Amaka Aniekwe is the chief executive officer of Somes Multi Dynamics Company Ltd. In this interview, she speaks on the fallout of the presidential primaries conducted by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the business outlook in Nigeria and why government should implement policies that will boost business growth, among others. ANAYO EZUGWU reports
What is your view on the concerns raised by Nigerians over excessive monetization in dollars by the two major political parties during their party primaries?
What happened was worrisome. I was shocked at the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during their primaries as well as their choice of candidates, especially for the APC. One would have thought that they would choose the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. If you look at his age and other qualities needed for Nigeria to grow, you will think Osinbajo would be a better choice but money answers everything according to the holy book. The delegates threw their support behind the one that had a deep pocket and was ready to share the dollars. We saw how the dollarization of the whole process has affected the economy.
Both the APC and the PDP have impacted the economy adversely through their action and these are Nigerian leaders and potential leaders. While entrepreneurs like us are looking for dollars to power the economy and it looks like a mirage, the politicians on the other hand, are throwing the dollars like pebbles that you see on the streets.
There is the speculation that businesses will improve this election year with the level of economic activities that are expected to take place. Job creation for those in the printing business and advertising, among others; what are your thoughts?
It is true that businesses like advertising and printing will boom this time because they are the platforms that politicians use for their campaigns but we have other sectors that need to be strengthened as well. We will appeal to the government to do something that will affect every sector positively. The return of queues at the petrol stations is a very disturbing situation. A lot of businesses are affected by fuel scarcity, so the government should address that urgently.
Cost of doing business in Nigeria is skyrocketing with the price of diesel getting out of the reach of entrepreneurs. How do you cope as an entrepreneur?
Prices of everything in Nigeria are skyrocketing, and I must say, the truth is that Nigeria does not encourage those of us that are business owners. Every day in this country, businesses are closing shops and insecurity is on the rise. It is so because people are jobless and when they don’t have jobs they will create one for themselves in the crime sector.
Apart from the issue of power, there is also the challenge of the high cost of forex. How do you cope in the midst of these multiple challenges?
The truth is that I don’t see things becoming better with the forex because Nigeria doesn’t have good regulations for export; that aspect is completely ignored. We have a lot of things we can export and this will help generate more forex but there is no structure at all. The forex policy is nothing to write home about. There is the need for a total overhaul. You cannot plan in this country as a business owner. I have related my challenges in sourcing forex so many times to journalists during interviews and as we speak things are getting worse.
What advice can you give to local manufacturers in this troubling time?
Anybody that is producing now in Nigeria deserves to be given kudos because the epileptic power system is worse now. How does one produce, as diesel price keeps going higher day by day? In fact, I haven’t been in Nigeria regularly during this period because of power. If I calculate how much diesel I buy at home and in the office per month, the cost of me staying abroad for two or three months is cheaper, so I will rather travel to save cost and you know what that translates to the economy of Nigeria. If I need to stay, work and engage the services of people that would have empowered the people and those who depend on them for livelihood but I am engaging the services of people outside the country.
Do you think that female entrepreneurs deserve any kind of concession?
A lot of concessions are supposed to be given to female entrepreneurs to encourage people like us who are striving to do business in a difficult country like Nigeria, but again, no structure is in place. The policies of the government are not helping anybody. The policies are not helping the men and they are not helping the women, even international investors are not encouraged to come to Nigeria. There must be a total overhaul of policies to boost businesses in Nigeria as I mentioned earlier.
What is the prospect for your business considering the harsh business environment under which most companies are operating now?
Most companies are closing down. I don’t know if any company in Nigeria still has any prospects unless Nigeria is restructured by a good economist like Peter Obi, one of the presidential candidates. I mentioned him because we have seen his blueprint and I am not sure any of the other contenders have done so. We need somebody who can fix this country before it collapses.
Alot of women were sidelined in the current electoral process, even when some political parties gave concessions for nomination forms, we didn’t see the kind of interest that was expected. We also saw that some of their male counterparts are not ready to pick female as running mates. What are your thoughts?
The major reason is cultural impediments; some men still think that women are the weaker sex and that their placer is in the kitchen, and even some women that are capable may not have gotten their husbands’ consent to come out fully to participate in politics. Politics in Nigeria is highly monetized, how many women can afford to buy forms for N100 million or N40 million? Another reason is violence; the political scene in Nigeria encourages violence, so women will just decide to stay away. Though some men will be quick to say that few women who were tried disappointed, they will point to someone like Diezani Madueke, former Petroleum Minister.
They will claim that she wasted the nation’s wealth out of greed. Unfortunately, it is true that it happened and it is condemnable. We still have a lot of men who have embezzled the nation’s wealth and are still very active in politics as if nothing happened. We need women in politics; women who have compassion and are ready to lead with motherly care, and we have a huge number of them. We need to give them a chance.
I am really disappointed in the way politics is being played in Nigeria and I pray that our people understand the essence of politics and vote for individuals with integrity, not those that are there to enrich themselves with monies that their 10th generation can’t finish. We shouldn’t vote based on political, tribal, or religious sentiments but for people with integrity. We should stop celebrating corrupt people in this country.
In Japan, when someone is corrupt, he commits suicide. In China, the government will kill the corrupt person but in Nigeria and the rest of Africa, the person will use the money to contest for political posts and win when he gets there he will still share money with those that helped him to get there. The money he is sharing is definitely the commonwealth of the people and that is why we are still in this deplorable state.
You can imagine the level of poverty in Nigeria where a person will vote for a corrupt politician because he or she has been given N2,000. I call it selling someone’s birthright and future. I really hope that Nigerians will be wise and vote correctly this time.