By Tim Akano
Crisis equals opportunity. And difficult roads often lead to amazing destinations. Always? Not Always?
Brutus to Cassius in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare put it succinctly:
’’There is a tide in the affairs of men (Nations), which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures’’.
In Greek rhetoric, it is called: ’KAIROS’ i.e. the ideal time or moment for a significantly strategic action. One of the seven pillars of STOIC Philosophy is FLOW or none –resistance, the great Stoics, rather than fighting against the tide, the wise ones strategically and deliberately work with those forces of necessity and circumstances.
I sometimes soliloquize in my library: is there something the Federal government has off its sleeves as magic wand that Nigerians are not yet aware of that makes the gravity of their response not to match the reality and severity of the danger we are confronted with? Put directly, is Nigeria ready for the social and economic consequences of a 25% reduction in the entire workforce of the private sector? But that is what will likely happen: 25% new joblessness to aggravate the existing 30 million joblessness pre-C-19 Nigeria!!!
In the US, St. Louis Fed. Projection is 52.8miilon or 32% job loss of the entire America workforce. In the UK, according to David Blanchflower, a Professor of Economics and member of the Bank’s interest rate-setting committee, saw unemployment rising to 21% of the total workforce. He said: ‘’ There has never been such a concentrated business collapse. The government has tried to respond but it has no idea of the scale of the problem it is going to have to deal with. We make some back-of-the-envelope calculations, and they are scary’’. 27% of businesses in the UK are currently laying off staff despite the UK Chancellor’s Rishi Sunak announcement of 330 billion pounds sterling of loan guarantees and a programme to pay 80% of staff on companies’ payrolls. Even in China, where truth is as scarce as diamond, Liu Chenjie, Chief Economist at Fund Manager Upright Asset said: ‘’ the pandemic may have pushed 205 million Chinese into frictional unemployment where they want to work but cannot or are unable to go back to work. This represent about 25% of China’s 775 million workforce. The NBS official data of 6% only covers urban workforce of 442 million but exclude 290 million migrant workers’’.
In a leaked video on the eve of Workers Day (30/04/2020), the CEO of a major bank in Nigeria was recorded on Zoom as saying that his bank will have no choice than to off-load most of its workers and go digital in order to survive.
It is becoming clearer as events unfold daily that the 1551 Nostradamus’s prophesy that in a twin year 2020 a corona from China will transform the twilight of men into dust to destroy and ruin the world bringing an end to the world economy as we know it, is coming to fulfilment.
What lessons can Nigeria learn from America’s GREAT DEPRESSION? It all started in the cold, windy morning of what they call Black Tuesday (but which I call ‘’White Tuesday’’), October 29th, 1929. The stocks market crashed and sent Wall Street into coma. Millions of investors lost their entire savings. Mass suicide followed. 25% of all wage earners in America lost their jobs. But the signs had been there all along that President Hoover ignored. There had been uneven distribution of wealth and purchasing power, decades of agricultural slump, causing food scarcity coupled with international instability. In a twinkle of an eye, recession metamorphosed into GREAT DEPRESSION.
President Herbert Hoover’s response was slow, indecisive and lethargic. He asked Americans to be patient and self-reliant without offering concrete steps to stop the nation from haemorrhaging. He advised companies not to retrench their workers without providing stimulus package to cushion the effect of the economic recession. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his predecessor, describe President Hoover as a ‘’ hear nothing, see nothing, do nothing President’’
The depression lasted 10 years (1929-1939), but in three years (1930-1933) more than 9,000 American banks had collapsed, eroding over $3billion depositor’s funds. FDR came up with a bold, decisive and practicable solution tagged: FDR NEW DEAL & CULTURE. This new deal re-defined the role of government in American life. FDR, in a bi-partisan approach worked with Congress to pass 15 laws including the Agricultural Adjustment Act and National Industrial Recovery Act.
