2 September 2012

Nigeria: With Right Framework, Country Can Create Enormous Wealth - Ihenacho


As unemployment continues to escalate and economic power of Nigerians reduces on daily basis, former Minister of Interior, Capt. Emmanuel Ihenacho, notes, in this interview, that Nigeria needs an appropriate frame work for jobs creation. He also bares his mind on the necessity to go back to regions instead of creation of more states. Excerpts:

One of the most delicate issues in Nigeria today is that millions of our youths are unemployment. Does it mean we don't have opportunities in this country?

There is a lot of opportunities in Nigeria. Really, Nigeria is a very fortunate country in the sense that God created this country and put so much wealth in its territory and left it to the capacity of the people to be able to transform the opportunities into a better life for the people, through their ability to create jobs. In other words, we are left to determine what to do with the opportunities that are available to us.

The primary thing which he put in our territory is oil. We can sell oil to generate revenue which can be used to develop a manufacturing base to produce things that other people need; we can then sell these things, this shows that we have the capacity to produce jobs, have a good economy and ensure prosperity for our people.

It is true that oil is there but we still need to diversify our economy. If you look at some of the countries in South-East Asia: Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc, most of these industrialized countries don't have oil but they are able to make progress, through the ingenuity that their people had shown in converting opportunities into jobs.

Take the Philippines for instance, they trained their people in sea faring, so they can go and work in foreign sea faring vessels. And they get 5-6 billion dollars revenue from this on annual basis. The Koreans have been able to develop their technological capacity to manufacture all kinds of things. They manufacture cars, ships, air craft, and all kinds of things which they export today. They didn't have the extra ordinary opportunities that we have, in having raw materials which we sell to generate initial capital.

So we have not utilized our potentials?

The most important thing is really to be focused in terms of where you want to go and what you want to achieve. You can't just be existing without a vision. And for us here, we want to add value into everything that we do, be it in terms of trading petroleum products, we want to add value to that trade through our interventions. If you are trading in terms of shipping services, we want to add value to the user of the service at the end of the day.

But underneath that is the fact that we have to work hard with time and be mindful of the fact that things will work out if we create value and have an opportunity to create more wealth in the economy, create job opportunities, profit maximization and bettering the lives of our people. So you have to be focused, hardworking and all the things that you do have to be underpinned by commitment to integrity in the dealings that you have with your various publics.

So it is left to us to know that oil is there for the time being, but that oil is not going to be there forever. We should, therefore, exploit the availability of oil to generate revenue and invest the revenue in the development of a manufacturing culture. We will by this develop the ability to export the goods that are manufactured and all of these will fall back in terms of jobs that we would get for our people. So oil will not be there forever, we must do the best we can to diversify our economy.

So assuming for a moment that we are able to get the oil to the market, and we sold it at so much money, what do you do with the money? You can't bring the money back for us to eat it. You have to spend it to buy something; you still use ship to bring them down. So whichever way you look at it, shipping is very important to the smooth running of the country, as an economy both in terms for the market that you hope to provide for and also in creating opportunities to employ our people in producing these services.

Apart from the direct opportunities that come from shipping, there are more benefits that are attached to shipping practices; for instance, ship requires to be on regular basis, that creates a demand for the industry. Ships require steel for building or repairing them, that creates a demand for steel making.

Ship requires oil to power the engines, that creates a demand for power industry to be established. Ship requires skilled people to work on its machineries, this also creates room for an industry for training people with special skill for running ships.

So how do we get it right?

We do not have the correct policy framework to utilize all these potentials, and this is an area I think we should be looking at, at this particular time; we need to create an effective policy framework to be able to maximize the benefits. There are a lot of things we can do. First, you really have to take stock of where you are, what you want to achieve. When you are growing as a young man, and you have no money on you, insecurity drives you to work very hard and make a lot of money.

But if you are successful at that, you will get to a point when if you are really a rational person, you must say to yourself; how much money do I need to be comfortable? Once you have achieved enough to be comfortable, what you then need to do is to maintain that level of comfort ability; after that, you begin to look for what you can do to give back to the society and that is the function of your life experiences, where you have been, what you have done, what you have achieved and how you can transfer the knowledge to the young ones and other peoples who are struggling to be mentored.

Because if you let somebody out and say 'just go out and you will become a leader tomorrow', you know that he needs to see something that he can focus on for support, see how a man can move into the society, see how he is dealing with his every day problem that he will want to be like him. So these are some of the things that we can do- mentor people, mentor ambitious young men to ensure that they develop correctly and to ensure that they develop in such a way that they will be able to give back something tangible to the society.

The Senate recently received 56 requests for the creation of more states in the federation. Do you feel this will improve the socio-economic status of Nigerians?

I think it is absurd and ridiculous, and, really, I have never thought for once that we need more states. As a matter of fact, I do think that we should be moving in the opposite direction. We should be moving back toward the regions that we had in the past. If we have an arrangement where there are six states in the in the federation, there will be a massive reduction in the overheads that are currently paid by the Federal Government.

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