Former Governor of Abia State and Business mogul: Orji Uzor Kalu has urged Nigerians to exercise patience has he believed President Buhari is capable of turning around the bad economy that has befallen the Nation.
CONTRIBUTOR HAD AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ORJI UZOR KALU AND BELOW ARE THE EXCERPT
Interviewer: Following the Presidential elections, we’ve no doubt seen a slow-down in Boko Haram activity; would you agree that en masse poverty and starvation are proponents of radicalisation in Nigeria? What can be done to right the ship in the northeast with so much at stake?
Orji Uzor Kalu: Nigeria inspires the international community as it remains at the doorstep of fundamental and dynamic change. We are innovators, globalization-savvy businessmen and women, farmers, manufacturers and politicians while remaining lifelong students, determined to succeed in an ever-competitive global marketplace, one shifting seismically with ‘Brexit’.
In fact, Nigerians succeed everywhere, it seems, except at home.
Yes, we have challenges to overcome, those that are frustratingly inherent to our current public system. We remain reliant on the same specific energy resources that are bountiful in some regions and scarce in others, creating an imbalance that perpetuates regional, ethnic, religious and political tensions.
‘Agribusiness’ and resource diversification is the great equaliser for Nigeria’s north, applicable to both east and west. In May, the government of Kaduna (for instance) went so far as to declare a state of emergency due to, according to the Commissioner of Agriculture, Dr Maigari Daniel Manzo, over 80% of tomato farms having been attacked by moth infestation.
We need to find wholly effective solutions to these problems as they arise and correct those that fester unabated. We need to check starvation and alleviate en masse poverty to ensure our citizenries have food to eat, jobs to go to in order to provide for their families, schools for their children to attend and religious institutions wherein to worship peacefully.
Any compromise in this regard would create a climate of civil unrest. The monotony and melancholy from dependence and hunger no doubt opens the door to influence out of sheer need and leaves communities susceptible to radicalization.
I commend the African Development Bank (AfDB) in their recently approving a $9 million USD equity investment in the Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN) and private-sector-driven outfits in the relegation of $1.7 billion USD for the development of agriculture in the country under the ‘New Alliance and Grow Africa Partnerships’. These are great commitments, however more simply can and should be done at home and through our partners on the continent and abroad to empower and frankly, supply the farmers of the north, so as to deter what we know to be the great indicators of radicalisation methodology; poverty to disillusionment to indoctrination.
Interviewer: How would you rate the Administration of President Buhari in his efforts to quell corruption and concurrently, his long-held adamancy against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in their past efforts to devaluate the Naira, those which have now come to fruition?
Orji Uzor Kalu: Every nook and cranny of Nigeria cries of marginalization and some argue they do so as if to justify corruption. Their claims against the ‘Powers that Be’ may be valid but the plague of theft, oil bunkering and ‘419’ are examples of challenges uniformly endemic, despite our diverse nation’s differences at a given period.
The task at hand for the Commander in Chief is not an easy one; it is multifaceted and will accordingly fall under scrutiny frequently. Nigerians must display endurance at this critical juncture, even as our economy longs for rebound, as President Buhari “…cleans the Augean stable”. His willingness to allow the Naira to devalue, indeed now weakened more than any other major oil currency since mid-2014, has showcased a flexibility to reason and has recently bore fruit – some two months later, we are beginning to attract foreign investors again.
The private sector must capitalize on this and play a lead role in auditing its best practices, deterring corruption while continuing to encourage international investment.
I have had the privilege of collaborating with foreign partners such as Prime Group of India, The International New York Times and Sino-Pacific of China, but to name a few who have, through and with my enterprise, prospered sustainably. I know the needs of the people, yet can speak with authority as an international businessman that Nigeria will remain a bastion of opportunity despite its present-day challenges. We will find leadership to ‘hold the tiller’ during the squalls of commodity crises and corruption through to lasting prosperity, in part accomplished through responsible reformation policy.