Two professors see Nigeria’s economic possibilities through two books released by founder of Garden City premier business school
(Culled from BD Sunday By Ignatius Chukwu)
Silva Opuola-Charles has a doctorate degree in Monetary Economics and Masters in Monetary Banking. He also had stints at the London School of Economic, Lagos Business School, etc.
Opuola- Charles acquired what experts called ‘composite competence’ by working across board in the finance world; 19 years in various banks and in various positions, public finance management by being the commissioner of finance and later for economic planning in Bayelsa State (Under Timi Silva).
On this score he grew into an institution-building expert and also turned around departments and institutions he heaeded. Now, he is founder of Garden City Business School in Port Harcourt and has just released two books which try to examine Nigeria’s economic position amongst peers in global competition. The tow books speak to the health of the Nigerian economy. One is Nigeria’s Strategic Frontiers: Dreaming to the First World (A strategic Comparative Road Map for Nigeria) in 78 pages. The other is Public Finance, 274 pages.
The books, especially ‘Dreaming to the First World’, are an adventure in Econometrics.
Teasers by ANA boss
The Rivers State chairman of Association of Nigeria Authors (ANA), who was chairman of the book presentation and signing ceremony at 13 Herbet Macauley in Old GRA, teased the audience as a compact crwd of intellectuals worthy to listen to the reviews by two erudite professors. “This is compact audience. The world is going compact and gadgets are getting smaller but more effective. So, the crowd here is quality because real people are here; book people are here. It is about releasing knowledge to a world crying for knowledge. The Garden City Premier Business School is unique, it is indeed a school for the future. We must support it. We must know that book writing is no mean feat.”
Pofessors on duty:
Olusegun Sobesan (DG: Onitsha Chamber of Commerce)
The book is small but very powerful. Fear short people. Nigeria’s Strategic Frontiers: Dreaming to the First World (A strategic Comparative Road Map for Nigeria. This book tries to show the difference between dream and vision; between aspiration and ambition. It also helps one to know the mind of God on imaginations.
There is a difference between looking and seeing, as shown in this book; between decision-taking and decision-making. The character of the man (Opuola-Charles) has been depicted in the book; excellence. The three As of character include attitude, aptitude and (articulation). The book answers questions about Nigeria’s strategic roadmap to economic advancement.
An academic book is judged by concept, content, context, composite and competence. The book passed all. He has the competence and the composite knowledge to write such a book. He also knows the context (Nigeria). The book is precise in size; rich in content, offering solutions. It points to the possibility of Nigeria’s incredible future.
Opuola-Charles postulates that Nigeria without non-oil export is a Nigeria without a future. The book worked from problem to solution; and pointed at the need to return to Agriculture for achieving robust non-oil sector exports. The book looked at wasted opportunities which Nigeria seems to represent. Look; thinking without acting (hallucination), or acting without thinking (madness), which is worse. This phenomenon is the problem with Nigeria. (Many answered that both are the problem with Nigeria).
There is a book in the making that looks at the gap and the lack in Africa. Africa must consider proper governance (which focuses on well-being of the citizens) which is a combination of good governance and strong governance. The Nigerian systemic odus is all about open-ended problems, which are distractions to development such as corruption, poor decisions, discrimination, imcompetence, etc.
The book concludes on the need for sense of urgency in tackling Nigeria’s numerous problems. I offers to make this book compulsory in the Meturlogical Institute of Nigeria in Onitsha for their simulation tests in the PHD classes and other classes.
Tamunonimim Ngerebo, Banking & Finance, RSU
(Book: Public Finance)
Nigeria should see itself as the richest country in the world based on natural resources deposited by nature and possibilities in abundance, but the ability to create value is questionable. Some say Nigeria is rather moving backward, and that it should have been batter to standstill.
Nigeria is centre of Africa which is centre of the world, but we do not know how to add value to our resources to create wealth. That is what the second book (Public Finance) is saying. There are three perspectives with which the book was written: the past, now and the future. The paradox is; Nigeria is poor but not poor.
There is misapplication, misappropriation and misapplication (mismanagement). The book tries to look at maximising the social benefits of taxation. Good public sector finance management is important for tax collection. Thus, comparing Rivers and Lagos is wrong because the two cities do not have common traditions and development history. What matters is optimizing the Rivers portfolio.
Public Debt: Borrowing is not bad but use of the loan is what matters. Debt servicing is risky because you end up paying above the principal that you owe, so said the book. It’s a faulty structure. The issue is about those who manage public finances and those who criticize them without having an understanding of what the managers faced.
The two books complement each other because questions raised in one (Public Finance) were answered in the other.
Opuola-Charles gives glimpses
The books are about identifying Nigeria’s problems and offering solutions. Solutions to Nigeria’s problems are easy because it is just about creating templates. There are areas where Nigeria has made significant progress such as stable democracy for 20 years; checks-balances has improved in the past three years. If this is sustained in the next 20 years, it would be great.
Merit must rule Nigeria (meritocracy). Strong opposition is cherished so the party in power would be eager to do good because the opposition is keen to overtake. It brings balance of power.
Nigeria must move its indices up to meet its peers especially in the emerging markets; South Africa, Mexico, Brasil, USSR, etc. Others like Singapore, Malaysia and China have moved ahead to join the First World.
Essence of the book presentation:
What we are saying is that Nigeria’s underdevelopment is caused by poor management and poor leadership. It is poor leadership in the sense that public finance or coordination or mobilization is very central to be able to develop the country because if you do not have finances, you cannot do anything meaningful. The resources are there but not properly harnessed. If you do not have money, you cannot have development. So, ignoring tax (VAT) is very wrong approach.
In the money paradigm, you need to develop a finance architecture which seeks to attract people to your country and to create jobs. This, we are not doing well. There are a couple of things we need to get right. Education defines where we will be. Singapore is now a first world country because they were able to identify human resources. China was able to be where they are because they have the right demography. If they can do it, we can.
Some say those countries have dictatorships or strong leaders but a leader must have a national dream. That is the kind of leader that will get us there, who can be chosen based on character, attitude, etc. Public finance management is not rocket science but the priority to do what is right, right competence, etc.
Some say any suggestion to increasing taxes (VAT) may cause riots. It is not so. You do not do it to satisfy people. No, you will explain your policy. See the amount of money people stole last time. You must introduce control. Some countries pay as high as 60 per cent in taxes, but in Nigeria, some people do not even pay taxes. This is a huge asset for Nigeria, taxes.
It requires selfless leadership. It is about somebody that is sincere. To be a leader, you will sacrifice, that is even if it affects you, you must stick to what is right. Do what is right and pursue the right policies. Go for broke.
Some have asked if from my experience it is possible to have political leaders such as governors and presidents that would accept suggestions such as these; or if an idealist subordinate can convince the boss and those around him to implement idealistic policies such as offered in these books. If I am to go back to government, I will first tell you my blueprint from the onset. If you accept it, fine, we work.