I had a brief discussion with Chief Igbokwe on 29 October 2015. He again sought to convince me that President Muhammadu Buhari in his first 6 months of governance has performed far better than former President Goodluck Jonathan in the last 6 years.
In case you don’t know, Chief Joe Igbokwe is the Spokesman – publicity secretary, of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, for the commercial and very rich Lagos State
On October 30 2015, Chief Igbokwe dutifully informed us that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has appointed him the Chairman, Wharf Landing Fees Collecting Authority. He declared that he was “excited that I have been given another challenge and opportunity to explore another critical sector in the economy of Lagos State”.
Prior to that appointment, former Lagos state governors, Bola Tinubu and Babantunde Fashola had appointed Joe Igbokwe, General Manager, Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance and Regulatory Authority (LASIMRA).
Igbokwe and the thieving Imo state governor, Rochas Okorocha has been at the forefront of National APC Politicians admonishing Ndigbo to accept the change mantra that is Buhari and APC and “move on”.
Not long ago, Governor Rochas Okorocha warned that lack of vision on the part of political leaders from the South-East denied the region the opportunity to produce the next President of the Senate. Okorocha three days ago also stated that Ndigbo will never use the platform of any separatist group to pursue the Igbo agenda.
When the Igbo protested lack of appointment by Buhari to national offices, Okorocha admonished the South-East region for their impetuosity and told them to be patient and wait for forever their turn.
On the part of the Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress in Lagos State, Joe Igbokwe recently advised Igbo politicians to “take the path of honour by helping the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to build a formidable opposition rather than defect to the ruling APC because of their business interest.”
Igbokwe said by doing this, the world would take them seriously.
The APC chieftain, in an article entitled, ‘Can the Igbo play opposition for the next 10 years’, noted that “After the 2015 election, when the Igbo lost their resources by putting all their eggs in one basket, many Igbo leaders…have been busy looking for ways to sneak into the APC.”
Declaring that “a group that worked against the APC…reaped what they sowed…licked their wounds and went home to cry. …who are still very angry about the colossal loss have pitched their tent with the Biafra mantra”, Igbokwe lamented that “When we (Igbo) lose out in national politics as a result of myopic and timid political thinking and calculation, the next move is to resort to ethnic politics. Nobody is deceived.”
In case you also do not know, Joe Igbokwe like my humble self is from the industrial city of Nnewi, Anambra State. We are very industrious and enterprising people.
Some years ago, when some Nnewi traders in Lagos resolved to head back home and reestablish their motorcycle business, it looked like a mission impossible. Really, leaving the commercial nerve centre of the country at that time, with all its potentials, for a local community like Nnewi, was indeed a huge risk.
But according to Chuks Nwanne, ‘after weighing the pros and cons of doing business in Eko, especially with the activities of the area boys, the traders made the move, which eventually paid off.’
In his article, ‘Nnewi… The Melting Pot Of Commerce, Industry’ published in The Guardian on August 2, 2015, Chuks Nwanne wrote: “Today, what started merely as a trading centre for motorcycle spare parts at Nkwo Nnewi Market has turned the town into an economic hub of the east, with companies and industries scattered all over the place. Notwithstanding the level of industrial activities taking place in Nnewi, commerce is still major.”
“It is on record that the first indigenous car manufacturing plant in Nigeria (owned by Innoson Group) is located in Nnewi, while the first wholly made-in-Nigeria motorcycle was manufactured in the town by the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI). So, to a large extent, Nnewi holds the ace in technological advancement of the country.
When approaching the commercial town from Nnobi axis, you will surely know that a commercial centre is just near by; the signs are everywhere. From left to right, there are economic activities going on at every corner. Welders, technicians, traders dealing mostly in automobile products, restaurants… there’s no place for idle minds. Though the town has grown in strength as regards industrial activities, Nkwo Nnewi Market still remains the centre of attraction. It is more like the exhibition ground for goods produced in the area.
From large-scale manufacturers to small-scale entrepreneurs, who use charcoal to produce motorcycle break pads to big time industrialists, Nnewi has positioned itself as the Japan of Africa, as it is home to many major indigenous manufacturing companies.
From Ibeto Group of Companies to Cutix Plc, Uru Industries Ltd, Omata Holdings Ltd, First Aluminum, Cento Group of Companies, Coscharis Group of Companies, Innoson Group of Companies, Tomy Tomy Group, Ngoo Bros, Ebunso Nig. Ltd, John White Industries, Ejiamatu Group of Companies, Chicason Group, Louis Carter Group… the list is endless. Interestingly, majority of these industrialists, especially those within the automobile cluster, were once traders. In fact, most of them, such as Innoson, Tummy Tummy Group, Coscharis actually started from Nkwo Nnewi where they sold motorcycle spare parts. Except for the likes of Cutix Plc, whcih has a background in engineering, a large number of these industrialists started from Nkwo Market.
Having experienced first hand how technology boosted the Chinese economy, these men, who started out as importers and franchisee for major Chinese brands, have since migrated into production….these men understand how to apply science and technology to satisfy need and earn good money.
