There is no reason for recession in Nigeria — Asatola

Mr Kola Asatola, is a US-trained finance consultant with over 20 years work experience in the Western economies. He speaks with TUNDE BUSARI on the state of Nigeria’s economy, declaring that there is no justifiable reason for the current economic recession the nation. Excerpts

 

You have experienced how the US economy works and here we are back home. Can you do an assessment of the Nigerian economy against the backdrop of the current recession?

I have to be sincere with myself as a patriot who loves to see things change for the better. What we have on ground here is disappointing. It is absolutely so, looking at the enormous human and capital resources with which the nation is blessed. If we need to move from here, we need to say the truth so that we see how to get out of the mess. It is a mess when you have everything but fail to harness those things which others don’t have. I have been saying it and I will continue to say it that Nigeria has no justification to be in recession. It is very sad to review the state of economy and arrive at this shameless conclusion. Perhaps I should use this medium to make it clear that the US had developed its economy long before crude oil was discovered. How did she do it is the rational question a country that is sincerely desirous of development should ask itself. Those of us in Finance and related fields have no reason to fold our arms and watch things going this wrong and dangerous way.

 

What have you specifically identified as the root of the problems?

Talking about Nigerian economy is like touching a bad wound. You know it hurts when a wound is touched. That is the situation whenever issue of Nigeria economy comes on board for discussion. In terms of landmass, I mean, geography, we are less than a state in the US. This simply means we can use our proximity as an advantage to pull our abundant resources together to become a big economy that can compete well with China, Japan and others. Again, I insist that Nigeria is blessed with brilliant and vibrant citizens some of who are doing us proud abroad. This is great. What I have discovered is that we pay more attention to the Ministry of Finance above Ministry of National Planning. When you ask an average educated Nigeria about the ministry that drives the economy, he would tell you it is Ministry of Finance, whereas it is not. There is nothing that can be achieved without proper planning. This is the ministry where development statistics and growth data are processed. But this is unfortunately lacking in Nigeria with the implication that we are blessed with tons of opportunities which are wasting away because there is no systemic effort to explore the opportunities. My candid view has always been that it is not only Agriculture that can take the country out of recession as it is being said.  There are infrastructure and services too that are there to take us out of recession. There are taxes, levies and tourism. They can take us out of recession. For instance, as I have said, the US did not have crude oil but built its economy before it later discovered it. How did she do it? The US had and still has taxes. Of course, there is no willing tax payer but when the government makes employment available for all, collecting taxes is not a headache to anybody.  We can do the same here if the economy is expanded and jobs are available for everybody.

 

Don’t you think lack of creativity is one of the problems that has plunged the nation into recession?

We need to be creative and innovative to drive and expand the economy. For instance, before I left the shores of Nigeria about 20 years ago, there were no eateries here. But see the explosion in that sector. How did they do it? It was simply a product of creative minds. What do they sell there? They sell amala and other local delicacies as against selling amala at buka and low environment. In the US, they would have made so many other products out of our yam flour instead of only amala we make from it in Nigeria. This means we are static. This means we are comfortable doing the same thing the same way. But to get out of where we are, we need thinkers who would go out of the box and make things happen. As a matter of fact, Creativity and Innovation should be in the curriculum of our middle schools. Our students need to study and understand from their level so that they grow with them.  What I am saying is that the nation needs restructuring.

 

Is this not political, given the current agitation in our political space?

We are discussing economy here, not politics. I am talking of a restructure that will take us out of recession. I am one of the lucky Nigerians in the US who have the opportunity of working at managerial level and interacting closely with the CEOs, COOs and other high cadre personnel in multinational corporations. This has afforded me an opportunity to study and understand what it takes for an economy like ours to grow from its current level. The restructure I am talking about encompasses training and retraining so that we are able to strategically solve our problems.

 

You studied in Nigeria and in the US. Don’t you think education is also part of the economic problem we are talking about?

Education is key to economic development in any part of the world. That is why I recommended that Creativity and Innovation should be taught in our schools. In the US, education is the right of every child. Government knows the danger in having untrained kids. They ensure education is made available for them. There is an ‘education for all’ policy in place. School pupils have access to libraries and develop rapidly. I have compared the two education systems and realised that our education here is more rigorous than what they have up there.  Education is the foundation of every kid. So, government should take education budget seriously. Government should put more resources into education to relieve parents the headache they currently pass through.  This is very important if we really want to develop. Also in the US, the education system involves parents’ participation unlike here where parents have so many children to the extent that they have no time for them. In the US, parents are actively involved in their children’s education in a way that makes them also responsible for the growth of their children.


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