Open Letter To The President-Elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Suggestion For Why Your Economics Policy Must Prioritise Cooperation As Much As “Creativity” Which Your Excellency Rightly Chants: Example Of How A Famous Lagosian, Jacob Kehinde Coker, Leverage The Principle Of Cooperation To Effect Socioeconomic, Sectarian Cum Educational Nationalism And Influenced The Revenue-Generation Strategy That Awo Adopted To Make The Western Region The Pacesetters In Education And Infrastructural Achievements During His 1953 To 1959 Premiership
By Gbola OBA
Congratulations once again Mr. President-Elect and, unarguably, the most famous Asiwaju of Lagos in its centuries-long history. Sir, I am constrained to speedily write this open letter to your highly-esteemed-self, even before you formally constitute your *Transition Committee*, because of the following understated reasons.
One, I’ve noticed that from the moment you gave your humour-coated but enrapturing *Acceptance Speech*, at the dawn of the 1st day of March, 2023, just after the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, in his role as the Chief Collation Officer of the 2023 Presidential Elections, officially pronounced you as the winner of the Presidential poll, infact, you have, even in speeches afterwards, rightly emphasised the word, *creative*!
My dear Asiwaju, as a serial social-entrepreneur, who steadfastly believes in value-innovation or creativity as the most potent lubricant of sustainable economic prosperity, Your Excellency is already exciting me. And I know many Nigerian entrepreneurs, both at home and in the Diaspora, who know the organic meaning of that word, will already be roaring to go out there to make money and, inevitably, catalyse the economy out of the tepid-at best-cum-recessionary-slow-drive that President Muhammadu Buhari has kept it in (allowing for the recession he inherited from the preceding Administration in 2015, low price of crude oil in the international market for the better part of his nearly-expired tenure, the virulent pandemics stranglehold on global economy and, the many own-goal sadistic contractionary fiscal and monetary policies, like the still excruciating Emefiele-cash-confiscation programme).
Two, my dear Asiwaju, insomuch as the encouragement of socioeconomic or entrepreneurial creativity, especially when it’s coupled with another phrase-“respect for rule of law”, which Your Excellency lucidly mentioned, when you met the NWC of APC recently, will rev-up the economy, I’m of the view that Your Excellency’s progressive-social-welfarist or Awoist socio-economic ideology can be most effective in galvanising the greatest economic force in this market (i.e. the Nigerian micro, small and medium entrepreneurs), if Your Excellency really wants to accelerate getting the economy into the double-digit GDP growth you often mouthed during the campaigns and, like Brazil under the first Lula presidency and China in the last forty years, lift tens of millions of our fellow compatriots out of what now seems like pervasive culturalised poverty; *support and incentives for the Principle of Cooperation MUST (I repeat, MUST) be integrated into the Administration’s economic policy-formulation strategy*.
Just as the commercial banks naturally gained more strength post consolidation; the multitude of Nigeria’s scale-anorexic enterprises should be policy-induced to cooperate for solid growth. Sir, under no circumstance must your Administration continue the ostensibly laudable but kleptomaniacally wasteful NPOWER in its present rudderless format. The hundreds of billions of naira, if not trillions, thrown giddily around on that well-intentioned social-welfare policy, if given as low-interest vocational skills-acquisition-cum-enterprise-empowerment loans, particularly targeted at existing groups/cooperatives of value-creators, that money would have been self-sustainably growing and adrenalising or stimulating our MSMEs sector.
“Asiwaju o! Omo Olodo’de o! Akanbi o!” Your natal Lagos’ commercial history in the last two-hundred years is replete with entrepreneurially creative characters (like the progenitor of the Tinubu name, Madam Tinubu, to the legendary palm-oil merchant and progenitor of the Rhodes-Vivours in the 1840s, to Candido Joao Da Rocha, the generations of Dohertys in the early 21st-century, Ojukwu-the father and original wealth creator, to MKO and, presently, Dangote). Indeed, Your Excellency will only be taking the metaphoric economic energy of Lagos to Abuja if, as you did emphasise in the arresting NESG’s interactive session, you fundamentally use the “presidential bully pulpit,” as the Americans call it, to REORIENTATE the battered emotional cum intellectual persona of the average Nigerian, away from the wanton idolisation of poverty and depressing-culturalisation of begging, to spotting the inherent commercial opportunities in all of life’s existential challenges plaguing them. *We are either too blind to see opportunities or too scared to harness them*! Reversing this, Mr. President-Elect, should be your priority.
Mr. President-Elect, sir, just as residential flirtation with Lagos automatically psycho-modifies a lethargic person to a proactive denizen of the boisterous mega city, Your Presidency’s most important duties are: Firstly, motivate Nigerians to *YES WE CAN-ism* and, more importantly, because of the endemic capital or credit shortage, which naturally hinders the translation of “creative ideas” to market-ready services or products, a safe methodology of democratising access to enterprise-enhancing funds or credit must be perfected. Secondly, the imperative of instituting the fail-safe business-funding mechanism speaks to the strategic economic role of cooperatives or groups of entrepreneurs, especially those with minimum of 3 years of well-kept financial records, managed by visionary leaders, and to be oversighted by properly trained public officials. I, as a social entrepreneur, who has variously championed the founding of dedicated skills training with self-enterprise-encouraging institutes and affordable-housing-delivering cooperatives, one, in our diaspora, specifically in London, UK, and the other in Lagos, can attest to how such self-help commercial entities (ours, in less than 5 years and without any government-funding, is already constructing a 200-plus-unit gated and well-infrastructured estate, ULDA COOPERATIVES ESTATE INSIDE THE BLUE STONE GARDEN CITY on Mowe-Ofada Road in the Greater Lagos Area.
