Almost everyone has an idea about how Nigeria can become a greater nation. That explains why there are divergent views on this issue. But one man knows how to keep everyone on the same page, literarily. He is Samuel Afemikhe and he has done so by constructively putting his well-articulated thoughts in a book that will soon hit the book stands. Titled, “Hope Rekindled”, the book is necessarily voluminous as the overall content draws upon dogged research and analysis. With over 800 pages organized into four broad sections of independent modular chapters, the author’s quest is to proffer solutions to the challenges that incapacitate Nigeria and her citizenry.
Afemikhe is an experienced chartered accountant; transparency, business and value for money consultant and strategist. His new literary effort leans strongly against the backdrop of hands-on experience, wide consultation powered by much positive energy. This reporter got a wind of this in a brief encounter with the author in his Lagos office recently as he prepares for a launch of the book in Abuja on November 24 at the Musa Yar’Adua Centre.
Most likely, his choice of venue for the book launch is deliberate; bringing the valuable information closer to the government at the centre. A reader may wonder why he needs to read yet another book on rebuilding Nigeria. For one, the author possesses a very infectious optimism about Nigeria, injected through the book and that’s exactly what Nigerians need at this time in our collective history. Afemikhe explained how the theme of the book was developed through a team of thinkers.
“Hope Rekindled is a book that benchmarks Nigeria against nine other countries that gained their independence about the same time as Nigeria,’’ he began. “They share similarities in ethnic and religious structures. I try to see to why Nigeria has continued to regress since 1960 when we gained independence and why the other countries have progressed tremendously. Some of these countries have gone from “third world’’ to “first world’’. I looked at the areas where we have significant weaknesses and as a result I suggested what needs to be done to ensure that things get better.’’
What accounts for the volume of the book is that it includes the extensive research used in benchmarking Nigeria against her peers in terms of politics, rule of law, while proffering solutions to her myriads of challenges. The writer examined the nation’s competitive edge in the comity of nations, her resources and her people.
“The simple principle is to do the right thing and do it well. If you don’t do the right thing, you won’t get the right result. One drawback to avoid is not leveraging on the strength. Nigeria’s strength is in her diversity and history. Nigeria is a potentially great country. We didn’t want a situation where only one percent are significantly wealthy. Our poverty rate is about 60 percent. It is how you spend what you earn that determines your welfare,’’ he pointed out.
In many fora, it has been argued that Nigeria was wrongfully assembled at amalgamation; with many tribes still at war over the years. The author thinks that this is an erroneous notion.
“Absolutely not; in this book, we have looked at Nigeria’s strengths and weaknesses. Nigeria is rich; every ethnic group brings something to the table. When we had just four regions we were doing very well, even better than our peers. But we grew from that to 36 states. Meanwhile 82 percent of our expenditure goes to government. What about the governed? It is no surprise that our infrastructure is in decay, hospitals, electricity schools and we require these for progress. The human development capital is essential for economic growth. Nigeria is not going anywhere. It can wobble, fumble, stumble but it cannot break. It won’t break. We just need to make a success of it. We may have skirmishes in most of the regions and that tells you that something is wrong,’’ he remarked.
It took about eight months to complete the book. The team, led by the author created the detailed piece about the contradictions in Nigeria that set her back. With his recommendations, certain reforms had been recorded in public procurement structure. He advocates such transparency in his book and hopes that the knowledge is converted to positive societal change.
‘’There is no need chasing people all round. When the cost of being honest is more than being dishonest, then corruption will always be here. We need to apply modern tools. Create the competitiveness that will bring employment opportunities and economic freedom,’’ he suggested.
Perhaps the concern of many Nigerian writers is that Nigerians don’t read. That’s not what bothers Afemikhe as he observed.
“I don’t think the problem of Nigeria is reading. The problem of Nigeria is we don’t learn lessons. When you finish a project, you must evaluate what happened to the project so that you carry lessons learnt to the next project, so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes.
We don’t pass laws to solve problems. I will give you an example. In the petroleum industry where I work, and I know very well, Nigeria is losing billions annually because there are no laws. And the elites are our problem. They go overseas; they watch CNN and they still fail to do the right thing. Nigerians need to be enlightened about our challenges. The book has made it easy to read. If you don’t want to read line by line, you can just read the box where you have the highlights,’’ he said.
Sam Afemikhe is an extensively experienced Senior Consultant and Project Leader with over 28 years professional experience in auditing, value added services and management studies and reviews. He trained with C. A. Pitts & Co. and R. A. Dilsworth in the United Kingdom and has managed statutory audits of multinationals companies.
His previous books include The pursuit of Value for Money, published by Spectrum Books Limited (2003) and Budget Implementation and value for money – The Due Process Experience (2005) and Public Procurement Policies and Practices, published by Gold Press Limited (2011).