Being a speech by Seyi Makinde, The Governor, Oyo State of Nigeria titled “Improving Nigeria’s Economy – Challenges and Opportunities: The Oyo State Journey” at the Nigerian-American Business Forum in Tampa, Florida, on February 29 and March 1, 2020.
I feel privileged to be here today to speak with you on the opportunities that are opening up in Oyo State, and how you can overcome some of the challenges that will present themselves as you access these opportunities.
Let me mention that I am here alongside the Oyo State Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Temilolu Seun Ashamu; the Executive Adviser on Agribusiness in Oyo State, Dr Debo Akande; the Director General Oyo State Investment Agency, Hon Segun Ogunwuyi, the Director General, Oyo State Solid Minerals Development Agency, Biodun Oni, the Special Assistant on Special Duties, Lolade Ajibola and last but not least, my Personal Assistant, Samson Adejumo.
Let me start this presentation by sharing with you a few things about my journey into politics. Back when I was a little child growing up in Ibadan, I always looked forward to being part of a system that would bring about change. You may have heard that I wanted to be a soldier. I was in love with the discipline and organisation of the army. Well, that didn’t work out. So I chose the next best thing and went on to learn how to design systems and apply my knowledge in building things that work.
In reality, it was the quest to make things work better and make people’s lives easier that drove me into politics. I was not content with acts of philanthropy. I wanted to touch more lives and I realised that to do that, I had to scale the success I had achieved in building my own company from scratch. I wanted to bring the methods and systems that make the private sector work into the public sector.
As anyone who has been in this same position will tell you, this is no mean feat. I have captured the main challenges I faced in this slide. I will spend a little time explaining each one.
The culture and work ethics in the private sector and that in the public sector in Nigeria appear to run parallel. And you know what we say about parallel lines. Trying to match the two work cultures is a near impossibility. But we keep trying and working at it.
Also, in the private sector, you sometimes hear of office politics but in the public sector everything is politics. I must tell you that the never-ending politics is one of the major challenges that anyone who chooses public office will face. You have to be two or more steps ahead of the opposition to keep afloat. And sometimes, you have to dine with the devil, so you have to make sure you are always carrying a long spoon.
Let me also mention, the huge issue of hiring people who are the right fit for the job. You would think that a person’s field of study would dictate his portfolio. But this is not always the case. Recently, I had to effect a minor cabinet reshuffle. And so from time to time, the challenge arises and one has the task of shaking things up a bit so they can work better.
But these challenges are not without solutions and I will be sharing how I have managed the challenges in the last nine months. Three things: remaining focused on my goal, building a strong team and avoiding sycophants.
Indeed, one of the things that has helped me to overcome the challenges of public office so far is keeping my eye on the goal. You may have heard about the new Park Management System (PMS) in Oyo State and the furore around it. The papers were happy to jump on the predictions of doom and some people went ahead to threaten us if some decisions were not reversed. As a leader, you have to make tough decisions but also be ready for the fallout of your decisions. The PMS issue is still ongoing but we are up to the task. We shall not waver in our quest to grow the Internally Generated Revenue of Oyo State without burdening our people with unnecessary taxes.
Also, I have a crop of dedicated officers who have keyed into and believe in this goal. I am proud to say I have a great team who offer sensible advice and who believe in my ability to make the best decisions given all the available alternatives.
Never underestimate the importance of having people around you who believe in you but who are not so subjective as to become sycophants.
Despite these challenges, we are working assiduously to make Oyo State a viable option for people like you to look towards as an investment destination of choice. I have said at different fora that I am a firm believer in just one function of government in business – creating an enabling environment so that the private sector can come in and do what it is best at doing.
Presently, Oyo State has 115,000 civil servants and a wage bill of N11 Billion per month, which is just 1.4% of the total population. We can’t employ all the strong and energetic people in the state. Our job is to ensure we create opportunities that will be appealing to the private sector so they can come in and provide employment opportunities for 10% of the population who are presently unemployed and create more opportunities to attract further investment.
And there are big opportunities in Oyo State.
Permit me to share with you what these opportunities are and how you can take advantage of them.
In agriculture, and let me pause and invite you all to participate in the Oyo State Agribusiness Forum holding on the 30th of March in Ibadan (I hope I will not be charged for making that announcement). At that forum, you will get key insights on the specific areas of investment in Oyo State agriculture. In fact, we will be launching the Agribusiness Development Agency.
The land size in Oyo State is 30,000 square kilometres and about 80-85% of that can be utilised for farming. The climate in the northern part of Oyo State is derived savannah and down south is rain forest which means anything can grow in our environment. Presently, we grow cash crops like cashews, mangoes, cocoa, cassava and corn/maize. Apart from cash crops, we have opportunities for livestock farming. We are planning our farm estates in nine locations scattered around Oyo State. The first two are set to kick off soon at Akufo and Eruwa. This presents great opportunities for the manufacturing and processing industries.
If you choose to come and site your factory in Oyo State, we have special business packages for you, each with unique benefits. Our Director General Oyo State Investment Agency, Hon Segun Ogunwuyi and his team just got a reserve bidder for the juice processing factory in Oko, Surulere Local Government Area.
Speaking of business packages with unique benefits, we are incentivising investors. For example, we offer you land at unbeatable rates. I make bold to say if you get a better offer for the same value anywhere else in Nigeria, we will best it. We are proud of our investors both local and foreign and so we are determined to make life easier for them. We extend the traditional hospitality of the good people of Oyo State through investment grants. Our Executive Adviser on Agribusiness in Oyo State, Dr Debo Akande and of course as mentioned earlier, the Director General Oyo State Investment Agency, Hon Segun Ogunwuyi are here with me and they are ready to talk to you about how you can be part of this novel investment initiative.
