Leadership Opinion

2023: Time For Businessman’s President – Emmanuel Onwubiko

Nigeria is obviously the biggest black democracy in the World but Nigeria has yet to adapt to those critical factors and practices that characterize a vibrant and viable democracy. There are practices within and without government that allows for leakages that lead to willful underdevelopment and these burdens of underdevelopment are instigated by a dearth of knowledge of how to govern a corporate political entity as a corporate business as are the cases with such developed societies like Great Britain, Germany, Canada, USA, Australia.

For a Constitutional democracy to be assumed to be viable, there have to be some elements present such as the establishment of strong institutions, respect for rule of law and the supremacy of the constitution or the Grund Norm.

It is exactly because of the absence of the deep rooted practice of constitutionalism that gives rise to the perennial national conversations on the character of the national leader that Nigerians should elect as their President.

The debate on the character of who becomes the 2023 president of Nigeria has reached a frenzied dimension with a lot of focus on which between the North and South should the office of the president of Nigeria be rotated to in the next presidential election.
 
The debate on the zoning of the office of president of Nigeria in 2023 is not trivial as some persons would want us to believe.

This is because the tempestuous nature of our make up as a Country of diverse ethnicities makes it essential that the people should formulate a democratic ethos of rotating the office of president, governors and local council chairman amongst all shades and ethnicities. 

However, this reflection is basically about the very character of who should vie for the office of president in which case this writer is making a case for election of a highly successful businessman as Nigeria’s next president in addition to the need to zone the office of the president of Nigeria to the South of Nigeria for equity and balance.

As the debates over the next presidential poll heats up, the salient conversations that Nigerians are yet to start is the urgency of electing a successful businessman or business woman who will then kick start the governance of Nigeria in the same format that led to his or her emergence in the real sense as being rated as very successful.
 
Nigeria is also lucky to have vastly successful businessmen and women who are also successful in politics.

If truth be told, of all the successful business executives who delved into politics and have successfully transited to successful political governance are the current Chief whip of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Senator Orji Uzor Kalu who also governed Abia State twice as Chief executive and made huge successes as the governor of the God’s own state of Abia. 

Closely following this versatile senator of the Federal Republic is the former Anambra State governor Mr. Peter Obi who is reputed to be incorruptible, erudite, accessible and frugal with resources.

As far as the 2023 presidential poll is concerned, Orji Uzor Kalu and Peter Obi are the two most successful businessmen and investors of rare ingenuity that are actually being considered to run for the office of the president of Nigeria. Orji Uzor Kalu has also tested the baptism of political fire by way of being subjected to largely politically motivated trial for alleged corruption.

He was sent to prison and he spent 6 months and because he is a man of the people he survived this prison ordeals and came out a bigger and much more respected statesman who now has become an advocate for prisons reforms. The Federal High Court has just discharged and acquitted him of all charges of corruption after the nation’s Supreme Court freed him from wrongful imprisonment. So it is safe to say that he has no institutional baggage and impediments to run for the office of President of Nigeria in 2023, all things being equal.

Currently, he is the most senior in rank of all Igbo Political office holders. He is knowledgeable about the diversities that make up Nigeria as he has spent time in the West, and in the North in addition to becoming teinterms governor of Abia State and now the Senator representing Abia North who defeated a sitting Senator of the PDP to become the only elected Senatotbof the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). So as a very successful businessman and and a good politician, he stands poles apart to be considered to run for the office if the President of Nigeria but the only obstacle is himself. 

He has to decide if he will go for the bigger call to serve the Country in 2023. 

I will kick start by saying that the reason for emphasizing the material essence of letting a successful businessman/woman to become the next president is because the United States of America became what it is today by the virtue of the fact that the founding fathers were mostly successful businessmen who later got elected into office as presidents of the United States of America for successive terms and today America is the richest nation in the world in terms of economy and in politics, USA is the strongest democracy globally and in military term, United States of America is number one.
 
No doubt it is the overwhelming desire of Nigerians in their multitude that Nigeria should be governed just like how successful private sector businesses are governed so the nation can have the fighting chance of becoming an advanced democracy and a big economic power house in the shortest possible time frame.

I will come to that but first, let me make the clearest and the most unambiguous case for the person of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu to consider running for the office of the president of Nigeria because of his invaluable achievements in both public sectors and the Nigerian economy.

