The Lectern: My beef with South Africa, Shoprite and Nigerian politicians.

The lectern

Hiya,

It’s April Fool’s Day today (see how I’m being nice by telling you upfront?) and our writer at The Lectern says we have been fools for a long time. With nothing else but a pair of binoculars which was made in South Africa and purchased at Shoprite, she takes a cursory look at the state of the Nigerian economy. And she sees that it is bad. As we have come to expect anytime Chizzy Odilinye puts words to work, the writing is not at all overbearing; it is fluid but earnest nevertheless such that looooong after reading, you will not forget. Just as well because this ‘beef’ is not one to be forgotten.

March was good to me. Whether it was the same case with you or not, today we have another chance to try again. May our hands never pick the fool’s choice … Amen. Happy April!  

 

Chisom.


 

My beef with South Africa, Shoprite and Nigerian politicians

The battle for supremacy between South Africa and Nigeria would appear to be age-long, but it wasn’t always like this. There used to be times when both countries were brothers-in-arms, had each other’s backs. My mum, for example, still tells stories of how as students in 1977, they sacrificed their lunch tickets to help South Africans fight Apartheid. “Nigeria funded that fight,” she would say with pride. But that is not the case anymore. A BBC report recently sampled opinions of how Nigerians see South Africans and vice versa. While South-Africans saw Nigerians as criminals and kidnappers of some sort with an unusual arrogance, Nigerians saw them as hateful (especially since last year’s outbreak of Xenophobic attacks).

Clearly, the camaraderie that used to be there is no more and in its place has been driven a wedge of competition. The last rebasing of the Nigerian economy drove it to a head; Nigeria was proclaimed the largest economy in Africa and 26th largest in the world and, as it was touted all over the news media then, “has finally truly assumed her position as Giant of Africa over other counterparts like South Africa.” It sounded rosy and our leaders made sure to repeat it more often that it was necessary, but there were a number of other things they did not say. Like the fact that statistics may have changed but reality remains the same.

In comparing Nigeria and South Africa, the similarities might end in both being African countries, colonized by Britain. In terms of Human Development Index (HDI), these two countries are miles apart.  While South Africa (SA) is one of the top 10 in Africa with a rating of 0.666, Nigeria rests somewhere in the middle at 0.514. Comparing in terms of electricity generation capacity, Nigeria currently generates 5,000MW for her 160 million populace (this is me being generous) while SA generates over 40,000MW for less than a third of Nigeria’s population.  Nigeria’s mortality rate is at 814 for every 100,000 births while SA is at 138/100,000. In access to health care and Universal Basic Education (UBE), let me not bore you with more statistics, but suffice it to say that we (Nigeria) are not doing great on that front either. One might say in our defense that we are more populated than SA by over a 100 million people, but shouldn’t that be an advantage? A larger population surely means more man power and ‘productive youths’.

So why bring up this discourse? Certainly, it is not to continue the argument for supremacy, rather to plead a case for our ailing economy. Because it is truly, truly, ailing.

Recently, I stumbled on a picture of my dear Governor Willie inspecting yet another city mall. This time it was the ‘Onitsha mall’ which is expected to host the South African retail giants Shoprite, Game and a host of others. A second mall is also under construction at Nnewi, where for the love of all things foreign, local spare part dealers were evacuated to ‘create space’.

When I see pictures of our governors commissioning malls to host foreign businesses, I ask myself when the time for our local brands will come. Growing up in the Coal city, Roban Stores which faithfully served the needs of the town was a precious part of our childhood. And I imagine how so easily that single store could have grown to become a large retail chain like Shoprite, if an enabling platform had been provided for it. And this is the story of many Nigerian businesses and innovations.

I have come to find that a lot of the reasons for this neglect – by Nigerian leaders and followers alike – lie in our fragile pride and pagan-like worship of status.  “Wait, is there Shoprite in the East?” “Off course, there is one in Enugu.” “Wow.” How unfortunate! The continuous growth of South African retail shops and businesses in Nigeria will ensure the paralysis and eventual death of our local brands. It’s the story of DSTV and MTN all over: MTN has successively grown its brand for the past 15 years while NITEL lies comatose; we are forced to put up with DSTV’s indiscriminate price hike because we have no choice – stories we’ll tell with Shoprite soon enough. But as is typical of Nigerians, the stories will end with “it is well”.

But it is not! It is not well if we refuse to learn from our history. It will never be well as long as ineffective governance persists. The egomaniacal leadership of Nigerian politicians will not make it well. As long as the Senate is filled with the likes of Ali Ndume, Dino Meleye and Sherriff who would rather berate women as “made in Nigeria” than solve economic problems, I fear it will not be well. As long as the financial institutions will rather lend to a selected few, the SMEs will not grow and the G20 dream will continue to elude us. Because among other things, no economy in the world achieved dominance by having foreign brands run and detect the pace for her. Where is the Primark and Macy of Nigeria?

