Dr Chike Obidigbo is a chieftain of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Anambra State governorship aspirant, immediate past vice president of the Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mine and Agriculture, Chairman, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi states, founder and Chairman of Hardis Dromedas Ltd.
In this interview, he speaks on the state of the nation, the 2016 budget padding, and governorship tussle in Anambra State, among others. Excerpts:
How is the business climate under the APC-led government?
It is actually very difficult. The business climate in Nigeria today is very bad. I don’t want to mince words about it. In manufacturing, let us say that between 80 and 90 percent of our materials come from outside Nigeria. And you know what it means now because of the fall in the value of the naira. A dollar was less than N200 and suddenly, without notice or sign, it went up. So, it is very difficult to produce at a cost that will be affordable to consumers and be competitive with goods produced elsewhere, where the cost of production is in check.
What is the solution to the current economic challenges in the country?
The most important thing is for the people in authority to swiftly look into the problems meticulously and tackle the most challenging ones, while hoping that others will be solved at the appropriate time. For any manufacturer, there is the challenge of energy. There is no manufacturing activity today that can be done without power. There is no stable power in Nigeria and the price of generator is increasing by the day and you still have to buy petrol to power it. The second major problem confronting manufacturing in Nigeria is smuggling. Our borders are porous and the goods that are produced elsewhere are flooding the Nigerian market and those that are produced within Nigeria at very high cost will still go to the same market to confront those products made elsewhere. The government should start addressing these problems. Otherwise, in the next couple of years, we will not have any manufacturing company in Nigeria.
Do you feel that the federal government is capable of turning the economy of the nation around?
Well, economic blueprint, first, is in the head before it is put on paper. But the most important is translating it into action for Nigerians to start feeling its effect. Sometimes, those that plan the economic blueprint have no knowledge of what is happening. So they prepare it based on what they think or what they import from somewhere else. The economic blueprint of this country hardly takes into consideration what the people that are experiencing it on a daily basis are facing. So, we want economic blueprint will impact on the activities of local industries in Nigeria.
You aspired to be governor of Anambra State. Now you are also warming up to contest in 2017. What is it that has not been done by the past administrations that you want to do for Anambra people?
The economy of Anambra State is in shambles. Anambra State has the highest number of unemployed graduates. Look at the enormous waste of man power. It is the energy of the youths that build the economy. Any kind of revolution you can think about, whether it is agriculture, commercial, industrial, military, it is always hinged on energy of the youths because the youths have the power, energy to lift up an economy. This particular aspect has not been looked into in Anambra. The past administration of Peter Obi did not employ single person for eight years. At the last minute, he hurriedly employed 6, 000 persons, all of them into the civil service. Civil service job cannot sustain an economy. It is only the productive sector that can sustain an economy. So, what I have to put on the table is that I have the capacity to create jobs, wealth, and turn around the fortunes of our youths. Attention must be paid to the youths. We have not done that thing which will engage the youths. So that is why I want to come in.
There is controversy in the National Assembly over alleged padding of the 2016 budget. What do you make of this?
Sometimes you cannot detach what is happening at the National Assembly from what is happening in the society generally. One of the things I love so much about Buhari is that as soon as he came on board, he identified that single problem that is facing this nation-corruption. If we can fight it and reduce it, it will be better for us and the nation. In Nigeria, corruption is practiced with impunity. I am not saying that the people involved in budget padding are guilty or not guilty, but, I would not be surprised if they are guilty because there is corruption all over in this country. It is left for the law enforcement agencies and officers of the law to ensure that they investigate those matters deeply and thoroughly so that at the end of the day they will fish out the culprits for justice to be done. The law should not be a respecter of any person