New Telegraph

Walking the talk with home-grown solutions to Nigeria’s challenges

The recent Nigeria @ 60 Made-in-Nigeria Products Exhibition held at the Eagles Square in Abuja and other events attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in Lagos re-echoed his aged-long passion and belief in the nation’s brighter future, if only the citizens can believe in themselves and patronise locally-made products. Muritala Ayinla writes that with the VP’s economic development model, the good days are near for Nigerians

With the population estimated to be around 200 million, experts are of the view that Nigeria is abundantly blessed enough to be ranked as one of the greatest nations in the world. In all spheres, they say, the country is marvellously endowed with the potential for greatness in science, technology, entertainment, medicine, business and other human endeavours, saying there is no reason for the country to be poorly rated by any developmental index.

To these experts, Nigeria has all it takes to be great and continuously command respect in the comity of nations because the nation is not just populous but blessed with talented citizens, whose exploits have attracted accolades across the globe. Indeed, Nigerians are globally known as a hard-working set of people with uncommon passion to succeed in their professions. According to 2017 data from the Migration Policy Institute, Nigerians are the most highly educated of all groups in the US, with 61 per cent holding at least a bachelor’s degree compared with 31 per cent of the total foreign-born population and 32 per cent of the US-born population.

Nigerians are known to have contributed immensely to the economic development of the United States of America and many other European countries. With their feats in medicine, engineering, science, art and humanity, Nigerian names featured prominently in the teams of immediate past and present presidents of the US, just as some of them have also been elected as members of parliament in the UK and Congress in the US. But in spite of these global recognition and arguably acclaimed international acceptance of her citizens, the nation itself is bedevilled by myriad of challenges ranging from poor economy to corruption, insecurity and others that are fast dampening the morale of its citizens.

Despite the opportunities for economic diversification, Nigeria’s economic (and, perhaps, political) fortune is tied to the price of crude oil even at a time the world is desperately looking for alternatives to the black gold — with several advanced countries setting dates, starting from 2025, to phase out vehicles powered by fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel for more environmentally friendly electricity and hydrogen.

Hence, in Nigeria, the higher the price of crude, and the happier we are naturally. But a little fall in oil price, as currently being experienced, the entire economy goes into a tailspin causing anguish all over the land. As the naira depreciates against the dollar; government revenues plummet; public debts pile up; and inflation is digging holes in everyone’s pockets and unemployment rate rises astronomically. Meanwhile, many of these challenges, experts insist, can be tackled with what they otherwise term as a ‘common sense economy’ which requires that the nation begins to patronise its locally made products, develop its potentials and diversifies its revenue sources. According to them, given the right thinking and conducive environment, economists said with just patronage of the locally made product, almost half of the nation’s problems would be tackled.

They stress Nigeria can do very well in the areas of cocoa, oil palm, rice, cotton, groundnuts, ginger and sesame cultivaon tion and production. But at a time when everyone is talking so much about diversifying government revenue with little or no efforts being made to actualize that, one man stands out in this crusade to bring back the nation’s lost glory. While almost every government keeps talking about the ‘green revolution’ but with their hearts, minds and eyes still on the international crude oil market, one man is still conscious of the real solution to the nation’s obvious challenges in what he preaches and practices.

The man is the nation’s Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo. To this Professor of Law, if it is so simple and profitable to diversify public revenue, if it is also a known fact that the nation can solve all its numerous challenges just only by a way of patronizing made in Nigeria products, why can’t everyone embrace locally products to at least provide jobs for the teeming creative Nigerian youths? If Nigerians are so talented with business entrepreneurship skills, why can’t we support ourselves by embracing what is produced locally to grow our economy? These are philosophies that drive the Vice President’s uncommon passion for the patronage of made in Nigeria products.

Prof. Osinbajo demonstrated these patriotic views during his last weekend’s fully packed activities where he attended the Made-in-Nigeria fair featuring the exhibition of the first electric car assembled in Nigeria, the Federal Road Safety Corps’ headquarters where he also inaugurated the National Traffic Radio, 107.1 FM among others. The VP also attended the inauguration of the ‘Dash Me Store’, an outfit of the Dash Me Foundation founded by the immediate past Finance Minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun.

The store is established to mobilize resources for onward distribution to vulnerable people in the society via grassroots charities. Speaking at the unveiling of the Made-in- Nigeria fair featuring the exhibition of the first electric car assembled in Nigeria, among other locally manufactured products held at Eagle Square, Abuja, Prof. Osinbajo said it was time for Nigeria to produce locally what they consumed. Aside from touring the exhibition stands accompanied by top government officials, the Vice President drove the electric car alongside the Ministers of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo and Director General of the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), Mr Jelani Aliyu. Prof. Osinbajo, who was also accompanied by other dignitaries who included: the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha; Ministers of FCT, Mallam Mohammed Bello; and Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the move will further help in creating jobs and increase the nation’s internally generated revenue base, in line with the economic diversification policy of government. He added that it was time Nigeria looked inward and developed its other numerous potentials so as to have other economic mainstays.

Prof. Osinbajo said: “Time has come for our great nation to produce locally what they consume. The move will further help in creating jobs but more importantly increase our internally generated revenue base, in line with the economic diversification policy of the government. This is not the time for us to continue to rely on a single commodity like oil to fund our financial needs.” Speaking on his experience after driving the electric car, Prof. Osinbajo said: “It was a very good drive, fantastic. It just shows what is possible. I am glad to see that this is an assembledin- Nigeria electric car. You can literally charge it anywhere.