In the ancient city of Benin where I reside, this picture is a common sight on billboards:

The Lectern_Chizzy Odilinye

The Comrade says Shoprite is a dividend of democracy. His colleagues in Imo and Anambra states are saying similar things to their people. Dividend of democracy? I disagree, because pictures like this one constantly remind me of all things Nigeria may never be.

My beef is not with foreign brands operating in Nigeria, after all it is a sign of economic stability. What I find abysmal is the fact that a company which started in 2005 already has 14 retail outlets with an audacious ambition of 700, ALL built through partnership with the Nigerian government. The same government that could not and will not do same for citizens.

That, is my beef.

 

By Chizzy Odilinye.

 

 

 

Chizzy Odilinye is very passionate about helping Nigeria achieve effective governance. She is also a Chemical Engineer, writer and photographer.

 

 

 

 


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40 replies added

  1. Sean April 1, 2016 Reply

    Insightful. This should get to Aso Rock.

    • Chisom April 1, 2016 Reply

      Yes oh. Let’s keep sharing … it just might.

  2. Fifi April 1, 2016 Reply

    Some things about my country make me weep like a broken hearted woman. I’m tired of weeping for Nigeria.

    • Chizzy April 6, 2016 Reply

      Fifi dear, it’s a good you have stopped weeping. I bet it’s time for us to start thinking solutions

      • Chisom April 7, 2016 Reply

        After the weeping, come the solutions. AMEN!

  3. Anthony April 1, 2016 Reply

    Well spoken Chizzy. Sometimes when I read piece like this, I can’t help but weep for my country and it’s myopic leadership. In fact, come 2019, I urge you to run for the presidency, I’ll campaign for you. I promise

    • Collins Mad April 5, 2016 Reply

      Oga, I hope you provide d funding as well. Coz it’s still Nigeria we’re speaking of, where things don’t just happen ceteris paribus

      • Chizzy May 2, 2016 Reply

        Collins Nna, I really hope he does.
        But then I know a thing or two about times and seasons. So I will wait my time. And it’s definitely not 2019 ( at least for the presidency)

  4. Nonny April 1, 2016 Reply

    As always Chizzy, you are a delight to read. That is indeed a food for thought. If only our leaders can read this, they may have a rethink. Most especially, Governor Obiano… Tnx Luv, you just reified my worries….

    • Obiora April 16, 2016 Reply

      The leaders may read, as we’re all sure they do, but “rethink”? I think not.

  5. Lovelyn April 1, 2016 Reply

    Nice write up dear, I will make sure to circulate this info, its worth reading by every Nigerian. we need a better mindset in casting our votes. Sincerely we need Leaders that will promote our internal resources. kudos dear.

    • Chizzy April 6, 2016 Reply

      Please do Love. We can’t afford to keep doing same things in Nigeria and expect different results

  6. Ekene April 1, 2016 Reply

    I am proud of this write up! ” for the love of all things foreign” grow Nigeria!!!!!

  7. Nnamdi April 1, 2016 Reply

    If Shoprite have enough to invest in your country and bring products at the cheapest rate possible to their customers, government have no choice to but to encourage them. What you are saying sounds like you are against free trade ( Maybe a South African beef. lol ). A government that doesn’t allow a fair platform for both foreign and local is only making its citizens poorer when they spending more on products. You should also look at cities in Nigeria where Shoprite have established.
    A plus or minus?

    • Uche April 1, 2016 Reply

      I disagree Nnamdi. Am sorry but I have to be blunt. You don’t know anything about Shoprite operations. I do. And it’s nothing like free trade. They don’t have money to invest in our country! All products there rely on debts. Shoprite in Nigeria currently owe FMCGs they deal with about 900Million naira.

      If the Government supports a local retail business, I believe it will grow.

      So she has no beef with SA. She’s just saying the truth.

      • Chizzy April 6, 2016 Reply

        I agree with you Uche. It all boils down to those directly impacted by their presence in Nigeria.

        The shareholders of these companies are not domiciled in the communities where the shops are.

  8. Chukwukadibia Ude April 1, 2016 Reply

    Good observation. Great thoughts.

    This is a big problem in this country.

    It happens in the oil, construction, communication, trade and other industries.

    A lot of businesses from other countries in Nigeria work most times to make gains through the ignorance/weakness of Nigerians.

    The fact is that a lot of people would not see what you outlined here because Nigerians are deceived by good-looking things.

    Not everyone thinks like you just did.

    I learnt from this, not just because it’s insightful but it provides a checklist for those of us who love public governance.

    In summary, most of the times, weak nations do not have business partners from other countries, they have business predators.

    The thing is….who is the first line of contact for these businesses?..

