O’dua Group as a regional development framework
Odu’a Investment Company Limited is the product of the thought of a genius, and geniuses are those who can think ahead and do things in a way that an ordinary person would take years to understand or understand. Even when the ordinary being understands such actions, it can be difficult to perform the action as envisioned by the genie. This is the story of the OICL today. Chief Obafemi Awolowo (God Bless His Soul) was the genius who, among other classical achievements, established the entities that resulted in IOLO as the economic center of the western region of Nigeria. I was delighted when the information came out last week that the governors of the six Member States were planning to increase the company’s investments, but I was quick to warn myself based on the experience.
About ten years ago, I was invited to present a paper during a workshop organized for the leaders of the OICL and it was my first or the last time so far. I was perfectly prepared as it was to serve as an opportunity to get involved in all of Awolowo’s legacy in addition to the free education that I have benefited greatly. I thought it would be an interactive session with young men on the practical side of the business. While I would present theoretical underpinnings associated with a review of the literature on how people developed conglomerates like the O’dua company elsewhere; they would present what they have done and intend to do. I was wrong. As soon as I entered the room, I was greeted by my uncles! I have lost steam. I didn’t know if I should go in or out. I thought about how much effort I had put in, what I would have gained if there had been an interaction, and what I would lose without such interactions. I contented myself with the presentation in the hope that the document would reach the line managers of the company, as I would suggest at the end of the presentation. After about fifteen minutes, my fear became apparent because some of the old men were already on another planet. However, there was huge applause after the 30 minute presentation, even from those who slept the entire time. At Question Time, the two of them who asked questions actually showed that they were fully with me. So it was a fifty-fifty deal but I knew none of them would go back to look at the paper afterwards. I made sure to inform the organizers, who were also seated and much younger, that they needed to circulate the document among their officers and would be interested in their comments. Maybe these reactions are still going on.
What the whole story tells us is that the OICL had lost its foundation or its main objective of being a conglomerate serving the Western region in terms of employment and income generation; as an incubator for emerging public enterprises and a workforce training ground for students of higher education institutions in company internship or industrial work experience program for students. After the foundation members left with the original idea, the politicians of the last days seemed to have no idea what business architecture Chief Awolowo was trying to build or they were swept away by the accumulation of wealth. custom of modern times where every opportune politician wants to be richer than Nigeria rather than grow the Commonwealth. The new groups of politicians probably see the Group as a way of settling certain party sponsors who can no longer be presidents of state councils without “no money to chop”. The workshop participants were all senior party officials or known political grandfathers. Surprisingly too, the group was sexist, not female.
Let’s try to visualize the economic architecture that Chief Awolowo was trying to build for the Western region by establishing many economic units with links, perhaps this could help the new reorganization of O’dua and his brothers. and sisters. The government of the western region has established large cash crop farms in different regions depending on soil and weather conditions, so we have cocoa in areas such as present-day Ondo, Osun and Ekiti; rubber plantation in present-day Ogun state; palm trees in the old state of Bendel and part of Ogun; wood in Oyo, Ogun and Ondo states. In addition to these, the government created agricultural settlements in all of these areas, including Epe and Badagry in present-day Lagos State. The settlements were where farmers, in the process of tending to cash crops, engaged in annual crops like maize, cassava, yams, and some herding outside the cattle ranches established by the government. The “children” of Chief Awolowo, in what were called the LOOBO states in 1979-83, established small-scale agro-industries to process farm produce.
The Western Region government knew that free education graduates would be able to find jobs on the farms of other companies. The government also knew that the Lagos region had the potential to industrialize given the nodal nature of the environment. Thus, industrial zones, rather than agricultural settlements, were first established in Ikeja and Ilupeju so that industries that could not find space in Lagos, which was the federal capital at the time, would not go. not far to settle in the adjourned district. The Western Region government then began to set up businesses that would provide services to emerging industries around Ikeja, the island of Lagos and Ibadan (the regional capital) which were more commercial areas than ‘industrial. Thus, the Airport Hotel in Ikeja, the Premier Hotel in Ibadan, the office buildings for ancillary services at Cocoa House in Ibadan and the 20-story Western House on Lagos Island, among others, were created. The idea that can be drawn from the arrangement was that there was a specialization in the establishment of enterprises. The hinterland would produce agricultural products and send them to coastal areas to be processed in industries for redistribution of finished products across the region, to other regions and for exports.
Although states were created in Nigeria in 1967, ownership of the Western region remained intact and this gave rise to the O’dua Group in 1976, to coordinate the business interests of the defunct Western region. but without Lagos which joined in March 2018 after acquiring 115 million shares. . If the dreams of the founding fathers of the Western Region Development Program, which led to the creation of the O’dua group of companies, were to come true 20 years ago, the company should have been a multinational corporation. In the context of age and origin, the group should be the shining example and training ground for other geopolitical areas. He is expected to have stakes in banking, oil and gas, telecommunications (which he tried and failed), information and technology, agro-allied industries, chemical industry, shipping , and so on. In such circumstances, employing many graduates from the area, serving as a training ground for students in the region and providing substantial income to member states. But Chief Awolowo’s political grandchildren could not understand his ideas.
Given the pedigree of the Board that was created in 2020, in particular the Chairman’s credentials, the company is expected to begin a turnaround after a year of reorganization. This could be possible if the board has a strategic plan for the next 20-30 years based on the original vision and mission but wrapped up in new research and development. The little economic advantage that the zone still has over other parts of the country was due to this solid base which did not collapse. This was the foundation for the greatness of the region that Awolowo wanted to expand into Nigeria.
When the Arewa Group was formed in December 1999, I thought it would soon metamorphose into an economic giant of a political and cultural entity and challenge or awaken the souls of the owners of the O’dua Group. Each region or zone can develop its own zonal economic institutions working in tandem with their universities to provide medium and long term regional development or strategic plans that cover all aspects of human and physical development. Finally, the federal government that is addicted to loans could ask to borrow money from them like the federal government at the time borrowed from the western region.
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