IBU ANYI DANDA: THE MAGIC OF TOGETHERNESS AND COMMON PURPOSE
A keynote address delivered by Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim, GCON at the 2nd Edition of the Eastern Nigeria Investment Summit held at Enugu on 22nd and 23rd of November, 2022
I am very delighted to be here today to share with you my perspectives on the topic of this Investment summit titled: ‘Ibu anyi danda: the magic of togetherness and common purpose’.
Before I dive into my discourse, let me use this opportunity to commend the organizers of this summit, the entire South East Chambers of Commerce and Barr. Jasper Nduagwuike (the President of Enugu Chamber of Commerce) for their sheer determination to promote trade, investment and entrepreneurship across the length and breadth of south east Nigeria.
Let me state that the concept of ‘Ibu anyi danda’ was developed by Prof. Innocent Asouzu from the Igbo traditional philosophy of ‘complementarity’ derived or coined from the modus operandi or daily attitude of the ant called ‘Danda’. In his work, Prof. Asouzu observed thus:
The nearest English meaning of the concept of ‘Ibuanyidanda’ is “Complementarity’’. Danda are ants that have the capacity in mutual interdependence to carry loads that appear bigger than themselves. The implication of this is that they surmount very difficult task when they are mutually dependant on each other in the effort of complementation. Hence, traditional Igbo philosophers hold that: Ibu anyi danda (no task is insurmountable for danda)
From the above explanation of Prof. Asouzu, ibu anyi danda is a concept that proposes the adoption of a complementary or collaborative approach towards solving shared problems or the attainment of a common goal.
Although the phrase ‘Ibu anyi danda’ is an Igbo philosophical expression, its ideology or application however is not peculiar to the Igbos as it has been used all through human existence; and is still being used to solve the most complicated problems confronting humanity. For instance, after the World War 2, nations across the globe saw the need to adopt a complementary and collaborative approach as sustainable tools for the entrenchment of a new international order for peace, trade and security. The realization of the importance of complementarity and collaboration in solving shared world problems was what facilitated the creation of the United Nations as a multi- lateral institution with the responsibility of bringing the world together to solve shared problems through commitment to maintaining international peace and security, developing relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights.
The creation of other multi-lateral institutions such as ECOWAS, European Union, NATO, African Union, etc was also borne out of the realization that shared challenges cannot be tackled by one entity alone no matter how powerful it may be. Therefore, effective response to these challenges must elicit concerted, complementary and collaborative commitment from all stakeholders.
In the context of my discuss therefore, ‘ibu anyi danda’ is a concept that challenges ‘Ndi-Igbo’ on how we can come together to harness available human and financial resources to re-focus or catalyse the economy of the south east for the common good of our people and Nigeria by extension. I shall as well be attempting answers to the puzzle on why the Igbos are developing/investing in other places but Igbo land.
FACTORS THAT FACILITATE COMPLIMENTARITY
a. There must be shared motivation, confidence building and benefits. In the case of danda, it is mutual survival and, in many others, it is usually for mutual progress;
b. There must be leadership. The leadership will create the vision or policy direction. The vision will highlight common purpose and define modalities and direction because the ibu (challenge) is for the community and so the community leadership should lead the way;
c. In most cases, institutional leadership creates the enabling environment to stimulate the participation of the private sector. In the case of danda, it is the big-headed ants that takes leadership. This is the case of China, India, etc and also the reason behind economic zones, industrial estates, farm estates, etc;
d. The size of economic community does not matter. It may be big or small.
In the discussion following, I shall leave you to see how these factors come into play. I shall start with the example of Dr. Michael Okpara.
1. THE IBU ANYI DANDA – THE MAGIC OF DR. M.I OKPARA- PREMIER OF EASTERN NIGERIA (1959 – 1966)
At 39 years, Dr. Okpara became the youngest Nigerian to become Premier. Dr Okpara’s tenure smacked a reign of ideas and pragmatism. On assumption of office, Dr. Okpara was confronted with the challenge of creating a future for Eastern Nigeria which at the time was rural in every aspect of life. The challenge before him was how to impact and uplift the lives of the people so that they will in the future participate in their own economic wellbeing. Dr. Okpara needed not just the support and collaboration of all the key stakeholders of his time but also their participation.
