Nigeria, like other countries across the world, has been led mostly by individuals in the public sphere of life. Other countries have had individuals with only private sector experience as has been evidenced by the administration of former President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America. Very few countries enjoy the privilege of having an individual with the dual capacity of private and public-sector experience. This is why some countries appear to perform better at the economy when they are led by an individual with relevant private sector credentials. Others appear to perform better if their leaders have been thoroughly steeped in the dicey art of public sector management.
Former Prime Minister Sir John Major of the United Kingdom
Only a few people may know this but the United Kingdom’s former Prime Minister John Major, worked as a banker in Nigeria working at Standard Bank which is now known as First Bank Nigeria. Upon his accession to power, he brought a sense of urgency and pragmatism to the role of Prime Minister which enabled the country perform better economically. His effort at reviving the economy which had been battered by the fiscal and monetary woes of the 1970s and 1980s was commendable. Although he could have achieved more if he had had a more expanded role in the public service before he became prime minister.
Former President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America
While President Donald J. Trump is definitely controversial, we can see that his private sector background enabled him to focus on the economy which he built remarkably well during his tenure. There are however others who would insist that his foreign policy efforts were abysmal especially due to his proclivity to side with dictatorial leaders and his poor support of Arab and African nations.
Former President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone
Former President Kabbah spent all of his working life in the public sector, working mostly for the United Nations. He was head of the West Africa desk of that organization while in New York and also worked in Lesotho, Uganda and Tanzania. Seen as a unifying factor during and after the civil war in that country, former President Kabbah was able to bring his public-sector assets to bear in holding the discordant factions together even as he struggled on the economic front to prosper his people. One could argue that it would have been difficult for any other leader to quickly restart the economy after a tortuous internal carnage that destabilized the length and breadth of a once peaceful country.
What Nigeria Needs is a Hybrid Private and Public-Sector Leader
It is time to take a more nuanced look at the type of individual to lead Nigeria. We have experienced the benefits of core public sector leaders with mixed results and we have had the benefit of private sector players in high governance. People like Chief Awolowo and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who have recorded sterling results in office. The time has come to try a hybrid leader who can run the country like a President Trump but also win the affection of other world leaders and promote Nigeria’s foreign affairs.
Champion of Agriculture
Let’s take a look at a suitable profile: If there was somebody who could support all small and medium-scale farmers and curb unemployment and help reduce the poverty rate in the country who could it be? That person would be no other than Dr. Godwin Emefiele who has ploughed a substantial N134.63 billion to mostly agro-related projects through the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) and the Agri-Business/Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS). This novel feat earned him the name the Champion of Agriculture. To be clear, Dr Emefiele is probably not the only individual with this pedigree but he definitely stands out as one.
Champion of Entrepreneurs
His ambitious plan to restart the economy at each occasion when it has experienced severe challenges has led to his laudable attempt to ban the undiscriminating importation of foreign goods that can be produced cheaply at home and his endearing efforts to stimulate local enterprise through trainings, cash grants and the enabling environment has earned him the sobriquet of Champion of Entrepreneurs.
Champion of Industry
Dr Emefiele has been emphatic that while the small businesses are crucial to stimulate growth, the real sector and the industries around it must have a chance to continue to do well. He has commendably committed 1 trillion Naira through the Real Sector Facility programme which has targeted over 250 projects in light manufacturing, agro-allied services and mining. Those in this area hail him as the Champion of industry and who can begrudge him that appellation?
The man could be Dr. Godwin Emefiele
This is the time to marry private sector deftness with public sector sagacity. We need a prudent manager of resources who has the heart of a public-sector organizer. We need a hero who can be heroic and be the champion of different sectors but also represent the national interest in one fell swoop. In short, we need Dr. Godwin Emefiele.
This series will continue to examine a host of possible candidates who fit this profile. That is, those who possess the ability to conjoin private sector experience with the navigational excellence of a public-sector pilot.
Hassan Garba, a public affairs analyst, writes in from Abuja.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.