Both senator Orji Uzor Kalu and Peter Obi who are about the most successful businessmen from the East with political tentacles spread across board, are some of the finest businessmen who should be persuaded to consider running for the office of president. 

Orji Uzor Kalu is quoted as saying that he has not yet decided to run for the office of president of Nigeria in 2023.

The Senate Chief Whip Orji Uzor Kalu has said he has no ambition to run for the presidency in 2023.
 
He however said that he would heed the call of Nigerians if it becomes a consensus that he should run for President and serve them in that capacity.
 
Kalu spoke while responding to questions from reporters after being conferred with a traditional title of ‘Kibiya’ (Arrow) of Argungu Emirate by the Emir of Argungu, Alhaji Mohammed Mera, in Abuja.
 
When asked if he would run for the presidency in 2023 in view of agitations in the South East, Kalu said: “There is nothing like that in my mind. You should understand that there are only two zones that have not been President of Nigeria – the North East and the South East.
 
“So I have never thought about going to run for President. But everywhere I go people are disturbing me talking about presidency.
 
“I have told my family members and political associates that I want to come back to the Senate.
 
“The four years of my tenure in the Senate would end in 2023. I would like to come and do another one. Possibly, after my second term in the Senate, I will retire from politics and go back to my farm.”
 
When asked if he would if Nigerians call on him to run, he said: “Nigerian presidency is not what one can say I want. They know how to arrange it.
 
“No one man can make himself Nigerian President. It takes a lot of consultation across the regions. If other regions agree it could be possible.
 
“I have the capability and capacity to do any job given to me by every Nigerian not by some Nigerians.
 
“I am not running for President. I want to come back to Senate and continue serving my people.
 
“This place (Senate) is a very interesting place to be. When I was a Governor I used to be in a big office alone. But in the Senate, if I am tired in my office, I will go and see the Senate President, Senate Leader, Senator Kashim Shettima or Senator Ibikunle Amosun. I find in this place a strong bond for Nigerian people.”

Senator Orji Uzor Kalu

Those who should know have recorded that Prior to the election of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu on 9th January, 1999 as the second Executive Governor of Abia State after Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and his subsequent swearing in on May 29,1999, OUK has been in business.

He had garnered at a very youthful age wealth of knowledge in business,( human and material resources management)and held several management positions wherein, he proved himself as a good Manager. As a Founder of over ten(10) gigantic Companies with Subsidiaries all over the globe, he remains the Chairman cum Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of these Companies.

These conglomerate of OUK’s Companies had and keep providing job opportunities for thousands of Nigerians and non Nigerians which record is yet to be beaten by any businessman who is of Abia extraction. No wonder the unabated envy , unfounded and spurious allegations against this illustrious, industrious, vibrant,active,philanthropic, energetic, committed ,versatile, responsive and responsible son of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has held many management positions, to wit: Chairman, Borno State Water Board; Chairman, Imo Marketing & Supply Agency Limited; Chairman, Co- operative and Commerce Bank(CCB)Ltd and even served as the Deputy Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Finance & Internal Affairs as well as the Promoter of the first International Bank Ltd in Gambia.
The above qualities mark him out as a very successful businessman who will inevitably govern Nigeria in the same success ethos he adopted in business. I had searched for the fundamental evidence to support my belief that having a Businessman President will bring out the Entrepreneurial Spirit in the Aso-Rock.
 
Matt D’Angelo the Business News Daily Contributing Writer in a piece Updated Feb 14, 2020 gave us a run down of Presidents of the USA who were successful businessmen.  They are: George Washington (No. 1, served 1789-97) It turns out Washington, in addition to being one of the greatest presidents in U.S. history, was a savvy businessman. After completing his final term as president in 1797, Washington turned his talents to a much-enjoyed business at the time: whiskey. He opened a distillery on the grounds of Mount Vernon. By 1799, the distillery was producing 11,000 gallons per year, making it one of the largest in the country.

Of course, at that time, Washington’s business ventures were built on the backs of slaves, specifically six people who worked the distillery. His commercial success, like that of much of the nation’s early distillers, was due in large part to slave labor.

