Mr. Tony Elumelu delivering a lecture at the NDC Course 26 in Abuja...recently

In continuation of his Strategic Leadership Series, Mr. Tony Elumelu, at the National Defence College, Abuja, recently pressed home the essence of Nigeria keying into the military industrial hub. Paul Obi writes

At a time, the Nigerian military is faced with daunting challenges in many areas, the imperative for indigenous home-grown armour remains very key to attaining its goals. The dependence of the Armed Forces on foreign military hardware has tended to expose Nigeria to the vagaries of international politics. More so, the refusal of the United States and its allies under the era of former President Barack Obama to sell weapons to the then President Goodluck Jonathan’s government is still a memory the country will not forget in a hurry.

The basis therefore, is for Nigeria to strive to be self-reliant and dependent in the production of military hardware and other sophisticated weaponry. The importation of military hardware has over the years had a negative effect even on business and the economy. That was the thrust of the Chairman of Heirs Holdings and Founder of Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), Mr. Tony Elumelu, in a paper he presented recently at the National Defence College (NDC), Abuja.

At the NDC Course 26, and with the theme of his lecture as ‘Strategic Leadership: My Business Experience’, Elumelu highlighted the importance of democratising investment, economic and social wealth. He argued that though the Nigeria Armed Forces have continued to succeed in various fronts, the reliance on foreign military hardware and strategic planning has cast a dark shade on the achievements thus far.

Succinctly, the import of his lecture organised by the NDC was to align the current military challenges and Elumelu’s business acumen within the confines of economic development and national security paradigms. In striking a balance between business experience and military engagement, Elumelu hinted on the need for the setting up of military industrial hubs as a strategy to elevate Nigeria’s position as a super power.

Elumelu who spoke with the college’s Course 26 participants explained that it was imminent for the military and the private sector to partner and develop local military arsenals in order to fortify Nigeria militarily.

He maintained that such partnership and collaboration was needed for the advancement of the military, and will be significant to winning the war against terrorism in the North-east.

Elumelu frown at what he called Nigeria’s acute dependence on importation of military hardware, stressing that, “the federal government must follow the path of other former third world countries such as Brazil, India and Pakistan who had now grown their indigenous technology and reduced dependence on imports.

“We still depend on imports for most of our needs. In comparison with countries like India, Pakistan and Brazil which share the same colonial history with Nigeria, they are now nuclear powers while we still depend on imports of our military arsenals.” He added that “one disadvantage of this is that countries which supply some of our needs have held us to ransom as experiences showed in the past.”

In his view, “the point is that Nigeria cannot develop except we start to promote Made-in-Nigeria goods and cut our high import rate. Nigeria needs a strong modern technology in its military to be able to play its leadership role in Africa. The private sector is also going to drive a major part of this. Therefore, the military, the federal government and the private sector must support research and investments in this regard.”

Elumelu argued that the partnership has to revolve “not just with the private sector, but with the Nigerian government and the military. We need to work together, no blame game, we need to collaborate to first create the environment that will enable the military industrialisation take off,” he told the participants.

“It is inevitable in the 21st Century, our might, intention and desire to be the super power; the fact that we profess that we are super power of Africa must be matched with our military capabilities and capacity. We need all hands on deck, the military, federal government and the private sector, working together, supporting research, to supporting investment in the sector that will lead to the capacity we need,” he added.

Elumelu also focused on the importance of strategic leadership as a measure to improve the power of the Nigerian military. He held that, just like in business, if the military is to constantly win its wars, there must be impact, clarity of purpose and most importantly, legacy. He maintained that in strategic leadership “clarity is very essential in order to ensure stakeholders’ ownership, and if there is clarity, the vision is shared, and it transforms to success,” Elumelu stated.

Speaking, NDC Commandant, Rear Admiral Adeniyi Osinowo commended the role of Elumelu in harnessing potential and resources for economic development. Osinowo further harped on the need for the private sector to do more in the area of democratising economic and social wealth. He assured that the college will continue to seek collaborative ventures with the private sector, particularly in strategic leadership management and socio-economic development.

Speaking on the knowledge gained from Elumelu’s lecture, a participant of Course 26, Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa, explained that considering that his lecture dwelt on strategic leadership, “it’s mostly not just about leadership, but leaving a legacy; anybody who wants to make impact,” he said. Famuyiwa stressed that Elumelu’s ability to connect his business experience with strategic and military leadership “brought leadership closer to the participants; it allows the lessons to be taken home and also add reality to it, that it’s about setting goals, it’s about commitment and it’s about legacy,” he added.

Elumelu’s strategic leadership lecture not only touches on military prowess, but a clarion call to look inward in all defence matters. With Nigeria spending millions of dollars annually for the importation of military hardware, the multiplier effects of setting up military industrial zones would be enormous.

Although the Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) has been structured to fit into the idea of military industrialisation, the continued reliance of Nigeria on foreign hardwares in the last 50 years has not helped matters. Elumelu’s call for new military industrial zones situates the current challenges and the country’s difficulties in reaching its target goal in a new perspective. Instructively, the goal of greatness and Africa’s superpower will continue to be aloof for Nigeria, if military self-dependency is not attained. Elumelu’s call on the Armed Forces to scale up its industrial drive and self-reliance, therefore compels the military to pursue military industrialisation with rigour and fast too.