Sir, imagine if we had accessed government or institutional credit at reasonable rate? We probably will be on our third or fourth estates’ development by now, which can sustain growth and economic development.
Sir, let me conclude this letter by retelling a transgenerationally positive and socioeconomically transformative Lagos story, which Chief Obafemi Awolowo leveraged to consumate the phenomenal revenue-generation profile of pre-independent Western Regional Administration (after all, as the hefty Lagos’ IGR’s, relative to the other federating units, shows; *a government can only generate as much revenue relative to the volume of wealth created by the individual and cooperate residents within its administrative jurisdiction.
It is an incontrovertibly established historical fact that the *Agege Planters’ Union*, established in 1906 by Jacob Kehinde Coker, was the first cooperative society established in Nigeria in the locale from whence it earned its name, Agege, in today’s Agege Local Government Area of Lagos State.
The operational characteristics of Agege Planters Union has been recorded to be consistent with the Principles of Cooperation and it was a formal organisation of self-enterprise-driven people with common needs.
The union functioned as an aggressive agent of spreading the principles of cooperation-powered plantation of cocoa and cotton into the hinterland of Yorubaland, by replicating itself or its modus operandi to democratise wealth-creation through the planting of cocoa and other cash crops, around which it was originally formed as an agricultural cooperative, across the region. Indeed, the economic empowerment, which the Union afforded J. K. Coker and his fellow cooperators, was leveraged for sectarian independence-the formation of the African Church from the colonial Anglican Church, culturalisation of orthodox Christian liturgy-away from the over Europeanised worshipping format of the Anglican, Church where African language and drumming was not allowed, and the creation of schools for the human capital development of African children whilst providing livelihood for qualified African teachers.
The Department of Agriculture in the Colonial Government of Sir Graeme Thomson recognized and re-organized the Cocoa Producers’ Cooperative of Agege Planters’ Union and the Egba Farmers’ Union in the cities of Abeokuta and Ibadan into Marketing Cooperatives to drive the sales of their produce.
All of these led to further developments, and the colonial administration drafted the Strickland Report which, for the first time, provided for recognition of cooperative society as a separate business enterprise on the books of the Government’s corporate affairs department, this naturally and legally culminated in the prohibition of the indiscriminate use of the title ‘cooperative’’, and in the appointment of a “Registrar of Cooperative Societies” to control and administer cooperatives and the fostering of cooperatives development.
The first office of the Registrar of Cooperatives Societies in Nigeria, which was located in Lagos as the then colonial capital of Nigeria, was headed by Mr. E.F. Haig as its first Registrar of Cooperatives.
The Strickland Report also birthed the enactment of the Nigerian Cooperatives Society Ordinance, 1935. The 1935 ordinance was a national law and was applicable to the then British trust territory of the Cameroons. In 1936, Faulker was appointed the Registrar of Cooperatives and the control of cooperatives gradually shifted from the Agricultural Department, and it empowered the registrar of cooperatives to register, inspect, audit, hold inquiries and settle disputes and liquidate unsuccessfully registered cooperatives.
It was this structure which, in 1952, brought on the division of Nigeria into three (3) regions, the North, the East and West. The regulation of cooperatives was consequently made a regional subject. Each region had to enact its own cooperative law.
Further to the assumption of office as the Leader of Government Business in the Western Region in 1953 by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who was the leader of AG, Action Group, whose coterie of leaders just returned from post-WWII England, where they went to study as young scholars and had (amongst other egalitarian policies like free education at primary school level and others they implemented) seen the economic liberating powers of cooperatives in the lives of cooperators, ordinary folks who articulated the principles of cooperation to assert themselves commercially across varied sectors of the British economy, they were determined to replicate similar pro-cooperation policies in their polity. The Western regional Cooperative Law in 1953 was the first regional cooperatives’ administration statute in Nigeria, followed by the North and the East in 1956.
Aside the enactment of the 1953 statute, it is on record that the Western Regional Administrations did aggressively use the principles of cooperation, in amongst other places like Badagry, Ikorodu, Epe Divisions still then in the region, in fact, including at “Oko-Oba”-which literally means “Government Farm”-area, to power the Farm Settlement Policy and the Produce Boards, which incentivised agricultural economic opportunities for the cooperators and became the revenue powerhouse for the region.
The Western Regional Administrations enacted cooperatives’ reform statutes to synchronise the activities of cooperatives, especially agricultural and agricultural marketing cooperatives, with the progressive vision of the AG to incentivise the commercial empowerment of cooperators through agricultural enterprises, with the goal of increasing the tax net of the region to finance the policies of free education and other progressive policies.
Sir, it has been done before, therefore, it can be reviewed for present entrepreneurial peculiarities and still be leveraged for its empowering advantage.
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