Atedo Peterside, founder of Anap Foundation, has said the only time those in government listen to advice on the economy is when oil price is low. According to him, when there is oil boom, nobody listens.
Peterside who made the remark in his speech at inauguration of the steering committee for the 2021-2025 national development plan, said he believes that the only time “we are going to succeed in breaking the back of this stubborn camel called Nigeria is when the economy is in a terrible shape.”
Read his full speech below:
I want to kick off from where the minister of finance left off because I think those of us in the private sector, as well as those in the public sector, we do feel the pulse of the nation and the mood of the nation.
Some of us make ourselves available in the sense that we can be reached easily. So Nigerians will always give us feedback, whether we like it or not. In fact, they will communicate with you and forcibly give you their views.
I would just give an example of the comments that a young man sent to me yesterday; he put it in writing. He said he was aware of this meeting, so he googled my name (Atedo Peterside) and saw a Wikipedia page. He went to the Wikipedia page and he saw almost all the past articles I have written on the economy, including the links to read some of them.
After he did that, he then sent me an e-mail saying the following: “Sir, I am just reflecting on some of the speeches and write-ups you have issued on the Nigerian economy and I stumbled on the below”… and he mentioned some of those speeches.
He then said: “I begin to ask myself, why do Nigerian governments keep inviting you to come and tell them or help tell them what they need to do to fix the economy when they have not even carried out the ones you have spoken about in your discussions and past write-ups?”
He was asking me a question i.e that why do they invite me.
He also asked that when they invite me, why do I go?
I replied him because I like to encourage youths and I don’t believe in lying; it’s unnecessary. I said, even if a previous government called you and didn’t do what you said, should you say no to a subsequent government that invites you to contribute and do what you can to improve the country?
So, of course, he replied, saying yes, he understands and that just because something did not happen before, does not mean you should give up on your own country.
But my message to the Steering Committee members and all the working groups and everybody here therefore, is that Nigeria has a history of preparing plans that disappear on shelves and at the end of the day, the country doesn’t really develop.
So I think that in terms of the assignment before us, the strongest argument for coming to try and help from the private sector this time is as follows:
Look at Nigeria, almost like a camel and look at the old British saying that it is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. So, a stubborn camel called Nigeria is here and people are putting weights on the camel trying to break the back and you know that the last straw will break the Camel’s back. Are you going to refuse to place more straws on top of the camel because the ones you have put before have not broken its back? If you refuse then you will never break the back of that camel.
And let me also say that I’m among those who believe that the only time we are going to succeed in breaking the back of this stubborn camel called Nigeria is when the economy is in a terrible shape.
During an oil boom, you will be wasting your time because nobody is going to embrace any meaningful economic reform here.
So, my message to everybody is that, let’s understand that we want to make history, we are not here to write one more report that will finish up on the shelves.
Of course, there will be reports and documents that we will produce, but what we’re really after is to create a movement that will develop Nigeria. It is not the report itself that will develop Nigeria. It is the human beings who will articulate what is in the report, champion it, take ownership, argue the case in private and public and convince everybody to go along with this. That is how you break the back of a camel.
So my message to everybody here is, let us join hands, forget about whatever happened in the past, the only way to break this camel’s back is to take maximum advantage of what we have in front of us.
I’m happy that many of these working groups, also include young people, many of whom have not been through the same years of disappointments.
So the number one rule is for us to remember that what we’re looking for is to launch a bold plan to ensure that this country achieves its full potential on the economic side very quickly because time is against us.
So anybody who gets a bit demoralised, thinking should I waste my time further in this effort? Or if you are feeling very frustrated, remember that this is the camel and you are here to add your own weight on its back and let’s join hands to break the back of the camel and develop this country.
I thank you for your attention.