 First, the Arewa Youths and perhaps those they speak for are tired of living with the Igbo in one Country and would want that arrangement changed. They have several reasons they resent the Igbo. But it looks like the most obvious is the amount of property the Igbo own in the North and their apparent prosperity where ever they live. Rather than live in batchers and in make- shift temporary structures, they buy massive plots of land and build multi-storey block houses and establish chains of businesses. They do not behave as strangers or those in transit, they settle and live like indigenes and some times live more affluent live styles than the indigenes. This has irked some of the Arewa people for a long time, perhaps from the foundation of Nigeria, but since the Nigerian  constitution permitted that,they really could not do much, except at the moments of ethnic or religious crisis, when they often descended on Igbo property. Therefore they saw the recent Biafra agitation, particularly the very successful stay-at-home order of 30th May, 2017 as an excuse to boldly express this long held animosity.
 Second, the  Youths themselves are definitely very unhappy with Nigeria and sound very frustrated with this Federation which seems to offer them little hope. With the high level of out of school children, the high incidence of the almajiri phenomenon, high level of Youth unemployment and the General lack of opportunities and grinding poverty around them, they are no longer sure, that they see any benefit in belonging to Nigeria as it is currently structured. Their angry and abusive responses to the statements made by Governors of Kaduna and Borno States indicate that the Youths may even be angrier with the Northern political leaders than they are with the impetuous Igbo.
 Third, It seems clear that all is not well with Nigeria and all those who are pretending that all is well or that we should not talk about it are angry that the Igbo who seem to be comparatively materially better off in Nigeria are the ones clamouring for change. That is why the Arewa Youth and their supporters thought that giving the ultimatum for the Igbo to leave the North will perhaps frighten them to abandon the struggle for Equity, Justice and Fair play. After all, there was a time there was a call for Oduduwa Republic by the Oodua Peoples Congress( OPC).The Niger Delta Ijaw under the auspices of the Avengers and other protesting youths called for a republic of Niger Delta recently.  But perhaps the ethnic groups these youths represent may either not have such material possessions in the North or they may not be so materially inclined as the Igbo, neither received any such threats to vacate the North.So there is this perception that if you want to get the Igbo, go for his wealth and he would back down.
  Fourth, this outburst by the coalition of the so called Arewa Youths has further deepened and polarized the Nation. Many other Youth groups have appeared on the scene with their demands on Nigeria. The Middle Belt seems to have established a seperation from Arewa North. They have offered to accomodate the Igbo if they get driven from the Core North. So every ethnic group in Nigeria is finally waking up to vent their long suppressed animosities giving a fresh impetus to the need to renegotiate and rearrange the relationships in a manner that will be more mutually satisfactory. Many agree with the Igbo that either the arrangement is not serving them well or it is gravely skewed in the favour of other People.
  Fifthly, we must acknowledge the very strong statements made by Governor   El-Rufai of Kaduna and Shettima of Borno State who stood up strongly and firmly to discountenance the hate speech authored by the Arewa Youths. Those timely statements helped to stabilize matters and prevented the situation from degenerating. Though the Youths are yet to be arrested and the statements from Ango and Junaid were counter-productive as usual,Nigerians had some relief.  But the situation remains omnious. The Federal Government, and the National Assembly must follow up some of their lame declarations with swift actions. The Nigerian security forces that had no qualms in mowing down the MASSOB & IPOB youths who threatened no one in words or action,except expressing their desire for Justice, Equity and fair play,must find the simple courage to do the right thing to arrest the erring youth and bring them to quick justice! Many Igbo believe that the Arewa Youths or those they have indoctrinated with their hate speech will try to enforce their misguided threats, because this has happened severally in the past. My prayer and hope is that this does not happen again ! 
 Sixth and finally, let me state that this escalation of the discourse by the Arewa Youths, may seem extreme in some respects. But they have spoken their minds and we all now know how they feel. I am hopeful that it will finally stimulate our political leaders to seize this opportunity to get every one around a table to salvage things, before it is too late. That to me is the divine call on acting President Yemi Osinbajo. May God Help him to act swiftly.

Mazi Sam I. Ohuabunwa OFR 

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

SOFEE 1 Day Entrepreneur Academy for Umuahia, Abia State.

SOFEE 1 day Entrepreneurial Academy for Umuahia, Abia State Comes up on 1st July at the Hotel Royal Damgrete, 13 – 16 Factory Road, GRA, Umuahia, Abia State. Key Facilitator, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, OFR. The academy teaching will focus on: • How to maximize your potentials in a time like this • How to prepare to take advantage of the evolving opportunities • How to position yourself or your business to flourish as the economy recovers • How to know the sectors of the Economy are most promising • How to know the kind of investments You should be making now • How to know the kind of partnerships or networks you should be building now Participation is @ discounted fee of #5,000.00. To register please visit www.sofee.org.ng or call calling Sylvester on +2348061180909 Or Ogbonnaya on +2348039336607.