In explaining the gravity of the GREAT DEPRESSION to Americans, FDR said: ‘’ Let us wage a war against the emergency just as tough we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe. But let us realise that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…’’
In 1941, crisis two crossed path with crisis one: Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor during WW2. The war stimulated American industry, in an unprecedented manner. The DEPRESSION ended, and from its ashes a new America that will become the greatest country on earth was born. In a word, America was a child of circumstance that profited from WW2 and the Great Depression crises and flipped the two major crises into opportunity. America displaced Great Britain, its former colonial master, to emerge as the World’s Class Captain and vetoed its GREEN BACK (USD) as the medium of international trade and exchange till this day.
Question: will Nigeria seize the moment or allow this monumental crisis to go into waste, just the same way it wasted the civil war opportunity? Where Nigeria finds itself in the new world- next level of abundance and stability or next level of poverty and cascading crisis- is dependent on our collective resolve to shift appropriately as the world shifts.
From the hundreds of feedbacks I received in the last four weeks from people worldwide responding to my articles, I can now confidently categorize Nigerians into four distinct groups, using the four gear positions of my car as labels.
50% of Nigerians are already in what I call the ‘’PARK’’ gear position (these are Nigerians who have mentally signed-out – they have totally given up on Nigeria), the second category are the ones in the ‘’REVERSE’’ gear position ( these ones have not only given up on Nigeria but they have reversed their nationality or are in the process of dumping Nigeria nationality for other countries as small and inconsequential as Mauritius- these represent 20% of the callers), the third category are Nigerians in the ‘’NEUTRAL’’ gear position- these ones are adopting – ‘’siddon look’’ approach- they have not lost hope totally but neither do they are not enthusiastic about Nigeria- they represent 20% of the respondents). The last group are the ones in the ‘’DRIVE’’ gear position- these ones represent just 10% of the samples- they are fanatical and resilient ones who still believe Nigeria’s future is bright, but needs to be re-worked and re-calibrated. The people in this DRIVE position are mostly religious ones who use faith as anchor.
A situation where only 10% of the sampled population still believes in the Nigeria PROJECT and 90% has unsubscribed to the project poses an existential threat to Nigeria. No country with that type of demographics or mentality can achieve any worthwhile progress..
When I stumbled on the story of the 18th duck on the social media, by an anonymous author – I saw a correlation between that story and the key to unlocking Nigeria potential. I reproduced the story here below verbatim.
A father left 17 ducks as assets for his Three Sons.
When the Father passed away, his sons opened up the will.
The Will of the Father stated that the Eldest son should get Half of 17 ducks,
The Middle Son should be given 1/3rd of 17 ducks,
Youngest Son should be given 1/9th of the 17 ducks
As it is not possible to divide 17 into half or 17 by 3 or 17 by 9, the sons started to fight with each other.
So, they decided to go to a wise man who lived in a cave for advice.
The wise man listened patiently about the Will. The wise man, after giving the dilemma some thought, brought a duck of his own & added same to the 17. That increased the total to 18 ducks.
Now, he started reading the deceased father’s will.
Half of 18 = 9.
So he gave 9 ducks
to the eldest son.
1/3rd of 18 = 6.
So he gave 6 ducks
to the middle son.
And, 1/9th of 18 = 2.
So he gave 2 ducks
to the youngest son.
Now add this up:
9 + 6 + 2 = 17 &
This leaves 1 duck
which the wise man took back.
MORAL: There is ALWAYS a solution (despite the challenges). The attitude of negotiation & problem solving is to find the 18th duck, i.e. the common ground. Once a person is able to find the common ground, the issue is resolved. It is difficult at times but a resolution will be reached.
However, to reach a solution, the first step is to believe that there is a solution. If we think that there is no solution, we won’t be able to reach any!
The question is: what is the Nigeria’s 18th duck?
For want of a better name and borrowing from how FDR successfully piloted America ship away from total collapse- I call the 18th Duck: PMB NEW DEAL & CULTURE FOR NIGERIA. It is a comprehensive economic packages that seeks to liberate Nigeria from the economic bondage it has remained enmeshed with these past 40 years:
1. Kudos to PMP for taking the first step to collapse the over 1000 Federal government Agencies by implementing the Orosanye report. Maybe we will end up with 100. Which is better than where we are presently. But sadly enough, it will not take Nigeria out of the woods. The kind of challenge confronting us today cannot be resolved by tokenism, only a complete overhaul of the system in PMB New Deal for the Nigeria people will suffice.
