Text of Lecture Delivered by Dr. Kayode Fayemi

 

 

Protocols and Introduction

Your Excellency, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON – the Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;

Sen. Chris Ngige – the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment;

Distinguished Personalities to receive the NPOM awards today;

Dr. Kashim Akor, the Director General of the National Productivity Centre;

Government officials here present;

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen;

 

I must start by expressing my gratitude to my ministerial colleague, Sen. Chris Ngige – the Minister of Labour and Employment; and Dr. Kashim Akor – the Director General of the National Productivity Centre, for according me the opportunity to be the Guest Speaker of the NPC’s award lecture this year. I understand that the award lecture is an important leg of the tripod upon which the NPC’s platform of engagement for this event rests – the other two being the Exhibition of Made-in-Nigeria goods, and the Conferment of the National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) awards to deserving patriots.

 

The National Productivity Centre is a critical stakeholder and partner with government, towards meeting our policy priorities of job creation, increased productivity, and the diversification of our economy’s revenue base. I am therefore pleased to be invited to speak at this event, and contribute to what is clearly a well thought out strategic plan, aimed at delivering on very noble objectives in keeping with the mandate of the NPC, and the strategic goals of government. The lineup of events is by itself very instructive, and I believe the job cut out for me today is to simply say a few words to bring their significance to the fore.

 

Meritocracy for Societal Development and Productivity

 

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the origin of the National Productivity Day observance can be traced to the approval by the federal government in 2012, of a national policy on productivity for Nigeria.  This policy is geared towards stimulating the sustainable development of the Nigerian economy through productivity enhancement initiatives. This august gathering is in furtherance of this objective, and seeks to celebrate and emphasize the importance of meritocracy and a robust reward system, as the bedrock upon which any progressive society must be built.

 

Meritocracy, from a sociological perspective, refers to a system in which the success of people in society is dependent on their talents, abilities and efforts, much more than any social markers such as gender, ethnicity, religion or other such considerations. In other words, the concept promotes the importance of hard work and other similar attributes by citizens as a guaranty of upward social mobility, and as a determinant of productivity and progress of the society at large. The concept of meritocracy also provides for the reward of high achievers in society, to serve as a positive reinforcement aimed at inspiring a modification of orientation, focus and character in others. This will ultimately contribute to comprehensive productivity for sustainable entrepreneurship and employment in the country.

 

Therefore, we cannot possibly overstate the significance of such prestigious awards being conferred today on individuals who have distinguished themselves in various walks of life, by anchoring their occupational endeavors on the principles of selfless service, integrity, and diligence, and have thus become models to be commended to the rest of us as exemplars of values-based achievement. Without a doubt, restoring this important ingredient of nation building to Nigeria is important in our quest for improved productivity and national development.

 

This is especially so, owing to the prevalent societal realities which have seen the rise of criminality, chicanery, and corruption as acceptable practices, as long as it leads to some form of “success”. This depraved way of life is often times cultivated right from childhood whereby parents/guardians of young pupils aid and abet and many at times introduce children to examination malpractices. The corresponding effect is that this instills the misconstrued ideology of finagling as a veritable pathway to success. The contemporary prevalent culture is thus beginning to represent the idea that hard work is less fruitful. This has posed a major impediment to productivity in the Nigerian socio-economic experience, and is a disincentive for hard work. After all, why work hard and be productive when shortcuts to wealth and societal prominence abound?

 

Consequently, the NPOM awards are a step in the right direction. The awards have over the years earned increasing prominence and credibility, amidst the proliferation of awards in our society today – many of which are lacking in substance. All stakeholders must therefore work together with the National Productivity Centre to strengthen the position of the NPOM awards in society, not only as a platform for recognizing good success, but also as a very powerful motivating factor for every young person who seeks recognition for hard work and patriotic service.

