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Nigeria: Gov. Obi and the Citizen sector in Anambra

obi_govA PRESIDENTIAL visit to any of the component states of the federation is one of the informal mechanisms of modern politics that a president can use to govern well if he can articulate his message well and feel the pulse of the people he is visiting. It is like a ‘listening tour’.

A president can use it to get the best from the people by addressing the central issues that concern them as well as giving assurances that have practical chances of succeeding. For a president with his ears on the ground, and eyes fixed on the ball, such visits enable him to know how, and what the people feel about him, which in turn, can boost his chances in the event of an election. For many people in the states he is visiting, it is a rare chance to assess the president up-close, how kind-hearted or uncaring he is, how ethical, intelligent, or forceful leader he is, or the opposite.

Call it old-fashioned politics, state visit by the president leverages on the power of incumbency. Deals can be made through such visits, new bridges of understanding can be built, coalitions can be formed and “concorted” or perceived images can be corrected. It is like a compass that guides a president in working his way through the informal channels of power.

Indeed, it serves as a source of information that could help the president and his political strategists to direct his energies toward desired goals. Information is power, and a primary instrument of power. And oh boy, every president craves for this knowledge.

The picture which emerges from all the above descriptions is that all human contacts have a purpose, each unique in its own, with unique lessons to learn that were not there before such a visit. The recent visit to Anambra state by President Goodluck Jonathan was an eye-opener of sorts. This is not in the hordes of school children and women who lined up the streets to welcome him, neither is it in the hundreds of handshakes, nor the chieftaincy title of Nwachinemere that he was conferred by the state.

They were ‘sideshows’ to the ‘real thing’ that the President saw. It is the vibrancy of entrepreneur spirit that has reached a critical mass in the state. Anambra of today is witnessing more than ever before individuals who are creating and expanding markets on such a large scale, adding value and turning attacks that kill good ideas to their own advantage.

This is a place where the management word ‘Citizen sector’, a term used to define groups of individuals with a mission-minded, can-do-spirit who are addressing critical social needs of the country has found its true meaning. Over the past six years in particular, this group has blossomed in Anambra with increased productivity, size and economic growth. Creative individuals are driving them. The power of this citizen sector lies primarily in the complementary strengths of the individual entrepreneurs and the support the state government is giving them. These innovators are thriving in Anambra largely because they believe that businesses do offer scale. Such expertise can be found in such diverse areas as manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. Together, they are creating real economic and social value.

Take, for instance, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company Ltd., the first indigenous Assembly Plant in Nigeria. Owned by one of Nigeria’s young entrepreneurs, chief Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma, the vehicle plant which was incorporated in February, 2007, and located at Akwa – Uru village, Umudim, Nnewi, is using the business model of Discount Cash Flow (DCF) which is anchored on the conventional financial tool that it may be cheaper to manufacture at home than import from abroad. And it is working despite the initial rough and tumble. Built with the support of a Chinese consortium of auto makers, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company is providing a wide spectrum of automotive brands which include 14, 26, 35 seater buses, double cabin pick-up vans and Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV).

The first batch of these brands was displayed last year at the 2nd Nnewi International Auto Trade Fair. One of the remarkable things here is that the plant is driven by substantial local content in the production chain. The aim is to reduce drastically the prices of vehicles and cut down Nigeria’s dependence on imported vehicles. The company is riding on the crest of success it recorded with the assembly of commercial motorcycles (Okada). With an installed capacity of 10,000 vehicles per annum and expected turnover of N30.4bn, the company has an employment target of about 2,500 Nigerians and foreign expatriates, mainly from China, its technical partners.

Apart from this plant, the Juhel Pharmaceutical industry located in the state capital, Awka which is one of the best parental drug factories in the country, commissioned by President Jonathan during his visit, is a testament of the audacious business acumen of Anambra people. But why are these entrepreneurs discovering their niches now more than ever before? Good governance has a great part to play. As a human enterprise, Governor Peter Obi, being an entrepreneur himself, regardless of his foray into politics, knows how to sell water in the desert even when it suddenly begins to rain. He knows what it takes, in business terms, to retool an organization and transform its supply chain, and the knowledge that your products, wherever they may come from, is everybody’s business. He saw the creative ingenuity in the owners of Innoson and Juhel and convinced them to invite the President to tour their plants.

More than that, the state government is patronizing their products. The governor said, in the coming months and years, the bulk of the vehicles and drugs needed by the state will be supplied by Innoson and Juhel.
Good governance, good leadership are the engines that drive the Citizen sector. Before now, from what I saw in Anambra, it is no longer safe to ignore this spirit of enterprise, because previously, this segment of the economy was relatively small in scale and low in productivity. But that is no longer the case. From Nnewi to Awka, from Awka to Onitsha, this sector is fast redefining business with big return on investments, and better insights into how to make business succeed. The lesson is simple: Think like an entrepreneur, and give the relevant stakeholders a bigger say in the running of their businesses. Revenue and profits will flow.

Although the Obi administration says it is on course in meeting its target on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the year 2015 in areas of poverty eradication, improvement in maternal health and environmental sustainability through the state Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDs), few constraints still on the way of the citizen sector. For instance, Power supply, security and water in the key commercial centres of the state, Onitsha and Nnewi remain issues of serious concern. The problem of insecurity resulted in the kidnap of three staff of Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company on March 17, 2007, at the factory premises. One of them, Mr. Sang Sheyi, a Chinese died in the hands of his abductors.

Sanity is fast returning to the commercial nerve centre of Onitsha. The United Nations UN-HABITAT, at a recent EXPO in China, put Onitsha in the list of one of the “five fastest growing” intermediate cities in the world, a feat attributed to good governance in Anambra State.
However, Governor Obi regrets that the other four cities, Johor Bahru (Malaysia), Tetouan (Morocco), Uberlandia (Brazil) and Hunchun (China) ranked alongside Onitsha have all been declared “Economic Zones” by their respective countries. In that regard, Obi has made a case to President Jonathan to declare Onitsha and Nnewi axis as “Special Economic Zone,” and accordingly, direct appropriate and immediate “governmental action”.

With Obi’s new master plan for these two industrial areas, Onitsha and Nnewi, it makes economic sense that the Federal government obliges the request of the state government. This is in addition to making the second Niger Bridge a reality. Described as the “single most important bridge” in the country, Obi laments that previous administrations at the centre made the 2nd Niger Bridge a “419 project”, with no sincerity of purpose to execute it. But he expresses optimism that the administration of Jonathan will deliver on his promise.

“It will be unfortunate if it fails to do so”, the governor said. Working on this frontier can be challenging, but it is certainly exciting. What, if you may, ask, is, the secret of these inspirational individuals in Anambra? It’s simple: They have conquered fear, the biggest killer of good dreams.

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