Our tourism sector offers opportunities for people in the hospitality business. You may know that Oyo State hosts one of two hanging lakes in the world at Oke Ado Mountain in Ado Awaye. The other, which is in here in the United States is in Colarado and receives over 131,000 visitors yearly. In addition, Oyo State hosts, Bower’s Tower, Agodi Parks and Gardens and Eleyele Lake. A keen eye will see the possibilities and grab them with both hands. Our Special Assistant on Special Duties, Lolade Ajibola is also here and is eager to discuss partnerships in this sector.
We also have opportunities in Health, Education and Security sectors. We have gaps in these sectors that you can fill and we offer special incentives to encourage you. For instance, in the education sector we had almost half a million out of school children. With our free basic education initiative, we witnessed an influx of students into schools. We know that some of these students will be better served by robust technical schools. As a government, we do not have all the money to set up these schools.
So, we are ready to partner with you in setting up fully equipped technical colleges for our youths. As with the agriculture sector, we are willing to discuss incentives such as land and investment grants.
Another sector open for investment is the power sector. As at the last count, we had over 1.2 million residences in Oyo State. This is a huge market for energy investment. Our newly created Oyo State Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources is already looking into alternate sources of energy so we do not rely solely on the national grid. Waste to Energy and Solar Energy, which I must say we have in abundance, are two areas we are exploring. We have aspirations for energy sufficiency in the state. We have had a study conducted which shows that the state can generate about 200MW from solar energy alone.
So, why should you choose Oyo State?
We have comparative advantage that will guarantee huge Return on Investment.
Oyo State is strategically located. The largest seaport in Nigeria is just about one hundred kilometres away.
With the completion of the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway, your materials can land at the Lagos Apapa Port and be cleared at the Ibadan Inland Dry Port just about two hours later.
We are also investing heavily in intra-city roads. Constructions are ongoing at Moniya-Ijaye-Iseyin Road, Agodi Gate to Old Ife Road to Airport, Adegbayi Ibadan road and more. We are ensuring that we have a road network that makes movement within towns and cities hassle-free. We also do not have an “Agbero” problem. Our well-coordinated Park Management System further ensures ease of commuting. Soon, we will be welcoming our metro buses into our roads.
You may be thinking, great pitch and you may in fact, be almost sold. I say almost because there is always the nagging issue that every entrepreneur considers before they take a plunge. For every opportunity, there is a challenge.
And so in the spirit of transparency, I will be sharing with you some of the challenges that you may encounter trying to do business in Oyo State. But I will do more. I will not just tell you what these challenges are, I will tell you what we are doing to ensure that you overcome these challenges.
This is, in fact, one of the beauties of working with the Oyo State Government. We have studied the landscape from a business man’s perspective. Having been in the business world myself and opened businesses in various countries, I am fully aware of some of the issues that new investors encounter and we are doing our best to smoothen the process for you.
In Nigeria as a whole, we are facing the issue of insecurity. But in the Southwest and indeed Oyo State, things are relatively more peaceful. We have invested in securing the lives and properties of all within the borders of Oyo State through collaborations with the Federal Police. At the onset of this administration, we donated one hundred state-of-the-art security patrol vehicles to facilitate the movement and response time of the police. More recently, Oyo State has been at the forefront of the launch of the Western Nigeria Security Network code-named Amotekun. We have no doubts that Oyo State will join the ranks of the safest places in the world in no time.
Another issue that entrepreneurs often face is ease of entry. Nigeria has become infamous for corruption and it has become normal to bribe officials to get things done. In Oyo State, we favour openness and transparency. We have an open-door policy and this makes for accountability. None of our officials are allowed to solicit or receive bribes and kickbacks. Earlier in our administration, we signed the Oyo State Investment Promotion Act and the Oyo State Financial Crimes Commission Act.
You will notice cultural and attitudinal differences which may seem shocking. Your proactiveness and focus may also be challenged. But with an open mind, you will soon overcome those. Your attitude has to be that of a missionary ready to adopt and adapt. On our own part, we are working on making operations as seamless as possible. We are using technology and automation where possible to reduce human contact.
We are also providing training for civil servants directed at changing their orientation and mindset. I must say that the Oyo State Civil Servants are on our side of the fence. They want these investments as much as we do and so they are doing their part. We all know that change is neither easy nor automatic but we have their buy-in. Because we are making government more people-centred by listening to them, they, in turn, are more willing to work with our administration. We also have a very effective feedback mechanism that ensures that people working against the system are ousted and such situations dealt with.
So have no fear.
When it comes to acquiring permits, and this is an area where the usual bureaucracy and red tape leads to wasted man hours, we have taken steps to cut down the time that is usually spent acquiring documentation. For instance, before now, it would take about three to four months to acquire your Certificate of Occupancy after purchasing land. We are keeping that process within two months. We know we can further simplify it, but this is just a start.
Coming from the Diaspora, especially the United States where you do not even think about power supply, to Nigeria where you have to factor in the cost of energy supply can be a huge burden. What we are doing in Oyo State is improving the power situation through investment in alternate sources of power. Presently, we are talking to Shell Nigeria Gas for gas supply and several other suppliers for independent power project.
In all, I am happy to tell you that Oyo State is open for business. And that is why my team and I have come here.
Once again, thank you for giving us the opportunity to share our dreams with you. It is our firm belief that we would build partnerships that will take Oyo State and indeed Nigeria to greater heights.
So, we extend our welcome in advance. I say – E ka abo!