By Mitchel Aghatise||
My boss had been particularly difficult today, time after time I had re-edited and updated the stakeholder document, only to be told it was not of company quality- what does that even mean? If my university mates could see the humility that has been forced upon me by this workplace, they will be shocked. What can I say, having been tossed by the job market for the past 5 years in search of my dream oil company job, I was more than elated when this job came about. Fine, I studied Earth Sciences in the university, but any job, including this one as an audit trainee at one of the consulting firms on the island was more than welcome.
Dissatisfaction prevails as I unlock the door of my rickety 1999 Toyota Camry and prepare for the daunting journey home in the notorious Lagos traffic.
The traffic jam today feels worse than ever, stretching over the horizon. All I make out are vehicle taillights of varying models, unified by their stationary state, in haste to move forward but unable to- defeated by the Lagos traffic. As I look at the fuel meter, I realise it is unwise to turn on the Air Conditioner. As I undo my tie and ready myself for the long haul of this trip, the radio frequency belts out- Breaking News!
The On Air Personality, in an assured voice, seemingly detached from my frustration in this traffic jam, reels out “… after the rebase of the economy today, Nigeria it is confirmed is the biggest economy in Africa…” For a second, I forget the traffic jam and my rickety Camry. I feel elated, “… Aha we are the biggest economy in Africa, NAIJA NO DEY CARRY LAST…”
My joy is short-lived. An okada (motorcycle) rider smashes into my side-mirror as he ambles on. I swear some profanities at him as he rushes off into the setting sun. I am visibly annoyed as you can imagine, but I continue listening to the radio as several people call in to give their 2 cents on the rebase. ‘Giants of Africa’ is constant in all the calls, and I feel some pride at this.
I arrive home, battered and exhausted by my duel with the Lagos traffic. I intend to watch the news at 9. As I park the car, I realise I have forgotten to buy fuel, and in the only certainty that sometimes remains in my neighbourhood, NEPA (Power Holding Company of Nigeria) are dutiful in holding back the electricity.
Then it struck me. GDP or Not, What Changes?
Can you imagine these small boys? Because they have come with their foreign educations, they believe they can call me Obinna- Insult! I go by the name of Chief Obinna Anwuli. I smile with them, biding my time. You see, I am an importer and exporter of goods, ever since I started hiring these foreign graduates, my business has grown.
25 years ago, I left the village. My plan had been to move to America, but as I arrived in Lagos, I knew this was home. I’m a business man and this is my blood, so in that regard, one can say Lagos and I are siblings. Since the early 2000s, my business has been blossoming, imports here and there and the domestic buyers are buying. You see, I learned a trick when I started out, tell a Nigerian the product is from abroad, and you can slap any price tag on it.
Where is this driver?
The thing with Lagos is that you cannot keep up with the domestic staff. I only just employed this driver yesterday and today he is already calling sick. I had to drive the kids to school today, after which I dropped my eldest son at the airport; he is off to England to start A-Levels at a private school in Dorset. Imagine having to drive him myself after paying for a driver?
It has only been 2 months since I got myself this new Mercedes jeep and the bad roads are already affecting the shock-absorber. WHERE IS THIS DRIVER? He has to take this vehicle to the mechanics tomorrow- I am going to change the car though, I recently placed an order for the 2014 edition! They will know the eagle has landed!
Social Entrepreneurship: Nigeria’s Panacea
At the end of the day, the Nigerian state remains as is. The wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few vested interests whereas the rest of the population is still groaning under decades of neglect, crumbling infrastructure and abject poverty.
For many, the recent rebase of Nigeria’s GDP was no surprise. Unlike many countries who update their records every three years, it was telling that the Nigerian state waited 24 years since the last recalculation in 1990.
There is no point in discussing problems- that has never gotten us as a Nation anywhere. The fact that Nigeria has the highest GDP in Africa is an opportunity rather than an end in itself. The opportunity is to use social entrepreneurship as a tool to harness growth, development and the more basic needs of the Nigerian society.
So, imagine if Chief Obinna; in addition to sending his son abroad for education worth £25,000 a term also initiated scholarships in his village, so that he could also rely on Nigerian qualified employees in his business. What if instead of relying on a new car every time the shock absorber spoilt, Chief Obinna was also involved in upgrading the roads that the Lorries bearing his containers drove by? What if instead of importing for so long, Chief Obinna had invested so that those goods could be produced in Nigeria, thus employing labour within, growing Nigeria’s industry and in a classic case of win-win, also ensuring that his profits soared seeing as he needn’t pay long freight costs anymore?
What if one of Chief Obinna’s firms diversified into earth sciences? Tobi will be employed therein- stemming the tide of Nigeria’s brain drain.
But what if Tobi did not settle, and instead went into business, not complaining about not being given his trickle down from the GDP but soldiering on to claim his piece of the national cake. Legitimately and with a sense of responsibility for the rest like him.
Then and only then shall we celebrate the GDP status we have, not when the government begins to effect change, but when the citizenry takes their destiny in their own hands, from complaints to actions that shall change the collective lot.
The time for talking and analysing the problems of Nigeria is in the past. The GDP rebase is not an end and is a façade of a growth that is but skin deep. Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. Social Entrepreneurship I contend is Nigeria’s Panacea.