2 . PMB should take the bull by the horn and implement FINANCIAL FEDERALISM. Crisis equals opportunity. This is a good opportunity for PMP to be free and then set the states free with the support of National Assembly. PMB to tell the 36 governors the home truth that ‘’oil money is no more- go fend for yourselves. Merge with one another if you think you cannot survive on your own- everyone is free- no more monthly allocation, Generate your revenue. Keep it. Pay me tax to run the federal government. Become yourselves, live according to your means’’.
The 36 states automatically will collapse into four or six viable units on their own volition for economic survival. Each Unit can then appoint a SECRETARY to coordinate their affairs. About 60% of re-current expenditure, which can be used to develop infrastructure will be set free and there will be healthy competition among the different Economic Units to excel. It was this kind of bold decision that FDR implemented in the USA in the 1930s that catapulted America to the N01 position in the world today
3. Advertise the 4 Most Critical Ministerial Positions in the newspapers and conduct rigorous interviews for these applicants before appointment: (A) Minster of FOOD, whose key target will be to make Nigeria a net food exporter in 3 years), (B) Minister of Innovation and STARTS-UP, whose job will be to midwife the creation of 500,000 new businesses yearly capable of employing ten staff each, (C) Minister of LIGHT, whose key target will be to provide 24/7 electricity within 3 years, ( D) Minister of Economic Reconstruction and Development, whose key target is to give Nigeria a 21st century infrastructure from the little money left from oil, before oil becomes water. Subject their respective agenda to public scrutiny by Nigerians using video conferencing technology to engage the applicants before PMB makes final decision.
In a war situation, the most competent Military men become the Commanders- Nepotism, ethnicity, primordial considerations don’t come into the equation. We are in a war situation now, let only the brightest and the best occupy the most sensitive positions and get us out of the red-ocean to the blue ocean.
4 A retired Senior Army Officer and an Elder Stateman in his eighties, Col Peter Kolawole Obasi recommended some measures which I agree will help if implemented. One: Since we have a minimum wage of N30K per month, the PMP NEW DEAL should include MAXIMUM WAGE as well for government officials and politicians. The President will be the highest salary earner with a monthly salary of not more than N1.5 million per month (all-in). Two, grading of roads and enforcement of ROAD-TAX according to the size of the car. Three, revolution in the air. As he put it: ‘’on our skies, we shall create some turbulence. Owners of private jets in the country shall pay a daily parking fee of $5,000, while the landing and taking-off fees of $10,000 per trip becomes effective immediately. You want to import a private jet, fine. Import tax is 300% of cost price paid in hard currency. Then you pay what others pay to fly in Nigeria’’. I also agree with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s recommendation that all the aircrafts (10 of them) in the Presidential Fleet should be sold off. Presidents of richer countries like UK, Singapore fly Commercial aircraft.
Apart from the President and Governors who can use maximum of 4 official cars- all other government officials should have only one official car- including National Assembly members. Those who ride 2.0 litres car can pay N50K as road tax per year while those who ride 8-litres engine can be made to pay up to N2 million road tax yearly. Those who ride any car below 2.0 litres are free from road tax. Any country where politics is the most viable profession and the most lucrative job- such a nation is doomed. Any country that allows the kind of life-style the 1% lives here in Nigeria without conscious and corresponding wealth re-distribution strategy is equally doomed.