I think it is a very fantastic innovation; fantastic product and I can tell because I just drove it.” Corroborating the VP, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Richard Adeniyi Adebayo, said: “It is not surprising that in celebrating 60 years of our nationhood, the fruits of the labour of our people to create products and services deserve to be celebrated and encouraged.” Right after the exhibition, the Vice President also visited the Federal Road Safety Corps’ headquarters where he inaugurated the National Traffic Radio, 107.1 FM where he gave a live broadcast of the traffic situation across the country. There he described the radio as “an important and strategic initiative in several respects.

The service will enable effective dissemination of relevant information on road safety and the provision of up-to-date information on road conditions, as well as traffic status and security to the public.” According to him, beyond the core objective of enhancing the operations of FRSC personnel, the radio station will also be useful in reaching far-flung areas for teaching and dissemination of public health advisories and general information to Nigerians. While featuring on the radio station’s traffic report programme, Prof Osinbajo gave a live broadcast of traffic situations across the country particularly from areas in and around the FCT, Jos and Lagos. The VP said: “Good afternoon wherever you are in this great country, this is Yemi Osinbajo, your always ready, always accurate traffic reporter, updating you on the traffic situation across the nation.

“So, let’s go to the FCT. As of a few minutes ago, the Keffi-Abuja inward section, traffic from Nyanya under bridge to Kugbo, towards the city centre, is slightly free flowing, no impediments reported. “Umaru Musa Yar’Adua way, the situation report shows that there is free flow of traffic cultivaon both sections of the expressway. Kubwa- Katampe, Wuse-Berger, traffic services unit reports affirm that there is seamless traffic flow with moderate movement of vehicles. “Traffic update along Lagos-Ibadan expressway as at 11:45 am did say that the inward corridor and section of the expressway is experiencing very slow but moving traffic from the stretch of lotto to NASFAT, Chinese company around Magboro, Punch-Arepo inward, Warewa, due to high influx of vehicles and the narrowed lane around the construction area. The sharp bend coupled with picking and dropping of passengers, all that is causing some slow movement around that area.

“So, the general conclusion is that road users are enjoined to obey traffic rules, avoid dangerous driving and use the roads as responsibly as possible. All is going to be well today; this is going to be a great and exciting day. I am sure you are going to have some really good news.

Thank you dear listeners, stay safe always.” Also speaking while inaugurating the Nigeria’s first thrift-for-charity online store, in Lagos, Prof. Osinbajo said adding social enterprise to philanthropy with a structure that allows for resource mobilization for charity as well as creates the opportunity for people to earn a living in the process, should be the way to go. His words: “What I think is happening here is that philanthropy is not like it used to be when all you needed was a good and kind heart and you didn’t need to plan or organise as you would a business for-profit. “What Kemi and her team have done is to bring the new notion of social enterprise to this project.

Philanthropy runs with the discipline, attention to detail, and financial prudence of a successful business, and she can do all of that, and I am sure her team is imbibing that, given her background in finance in both the private and public sector.” Also, to inspire and promote communal, entrepreneurial and public-spirited endeavours within Nigeria in honour of Prof Osinbajo’s birthday, a group of friends and associates of the VP also known as “Friends of Prof” conceptualized ‘The March 8th Initiative” where hundreds of entrepreneurs are empowered. The March 8th Initiative, which was launched in 2020, keyed into the Vice President’s passion for MSMEs to commemorate his birthday with a competition that offers one-off business grants to young Nigerians between 18 and 35 years seeking opportunities to start or expand on their innovative business ideas.

In the initiative, which was meant to make young Nigerians self-reliant, over 100 entrepreneurs across the country received businessdefining grants of N1 million each that helped grow and advance their businesses, among other incubator support services from close friends and associates of ‘Prof’ as he is fondly called under the auspices of ‘The March 8th Initiative”.

In addition to the Entrepreneurship Development Programme, the latest edition of the March 8th Initiative also recognised health workers nationwide who, in the face of a global pandemic, demonstrated exemplary courage, compassion, diligence, hard work and professionalism in carrying out their duties. The initiative also undertook a nationwide ophthalmological intervention to provide succour in the form of surgeries and other therapeutic care for cataracts and other eye defects and has continued to expand its scope to touch the lives of more Nigerians. Earlier in the year, Prof. Osinbajo proved his love for made in Nigeria products and young Nigerian entrepreneurs, when he patronised a young entrepreneur and shoemaker known as ‘OJ Best’, who had reached out to him on Twitter.

The young man had requested to present a gift of his own made footwear to the Vice President. In response to the tweet, the VP invited the young Nigerian entrepreneur to Aso Rock Presidential Villa where the shoemaker took his measurements for some footwear.

Prof Osinbajo wore the sandals made by the entrepreneur the following weekend the foot wear was brought to him. Reacting to the development, an elated OJ Best, who described President Muhammadu Buhari’s deputy as a friend to the MSMEs, tweeted: “I really cannot contain my joy in expressing this. This is a dream I never thought would happen. Words have failed me and I may not use the appropriate words, but I really want to thank his Excellency @ProfOsinbajo for his patronage and support for OJbest footwear.

“I was in the office of the Vice President to take measurements of his feet and later returned to make delivery of the order. Never have I seen a man as humble, simple and ready to support like His Excellency. He is highly friendly and jovial and this made my communication with him easy.” Meanwhile, the significance of the Vice President’s activities and remarks at all the events he attended at the action-parked weekend are no doubt altruistic and clear indications of his patriotism and a gesture towards making more Nigerians selfreliant and the nation self-sufficient. With the remarks and the actions of the nation’s number two man, especially in the area of empowerment, support for the entrepreneurs and other venerable citizens as well as patronage of the locally made products, VP is unarguably walking the talk!

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