 

Entrepreneurship, Ethics and Productivity

 

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we are all in agreement that the Nigerian society needs more entrepreneurs for greater productivity. As I argued in my paper at the recently held UNILAG convocation lecture, our educational institutions have to rise to the occasion and prepare students for the realities of our time. Year-in, year-out, thousands of young people graduate from our universities, with not enough jobs to absorb them. Many of them end up swelling the ranks of unemployed or underemployed people, leading to a massive youth unemployment crisis that has calcified over the years, with grave socio-economic portents for the future. Our universities are best positioned to address this by ensuring our graduates are well equipped to respond to these and other challenges.

 

While government works to provide the conducive environment for enterprises to flourish, our students have to be imbued with the entrepreneurial and productive spirit right from our educational institutions. We have to train our young people to be orientated more to acquiring the capacity to be productive, than just obtaining certificates. We must give our youth the opportunity to put the knowledge they have acquired to practice. Employers of labour are encouraged to establish systems that accommodate as many on-the-job training programmes and internships as possible, to complement the efforts of government’s educational policies in this regards. No employer has the moral right to demand years of experience as a condition for employing young people, if they haven’t provided the avenues for such on-the-job experience to be acquired.

 

Societal advancement and productivity has always depended on the entrepreneurial spirit. Entrepreneurship in this context transcends the idea of simply starting or owning a business. It subsumes the process by which individuals discern favourable possibilities, apportion resources and produce value. Not everybody with an entrepreneurial spirit establishes a company or a business, but such people are distinguished by their productivity and the value they add wherever they find themselves. An entrepreneurial employee for example, is an individual that possesses entrepreneurial attributes such as innovation, creativity and drive, which they bring to bear in their respective places of employment. Entrepreneurs are individuals who are innovators and agents of change – whether they work within an organization or establish their own enterprises. The point here is that we need more of such people in every facet of society in order to enhance productivity. We need to spot and nurture such individuals, and encourage others to emulate them.

 

However, in many of our organisations, the entrepreneurial spirit is sadly not rewarded, but rather punished. What we have in many cases are personality cults around the leader or Chief Executive, in which fawning loyalty or what you call “eye service” rather than competence and creativity dictates the allocation of reward. This sustains illiberal environments in which divergent thinking, innovation and initiative are punished while servile herd-thinking is rewarded. In such organizations, members who seek to advance in their careers tend to blend in rather than stand out; thereby crippling their own leadership potential and entrepreneurial drive, thus hampering productivity. We need to give our youth the wings to fly. We need to restore the culture of meritocracy that encourages the entrepreneurial spirit to flourish, thereby enhancing productivity in society.

 

Another point to be made in addition to the need to re-establish meritocracy and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit, is the need to re-establish ethics to the core of our socialization processes in the country. This is not the work of our educational institutions alone, but is also the responsibility of every single family unit in the country. Our contemporary experience features the tragedy of academically sound graduates that have no fiber of ethical awareness, locus of control, or moral judgment in their beings. These ones are cannon fodder launched into the larger society to complicate already existing socio-economic malaises. One of the results is unbridled corruption which has stunted our nation’s progress for many decades – this is a national emergency this administration has rightly identified and is addressing concertedly – we must all fight this monster if we are to witness sustainable development and productivity.

 

The corollary from our previous point about rewarding hard work and enterprise, which is the objective of the NPOM, is that a progressive society’s reward system must also provide for the punishment of wrong doing and the violation of prescribed laws and regulations, to serve as a deterrent to members of society. Government’s role in this regard, is to ensure we have a virile and effective system of administering justice. You would all agree with me that this administration has been alive to our responsibilities in this regard, by exposing the real enemies of Nigeria who have blindly looted our commonwealth and prosecuting them. Government remains committed to ensuring justice is done and seen to be done in every case.

 

Society can only develop and be productive when our reward systems are robust and effective – good must be rewarded and evil must be punished. Government can however not do this alone. It is a task we must all tackle collectively, right from the family unit to our communities, to the nation at large. We can only make progress and be productive when we stop celebrating criminals and brigands, and start recognizing unsung heroes within our society. We must do everything possible to encourage good behavior and entrepreneurship, especially small and micro businesses. We must restore the dignity in honest labour and productive enterprise, and demonstrate to our children that the true heroes of society are those that work hard to make an honest living without stealing our commonwealth nor defrauding others. We must favour Made-in-Nigeria products and services over imported ones in order to encourage productivity.