    This means that our public representatives do not keep our gates very well…

    Can thieves keep the gate?

    Think about this.

  9. Mazeli April 1, 2016 Reply

    Applause, you just echoed my sentiments in this poignant piece. 🙂

  10. Chukwukadibia Ude April 1, 2016 Reply

    Good observation. Great thoughts.

    This is a big problem in this country.

    It happens in the oil, construction, communication, trade and other industries.

    A lot of businesses from other countries in Nigeria work most times to make gains through the ignorance/weakness of Nigerians.

    The fact is that a lot of people would not see what you outlined here because Nigerians are deceived by good-looking things.

    Not everyone thinks like you just did.

    I learnt from this, not just because it’s insightful but it provides a checklist for those of us who love public governance.

    In summary, most of the times, weak nations do not have business partners from other countries, they have business predators.

    The thing is….who is the first line of contact for these businesses?..

    Our public representatives do not keep our gates very well…

    More of this, VERY NICE.

  11. Cheekoh April 1, 2016 Reply

    Powerful piece… Everybody that is a Nigerian needs to read this. Food for thought.

  12. Tobe April 1, 2016 Reply

    Insightful piece, Chizzy. Truth is, we flatter ourselves with such comparison. NOI and co sold us the story of Nigeria being the biggest economy in Africa, and for cheap gratification, we bought it.

  13. S T A C I E April 3, 2016 Reply

    I couldn’t agree more with you on this piece.
    Very apt and refreshing!

  14. Ginikachi April 3, 2016 Reply

    Well spoken dear. I learnt people collasped in Imo state all just to enter the new commissioned shoprite.

  15. Scad April 4, 2016 Reply

    Couldn’t agree more. Nice piece Chizzy.

  16. Chuksbryan April 5, 2016 Reply

    I just couldn’t agree more with you!
    Truth is, we’ve been very unfortunate with electing our ‘leaders’. I’m yet to meet any Nigerian politician in a position to turn things around who has a good political will.
    God bless our generation.

  17. Collins Mad April 5, 2016 Reply

    Well, chizzy has only lent her voice, very great write up. Everyone have gone through the write up, great as well. So, the question is, where do we go from here? If you do nothing other than read this post and make a comment, then you’ve done nothing. I need to take home something concrete to work on, so as to salvage the situation we’re headed to, so ideas should start popping up. Thanks all

    • Chizzy April 6, 2016 Reply

      You are right.
      Good thinking births good products

    • Chizzy April 7, 2016 Reply

      It’s ironic that a South African will like this post.

      Thank you Ndabengle. However, you must realise that Jacob Zuma only came this to Nigeria because of the MTN/NCC rift and for other diplomatic relations.

      Maybe there are other reasons why your corrupt president visited Gen Buhari.

      • Chisom April 7, 2016 Reply

        I don’t find it ironic at all. Because when we look just a level above our inter-national rifts, this is an intra-continental problem. The more African men and women we have actively speaking AND acting, the better for us all. Thank you, Ndabenhle

  18. Ndabenhle Ntshangase April 6, 2016 Reply

    it makes sense now, why our corrupt president had state visit in Nigeria, earlier this year.I wonder what the South African government will be getting out of this.

  19. Ijele April 9, 2016 Reply

    Well spoken.
    More grease to ur elbows.

  20. BelaChris April 15, 2016 Reply

    Wow! Well articulated, Chizzy. I believe strategic partnership btw African countries wud bring abt devt across countries. D issue hweva is: rather than strenghten indigenous firms first by providing an avenue for biz growth& human capital devt; so they can compete favourably, we cripple ‘home made’ biz yl pampering our supposed foreign ‘saviours’.

  21. Obiora April 16, 2016 Reply

    I think it’s high time we begin to highlight the role of the “followers” in this mess. Our “leaders” were followers once. They were children, youth, and adults before becoming leaders.
    I like the way you mentioned the followers in your article Chizzy, because as at yet, we the followers have dodged the blame for the state of our country.

    “It is not well oh”

    Instances of the “corruption” we all tend to blame happen in homes, in churches, in schools etc. Which “leader” is to be blamed for those?

    A friend was telling me the other day of how some companies declare monies spent under the table under different titles:
    “Business Development”
    “Entertainment”
    “Miscellaneous Expenses”

    The spirt will move me one day to write a piece on followers and post here. Our role in this mess, and some ideas on how the situation may be saved.

    Great piece Chizzy!!

    • Thia April 18, 2016 Reply

      Thanks Obi for taking time to read. I just pray the spirit moves you ASAP. Don’t you think so Chisom?

    • Chizzy April 18, 2016 Reply

      I agree with you Obiora. The leaders were once followers. What I find sad in all these is the fact that the youths are unperturbed about the state of the nation. The Arab spring was spearheaded by a 23 year old Tunisian.

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