In order to have a common platform for a take-off, Dr. Okpara commissioned the firm of Arthur D. Little (a management consultant) to develop a blue print or growth plan (policy direction) for the development of Eastern Nigeria. The critical focus areas of the growth plan were:
- – Human capital development
- – Industrialization
- – Entrepreneurship
- – Agriculture
- – Infrastructure, etc
The policy direction of Dr. Okpara as shown in the focal areas was to stimulate economic activities in the entire region, attract participation of the private sector and at a much later stage, divest government interest to the private sector. The activities were structured in clusters so that the participants will leverage common facilities in training, infrastructure and distribution to complement each other.
Under industrialization, he created industrial estates serviced with basic infrastructure such as water, power, roads, etc. The estates were specialized per cluster as follows:
Aba – light industries
Umuahia – Biotechnology
Emene – Steel and industrial automation
Nkalagu, Port Harcourt and Calabar – Cement and building materials
Trans-Amadi – Heavy and light industries
Onitsha – To drive retail trading
All the major economic hubs were provided with commercial support services like hotels, housing estates, etc. In no distant time, the structured industrial clusters attracted multinationals who also leveraged on the conducive business environment to invest in Eastern region, e.g Nigerian Breweries, Liver brothers, PZ industries, Micheline and Dunlop Tyres, etc. Investments from the private sector was also attracted for example- Ugo Foams, Dr. Ekwueme set up an Aluminium plant at Emene, etc.
On agriculture, Dr. Okpara initiated the Farm Estate concept in Eastern Nigeria, e.g:
- – Oil Palm Estates in Eket, Calaro, Elele, Ibiam , Nsadiop, etc;
- – Rubber Estates in Elele, Etche, Amaeke Abam, Biakpam, Nko, Emeabiam, etc;
- – Cocoa Estates in Umuahia, Arochukwu, Obienyi, Obubra, Bende, etc;
- – Cashew plantations in Udi, Mbala, Akama-Oghe, Oji, Isuochi, Kingie, etc.
Dr. Okpara’s vision to make agriculture one of the mainstays of the economy of the south east region galvanized the people into agriculture and this had huge impact on agricultural investments, revenue generation, creation of employment and stimulation of the economy of the region. For instance, as at 1964, over 150,000 acres of land were acquired for farm settlements and plantations as opposed to about 11,000 acres in 1955 representing over 136% increase in agricultural investments and undertakings.
Arising from the deliberate and pragmatic approach to development, the World Bank in 1964 reportedly described the economy of Eastern Nigeria as the fastest growing regional economy in the world.
I must say that I have no need to emphasize the factor of political stability and sense of common purpose between the leadership and the people. Accordingly, it can be said that the magic that guaranteed progress recorded under Dr. Okpara’s administration is purposeful and visionary leadership, the goal of which was to stimulate complementarity as a development tool in itself.
2. IBU ANYI DANDA – THE MAGIC OF EZE FESTUS ODUMEGWU, THE MANAGING DIRECTOR NIGERIAN BREWERIES PLC. (1997-2006)
Dr. Festus odumegwu, a vibrant Biochemist became the Managing Director of Nigerian Breweries in1997. During his days as the M/D of NBPLC, the company attained the pick of its glory. Mr. Odumegwu not only expanded the existing breweries production lines, he localized the sourcing of their raw materials and also built the biggest brewery in West Africa which is located at Ama near 9th mile in Enugu state.
In 2003, Nigerian Breweries resolved to find alternative to imported bailey and malted sorghum was the undisputed local alternative. In order to enhance complementarity with other private sector players, they decided not only to out-source the farming of sorghum in Northern Nigeria but also to out-source the setting up of an ultra-modern sorghum malting plant, the first of its kind in the world. By the 2nd half of 2003 when I had left the Senate, they advertised for investors to take up the project. After going through a rigorous bid, a company I was interested in won the bid and that was how we started a multi- million US Dollars industrial project in 2004 located at Aba Industrial Estate, Abia state. The highlights of this example are as follows:
- Abaindustrialestateisservicedwithgassopowerwasnotaproblemas we set up our own power plant and we were conveniently generating 6mgw of power.
