(1) It is no secret that the governors of Nigeria’s five states in the southeast geo-political zone are presiding over the plight of Nigeria’s most industrious group of people. However, this energy and ingenuity is being wasted in the highly-limited retail sector, when if unleashed into manufacturing could fetch Nigeria five or six manufacturing conglomerates
(2) A visit to Onitsha or Aba is all it will take to convince anyone that the raw energy and creativity to create dozens of Siemens’, Mitsubishi’s, Daewoo’s, Tata Industries, etc is there but this potential is not being properly harnessed. If we had the 25m people of the southeast geo-political zone engaged more in manufacturing than retailing, Nigeria’s economy would quadruple in size within 10 years
(3) Look at the gross domestic product (GDP) of the southeast- Anambra ($8bn), Enugu ($7bn), Abia ($6bn), Imo ($5.8bn) and Ebonyi ($3.4bn). They have a combined GDP of just $30.2bn which is peanuts compared with Lagos State’s $150bn. I ask how can Lagos State have a GDP that is five times the combined total of that of the entire southeast geo-political zone?
(4) For me, the answer is very straightforward. In Lagos, there is an enabling environment and conducive terrain for industrial growth to thrive and if we want to be honest with ourselves, such conditions do not exist in any of the other 35 states of Nigeria. In the southeast, the problem is that the emphasis is on becoming rich rather than manufacturing. Basically, we need to reset the thinking of the southeast businessman
(5) To address the matter, I want the South East Governors Forum to open a university of industry and commerce where retailers will be trained to think and act differently. The emphasis will be on getting them to manufacture all the products they sell. If need be they can even by a going concern. Remember when Britain was once desperately seeking a buyer for Rover? It would have been an ideal purchase
(6) Your Nnewi man imports automobile spare parts from China, your Orlu man buys malaria drugs from India and your Ohafia man buys clothing from Italy. They all retail them in large markets across Nigeria. What stops 500 of these retailers forming a cooperative that will open a factory to start manufacturing all their goods? They should also acquire patents, buy equity stakes in global giants and woo investors to open plants in Nigeria
(7) I would call this new institution the Louis Ojukwu University of Commerce and Industry. I would bring leading manufacturers from all over the world there to train our people on how to manufacture goods. Its slogan would be: “Anything we can sell, we can make.”
(8) This university would also train all these petty artisans on customer service. It will cut out all the current petulance where an automobile spare parts trader will threaten to slap his customers’ face for dare trying to haggle with him. Also, gone will be phrases like: “Nna, oga but you no talk say na original you wan buy di time when you first come.”
(9) Apart from cooperatives being formed in each sector to create massive industrial manufacturing conglomerates, these retailers and artisans will also be trained to form smaller supply companies that manufacture component parts for the industrial giant. For instance, in the automobile sector, if we have a manufacturing giant called Ogbunigwe Motors, smaller businesses would be encouraged to manufacture windscreens, wipers, headlamps, leather seats, etc to supply it with
(10) I would expect the South East Governors to then float a Michael Okpara Industrial Development Bank to fund this project. It should have a role similar to the African Development Bank. If you recall, Eco Bank was set up by Ecowas to perform a similar function across West Africa.