Next is Abraham Lincoln (No. 16, served 1861-65) and the writer says: “If Lincoln wasn’t a success of enormous consequence, his noble mug wouldn’t be on every $5 bill we pull out of our wallets. But Lincoln couldn’t hack it as a businessman. Long before he assumed the weight of the country’s deep divisions, Lincoln ran a general store – and not very well. He was 23 years old when he and a partner opened their store in New Salem, Illinois. Lincoln got out of the struggling business fairly quickly, but he did get stuck with his partner’s debt of $1,000. Andrew Johnson (No. 17, served 1865-69) Before Johnson entered political life, he was an accomplished tailor and real estate owner.

The son of a seamstress, Johnson apprenticed as a tailor when he came of age. Once he was old enough, he started his own shop. It was in his business as an independent tailor that he began to teach himself to read and write, eventually leading him to political life and the presidency. Warren G. Harding (No. 29, served 1921-23) Dealing with the press has always been a cumbersome task for the president, but Harding had an advantage: He came from a newspaper family, learning the ins and outs of his father’s business from the age of 10. He studied the newspaper trade in college and – after dabbling in teaching, insurance and law – dove into the business full time. With partners, he cobbled together $300 to buy The Marion Daily Star in Ohio. He owned the paper outright by the time he was 21.

Owning a business wore Harding down, but he refueled at a local sanitarium and pursued his business aggressively. In 1923, the year he died, Harding sold his paper for $550,000. In today’s dollars, that’s about $7 million – not too shabby. Herbert Hoover (No. 31, served 1929-33) Hoover served during the country’s absolute worst economic period. It would seem ideal to have a businessman in charge at that point, but Hoover’s policies exacerbated the economy’s deterioration.

Before the economy tanked, Hoover succeeded in the business world. He worked as an engineer and invented a new process to extract zinc that was lost in the contemporary mining processes of his day. He started the Zinc Corporation in the early 20th century, and it later became part of a larger corporation.

Then comes Harry Truman (No. 33, served 1945-53) described by the author thus: “Truman’s most lasting impression on history occurred within weeks of his taking office after President Franklin D. Roosevelt died. Upon taking the helm, he found out about the Manhattan Project.

Within months, he made the decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan, effectively ending World War II.

The president had come a long way from being a local haberdasher. He remains the only president elected after 1897 who did not earn a college degree. Medical issues prevented Truman from getting into West Point, so he took some classes at a business college but never finished. Then he decided to get an education in hard knocks.

Truman opened his clothing store in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1919. He went bankrupt a couple years later and changed career paths, starting with positions in local government that ultimately led to greater offices. Jimmy Carter (No. 39, served 1977-81) In addition to being elected to the highest office in the most powerful country in the world, Carter started the Department of Education, won a Nobel Peace Prize and has written nearly two dozen books. Yet he’s still remembered as a peanut farmer.

Carter was serving in the Navy after graduating from the Naval Academy when his father died. He returned to Georgia to work on the family business. Agriculture proved a natural fit for Carter, and he grew the business successfully. And lastly Donald Trump (No. 45, served 2017-present)

Before Trump was a politician, he was a famous entrepreneur. He took over the family company and developed it into an international brand. He also invested in real estate and helped develop some of the world’s most luxurious hotels and casinos. A long line of products have borne the Trump brand, including Trump Steaks, Trump University, Trump Shuttle and Trump Success Eau de Toilette.

Trump developed such a reputation as a businessman that he was cast in the American TV show Celebrity Apprentice, which started his famous motto: “You’re fired.” The fruits of Trump’s success are much debated by critics today, but it’s clear that Trump was an accomplished entrepreneur before he became president.

That journalist made the following legal imperatives: “Surveying the presidents reveals at least two prevailing characteristics among many of them: They were born rich and viewed the law as the best avenue to further their prominence. Perhaps the most privileged found work at prestigious firms or used their bar credentials to vault immediately into illustrious positions.

But more than a few put up their own shingle and practiced on their own or with a partner, including Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, Millard Fillmore, Benjamin Harrison and Gerald Ford.” We ned to remark that I the above compilations, Patrick Egan contributed to the reporting and writing in this article cited by my humble self who is making a case for a Businessman President for Nigeria  in 2023.

In subsequent editions, we will name and explain some other successful businessmen and women who could be persuaded to run for the presidency in 2023 from Southern Nigeria.  The next edition will commence with Peter Obi who was mentioned earlier. 

EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and was a Federal Commissioner at the National Human Rights commission of Nigeria.

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