By SKC Ogbonnia
June 2, 2020
The consensus around the world is that the lessons from the coronavirus
pandemic (COVID-19) would provoke commonsense among Nigerian leaders to
harness the full potential of their local economy, but this dream may
never come close, if President Muhammadu Buhari does not lead by
A defining theme of my foray into the 2019 presidential race is that
Nigeria’s problem is not as complex as commonly imagined. For the
problem is neither the lack of natural resources nor human resources. It
certainly has nothing to do with good visions or the enabling policies.
The Nigerian endemic problem is squarely the failure to influence the
efficient implementation of the policies towards the greater good.
It is not surprising, therefore, that amid the COVID-19 pandemic,
President Buhari demonstrated visionary leadership by declaring that
Nigeria will henceforth promote and patronize made-in-Nigeria products
over foreign goods. Buhari’s vision is laudable and mirrors the case
of Asian countries, particularly China and India, which for several
decades banned a good number of foreign products to enable their local
industries to thrive. Today, both Asian nations have become economic
envy of the world.
Interestingly, not long after the made-in-Nigeria policy went public,
instead of patronizing Innoson Motors, the sole local auto manufacturing
outfit, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) hurriedly approved a
whopping sum of N683, 613 million for purchase of 19 Made-In-Japan
Toyota vehicles for the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA).
According to the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, the justification
for the abrupt breach of the policy is that the need for the foreign
vehicles predated the COVID-19 pandemic. As if her logic lacks in folly,
the Minister of Transport, Chibuike Amaechi, followed that the approval
became necessary, because “it’s the first time in four years that
NPA was buying any vehicle.”
The simple takeaway from both Ahmed and Amaechi is that Nigerian leaders
embrace lunacy as legacy. This goes without saying that the rationale
behind the choice of the foreign vehicles over local brands has nothing
to do with the common good. Instead, it has everything to do with the
manic competition for financial profligacy among the different arms of
the Nigerian government.
The decision by the Executive arm of government is merely to outdo the
wastefulness synonymous with the Nigerian Legislature. The NPA squander
dittoed the Senate, which not long ago rejected Innoson only to launder
over N5 billion for Toyota brands. The House of Representatives would
also double down to sink another N5 billion into Toyota Camry saloon
cars in place of moderately priced Innoson jeeps that are specially
designed and tested for the Nigerian roads.
This pattern of lavishness by public officials, particularly under the
prevailing COVID-19 crisis, is plain cold-blooded. It is impunity going
But President Muhammadu Buhari must own full blame. Though his call to
patronize local products is commendable, he is neither able to influence
his appointees to implement the policy nor able to lead by example
himself. Rather than demonstrate patriotism, by proudly using the
Made-in-Nigeria goods that he preaches, Buhari appears to be emulating
the ostentatious style of the regime before him.
Mister Buhari should quickly revert to the tenets of his 2016 “Change
Begins With Me” slogan. The core principle demands that he declares
Innoson as the official brand for all government agencies, beginning
with the Presidency. If a General Buhari, as a military head of state,
could endear himself to the Nigerian people over 30 years ago, by
embracing jagged foreign Peugeot—then assembled in Nigeria—as a
badge of honor, it is only patriotic for him to replicate such gesture
for wholly made-in-Nigeria vehicles.
It is worth mentioning, however, that the Innoson Motors is on record to
have stated that the company has seen more patronage from the Buhari
government than the one before it. That is commendable, at base. But the
mediocrity of the previous regime can never be substituted as a gold
standard for success.
President Buhari is a man widely known as ascetic and who assumed power
on the mantra of revolutionary change. He should, therefore, embolden
his change vision, as well as the authenticity of his policy on local
goods, so that others can follow. The message, if it is not already
explicit, is that the Nigerian president should, without further delay,
replace his official car, a German-made Mercedes Benz, with a
Nigerian-made Innoson brand.
The COVID-19 pandemic has combined to plunge Nigeria into an economic
miasma and true change has become inevitable. The leaders can no longer
afford to carry on business as usual. In short, besides leading by
example, it has become imperative for President Buhari to remind public
officials that the country risks a serious mass revolt, if they continue
to swim in ocean of affluence while submerging the masses deeper and
deeper into abject poverty and despair.
SKC Ogbonnia, a 2019 APC Presidential Aspirant, writes from Ugbo, Awgu,