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OP-UNEDITED | Re: Japheth Omojuwa and the Buy Nigeria Brigade – By Babatope Falade

By Babatope Falade

I read Japheth Omojuwa piece here about the sloganeering of Nigerians on Twitter and other social media platforms.

Japheth made a couple of salient points about the challenges of even being an entrepreneur to have anything to sell in the first place. Truly, the facts are there in the Ease of Doing Business, published by the World Bank and we can all attest that registering a business takes months or luckily weeks sometimes. Getting to open a company account is another challenge if you don’t know how to work the system.

Omojuwa challenged the previous administrations for various slogans, such as “Heart of Africa”, and “Re-branding Nigeria” slogans, especially the fact that the slogans themselves couldn’t solve the challenges we face.

Just like him, some of us are frustrated by words and no action. It seems there is something about Nigeria that makes good plans and wishes/intentions not translate to action. Even the current government is going through that. I think Omojuwa didn’t note this. Let’s leave this for now.

The slogans that have been employed were largely for awareness, baring the challenges in the system. United States of America is home to the highest number of prisoners in any country today, but we need to dig deep to know this. However, what do we think of when we hear the USA? Chivalry, heroism, economic power house etc. It’s called perception. Why then must we only project the bad things in our own country? Is that all we are about? Thieves. Hackers, Drug Dealers? Is this where El-Chapo is from? Do we hack better than Eastern Europeans? What about stealing and day light robbery like Johannesburg, South Africa?

I need to ask Omojuwa whether it is entirely bad to ask Nigerians to support home made goods and services. I admire Omojuwa’s contribution to the awakening of the youth, but he should not put his social capital to disservice because of his disagreements with Ben Bruce.

We have many people doing great stuff here, despite the challenges. Nigeria has many startups in tech, fashion, engineering, logistics etc. While, some of these people have just started, some have been around, but no one is giving them a chance. These people can’t afford advertising like foreign brands do. They also don’t have brand equity, thus they make do with their immediate circles, or when they are lucky, a celebrity or luck brings them to limelight.

Imagine that officials in our MDA’s still allow foreigners bring in tomato concentrates, while local manufacturers of Nigerian origin suffer because they are involved in backward integration and a lot of inefficiencies result because they can’t access loans here and the little they have is not enough to market across channels after production.

Why then should anyone condemn the awakening to the need to consume the products of such hardworking Nigerians?

We read about Hyundai, LG and other Chaebol companies in Korea. Koreans during a recession, donated individually to power their economy and the enterprises that government supported. The Japanese have also done same by supporting home grown stuff, not only when things were good! They went through challenges, but pulled through. The support was there nonetheless all the way. As we speak, China is struggling to get its citizens to consume home made goods more.

Don’t also forget that the Asian Tigers were accused at this time of imitating designs and function. Hence, derogatory phrases like “Taiwan made” in the 90’s and “China made” in 2000’s

I appreciate Omojuwa’s view about putting the right conditions in place, but I also implore him not to denigrate this slogan because it’s from Ben Bruce, even if he is a PDP senator and you two can’t stand each other. The Yoruba’s say; Omo Buruku na ni ojo ti e.

One more thing Omojuwa. I disagree vehemently about the explanation around sack of the Budget Office DG. While, it has some justification because someone must take the fall, I believe some justice should be involved in that fall. Afterall, the legal-latin maxim goes; Fiat Justitia, Ruat Coelum- Justice must happen though the heavens fall. There was no justice in this case.

What is the budget preparation process in Nigeria? Does the budget office just make a hypothesis of how the ministries are aligned to the change mantra and strategy of the government and append or allocate resources?

I believe a serious government will be involved and if they were involved, how come such budget made its way to the national assembly? I bet you agree that while fraud and incompetence may have originated from the budget office, it was supported by conscious effort or ignorance at the presidency. Therefore if we should be fair, it should have been two falls, not just one. Two falls, one from the budget office, one from the presidency. That’s justice!

You can’t punish the incompetence of the budget office and reward the connivance or ignorance in the presidency.

Talking about the lack of moral rectitude of the sacked Director General of the Budget Office for not resigning, perhaps the president should have resigned. It’s supposed to be leadership by example.

This budget was not Yahaya Gusau’s budget. It was Buhari’s budget and according to Hegel in his master-slave dialectics; You can’t separate a thought from a thing, you can’t separate a slave from its master. Omojuwa, you can’t separate the fraud, incompetence and embarrassment of this budget from Buhari.

I need to ask, is it in Yahaya Gusau’s power to determine that we will spend over 6trillion naira with a possibility of over 3trillion? Is that really the Budget Office’s determination? How did you establish that he did a shoddy job singularly?

If other governments allowed stealing with the budget. This government was supposed to be different. Have we Nigerians asked ourselves, what would have happened if BudgIT and Premium Times didn’t expose the fraud? Will it have passed? Will the senate have overlooked it if the presidency didn’t call them out for their insensitive 4.7billion car proposal? We can go on, but honestly, we need progress and I wish Mr President well. Nigeria needs help and I hope he helps.

Finally, I implore you to see the merit is the slogans that support domestic consumption of locally produced goods, irrespective of the person behind it. I also hope you administer the same amount of venom you did to the last administration.

Babatope Falade-Onikoyi is a public policy analyst whose focus is on the knowledge economy. He has written extensively on the subject. He is the founder of Knowledge Economy Africa and the CEO of Walter and Edwards Communications. He tweets via @topefalade


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