I witnessed genuine euphoria, enthusiasm and exuberance in the past several days. These are not customary or usual terms some reserve for describing Nigerian officials.
But the Presidential delegation led by Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is certainly passionate about Nigeria! The members are self-assured, excited and ecstatic about the reforms that have taken place in Nigeria, and the consequent bountiful opportunities that are now open to Nigerian and Foreign Direct Investment. The enthusiasm, the exuberance, the confidence and excitement borne of conviction by the entire delegation, was simply contagious and infectious!
Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala led the high-powered delegation of President Obasanjo’s seasoned technocrats of economic and social policies. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is simply impressive what with her full grasp and complete articulation of the nature and extent of reforms in Nigeria? What with her ability to readily spew facts and figures without a script, their dedication shined through. They were precise and concise.
Dr. Iweala and her delegation captivated audiences at every of the forums which took them to all corners of New York City. The delegation’s first stop was in Washington DC while New York City was the second leg of their dynamic efforts on behalf of our dear republic and I experienced first-hand, how the delegation effectively conveyed their message, Nigeria’s message, with panoply of explanations, specific evidence of new rules, and the results of the plethora of reforms that are now entrenched in the system.
I took the entire week off from work as I attended every event, from the grand reception at the Sky Club on the 56th floor of the former Pan Am MetLife building near Hyatt Hotel, to the ringing of the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, to meetings with American corporate executives of Chevron, Credit Suisse Fleet Boston, Oracle, JP Morgan Chase, the Business Roundtables and the Interview with The New York Times and many American Television Networks.
The delegation took the message of successes in the reforms agenda that have been vigorously pursued by the Nigeria federal government. And her delegation amply supported their presentations with detailed information and explanations in connection with processes and institutions that have been put in place in order that current policy achievements will be sustained even after the current government in Nigeria leaves office.
Wanted Nigerians With Audacity!
Every good Nigerian is a Nigerian ambassador says the minister. The Finance Minister challenged Nigerians in the Diaspora to spread the good news about Nigeria, to our friends, to our professional colleagues and to our neighbors, our bankers, our accountants, our congressmen and women, to potential investors and to the government officials at all levels in the countries where we live. Dr. Iweala reminded Nigerians abroad that we do not need any invitation or reminder to come to Nigeria for visits, for vacations and or to invest. She also threw a welcome mat to Nigerians abroad who desire to return home for good. Diaspora Nigerians do not have to wait for government sponsored home return programs.
I attended the series of events that culminated in the presidential delegation’s efforts in both Washington and New York City and the various ministers and other heads of Nigerian government were simply graceful, and eloquent. At every appearance, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and Dr. Ezekwesili were clad in various resplendent and majestic African attires, which in themselves, repeatedly made positive assertive cultural statement, even before these ministers spoke about their passions and their missions on Nigeria’s behalf. They had an air of extra dignity about them.
Minister El Rufai gave a rousing speech about the successes of reforms in Nigeria, and he announced the dawn of a new era and the formation or establishment of a mortgage system in Nigeria, including housing revolution. And how he is reclaiming Abuja from those who were defacing the territory. Those who were building illegal structures and abusing the pristine terrain as they neglect the fine world-class city Abuja was intended to be. Minister Rufai boasted that Abuja already compares favorably with any modern city anywhere in the world, and Abuja will be the envy of the world by the time he is done with Abuja, to this, he received standing ovation and thunderous applause!
FCT Minister Rufai also announced sale of land and houses by government, of which he encouraged Diaspora Nigerians to actively participate, as land applications can be completed online. Minister Rufai explained that houses previously owned by government are being sold to individual Nigerians. He added that there are adequate incentives and priority for Diaspora Nigerian applicants.
The investment promotion council led by Engr. Bello which was a part of a high presidential delegation made speeches at every stop, as Mallam Bello pitched investment ideas to Nigerians and American audiences. I was amazed at his tireless investment promotion efforts. He presented the Nigeria investment environment as a win-win for all. The entire team represented Nigeria superbly well and Nigeria could not have asked and received any better servants of our public sector and the private sector were superbly represented by the Managing Director of UBA Mr. Tony Elemelu, Managing Director of Shell, Mr. Basil Omiyi, Oracle management executive Mr. Fafie, Virgin Nigeria Airline executive
These officials articulated Nigeria’s reforms and the progress that has been made by the current federal government to eradicate and eliminate corruption. And in its place, Nigeria has installed best business practice comparable to what exist elsewhere in the world. They explained Nigeria’s enactment of various new legislations aimed at streamlining how business is done in Nigeria… Geared towards effort to attract direct foreign investment to Nigeria.
