“We are the women and men who built Nigeria. We are the ones who we seek” – Dr. Jumoke Oduwole; Secretary to the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council, and Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business at The Platform 2021 themed “Nigeria: What seest Thou…” by Covenant Nations on 1st October 2021, held in Abuja.
Dr. Jumoke took the stage to deliver her keynote charge she titled “Fast forward – the Women and Men who built Nigeria”. She begins by delivering a reading she entitled “The Nigeria We Want” – 2032. A poetic telling of the reality of Nigeria set on the 30th day of September, 2032 as Nigerians prepare for the 72nd Independence Day celebration. She recounts the strides the country overcomes in 10 years to become an international jewel.
She lays out in details the countries accomplishment in different sectors. Economically, The Financial Times reports that “the economic growth trajectory now sees Nigeria ranked at 16th position in Global GDP at USD 1.05 trillion (in 2031), the first African country to ever surpass the USD 1 trillion GDP mark in history”. The effect of this to Nigerians in 2032 is that, “100 million persons had already been lifted out of poverty as at 2030”.
Internationally, the effect is; “Nigeria is undoubtedly the location of choice for foreign direct investment by global investors and is now consistently ranked a leading top 3 emerging market destination”
There is no denying that our current reality looks bleak. We appear to be at a crossroads in our nation’s history – the Polity is heated up, politically charged.
As the viewers all across Nigeria and the world begin to marvel in the reality of the Nigeria we want, she continues; “For health, Life expectancy of an average Nigerian at birth has increased from 62.6 years to 71.3 years’, ‘After Nigeria’s successful bid to host the next FIFA World Cup, there has been a significant inflow of capital into the country’s sports value chain as a whole, and the excitement is palpable across the country.”
She concludes her reading by saying, “Global analysts have watched in amazement as Nigeria has come a long way over the last 10 years, becoming a textbook example of how an economy can turn itself around. “What they have done is nothing short of a miracle,” said the IMF chief in Washington last week, commenting on Nigeria’s Q2 performance which is set to propel the country to exceed the projected growth rate of 9% it has maintained over the last two years, to enter the double digits by year end 2032. How did they succeed where others have failed?”
In 2032, Nigeria may be one of Africa’s top 5 tourist locations but in 2021 as the country celebrates her 61st Independence Day, Dr. Jumoke acknowledges the current reality of the country. She demonstrates this current reality by reading an excerpt from a Whatsapp forwarded to her. The message recounts the experience of a Nigerian who cowered in the face of injustice.
Before I ask you to give Nigeria another chance, I owe it to you to ask myself – What does Nigeria mean to me?
She continues by saying, ‘the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good women and men to do nothing.’ The reason being this is ‘the bad Samaritan’ in all of us. We are often quick to disparage, for example, the Nigerian Police Force, or to throw shade at “the Government”, “the elite”, “our corrupt leaders”, however, I doubt there are many of us who can honestly say we have never looked the other way in the face of an injustice – even in our own homes.” She went on to explain that this is most common with everyone for whom someone else is to blame.
The evidence of this she illustrates with the PEBEC intervention feedback system and ReportGov.Ng portal. Many people send in reports but “not once in all this time have I met a single person who has ever admitted to even the remote possibility of playing a negative part, in any way, shape or form whatsoever, with regard to any of the challenges we face in our business environment in Nigeria – On the face of it, no one is corrupt. No one extorts money or receives bribes from businesses and no one gives bribes or offers inducements to circumvent the system or to derive benefits over their competitors.”
“We all want change but we want someone else to change, not us!”
However, this is not just a “nice speech” from someone currently serving in government, she went on to expand on the state of PEBEC; “While manifold challenges remain, and the need for effective communication and consequence management is key, the PEBEC intervention has enjoyed some modest level of progress in our ease of doing business reform agenda, with a well-documented and verifiable track record of performance over in the last 5 years, perhaps because of this singular most important aspect of our work – striving for systematic reform through collaboration across stakeholders for our common goal of making Nigeria a progressively easier place to start and grow a business.”
“I am fully persuaded that we are all responsible for our collective future – good or bad – because together we have the power to do and undo. We are not helpless victims – unless we choose to be.”
The nation right now is at a cross road. A cross road she acknowledges in her extension where youths all over Nigeria prepares to celebrate the anniversary of the Lekki toll gate massacre and the constant decline in the economy. However, to ‘japa’ is not the solution, ‘we’ (you and me) make up the country today.
Fast-forward to 2032, there are no rooms for small dreams, we must all ask ourselves what we can do for our country and not what our country can do for us because our work is our citizenship. Moving forward, how do we start to take ownership and action to radically transform our nation?
“Have Integrity – Personal righteousness first, then collective righteousness exhorts a nation. Let us each determine in our hearts to walk with integrity daily as Nigerians. To decide individually and collectively to do what we know we ought to do, what we know is right, no matter the personal cost in the short run.
Serve, with Excellence – Leave selfishness, envy and strife at the door for the sake of the collective good. Do the right thing even if it costs you personally. Personal sacrifice for collective good.
Be a Visionary Reformer – Reformers are creative innovators, agenda setters – Global leaders with excellence from home grown ideas. We must prove ourselves capable of organizing our nation into a meritocracy, devoid of ethnicity and nepotism and religious strife, for the sake of the common good.
To conclude she says, “It is a choice, a decision we each have to make to take our place, to pay the price, in the highest capacity we can, whatever that looks like for each of us. No shortcuts. NOW – not later – if our nation is to be more developed in a decade’s time across all key development indicators, and greater than it has ever been before… WE are the women and men who built Nigeria, WE are the ones whom we seek! We simply CANNOT give up on Nigeria, We CANNOT give up on Nigerians. Happy 61st Independence Day Nigeria! I, truly, love you.”