Guest Columnist By Victor Oladokun
I am not a prognosticator, neither am I a prophet. However as an observer of future trends, I believe that beyond the realm of ‘impossibility’ is infinite possibility and that it is possible to create the future we all desire by working backwards.This is my report of things that ‘happened’ in 2013 in Nigeria. May it be so!
The Year of ME: 2013 was the year when millions of Nigerians engaged in MEaningful life and work. It was a year when we all owned, dealt with, and cleaned up our MEanness and our MEsses. In our families, at work, in our communities, and as a nation, we set aside the incessant negativity that comes from pointing the finger, blaming and shaming others. Instead, we let change begin with “ME”.
Personal Growth and Development: In 2013 we saw hundreds of thousands of Nigerians breaking the barriers of cost, distance, and time by taking advantage of online educational portals such as Coursera, Minerva and edX that offer access to free online courses, lectures and events at Ivy League Universities including Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Yale, Princeton and a host of other colleges. Many accessed courses as diverse as Mathematical Thinking, Operational Management, Fundamentals of Computer Programming, Computer Architecture, Leadership, History, Fundamentals of Personal Finance, Sustainability, Healthcare Delivery, Global History, and Artificial Intelligence, to mention but a few. In 2013, millions of Nigerians engaged in continual self-improvement without having to leave the shores of Nigeria or having to break the bank.
End of Profligate Spending: Positioning himself for 2015, President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, took a cue from his recently installed Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, who in 2012 came down hard on imperious public officials and banned lavish banquets and luxurious cars, the reading of dull and empty public speeches, and fawning media reports about mediocre government projects. Taking it one step further, President Jonathan showed that he and his government were irreversibly committed to stamping out wanton waste and serenades by thieving politicians and civil servants. He effectively banned the ‘launch’ of countless projects that at best would be mundane and at worst meaningless in many parts of the world.
There Was “Light”: In 2013, we found the magic switch and exclaimed in unison “we have seen the light!” Refurbished thermal generating plants in Egbin; hydroelectric power stations in Kainji, Shiroro, and Jebba; Gas turbines in Afam and Sapele in the Niger Delta; and solar power farms scattered across Nigeria’s northern belt, together churned out 15,000 uninterrupted mega watts of power that more than met domestic, commercial, and export needs. As we go into 2014, millions of Nigerians are saying their stress levels have gone down; business boomed, industrial output quadrupled, electronic media consumption broke all records, and street lighting on all major roads increased overall security.
Religious Leaders Lived by Example: The messenger did not get in the way of the message in 2013. There were no reports of pastors slapping congregants. With many members of congregations barely able to afford bicycles, no multimillion dollar jets were purchased. To the delight of saints and sinners, pastors began to ask themselves: “How can I selflessly add value to my congregation and my community? How can I visibly demonstrate God’s love to the flock that I’ve been called to serve? How can I galvanize the collective energy and resources of my congregation to make tangible life-changing differences in my community? How can I teach my congregants to live out God’s Word, rather than simply spout a gospel of accumulation and prosperity? How can I make myself more accessible to the people? How can I break free from my self-serving handlers? In 2013, church leaders began to redeem themselves.
Transparent Accountability: Instead of being branded the 35th most corrupt nation in the world, and placing 139th out of 176 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2012 global Anti-Corruption Index, in 2013 Nigeria jumped 39 notches to place 100 on the Index, ushering in a new era of accountability and transparency at all levels of Federal and State Governance in budgeting, spending, audits, project performance, and the activities of the military, judiciary, the House and Senate, NNPC, EFFCC, NPF, Customs, Immigration, institutions of higher learning, and a host of public institutions; as well as a more aggressive prosecution of those engaged in fraud and corrupt practices, regardless of political affiliation.
Youth-Oriented Business Incubators. 2013 was the year that technology innovation made explosive strides from the high street to the backstreets of Nigeria. Creative entrepreneurs and NGOs planted visible IT and Business Incubators across the country with the goal of developing the ideas and concepts of thousands of creative young entrepreneurs. Digital media businesses led to the development of countless indigenous mobile and software applications for smart phones, allowing young entrepreneurs to make generous profits in the process.
Emergence of ‘Solopreneurs.’ In 2013, Nigeria saw the emergence of hundreds of thousands of Solopreneurs in IT, media, sales and marketing, computer graphics, audio and video post-production, professional proposal writing, and mobile app designs. Bucking a decades-old trend, hundreds of thousands of graduates and professionals began hiring out their skills, rather than seeking traditional employment.
Year of Mergers: In business, professional sports teams, media companies, hospitals, NGOs, political parties, and even churches, mergers became the norm in 2013. In the process, wasteful duplication of resources was greatly reduced; strengths, skills and talents of the best minds were harnessed for greater efficiency; numerous newly merged entities began expanding the presence of their brands nationwide; while “excellence” and “value” began to take on new meaning.
Community-Based Crowd Sourcing: 2013 was the year that funding networks collaborated in win-win joint ventures between creative business types and investors, with the goal of moving large numbers into gainful business ownership. Funding Networks of like-minded venture philanthropists came together to fund small sized businesses that otherwise would not have been able to access traditional lending funds.
