This Olusegun Adeniyi’s review of Build, Innovate and Grow (B.I.G) will blow your mind
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I am sure many people in this room must have heard the story of an economist and a journalist who were walking down a road when they came across a rotten apple. Apparently as a joke, the journalist said to the economist, “if you eat this rotten apple, I will give you the N100,000 in my pocket.”
After evaluating the proposal and the gains to be made, the economist decided to take the bet by picking up the rotten apple and eating it to the shock of the journalist who had to hand over the N100,000. But as they kept walking, a few metres along the same road, they almost stepped on a rotten banana. At this point, the economist said to the journalist, “Now, if you eat that banana, I’ll give you N100,000.”
Desperate to have his money back, the journalist picked the rotten banana, ate it and collected the N100,000. But he felt very uncomfortable with what had just happened and had to voice his concern. “Listen. We both have the same amount of money we had before, yet we have had to eat rotten fruits picked from the floor.”
To this, the economist replied: “Well, that may be true, but you also overlook the fact that we have both done a business with a combined turnover of N200,000!”
Mr Chairman, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the essence of that story is that I have never understood the way of economists so you can imagine my reluctance when Dr Kingsley Moghalu asked me to review the book being presented here this morning. I didn’t want to be saddled with some jargons and theories that make little or no meaning to the way we live our lives in Nigeria. But when I got the soft copy last week and delved into it, I realized that it is not one of those books; it is a practical text that speaks to contemporary issues in a language that anybody can understand.
This book, which reads like a political manifesto, provides a template on which a new Nigeria can be built with a framework for the collective empowerment of citizens. It is a valuable and potent resource material for current and aspiring leaders, especially those sincerely driven to reshape our nation. In his thesis, Moghalu paints the picture of a country that is yet to mature into a nation; metaphorically speaking, a house that is yet to become a home, due essentially to lack of a collective sense of belonging. But he is also optimistic that Nigeria is not a lost cause and he wants to be in the vanguard of those who will rewrite our story, with some bold visions captured as Build Innovate and Grow (BIG).
The focus of the book is on four core areas which are leadership and governance, nation building, the economy and foreign policy. Quite naturally, the author starts by addressing the primacy of leadership while arguing that the trajectory of Nigeria might have been different had the country been blessed with transformational leaders who value human potential as creative element for growth, innovation and development.
The leadership Moghalu therefore envisions in BIG is not a title but rather those who would wield authority to inspire belief in citizens and compel civic engagement. His thesis is simple: The man or woman at the helm of affairs in our country should be someone with proven ability to lead, guide and motivate so that the nation can fulfill all its potentials. In this same section of the book, the author also makes a compelling case for a guiding national philosophy or, as he calls it, worldview, while identifying the basic tenets of good governance as well as how to deploy the art and science of strategy in the management of men and resources.
While we can debate the practicality of some of the author’s prescriptions, including the idea of ‘one nation, one destiny’ slogan, two of the visions in this section of the book stand out. The first is that institutions matter. On this score, it is difficult to fault the author. The weakness of critical institutions of state, as captured in vision five by Moghalu, is indeed for me the most important aspect of the book because within a given society, it is institutions that structure and moderate interactions, provide stability and affect the behaviour of principal actors. The vision that follows this, which I will strongly recommend for operatives of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, is how to fight corruption or perhaps, more appropriately, how not to fight corruption. Aside exposing the hypocrisy and inherent contradictions in the current efforts in fighting graft in Nigeria, the author proffers some workable solutions.
The second part of the book is basically a promotion of the spirit of inclusion as we seek to build a society for all. These involve facing some hard truths about our past which still define our present relationships; recognizing and leveraging on the enormous potential of our women, youth and the Nigerian Diaspora as well as empowering a new breed of ‘technocratic/political’ leadership. It is also in this section that the author deals with the subject of restructuring and why it is important for peaceful co-existence.
Quite clearly, Moghalu is very dismissive of the current crop of political leaders in the country. He believes they have neither the capacity nor the character to deliver change to Nigeria. His summation is not different from that of the Red Card movement and such other groups that have been springing up with the same position that neither the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) nor the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) can offer peace and prosperity to our country.
Obviously playing to his strength, Part 3 of BIG comprises 11 of the entire 25 visions in the book and it dwells on the Nigerian economy. That it is the most comprehensive section is understandable considering the various capacities in which the author has operated in recent years, even as he underlines the fact that the quest for limited government, in an atmosphere where the market plays significant roles, is a feature of a functioning society.
This section projects the closest link to the title of the book, making it the marquee of the Moghalu vision. It sets off with a bleak picture of Nigeria’s economic situation before he enlightens the reader on the differences between economic growth, economic development and economic transformation. In this section of the book, Nigeria’s economic conundrum is dissected with remarkable simplicity and clarity. The overarching vision of the author is to build a fast growing and inclusive economy driven by innovation and human capital
The fourth and last section of the book is on foreign policy and it is the leanest with only one chapter. That is because, as the author explains, the performance of Nigeria’s foreign policy is necessarily a product of the management of the issues addressed in previous sections: a unifying strategic and ambitious worldview, highly functional institutions and a vibrant domestic economy ultimately driven by visionary and capable leadership. In other words, the way we project ourselves to the world starts from the way we see ourselves and the way we are at home.
In all, the author’s extensive qualifications and breadth of experience lend credence to his insights and perspectives. As Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria from 2009–2014, Moghalu led the implementation of far-reaching reforms in the Nigerian banking system after the global financial crisis. He was a member of the Monetary Policy Committee that brought inflation down into single digits during the tenure of the current emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi who wrote the foreword to the book. Before then, he had served at the United Nations for 17 years in New York, Cambodia, Croatia, Tanzania and Switzerland.
Given that rich and varied experience, it is understandable that each of Moghalu’s visions is first anchored on a definition of the problem or subject followed by a detailed analysis to provide in-depth understanding of the issue and how it affects national development, with key quotes interjected to capture the essence of the message being delivered. Then the author proffers personal recommendations from the perspective which defines his vision of how those issues could be adequately addressed.
At the end, Moghalu’s recommendations demonstrate the pragmatism of the vision set out in each chapter. His delivery is simple but not simplistic. He makes the vision easy to understand but rigorous enough to stimulate the intellect. In summary, Moghalu generally advocates a shift in the way Nigerians think, analyze and address the issues that impact negatively on our national progress. And he makes it very clear that it will take a new set of leader to approach things from that perspective while proposing that our search should not look in the direction of the same people who brought us to where we are. He enjoins Nigerians to vote leaders with the vision, will and capacity to govern from Day One, not those who would take six months to put a cabinet in place and another three years to constitute boards filled mostly with dead politicians!
While I commend BIG and strongly recommend it, let me