According to history, the first Igbo man to own and drive a car was HRH Igwe Orizu I (Eze Ugbo Onya Mba) in 1912. And by 1940, Nnewi residents were at the center of an international trading network that dominated the supply of motor spare parts in Nigeria. The town subsequently became a center for commerce and industry, and has one of the largest automotive parts markets in Africa. Besides the big players, small and medium sized industries have also joined the venture, producing for both Nigerian market and for export.
Since 1970, Nnewi have controlled approximately 80 to 90 percent of the motor-parts trade in Nigeria. This has made Nkwo Nnewi Market the major import and wholesale point for motor spare parts in Nigeria. The industrialists on their parts are adapting foreign technology for local needs, providing employment for thousands.
“Nnewi is a success story, which Nigeria as a country, is yet to celebrate. Funny enough, majority of these people that championed this cause never saw the four walls of the university; most of them managed to finish secondary school. But today, they control the economy of this place. What that tells you is that an average Nnewi man in particular, an average Igbo in general, is naturally gifted,” Charles Muojike, an Nnewi native said.
For Ugochukwu Egwuatu, a trader in Nkwo Nnewi, “We’ve not really seen serious impact of the government over the years, especially the federal government. I thank God that Innoson has succeeded in drawing their attention to Nnewi, but beside producing the first made in Nigeria car, Nnewi has what it takes to lead industrial revolution in Nigeria.”
He continued: “We have Ministry of Science and Technology and money is voted every year, what have they achieved? Here in Nnewi, with no government support, you can see the result; our people are resilient. All we need is conducive environment to operate; power supply is still a major challenge. Notwithstanding, go to Nkwo Market, there’s nothing our people don’t produce; traders come from all over the country to buy goods. We are seriously contributing to the economy of this country. Sometimes, I feel that due to what happened during the civil war, the rest of the country seem to be afraid of empowering the Igbo man to achieve its full potential,” he said.
A nest has been created at the Technology Incubation Centre Nnewi, to train youths under the State Youth Skills and Empowerment Scheme. Already, the first 500 participants drawn from the 21 LGAs of the state are undergoing training at the centre, which is always beehive of activities.
Though the Incubation Centre was put in place by the federal government as part of the efforts to train young Nigerians in the area of science and technology, the Anambra State government, under the present administration, has seen reasons to take advantage of the facility to spark industrial revolution. The programme is designed in a way that the 500 youths would attend classes three times a week for free, while the government provides them with feeding and transportation allowance.
Of course, the success story of industrialists in Nnewi is enough encouragement for the young one to believe that, if the Innososns and Ibetos of Nnewi can make it as industrialists, then it is possible.
While those into chemical and allied products go to Chikason Group, those in catering and agro processing are sent to Tummy Tummy Foods factory. For those into fabrication and auto parts, Innosson Motors is their destination, while those into electrical and building technology are sent to Cutix Cable Plc. There’s also provision for those in the fishery section to visit a fish and snail farm in Adazi community.”
The above is a brief success story of our Nnewi, in Anambra state, South east Nigeria.
It is therefore with great sadness that I learnt last night. that due to the rudderless economic direction of the present government, Nnewi industries are shedding their workforce.
I was told: “people are being laid off their jobs, Innoson and chikason to be precise. My brother times are hard now. Things are getting extremely bad. No money to pay workers….The igbos are being kicked off like football…Laid off in hundreds and in thousands…Buhari is stupidly killing us”.
Joe, you are an erudite scholar and writer. Please tell your man Buhari that our Nnewi Industries are dying!
While you are it, please also inform Buhari that five months after he assumed office, Nigerians were yet to feel the change mantra.
Julius Berger Nigeria Plc has just announced plans to downsize its workforce due to government’s indebtedness to construction companies in the country.
President of Trade Union Congress, TUC, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, said yesterday in Abuja, that government should know that the change mantra of the ruling APC was not just going after corrupt officials.
According to him, for the change mantra to be meaningful in the country, there should be job security in the companies and security of lives and property. He said it was only when these were done that Nigerians would know that change had started.
Managing Director of Julius Berger Nigeria limited, Engr. Detlev Lubasch, noted that going by the present economic realities in the country and the huge indebtedness construction companies were facing, such companies were unable to meet up with their financial obligations.
Lubasch, who was represented by a staff of the Human Resources unit, Moses Anietie, said: “Comrades, our industry is in dire straits, occasioned by non-payment for ongoing and already completed jobs.
“As you all know, the construction industry is majorly engaged by the governments: federal, state and local, with little patronage from corporate entities and private individuals. In view of this, any distortion in the income equilibrium of our major clients will definitely affect the income and cash flow of the construction companies
“As a consequence of this, construction companies are unable to sustain the existing structures in terms of meeting its obligations to staff and subcontractors. lt, therefore, became imminent that there must be staff reduction as well as other cost saving measures.”
My brother Joe Igbokwe, is this the change you promised us?
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