Virtual Offices Mushroomed. In an age of high rent costs in Lagos, Abuja, and many other major cities, limited access to state of the art communication and teleconferencing technology, meeting rooms, professional receptionists and secretarial staff, privately owned Virtual Offices began popping up all over the country. Instead of renting office space for a year or two in advance, many upwardly mobile entrepreneurs who do business on the go via smart phones, began to lease Virtual Office space and facilities per block of hours or days for meetings and teleconferences.
Respect for Humanity: In 2013, as Nigerians we showed greater respect for the humanity of our fellow citizens in the way we interacted with one another in speech and attitude, especially toward those we may have been tempted to think could never do anything for us. Once and for all, we banished the phrase “do you know who I am?” from our vocabulary. Men and women in positions of power humbly recognized they had a responsibility to serve.
“Transform Nigeria” became a popular slogan in 2013 as Government leaders and proven private sector stakeholders had a meeting of the minds. The tremendous value of a maintenance culture finally dawned on our collective consciousness. Following the public outcry that came on the heels of the scandalous amounts of Naira mentioned in the construction of an Aso Rock Banquet Hall and a new Vice Presidential Mansion in 2012, a nation-wide list of strategic projects in roads, schools, hospitals, stadiums, airports, and buildings, were identified, evaluated, and contracted out for complete overhauls.
The end result was that hundreds of thousands of Nigerians became gainfully employed; monumental eyesores became shimmering landmarks of excellence; community-wide pride of ownership became the norm; and since like tends to beget like, the rehabilitation and maintenance culture had a domino effect throughout Nigeria.
Ethnic/Religious Harmony and Peace: Nigeria’s intelligence community backed by a cohesive military establishment, cooperated strategically to crack the nagging headache of ethnic and religious violence that in previous years had induced a climate of fear, cost thousands of innocent lives, billions in property damage, and untold billions in foreign investment dollars. 2013 saw the emergence of a new breed of well meaning, influential, articulate, calm, visionary, and bold religious leaders who took the proverbial bull by the horns and built bridges of peace in practical ways that spoke volumes to the millions who listen to, and hold on to their every word.
Flood Disaster Relief: Every year since the infamous Ogunpa River disasters of 1978 and 1980, floods and gully erosions have taken a merciless toll on lives and property. The big surprise is that we’ve always acted surprised when we’ve been ‘surprised’ by catastrophes. However, in 2013 Nigeria turned a corner. Using advanced satellite imagery, which had gulped millions of dollars in recent years, Nigerians were given advance warnings of pending floods. NEMA took mitigation efforts to new heights by aggressively expanding supplies and its fleet of rescue helicopters and speedboats. A collective of Ministries – Agriculture, Defense, Works, Environment, Health, Lands and Urban Development, Transportation, Water Resources, and Health, continued to work in tandem to improve the lot of millions of Nigerians who otherwise would have been left helpless against the ravages of storms and floods.
Health Care Reform: Nigeria enacted its own health care reform program in 2013. Millions gained access to affordable life-saving medicines. The ratio of doctors to patients dropped from 1:50,000 to 1:10,000. Strategic reforms in local and international recruitment, staffing, training, and the procurement of state-of-the-art equipment, meant government officials no longer needed to chase off to foreign countries for medical care at the slightest sneeze.
Accelerated Privatization of unproductive government agencies and activities. In 2013, Nigeria followed the example of the United State’s cash-strapped NASA which over the last decade and a half spun off multiple commercial products and services that otherwise may never have gone public – GPS technology, the Cochlear hearing implant, freeze dried food, fire-fighting equipment, scientifically designed sportswear for enhanced performance, and satellite transmission. In like manner, in 2013 the Federal and State governments successfully shed and privatized unproductive, unprofitable, and financially draining agencies, projects and services. The list included Nigeria’s fledgling space agency, water boards, the Federal Postal Service, PHCN, the Nigerian Ports Authority, the Nigerian Railway Corporation, and countless institutions of higher learning. Creative companies and entrepreneurs with proven track records stepped in, filled the void, provided creative products, excellent values in quality, price, and a healthy Return-On-Investment for investors and shareholders.
Agricultural Revolution: In 2012, one of the most outstanding Ministers in the Federal Cabinet, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, stepped on a few sacred cows by doing away with wasteful ‘fertilizer contracts’ and opted for a holistic approach and strategy toward agricultural development, instead of pithy ‘projects.’ In 2013, Adesina’s agricultural revolution resulted in bumper harvests of wheat, rice, sorghum, cassava, maize, and plantains, at affordable prices.
Hybrid Events: Nigeria switched gear into the fast lane in 2013 with government ministries, companies, organizations, and churches, hosting countless hybrid events that took place simultaneously in physical locations and through live online streaming. From conferences, to meetings, music concerts, sporting events, corporate Annual General Meetings, and church services, targeted audiences were reached in unprecedented ways.
Life Balance: More and more, self-conscious Nigerians struck a fine balance by maintaining and restoring their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. We smiled more often. We were kinder. We forgave each other quickly. We thought good thoughts. We spoke positively. And, we created a wide berth between ourselves, and those who had a penchant for wallowing in negativity. Millions exercised moderately for at least 30 minutes 3-4 times a week. We self-administered the medicine of the soul -- laughter -- much more frequently and in copious amounts. And millions were refreshed and energized by finding time to connect with God through prayer and personal devotions.
All in all, 2013 was not too shabby. Let’s see what 2014 has in store for us all! See you then!
•Dr. Oladokun is a broadcaster, writer, media and leadership consultant, and a public speaker