By Sufuyan Ojeifo and Ariyo Dare-Atoye
Mr. Segun Adebutu, the multi-talented Nigerian business magnate, does not need to be a friend of the president or promoter of any party in power for his multi-million dollars investment in the energy landscape to flourish. That is how a nation should work.
While Nigeria’s energy sector is plagued by several problems, largely caused by the undue influence of political power players and lack of best practices, it was a comment by former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the commissioning of Adebutu’s “new wonder” – Petrolex’s multi-million dollar tank farm in Ibefun, Ogun State, last year, that should get us thinking. With Professor Osinbajo in attendance, Obasanjo urged the federal government and Nigerians to leverage on the tank farm to tackle supply and distribution of petroleum products in the country.
He expressed deep concerns based on his experience of the impediments associated with investing in Africa, especially in Nigeria, even as he insisted: “We should make use of this facility. If not utilised, it will be a waste to the nation and a waste of investment put into it. Government should support private sector initiative….Private sector initiative without government support will amount to nothing. I will urge Segun Adebutu to hold the government on their promise to help private sector initiative.”The former president is experienced enough to know how a government’s negative actions could badly affect businesses.
Remarkably, Adetubu has shown such uncanny capacity, wisdom, drive and purposefulness to sit at the top of big global players like Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic and Jeff Bezos of Amazon. The difference, however, is the friendly and conducive business climates and supporting infrastructure that allow these other players to soar to any heights.
More than 70% of problems that inhibit business growth in a place like Nigeria are eliminated in other climes. It is, therefore, difficult to navigate the complex Nigerian energy landscape, laced with several impediments and mines, without government’s support.
But despite these challenges, if you think investing in the Nigerian troubled streams is pure folly, then you are probably underestimating the vision, vigilance and audacity of Segun Adebutu’s rising potentialities to be a dominant player in Africa. Unlike a few other business players who have risen to regional prominence through a back-to-back support from political power brokers, Adebutu has not been seen around Abuja’s corridors of power that much to be labeled “state-made.” In essence, the audacity that comes with such massive and patriotic investments has, no doubt, factored in how to mitigate challenges.
The big foray of Adebutu into the downstream sector with a mega world-class tank farm, in addition to a refinery that will come on stream in a few years, readily comes to mind as one of those strategic private investments that we need to solve problems and unlock more potentialities in the downstream sector.
The onerous task of nation-building is, by far, beyond the government or the lawmakers alone. As a matter of fact, it is a collective effort – a responsibility Adebutu himself has come to demonstrate by words and deeds. To commit an investment worth over $330 million in a nation where the ease of doing business is 145 in global index, is indicative of a great level of love of country, sacrifice and patriotism. This outstanding investment is more than validating it as “a solution-driven company….positioned to drive increased efficiency and consistent value creation across the West African downstream oil and gas value chain through strategic investments and the delivery of superior quality products and services.”
Aside being the Chief Executive Officer of Petrolex, this consummate businessman sits atop several other companies and the popular Premier Lotto Nigeria Limited as the Executive Director. He also has business interests in shipping, construction, real estate, agriculture and entertainment.
Very encouraging to see Adebutu urging other private investors and entrepreneurs to follow suit by going to Ibefun in Ogun State, where Petrolex mega oil city is located, to invest their capital. He knows that no nation or society can develop without the private investors. Businesses create jobs and pay tax; and, this should make it natural for government to want to help them to thrive. The government really does not need any persuasion to do what is right. If government supports Adebutu to become our own Jeff Bezoz, the country will be the better for it.
*Ojeifo and Dare-Atoye write from Abuja via email@example.com