- We needed to borrow from African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and it was not a problem because Nigerian Breweries provided the guarantee.
- WaterwasnotaproblemasAbahasgreatundergroundwaterandwe generated our water supply.
- The collaboration with Nigerian Breweries was such that all the products were off taken by Nigerian Breweries etc.
Eze Festus Odumegwu did not stop there. He cited Ama Breweries at Enugu state and you can agree with me that these two projects became the biggest industrial projects in south east in the last 20 years.
Dr. Okpara and Odumegwu are the big-headed ants who took the lead and others followed. I therefore wish to state that at any time the big-headed ants arise, the small ants will follow.
SOUTH-EAST OF TODAY – A SHADOW OF ITSELF
Today, data and statistics show that the economy of the south east which was once described as the fastest growing regional economy in the world is now a shadow of itself.
WHAT COULD BE THE CAUSE
According to Prof. Benjamin Osisoma:
The creation of States definitely brought about disunity among the different peoples of the South-East, and perhaps disorganised some economic cooperation among communities. Consequently, there is conscious or unconscious competition, rivalry and political struggle among some of the States, which may not be healthy for the cooperation and synergy required to form a formidable economic development bloc.
Let me say that many people have propounded a number of reasons why the economy of Eastern Nigeria or more pointedly why the Igbos are not investing in the east. I want to disagree with a number of them starting with Prof. Osisoma. In the first place, it cannot be said that the strength of Eastern region before the war was its size or lack of security or presence of infrastructure. I am of the opinion that until we properly appreciate the reasons for the Igbo’s lack of interest in developing the region despite proven capacity to do so, we may not be in a position to address the challenge. I shall hereunder attempt to articulate what I think constitute the challenge:
1. Aftermath of the civil war
It must be noted that the civil war did not do much harm to the infrastructure in the Southeast principally because there was no outstanding infrastructure in the east at the time. Again, wars at the time were not fought with much destructive munitions. For instance, the Niger Bridge was not affected. The Enugu Aerodrome and PortHarcourt Airport were not affected. No industry was affected. On the other hand, major infrastructural development in the southeast were done after the war e.g Enugu-PortHarcourt and Enugu- Onitsha Expressways, Imo Airport, etc.
So, we cannot blame the lack of infrastructure on the war. On the other hand, the war affected investments in the region in the following ways:
a. Loss of confidence as a conquered people
The war which ended in favour of the Federal Government no doubt psychologically affected the Igbos. After the surrender, many were cautious of undertaking or continuing any activity in the region for fear of being suspected of attempting to resurrect or rebuild the Biafran Nation. This is more so as the Federal Government had announced a programme of Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation across the country.
In view of the above, individuals and even at some point, multi- nationals were not confident to continue any of their existing investments within the region as doing so may be misconstrued.
b. The desire to identify with the Nigerian State
Flowing from above, it became fashionable to move to investment places outside the southeast as a sign of loyalty and commitment to the Nigerian State. As a result of (a) above, both economic and employment opportunities continued to dwindle in the southeast to what we have today – a deserted region.
c. Inability of the successive Military Governments in the region to bridge the gap
It is noted that the various military administrations in south-eastern states made no effort to bridge the gap or to rebuild confidence in the Igbo Entrepreneurs. This may not be surprising as one of the major reasons for the creation of states was to fractionalize the regions so that they may not be in a position to contemplate secession. The military administrations were clearly posted to guarantee the One- Nigerian Policy so their programmes were not tailored towards rebuilding the southeast but to discourage thoughts of secession.
2. The set back occasioned by the 1983 Military return to power
The creation of states may have been a well thought-out policy of the military governments to discourage secession but for me, it is seen as a great opportunity for the region to regain its glory. This perspective is blurry to appreciate under the military administration but it became clear upon the return to civil rule in 1979. I am confident to say that largely, the opportunity the region had to elect their own leaders was as great as it were in the first Republic. At the regional/state levels, the return to democracy was largely an opportunity to take their development into their own hands.