Our tourism is not about sunshine and sex, says Eborieme the Chairman of Nigerian Tourism Board in his presentation, he spoke of the various facets of Nigeria’s wondrous diversities with our diverse culture in all its splendor. Nigeria’s Tourism promotion is like no other. It is not about sex, sea and sunshine. Good things are surely happening and I wish that I am part of this epoch making and history making process as it is surely a delight to have the names of all these key players and participant emblazoned and embedd
ed in the anal of worthy Nigerian history when it is written history is surely being made.
Mallam Ribadu like all others spoke glowingly about the new regime of due process rule of law that has now become entrenched. Nuhu states the need for change, recognition of improprieties. Corruption is the reason why many things fail. Corruption compromises everything. EFCC Nigeria has had help from the world.
“No society rises above its leadership. Nigeria is where it is today through failures of leadership. Nigerians are being trained. My experience is police. I was prosecutor. I was in the US in Atlanta teaching when I was appointed. Nigeria is a changed place Nigeria has decided to tackle frauds and 419ers.”
There have been arrests and convictions and about 21 in the last twelve months It was important to demonstrate in words and actions that we meant business There have been arrests of high ranking officials, cabinet ministers have been arrested, Customs leadership removed, Investigated 38 banks, investigated oil thefts and illegal bunkering…Sending a clear message that we should remove obstacles to development. For the first time, everyone now knows that we mean business. We got a president who is a champion. He is so at home and abroad. The President has hired seasoned technocrats. He has gotten the UK, US and EEU to support Nigeria. If you are not in Nigeria you are not yet in Africa says, Nuhu. Scotland yard and the FBI, etc., support local Nigerian efforts. No one is above the law. Almie is an example of such public officers who have been arrested in Nigeria’s partnership and cooperation with authorities worldwide to tackle corruption by Nigerian public officials. Rooting out corruption is fundamental to development. Setting a new standards. Best business practices should be entrenched by Nigerians and others who come to Nigeria to do business. Nigeria insists on corporate good governance, insist on best business practices. There are reforms that state clearly that it is a new era in Nigeria.
Huge Potentials As There Is No More Corruption
Continuity? We now have good governance. It is not about individuals. As to questions visibility of progress or its parameter, what to be done to remove Nigeria from infamous his like FATF have been done. There are serious issues that have been considered Anti money laundry law have been enacted. FATF has never been to Nigeria the achievement made so far is more than enough to convince anyone that Nigeria is serious about reforms Nigeria has followed all suggestions from the UN and foreign governments
Nigeria is reforming for Nigeria’s own good. There is a resistance to corruption fight in Nigeria. The US has been supportive by denying visas to corrupt public officials. The EFCC has been funding its own budget. Nigeria will fund the EFCC soon. EFCC has recovered billions of Naira for Nigeria. It recovered millions from public officials, say Nuhu. EFCC delivered almost five million dollars to an 88 years old lady in Hong Kong. She had been duped by a fraudster in Nigeria. But this was not reported in the American or European press!
Perception is not easy to change. Corruption is debilitating. It is injustice. It leads to mismanagement and waste. Mobutu is what corruption does to countries. Selfishness and corruption is not fair. If you can spend money, it is better spent on corruption, a fraction of what has been spent on the invasion and occupation, or efforts at installing democracy, in Iraq, would have brought better lives to billions of people in the world. Mallam Ribadu believes philanthropists such as Mr. Bill Gates of Microsoft who has spent money on fighting Malaria, will perhaps be of better service fighting corruption which deprives most citizens of the world developmental monies and resources for projects.
Fight corruption, install good institutional authority that is transparent and honest and accountable officials. He recounted how some officials received vaccines dump it, but collect money and nobody gets service. Officials stole money meant for bore holes a fight of corruption establish due process rule of law and sturdy institution full maximized potentials of Nigerians with basic amenities provided as corruption is removed and money is not stolen from projects.
This presidential effort was a huge success. It should be sustained and done frequently. The delegation in all addressed Diaspora Nigerians several times. They equally addressed different segments of American professionals, government leaders, business leaders and the press. The delegation stayed on the message. They conveyed the message effectively over and over again.
The message the presidential delegation delivered resoundingly and successfully, is that it is a new day in Nigeria, reforms have taken root and Nigeria is now open for business!