DECEMBER 3, 2001.



I thank the organizers of this programme for the opportuniy to share my thoughts with you on the issue of the private sector in national development at this 10′ Obafemi Awolowo Foundation dialogue. The theme of the dialogue is instructive at this stage of our political and economic transition and transformation. Political in the sense of our recent efforts since May 1999 to reenact basic democratic institutions, cultures, values and ethos long neglected as a result of military dictatorship.


Economic in view of government commitment to the ongoing privatization exercise. May I seize this opportunity to congratulate the immediate family and associates of the late Pa Awolowo for a decade of organizing this brain storming Lectures. 


Today’s event undoubtedly is a celebration of a decade of sustained vision

informed by the inspiration of the late Statesman. It is also a celebration of a decade of successful interaction and exchange of ideas, views and thoughts on sundry national issues in honour of one of the founding fathers of this Nation – Chief Obafemi Awolowo GCON, QC, SAN. Pa Awo was a bastion of vision,

mission and inspiration. He was versatile. He was visible in the legal profession. He was domineering in the political landscape.


His views were equally intuitive and prophetic on the political economy. On account of the unparallel profile of Pa Awo, the theme for the 10′ Annual Dialogue is not only very fundamental to our present day economic permutations but it is I believe, a most befitting immemorial to the late sage, who in his life time was an

outstanding political economist in words, deeds and accomplishment.


I am aware that an array of distinguished and erudite scholars, researchers, policy analysts and technocrats are slated to canvass ideas at this dialogue. I have no doubt in my mind that robust discussions and deliberations are guaranteed. To that effect, I shall make my remark brief.


The phrase “‘private sector” simply pur includes the foreign conglomerates operating locally, the indigenous conglomerates, the small and medium scale enterprises and the informal sector. The private sector both in its formal and informal connotation is expected to play leading role in the economic activity of a country.


Their role is critical in promoting national development. On the other hand, the government is expected to ensure and indeed insist that the operating environment for private sector investment is not only conducive but also sufficiently attractive. These are by way of legislative reforms, dynamic policy thrust, improved infrastructural facility, good governance, security of life and

property, constant and consistent overhaul of administrative, regulatory and bureaucratic structures, virile judiciary etc. Any way, the role of government is outside the scope of the theme of this dialogue. However, suffices it to say that my comments here consist of the minimum inputs expected of government if private enterprise must thrive successfully.


The private sector in an emerging market Economy like ours is the engine of growth. It’s role is critical in job creation, wealth generation, income distribution, provision of revenue base for public investment and corporate social responsibility. Essentially, the private sector compliments government efforts in nation building. Their complimentary role raises the standard of living of the populace. It helps to

maintain appreciable security of life and property by engaging many hands that would ordinarily be idle.


It drives efficient service delivery through healthy corporate competitions. The private sector using Nigeria’s experience for the past decade has remained front liners in the campaign for National Information Technology (IT) awareness.


These are indices of an attempt at a replay of the great leaps experienced by major economies of the world via the vision, doggedness, innovations and resilience of the private sector. We can quickly recall the exploits and legacies of Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motors Corporation. And in the recent past, Ted Turner of the

Cable News Network (CNN), Bill Gate of the Microsoft are just a few to mention. And back home, we equally have galaxies of private sector pathfinders. Some of these are the Odutolas, the Eleganzas, the Dantatas, the Dangotes, the Ekene Dili Chukwus, the Pascal Dozies and the ever-restive Leo-Stan-Ekeh of Zinox Computers. These and many others have played key role in our nation’s economic growth.


However, it appears that the private sector has not really awakened to its implied duty as agent of national integration, national unity and national cohesion. A major malaise militating against the progress and advancement of our country is ethnic loyalty and identity over and above national loyalty and patriotism except may

be during soccer tournament and world beauty pageant. It is sad to note that the slightest misunderstanding and altercation between a group of Nigerians at any given moment invariably results to invocation of ethnic solidarity occasioning wanton destruction of life and property. These situations no doubt have threatened private investment across the Country.


It is even most dumb founding that the situation remain the same after more than 3 decades that Pa Awo described Nigeria as “a mere geographical expression” According to the visionary sage in his book – “ Path to Nigerian Freedom”.

“Nigeria is not a Nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no “Nigerians” in the same sense as there are English, Welsh or French. The word “Nigerian” is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those who do not.”


A Cursory study of most hiccups in some of the private sector organizations over the years shows that tribal/ethnic considerations largely undermined their viability and growth. This is equally true of the death of most government corporations tailored as quasi-business ventures.


I’m vow of the above, therefore, it is gainsayling that government must double its efforts to guarantee a conducive environment for private enterprise if the present privitisation exercise must make any difference. May I therefore commend the efforts of government so far on the privitisation programme including the efforts geared towards enhancing the security of life and property in the Country. It is expected that in the next few years the capacity of the economy would have been solid enough owing largely to private sector initiative to gainfully absorb our teeming youths. This no doubt will assist in reducing substantially the crime rate in the Country.


At the same time, I enjoin our private entrepreneurs to play down ethnicity in corporate leadership, succession, recruitment, training, posting, promotion, retirement, retrenchment etc. They should also avoid the parameter of state of origin and local government indigeneship as a factor for consideration in corporate decision-making. The private sector considering the depth of education, exposure and enlightenment of its work force is amply equipped to begin a silent re-orientation and revolution in our National psyche of being a Nigerian first over and above other self-seeking considerations. This I believe should form part of the issues to be further deliberated by this august gathering at the 10th Obafemi Awolowo Foundation dialogue.


Ladies and Genilemen, globalization of trade and commerce via information highway no doubt imposes its own corporate culture. Nonetheless, the said corporate culture must take into account the unique need of its operating environment.


And in our peculiar case, the private sector’s role in national development must embrace a new thinking and re-orientation of corporate and individual patriotism and ‘Nigerianess’ first and foremost.


Your excellency, Distinguished Senators, Honorable Representatives, Honorable Ministers, Ambassadors, Chairman of the Occasion, Our inestimable Mama, Yeyeoba of Ife, Chief H.I.D. Awolowo, Members, Board of Trustees of the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, Ladies and Gentlemen, I sincerely thank you all for the honour of being invited to the dialogue as Special Guest of Honour.

God bless you all.