By Adeniyi Olugbemi
A university don, Professor Femi Olufunmilade, has urged Nigerian leaders to emulate late Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s, state-owned investments model that created jobs and earned revenue for the defunct Western Region of Nigeria.
Professor Olufunmilade singled out Cross River State Governor, Professor Ben Ayade, investment in agro-based industries to late Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s foray into state-owned investments, akin to today’s China investment strategy.
Listed among the agro-based investments are the massive poultry farm that processes twenty four thousand chicken per day, the cocoa plantation and chocolate processing factory and the rice farm and rice processing plant, that held members of the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture on an inspection tour to the state in awe
According to him, “the value chain on the agro-based investments in terms of jobs is humongous. Hundreds, if not thousands of jobs are created, from the planting of maize and processing of fishmeal, to compound poultry feeds, to the slaughter house, packaging and marketing.
“Ayade is bringing my thoughts back to what I will call the Awolowo Investment Model. Most of the companies set up to create jobs and earn revenue in the defunct Western Region of Nigeria under Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Premiership were state-owned.
“They were set up by the Western Nigeria Investment Corporation. Later, most of the investments were brought under the umbrella of the O’dua Group of Companies, which remains a leading conglomerate till this day with interests in banking, hotels, manufacturing and agriculture.
“Awolowo’s foray into state-owned investments was borne of the need to provide jobs for the teeming masses of the youths he had all put on compulsory free education. His refrain was jobs had to be created by all means for those being educated when they graduated from school.
“Another reason why Awolowo had no scruples in setting up state-owned businesses was ideological. He was a socialist who believed the state must play a leading role in economic development, rather than leave the economic fortunes of his region to the whims and caprice of foreign investors, which Nigerian government today wastes so much energy on, trying to “create an enabling environment” for them to be attracted.
“Coincidentally, the Awolowo Investment Model is akin to China’s investment strategy. Most of the Chinese banks and companies African governments patronise for loans and infrastructure projects are state-owned.
“Those state-owned behemoths are the core of the economic model the world today celebrates as the Beijing Consensus, as opposed to the Washington Consensus that stipulates strictly that “government has no business in business.” The Washington Consensus is promoted, if not enforced in some abject quarters, through the agency of the World Bank and the IMF.”
Professor Olufunmilade, who is the Director, Buratai Center for Contemporary Security Affairs, Igbinedion University Okada, in Edo State, argued that the Nigerian state must renew its capacity to play the leading role in the creation of businesses in critical sectors of the economy.
“We need to rekindle this tested model of state intervention. If I were the President, I shall target one hundred new companies in my first term rather than waste huge funds on the jamboree of wooing foreign investors or putting hundreds of billions of loans into the hands of so-called indigenous entrepreneurs who would never do any business nor repay the loans,” he stated