It has been argued in some quarters that the states were denied the autonomy over their resources but I can say that even at that, the States’ share of the federal allocations has brought more money into the region without taking away the economic opportunities that made the region the fastest growing economy in the 60’s e.g agriculture, industrialization, etc.
The brief stint on power by such visionary leaders as Dr. Sam Mbakwe, Jim Nwobodo, etc bears me witness. They restored the confidence of the Igbos in themselves and investments in the region blossomed. Within a period of three (3) years, Sam Mbakwe’s Government catalysed development in the then Imo State supported with massive industrial and infrastructural facilities such as Imo Paints, Imo Airport, Avutu Poultry, etc.
At the same time, Enugu was also on the upwards journey. I can conveniently say that Mbakwe stepped into the shoes of M.I Okpara and the fortunes of the east was beginning to rise when the military struck again in 1983.
3. The challenge of leadership
In my opinion, the challenge of leadership in the region since 1999 is the bane of the situation in the southeast today. The concept of complementarity portends a sense of community. It originates from a commitment to shared destiny and targets the goals of collective survival. It is leadership that inspires complementarity through deliberate policies that not only pulls the people together towards collective survival but also creates the vision that assures and secures every person’s interest and protection. This was the skill deployed by Dr. Okpara that not only motivated the Igbos to participate in his economic blue print but felt secured under his leadership.
I want to say that blaming our woos on the Federal Government, lack of infrastructure and insecurity are misplaced. Today, we have our own governments with sufficient capacity to provide basic infrastructure, secure the region and thereby inspire the people to confidently settle in the region and participate in the economic agenda of the respective Governments.
I want to say that the sizes of our states, economic opportunities and natural resources available within the boundaries of our respective states are enough for visionary leaders to inspire a sense of community, stimulate a sense of shared destiny and collective survival by doing the following like M.I Okpara:
1. Creating industrial estates serviced with infrastructure
As early as the 60’s, Dr. Okpara was able to create industrial corridors serviced with infrastructure e.g Aba, Onitsha, Emene, etc. What has made it impossible for our State Governments to do so today?.
The advantages of Government serviced industrial estates in the region includes:
- – Investors will have the confidence that with government taking the first step, there is assurance of policy protection and support;
- – Government providing infrastructure will reduce the cost of investment as investors will concentrate on their investment portfolio. The required infrastructure will also be very feasible as it will be a targeted scheme with commercial off-takers and so, sustainability will be assured;
- – Security will be a lot more easy to manage not only because of government involvement but also collective commitment of all;
- – Land acquisition would become easier with Government and this will encourage investors.
2. The advantages above will also be available in cases of Farm Estates and Settlements, Housing Estates and Technology Centres.
I must say at this point that Danda does not just take on Ibu, there is usually a leader that inspires the task. Accordingly, our leaders should rise to the occasion.
WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD – ADOPTION OF LION BUSINESS PARK MODEL
In the absence of Government involvement as I have canvassed above, I believe strongly that the way forward as far as the economy of the southeast is concerned is for individuals and the private sector to come together and adopt the Lion Business Park model as a sustainable pathway for economic growth and prosperity within the region.
What is the Lion Business Park Model?
Lion Business Park is a private sector initiative conceived by the promoters of Lion Business Park in collaboration with Enugu State Government to facilitate the development of an industrial hub that would help address the problems of manufacturing and trading in Nigeria by creating an enabling environment through the provision of state-of-the-art infrastructure i.e power, security, ICT facilities, road, etc. The infrastructure would facilitate industrialization, entrepreneurship, boost commerce and lead to the creation of wholesale pathway for the production and supply of goods and services across Africa.
The basic principle of Lion Business Park includes the following:
- Government will not invest in the project but will be part of the project to monitor its progress;
- Governmentfacilitationwillbelimitedtopolicyprotectionandcreating enabling environment such as conferment of a free zone status which will mean free tax status;
- Theprivatesectorwillarrangealltheinvestmentsincludingtheprovision of infrastructure on recoverable basis.
May I use this opportunity to invite you to be part of the Lion Business Park initiative. It is located around the 9th Mile Corner in Enugu here.
Thank you for listening.
Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim, GCON