5 .Another component of the proposed PMB NEW DEAL is for Nigeria to join the 100-metre dash competition of countries seriously looking for VACCINE/CURE for COVID-19. This is a $3Trillion market. One country is advertising a C-19 drug for $350 /bottle. We have 7.5 billion potential consumers worldwide. Do the Math. Nigeria should enter the race. PMP to put $10 million on the table in May 2020 for Nigerian medical doctors in the diaspora to team up with their colleagues in Nigeria and research into all the God-giving herbs and leaves in Nigeria that can cure COVID-19 and future/emerging viruses. Any country with the most potent cure will become remarkably wealthy instantly. Senegal, Madagascar, Israel, France, UK, Germany, USA, India, China are all on the field searching for the C-19 HOLY GRAIL. Nigeria should join the race immediately with the full backing of PMB NEW DEAL. Everything is possible, where there is a will
The STEVE JOBS WAY for NIGERIA:
Steve Jobs was the first man to create the world’s most valuable company, the world’s first Trillion dollar company. His company, Apple, is seven times richer than Nigeria both in liquid cash and valuation. As at 2019, Apple had $250 billion cash reserves. Nigeria has just $38billion cash reserves for its 200 million population!
Therefore, if Steve Jobs is to wake up today and rule Nigeria: what will he do? He will kill OIL, metaphorically speaking! He will advertise and hand over NNPC and all the government- run refineries to the most efficient company in the world to run as a Management Consultant and give them 100% freedom. He will take Nigeria out of OPEC+. He will set two targets for the Management Consultants: Work with the Joint Ventures Partners to bring production cost of a barrel of oil to be at par with the best-in-class (from $30 to $12). Pump as much as we can pump from the ground and sell about 3 million barrels per day. Deposit all Nigeria revenue in our foreign reserves. Deliver 300% of what Nigeria realises today from oil in whatever way you can and keep 20% of the profit as your Management and Technical fees. Lagos state government monthly IGR in 1999 was N400million. Today it generates over N25billion monthly. What changed? LSG uses consultants to drive revenue. If Nigeria is getting $15 billion yearly from NNPC today, under an aggressive Management Consultant, Nigeria can get $45billion yearly from 2021. Government all over the world are notoriously bad business managers, more so in Nigeria.
Steve Jobs killed the chicken (iPod) that laid the golden egg for Apple. One iPod then was equivalent to the price of 40 barrels of oil today and it was selling like hot potato. He sold millions of it worldwide. But one day, to the surprise of the Apple Board, Steve announced that he wanted to kill iPod. Everyone was shocked. Why, they asked him. Steve told the Board:’’ If Apple does not kill iPod by itself, new technologies and competition will kill it- and Apple would have lost both ways’’. He discarded Ipod and merged it with a new product called iPhone. It turned out to be a phenomenal success.
What are the lessons Nigeria can learn from Steve Jobs mentality?
One, whether Nigeria likes it or not, oil’s best future was yesterday: it has passed. If Nigeria does not kill oil from its mentality and calculation, Saudi Arabia is going to kill oil (Read: Saudi Arabia Vision 2030), China is going to kill oil (read: Made-In-China- 2025).China is 80% set to shift the world away from gasoline- powered vehicles to cheaper electric vehicles. America, Japan, Brazil, Europe are all killing oil with their Climate Change campaign and strategy.
The truth is: oil is terminally ill- if it survives the next 15 years – it might spend the last 5 on a life-support-machine or on a wheel chair.
Saudi Arabia and Russia know this. This is why they are behaving irrationally without consideration for the survival and prosperity of Nigeria and other OPEC members.
Two, like Steve Jobs, who created 4 new products to fill the iPod vacuum (i.e. iPhone, iPad, iTunes and 21stcentury Mac), PMB NEW DEAL& CULTURE should challenge the Governors to go and create their own iPhone (Agriculture), iPad (ICT) and Mac (Mineral resources mining, processing and finishing in Nigeria). iTunes (Tourism and Manufacturing).
This is Nigeria’s ’KAIRO’S’ MOMENT. Like William Shakespeare advised… And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures’’.
Mr Icema Reid, a Jamaican who read one of my articles recently sent me a touching feedback from Jamaica that the global community and the entire Black race are anxiously awaiting Nigeria’s manifestation on the world stage. In his words: ‘’the real Asian Tiger (China) has awaken, it is time also for the (real) African Lion (Nigeria) to ROAR!!!!
LET’S GET SERIOUS NOW, OR, LET’S STOP PLAYING
Tim Akano, an ADVISOR with THISDAY LIFE LESSONS, is the MD/CEO of New Horizon Systems Solution