Celestine Udofia is a vulcanizer who plies his trade opposite a popular hotel in Uyo. The other day, one was curious to find out why he sets up about 6 in the morning and works till 8 in the evening. I wondered how much money he makes daily and was shocked to be told that he rakes in at least N50k daily. ‘I have been on this for more than 20 years and have built a house for myself and all my children are graduates’ he confessed proudly. This shows that even as the economy is struggling, Nigerians are not giving up on their daily grind to make a living. Across the nation, a lot of people, whether motor cyclists, Keke, taxi, bus, lorry, trailer or truck drivers or wheel barrow pushers are crisscrossing our streets and roads a thousand and more times to pursue the elusive daily bread. They are also making useful contributions to the economy. Others, including petty traders, barbers and dry cleaners are also pining away. In Akwa Ibom State, our streets are getting busy and busy every day with ordinary people eking out a living. The robust bustle and hustle by the very young, not too young, old and the very old daily from dawn to dusk seems to drive the economy of developing societies more than half of the public service salaried workforce.
These people belong to the informal economy, and are not mobilized for a more effective role – play in the economy. But they are the engine of any economy contributing to its development given the chain in their activities amongst others. They need to be mobilized and organized like MSMEs. According to World Bank, MSMEs constitute about 90 percent of businesses in any nation. They provide 50 percent of employment world-wide. In most emerging economies, MSMEs that have been captured by the formal sector drive GDP by 40 percent.
According to SMEDAN/NBS’ Survey, Nigeria’s SMEs contribute nearly 50 percent to the nation’s GDP and accounts for 80 percent of employment in the country. Indeed, the sector is crucial to the nation’s economic growth, particularly in reducing poverty incidence. Unfortunately, however, even the MSMEs are the least factored into the country’s economic planning. This is even worse in the states.
For us in this state, the challenge is how best to channel the boundless energies of our people and resources to transit from a largely informal economy to an industrial one. The fact that we have an airport and airline is an advantage. Completing the MRO part of the airport, the Deep sea port, the vehicle assembly plant, the BUA Petrochemical complex, the fertilizer project planned for the state by some investors is therefore very compelling. Getting them into production is the major catalyst the state requires to build a more sophisticated and productive economy.
But who will superintend over these? Who has the pedigree, the clout, skills to fast track these ? And what would we need to identify in someone that could give us the hope that such a person has the potentials to make the difference in turning around the informal economy and linking it up with big industrial concerns. Executive leadership in a competitive society goes beyond sophistry and playing to the gallery. It demands deep thinking, big picture visioning, planning, organizing, discipline, motivation, monitoring, evaluation, execution.
It is important to head hunt for an adaptable person who truly understands planning and has the knack to go through the rigors of systematized planning and the monitoring and evaluation process that ensures success of a plan. It needs someone who stands on time tested principles and values of hard work, honesty and integrity. A person whose credibility is not cloudy. Someone who is open minded; approachable, a listener who has the ability to motivate and mentor. The State needs someone who respects and responds to others with readiness to go through ideas brought by someone else, modify them, and implement with deference to the originators without feeling diminished in any way ; someone who is not bossy, but trusts others and delegates responsibilities without looking away, without abdicating his roles.
There is a need to unlock Udom Uko Inoyo, a tried and tested manager of men and resources, who has had both public service and best – of – the – pack private sector experience at the highest level. He can get our people back to work. He can lead by inspiring people to do things they never thought were possible to do. Udom Inoyo is deep, visionary, innovative, mature, statesmanly and widely exposed. He engages people and respects superior opinions. He has the contacts that would be tapped to stimulate economic growth in our environment. The Udom Inoyo I know will challenge the prevalent culture of parasitism among a once dignified, hardworking, proud people who have now become parasites to professional politicians and political office holders. He has the capacity to explore possibilities where the citizenry would work to earn a living ; restoring their dignity and self pride in the process. Among the contenders for the Governorship of Akwa Ibom State in 2023, Mr. Udom Inoyo holds the correct key to mobilize and organize the ‘wretched of the earth’ – vibrant and useful but forgotten sections of the populace to become a more effective key contributors to economic growth. He has the profile to attract big investors to the state. Investors follow persons. They do not just venture with their funds into locations with unknown leaders. The cap fits him. The 2023 moment requires a solid pair of hands. Udom Inoyo has those hands.
Dr. UDEME NANA is a Mass Communication scholar in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.