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A SPEECH DELIVERED BY MR. JOHN U. IKOROGBUDU AT THE THINK TANK END OF YEAR MEETING OF THE UNITY LIVING ORGANIZATION AT MARRIOT HOTELS, GRA, PORT HARCOURT, RIVERS STATE, NIGERIA ON 17TH DECEMBER, 2016-12-18
Good afternoon, The President ULO, Fellow Members, Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the 5th Realm (Press men and women), Fellow Comrades, Members of the Public. I call you comrades because we are here together to fight and overcome a common enemy called poverty. I am speaking this afternoon on the topic titled: The Citizens’ Access to Economic Benefits: Is There a Way Forward? The Unity Living Organisation (ULO) has as her vision the mandate to empower peoples and develop societies globally. ULO is a registered non-governmental organisation operating in Nigeria with a global goal. Looking at the steps and strategies of this organisation, she intends pursue her vision by empowering peoples economically. An Indian Economist- M. L. Jhingan in his book-Macro-Economic Theory, 11th Revised Edition at pages 37, 38 opined that: ‘Economic welfare is that part of social welfare which can directly or indirectly be measured in money. Economic welfare depends not only on the amount of income but also on the methods of earning and spending it.’ I am proud to be a member of ULO because it is a platform to increase wealth not just for me but for others around me. How can this be achieved? My belief is that a rich man living amongst poor people is a poor man waiting to be rich. Why do I believe so? We cannot as rich persons or top middle class or low middle class persons in society, be secured in a grossly poor neighbourhood. An economically richer society will mostly have safer roads and neighbourhood. We must find a way to also empower others and thereby develop our societies. The website of ULO, the President’s speeches, our periodic publications, etc, all contain the actions we intend to carry-out to achieve our noble dream of a better humanity and developed societies. But this big vision/dream cannot be achieved alone that is why we implore all persons who are yet to join us to be our members. The German, Chinese, American and Japanese economies are the top economies of the world today because these economies rely mainly on small and medium enterprises (SMEs). This is one of the cardinal objectives of this organisation, to set-up as many SMEs as possible. This is because the more SMEs, the more jobs that would be created and there would lesser crimes committed in our societies due to low unemployment. The unemployment level in Nigeria as at 16th December, 2016, as published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in This day Newspapers, page 12, shows that out of a population of 170 million people, the economically active population as at the 3rd quarter of 2016 was 108.03 million persons out of which 27.36 million were unemployed. This figures though unreliable as the situation maybe worst describes the burden our societies carry every day. This population of unemployed persons is a time-bomb that a well-trained military ground troop in the world today will find hard to conquer, if vexed. This organization’s vision if carried out successfully can create jobs. Let us stop waiting for the government. The government is actually waiting for us. The President of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari in his 2017 budget presentation to the joint session of the Nigerian National Assembly on 14th December, 2016, said that; ‘The underlying philosophy of our economic recovery and growth plan is optimising the use of local content and empowering local businesses.’ I partly agree with this proposition because I belief that only businesses can empower other businesses. Government is not cut-out for doing or ‘empowering’ businesses, Government as the impartial regulator should create conducive atmosphere for businesses to thrive. Please, join me and look at where the solution lies. Revd. (Dr.) Uma Ukpai, a Nigerian based Christian clergyman opined that; ‘The fertility of a land determines the economy of the land. Our lands are amazingly fertile and so we cannot be poor on such land but we are poor because we don’t have what it takes to be rich which is knowledge. There is nothing as powerful as knowledge.’ This is culled from Thisday Newspaper of 16th December, 2016, page 37 The landmass of China is about 10 times that of Nigeria and the Chinese have employed knowledge of their environment and today China is the fastest growing economy in the world. This organisation is a knowledge based organisation and this meeting is one of the means of sharing knowledge and experiences of what to expect from us. We cannot conquer poverty if don’t acquire adequate continuous knowledge. Funding of SMEs in Nigeria and by extension Africa has been a great challenge and that is one area this organisation is remedying by using the power of unity by grouping people of like-minds and environmental access. The Nigerian economy is currently in a recession and ULO is an answer to those who want to prosper financially and otherwise in recession times and other times. Talking about recession, come to think of it, is recession a bad thing? Let me tell you what a savvy diplomat opined about recession. At page 59 of Thisday Newspaper, the United States Consul General in Lagos, Nigeria-Mr. F. John Bray was quoted in a speech titled : The Challenges and Opportunities of Managing a Recessionary Economy: The American Experience’, he delivered at the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Programme 2016 Annual Lecture in Lagos, said, ‘Nigeria could learn some lessons from America which experienced 47 recessions since its independence and has now emerged a strong and stable economy. Each time we are out of recession, the US Government and the American people learned new lessons about the best way to get our economy to the path of recovery. One of the best things that we have learnt is that recessions offer government an opportunity to make case for the people as well as take action for an overdue economic reform...I am confident in saying that the solution to the current recession in Nigeria is both inside and outside Nigeria. I am also confident that policies do make a difference; they can make things worse and also make things better.’ As a lawyer and a keen observer of global socio-economic trend, I agree with the above opinion because it stems from reality. ULO as body has the mind-set to create wealth through better individual, group, communal policy formulation and implementation to achieve her set goals. I would be guilty of negligence, if I end this speech without measuring the leadership competency of ULO. In a corporate body such as ours, adherence to globally acceptable principles of corporate governance is key to the survival of this organisation. Looking at a publication of the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC): Case Study of Bank Failures in Nigeria, Volume 2. This covered four banks, All States Trust Bank Plc, City Express Bank, Merchant Bank of Africa Limited and Trade Bank Plc. Amongst other reasons for the collapse of these once viable banks is a common denominator-failure of strict adherence to corporate governance (leadership failure). ULO has nipped on the bud this pitfall with a well structured and transparent leadership and members that passed an integrity test. In conclusion, I suggest as a body that we enforce and practice reality and reduce theory. This is how well thought-out visions are actualised. As individual members, we cannot exist outside the economy. We must have a basic understanding of economics to enable us make better choices in life. Because economics affect every aspect of our lives and without it wealth cannot be preserved. But what is economics? Without theorising the definition it, economics is the science of understanding and enforcing wealth re-distribution. In ULO, we believe that education/knowledge is acquired primarily to find solution to human problems. There is a reward for solving these problems and that is financial and otherwise. ULO is the answer for economic access of citizens to wealth creation. We prepare for the future by doing the next right thing. The next right thing to do is to actively join us in ULO to empower peoples and develop societies globally. Thank you for listening.