 

In the Quest for Productivity: Government’s Efforts and the Made-in-Nigeria Campaign

 

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, as I said earlier, the organizers of this event have done well in designing components of this programme that effectively address the subject of productivity. The “Made-in-Nigeria” exhibition which is being held alongside this event is in line with government’s priority agenda of improving productivity of non-oil sectors of the economy, thereby diversifying our economy’s revenue base, and creating employment. This campaign is principally aimed at encouraging the development and patronage of indigenously produced goods and services. The rationale behind this campaign has been an integral focus of numerous government policies geared towards import substitution. There is no doubt that increased patronage of Made-in-Nigeria goods will lessen the dependency on importation, and lead to the strengthening of our Naira.

 

Government’s travails will continue to be robust and all-inclusive in ensuring continuous productivity for sustainable entrepreneurship and employment on one hand. On the other hand, citizens must complement government’s efforts by embracing the requisite attitudinal change, whereby we all begin to look inwards and increase our patronage of Made-in-Nigeria goods. The preference for foreign goods over domestic ones is many at times misplaced. As such, we must collectively tackle the prevalent defective rhetoric against Made-in-Nigeria goods, and ensure a paradigm shift in this regard. Government will continue to lead with policies to encourage this national priority, and support citizens’ led campaigns in this wise.

 

As you may be aware, the Nigerian Senate for example, passed legislation in June 2016 to amend the National Public Procurement Act, to provide for a local content policy to assist local manufacturing. Similarly, the Federal Executive Council has carried out numerous executive actions to promote domestic patronage. I am certain that many of the exhibitors have testimonials of how government support has provided leverage for their businesses, as must countless other small businesses that are now blossoming around the country. Notwithstanding, local manufacturers and entrepreneurs must also play their role by taking quality assurance seriously and continuously improving upon their products. Nigerians should not be cajoled to buy Made-in-Nigeria goods in order to build our economy and for the sake of national pride, but we should derive optimal value and customer satisfaction whenever we support our kinsmen by patronizing them.

 

“Made-in-Nigeria” must be positioned in the minds of consumers as synonymous to good quality, functionality, affordability, and other positive values.

 

I must at this juncture point out that government realizes the perennial challenges that entrepreneurs and indeed all Nigerians face, and we are is taking necessary measures to address them. Issues such as steady power supply, access to finance, and supporting infrastructure are being tackled comprehensively in order to create the enabling environment for productivity and sustainable development. Government is also addressing Nigeria’s low ranking in the “Ease-of-Doing” business ranking, in order to ensure our jurisdiction is more attractive to foreign investors. Every sector of our economy is being restructured to meet the common goal of increased productivity and employment creation.

 

While I recognize that my brief is not to speak specifically on the Mining sector, please allow me share a few points about our plans for enhancing productivity in mining. For us in the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, our growth Strategy to rebuild the sector and unlock its full potential for increased productivity over the next two decades has been articulated in a roadmap which has been approved by the Federal Executive Council. Ladies and gentlemen please allow me use this opportunity to share highlights of our roadmap for the mining sector:

 

Conclusion

 

Ladies and gentlemen, as I conclude my remarks, may I point out that the road ahead will not be easy. I am however confident that we have the most important strategic advantage which is our people. The indomitable spirit, creativity, and enterprising spirit of the average Nigerian is a crucial resource we must leverage in improving productivity in all sectors of our economy especially in the non-oil category. Government is committed to building an environment where every single Nigeria can reach the peak of his/her potentials, and where the entire country progresses together.

 

I congratulate all the esteemed recipients of today’s NPOM awards, and wish you many more accomplishments in your life and careers. More importantly, it is my hope that in line with the objectives of the organizers, these awards will serve to inspire others to put in their best in the service of God and country, towards the attainment of a just, egalitarian, progressive, prosperous and productive society.

 

Thank you for listening.

 

Dr. Kayode Fayemi, CON

Minister

Abuja, Nigeria| Tuesday, February 21, 2017