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.Urges FG to ensure easy of doing business
. Says at 75 years, I desire to see a better nation for our children
Eze Ikem Agbasi , Chairman of VIDAC Equipment and Ezeudo of Isolo recently celebrated his 75th birthday. In this interview with newsmen, Eze Agbasi spoke on the need for good leadership in the country , his life journey and legacies, the need to fix the nation’s economy and other national issues .
Eze , you have 75 years which is a humongous achievement for a Nigerian man. How has your life journey been? What are the things that have kept you going so far?
Honestly speaking what has kept me going so far is the grace of the almighty God and telling the truth. Life has been so tough. My family is known not to tell lies.
What would you consider to be your greatest achievement of the last 75 years?
My greatest achievement is my children. God gave me good children. And I gave them sound education in Nigeria and abroad.
What legacies and values would you want your children to continue with in life?
I would like my children to be honest to themselves and to God. Being honest also means being trustworthy. Whenever their names are mentioned, only good things should be said about them. My father and his father before him all left a good legacy. I was able to go anywhere to eat and to drink freely without fear that my father had wronged someone. I would also like my children to be hardworking. I believe almost anything is possible, if one works consistently and diligently on their desired goals.
How long have you been married? I believe you mentioned 1974, so 48 years of marriage. What would you say are the lessons that have kept your marriage?
I’ve been married for 48 years. Marriage is like a diamond. Diamond passes through so many processes before it is fully refined and sparkles. That being said, I’m thankful to my wife for being patient and accommodating me. She knows me very well. I only have to look at her and she knows exactly what I want. Among all the men in the world, I am one of the lucky few with a happy marriage.
How would you compare Nigeria today versus the Nigeria of the past? What is your advice for National Leaders now that 2023 is approaching?
The leaders of today are not good leaders because they are selfish. They think only for themselves, their families and no one else. Look at how they were carrying dollars in bags while people were suffering.
But how is that different from the leaders of the past?
One day we were in Kano. I told my northern friends not to equate themselves with Saduana of Sokoto. All Northerners are his children. Saduana has no mansion. He has no expensive cars. He cares for everybody. He had one wife.
I still don’t understand the point. Are you saying the leaders of the past were not interested in selfish gains?
They were not because if they were, this generation would have no country today. In the past, the federal universities fed their students in school. You received meal tickets for a small fee. Today, these services don’t exist anymore. You know revolutions are not planned. What causes revolutions is the suffering of the youth.
As the current Eze Udo of Isolo, what is the trust of your title and what are the Ezes in Lagos doing to ensure that Igbos in Lagos are united and respected?
Since we started Ezeship in Lagos state, all the clashes and quarrels Igbos used to have with the Yorubas are now limited. Because when there are signs of unrest, we request an audience with the Oba and ask the Igbos to try a more peaceful approach because trouble doesn’t pay anyone. Today, we live in peace.
As a businessman, what is your assessment of the Nigerian state, in terms of the economic development, since we are still an oil dependent economy?
As a businessman, I know Nigeria is one of the worst countries to do business because you cannot predict the government’s policy. The government has proven unable to create policies that last two, five, or even ten years. I don’t blame our leaders. Most of our them are not business people which has led to an over-reliance on oil to the detriment of other industries / sectors. It has made us lazy in creating value through processing our natural resources. For instance, I see no reason why Nigeria cannot refine its own oil. In a country, where we have young and educated men and women. I still remember the days when one naira was equal to one pound and two dollars. Today, the reality is dire.
What practical steps do you recommend we adopt to move the economy to non-oil dependent?
In order to reduce Nigeria’s reliance on oil, we must fix our power problem. Without regular and uninterrupted electricity supply, it is impossible to build and sustain other industries. After power comes our refineries. Given the number of engineers graduating each year, it is difficult to understand why we cannot refine the oil we need for our domestic needs. Third step will be adding value to our natural resources through industrial processing. Take agriculture as an example, we should have food processing plants for cassava, yams, soya beans etc. across the nation to feed our ever-growing population. Fourth, policies must be stable irrespective of the political party in power to ensure business continuity. Small businesses drive the economy. The government can take advantage of small business associations and get their insights on how to better the economy. Lastly, an idle person is the devils’ workshop. Young men and women are available to work. Job creation should remain a priority; perhaps reduce the retirement age to allow more youth to enter the workforce and further build their future.
What are the sectors that have the capacity and opportunities to grow the economy?
In the Public sector, the Transportation sector still has a lot of opportunities. With improved road, rail and air connectivity, goods and services can easily be transported throughout the country. As mentioned earlier, power is simply fundamental and a necessary foundation upon which further growth can be built.
In addition, I see opportunities within Agriculture. We are still a country of mainly subsistence farmers. Expanding into food processing, with our population, not just as a potential labor force, but also as consumers, there is still tremendous growth possible.
Lastly, I would add technology. In our nascent technology sector, here we could really start to have global reach and potentially catch up and eclipse our western counterparts.
What are the key drivers of investment to the economy?
The key driver of investment to the economy is our Human capital. We have one of the youngest and most educated populations in the world. In addition, our sheer size 210 million people and counting gives a good opportunity and foundation for businesses to test their products and services. If businesses can succeed in Nigeria based on quality, chances are they can succeed across Africa as well.
What are the solutions to South East development challenges? Can the region be developed without much federal support?
Yes, the South East can be developed without much federal support. In fact, it must pursue this option in order to thrive. It is up to the South East to develop itself. History has shown this to be the case. We cannot rely on federal support.
Many of your contemporaries have given up on Nigeria,and due to poor leadership and lack of trust in the government. What do you think can be done to change the narrative? Do you still have conviction that the nation can be redeemed?
Nigeria is at a crossroad. As long as a certain section or select individuals are ruling the country, things will not change in the next hundred years. Because Nigeria doesn’t allow good people to get in the right levels of power to effect change. The best way for Nigeria to grow is to allow every state to control their resources the way they like. With good leadership and vision, Nigeria can be redeemed.
Do you have any regret (s) so far in life or business?
I do not have any regrets in life. I believe God has destined my path. Whatever obstacles I had in the past and whatever comes next, I have always believed I will overcome it.
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