A former Director, Corporate and Government Affairs, West Africa, Cadbury Plc, Bala Yesufu, in this interview, gives reasons the deposed Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, should consider running for president in 2023. Yesufu, an export promotion expert, also speaks on how Nigeria can protect itself against oil price volatility among other issues.
By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Editor
In your book, Export Architecture Roadmap: The Nigerian and Global Perspectives, the deposed Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, wrote the foreword. As someone who knows him from close quarters, what do you make of the deposition?
Sanusi is above his traducers. He is a very intelligent aristocrat. It is not a surprise that a lot of people are very jealous of him. He is a global citizen, who wanted to modernise the Emirate system with his intellect, but those, who are comfortable with the status quo moved against him. It is an advantage for us as a nation because his wealth of ideas is needed to get this country on the right path. He is an economist and we need someone like him to be at the helm of affairs in this country. Many people who are jealous of him are not doing that because he did anything wrong.
It is because he is outspoken and speaks against social ills without minding whose ox is gored. Because Sanusi is an all-rounder, we are coming together to tell those, who deposed him that they have done this nation more good than harm. Sansui’s life ambition was to be the Emir of Kano and he realised it. Having spent six years on the throne, he is fulfilled. They came from the backyard to dethrone with on flimsy and childish excuses. Even a kindergarten pupil cannot accept the reasons he was dethroned. If he had gone to court to challenge the deposition, he would have won but the man has moved on. No matter what, the history of Nigeria can’t be written without mentioning that Sanusi was Emir of Kano.
People are saying that the removal was premeditated to prepare him for 2023, which is not true. Even Sanusi would tell anyone that he does not have the skills for politics but some of us are coming together to convince him. For the son of a washerman to plan a coup against Sanusi is condemnable. Unknown to people, before the dethronement, they tried every means to silence Sanusi but they failed. They had thought that he would react physically so that they would embarrass him, but the man displayed the highest level of maturity. If they are disputing the fact that Sanusi is popular in Kano, why did they flood the metropolis with security agents? He has even told his supporters not to fight back, insisting that power belongs to God. We cannot have such a person and look the other way. He is the only man with what it takes to rule this nation after Buhari. He can represent Nigeria on the global stage and earn the respect of the world. His achievements in the banking sector speak for him. Those, who speak ill of him, are corrupt people.
Are you now saying the noise about Sanusi for President is for real?
People are just speculating out of their conviction that he has what it takes to lead Nigeria better. But as far as I am concerned, Sanusi is not interested in that. People are just flying a kite to feel the pulse of the nation. Sanusi is resting and he wants to rest for a very long time before taking the next step. I can say authoritatively that Sanusi does not have a hand in all the things on the social media about Sanusi for President. However, we hope he would decide to contest. We would find a way to appeal to him at the auspicious time to come out. Nigeria needs him. Even the international community knows that he is competent to lead Nigeria. Whether they like it or not, Sanusi would be the next President of this country. He is needed so that we can move this country forward.
Given the falling oil prices occasioned by the Saudi-Russia issue and Coronavirus pandemic, how would you advice the federal government?
Some of us in the export field have been talking to government, delivering papers and speaking about the need to diversify. Unfortunately, we remain a mono-product economy. All we do is talk about diversification without doing anything. The oil money has beclouded us so much that it is when there is a problem that we just talk about diversification. It is only when there is a problem that government and corporate organisations think of going into export.
Sometimes, government creates good incentives for exporters but implementation is always the problem as a result of corruption. Imagine how everybody is panicking because of the drop in oil prices. It is so because we didn’t plan for the rainy day. If we had diversified a long time ago, we won’t be panicking, we would have moved on. It also happens in some corporate organisations that have an export department but pay lip service to the department. In the past, we used to tell organisations that it is either they export or perish. They did that and earned foreign exchange. Sadly, Nigeria is perishing because of the failure to diversify and it is painful to those of us, who are technocrats in that field. We offer so much advice but government does not take them seriously.
But government is making efforts to diversify through rice production and other cash crops…
Kudos should be given to President Muhammadu Buhari for diversifying to agriculture. He has done so well to the extent that Nigeria is likely to be an exporter of rice in a very short time. It is not only on rice production but also on cassava production. Notwithstanding, government should continue on that path. Today, Nigerians are getting used to locally produced rice. However, government should ensure the incentives they have introduced do not exist on paper alone, they must work. Government must make them work. There are experts that can make them work in Nigeria. Government should identify them and give them the responsibility.
Apart from institutional corruption you identified as hampering export, indigenous exporters also accuse foreign terminal operators of frustrating exportation of Nigerian products. What do you make of that?
We looked into that and understood the issues. Some of those companies are inspection agents and they are world-acclaimed inspection agents. There are things they need to look into before allowing the exportation of certain products. There is a criterion an exporter needs to meet. If an exporter thinks he can’t do that, no responsible terminal operator would allow him to export his products.
Most Nigerian exporters like to cut corners and think they use money to achieve anything. When they don’t comply with international standards, international companies would stop them from exporting. It is at that point that local producers start claiming that the international companies are undermining Nigeria’s export drive. That is arrant nonsense. They should comply. For instance, people go to the open market to buy expired beer products to export. And the expiring date of beer is six months.
When they export them to London for instance, the inspectors will discover that they are expired. When the products are destroyed by the British government, Nigerian exporters would begin to cry foul. That is exactly what is happening here. Nigerians should learn to comply with best practices.