BUILDING THE WORLD NETWORK FOR NNEWI DEVELOPMENT
Dr. BEN C. AGHAZU (KPA KPA NDO NNEWI)
2012 NNEWI USA (NUSA) NATIONAL CONVENTION
DALLAS DFW, TEXAS, USA
Chinemerem and I are indeed very delighted to be in your midst today. Deme nu o!
My dear brothers and sisters, I have a confession to make. I have been a dreamer all my life. I have also been an unchangeable optimist. I thank God that His Grace has made it possible for many of my dreams concerning the well-being of, and future direction for, my beloved hometown to come true in my lifetime. Nonetheless, I am still dreaming. I am still very optimistic. I am still doing my best help to actualize those dreams.
If you read my book, titled: “Let There Be Light – Thoughts on Nnewi Development”, you would find therein many of my dreams for Nnewi. Some of them have already been fulfilled; others are yetto be fulfilled.
What then are those dreams that are yet to be fulfilled? They are as follows:
(i) the creation of an environment that will make our vast and highly developed human resources eager to serve Nnewi;
(ii) the creation of an environment that will make our vast financial and economic resources eager to work for us;
(iii) the creation of an environment that will enable both our highly developed human resources and our vast financial resources to work purposefully together for us;
(iv) to kill and bury the monster called “ịzọ nsụ” in Nnewi affairs;
(v) the creation of an environment that allows the craftiness in us work for us rather than against us; and
(vi) the creation of the superstructure of Nzuko Ora Nnewi that will make it possible to harness the creative energies of all Nnewians (that is, Ora Nnewi) all over the world for Nnewi development.
My dear brothers and sisters, please let us explore some of these dreams.
(a) Our Highly Developed Human Resources:First is the issue of utilizing our vast and highly developed human resources for Nnewi development. I believe that it was then Chief Austin Ezenwa who told me that what distinguished Nnewi from all other towns in Igboland is that “anandiọzọnaelujinaakpụnaọkananni di icheiche, ma ana Nnewi naelummadụ!” How true. God Almighty has blessed us with many professionals of high intellect and acknowledged achievement in their fields of endeavour: engineers in all fields, physicians in all specialties, lawyers, architects, town and country planners, mathematicians, physicists, chemists, pharmacists, administrators, geologists, designers, builders, project managers, etc. How many of these have shown significant and sustained interest in serving our town? My gut feeling is that, probably, due to the rigorous discipline they have gone through to attain their professional status, they find the current chaos that prevails in many areas of our community life off-putting. And so they mind their business. There must be a way to get them excited about making things better for all and so draw them into appropriate fora where they can donate their expertise and experience and connections and community influence to work for the common good. The challenge is to create such fora.
It is now fashionable for some of our people to acquire bogus doctorate degrees from bogus institutions abroad for a fee as little as $10,000, so they can be addressed as doctor. They will also buy chieftaincy titles from communities outside Nnewi so that they can be addressed as Chief Doctor. Add to this the titles from some of the churches who confer knighthoods on known crooks and swindlers. The we have Chief Doctor Sir. Another Chieftaincy title and they become Double Chief Dr. Sir, or High Chief Dr. Sir. The story is told of a very wealthy man in town who was decorated as a doctor of philosophyby one of these bogusestablishment and his friends took out full pages in national papers to congratulate him. Speaking at the lavish reception he organized in his own honour, he boasted that he has now been crowned a doctor just like a well-known person in town who had spent over ten years abroad to earn a doctorate from a world-class university. His children were listening and taking it all in. One of his youngsters later boasted to a friend that he was wasting his time taking JAMB; he had decided to join his father in business and in the five years that it would take his friend to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, he would have made enough money to afford the cost of buying buy a doctor’s degree! This youngster was not joking;he was dead serious and speaking from the depth of the values that the society had deposited in his spirit. What a pity! My dear brothers and sisters, isn’t there a way to explain to our people that there is a big difference between an earned degree and an honorary degree? There is a very urgent need to begin the restoration of the dignity of learning.
(b) Our Financial and Economic Resources: Next is the issue of our financial and economic powerhouses, the very successful businessmen and women, the moneyed class. My dear brothers and sisters, it is regrettable that for many of these are kinsfolk, their only connection with Nnewi appears to be that they have erected their palatial homes on Nnewi soil and are thus compelled to visit such homes from time to time. This was the situation with many of them before the recent dark cloud of insecurity floated over our town.
How do we get them to engage with us as we strive to build a good future for our succeeding generations? Why do many of our rich businessmen and women refuse to engage in the affairs of our town? Could it that we do not show them enough gratitude for the things some of them have done to benefit the rest of us? How may we honour them so as to gain their attention?And commitment?
(c) Professionals and Businessmen Working Together: Next is how to make our professionals and our financial powerhouses and businessmen work purposefully together for our common good. My dear brothers and sisters, many professionals are unfortunately intimidated by the influence that our business class can buy with their money and so assign much reduced value their ideas and professional expertise. I know a woman called Ego n’ekwu; I also know a man whose alias is Akụ abụ uche. Yet, another woman goes by the name Mmụta ka. These names and many others like them reflect the two sides of the coin and the dichotomy and realities of life in a society in which money has been promoted to the highest level of respectability. Both parties will understand themselves better as more people with formal education demonstrate that being educated and being successful in business are not mutually exclusive. One possible way to promote active collaboration between the two classes is to provide social fora for interaction between them. When that day arrives in which every person recognises that it is God Almighty who allocates His resources to His children, then we will become humble enough to recognise that we do not have it all, whether academic attainment or outstanding business success. We will, in truth, begin to appreciate people for the fruit of God’s Grace deposited in them and also be very thankful for our own situation.
(D) Killing Ịzọ Nsụ: The next issue is that of the monstercalled “Ịzọ Nsụ”
My dear brothers and sisters, the story is told of an old man who once asked his three sons the following questions: “How many times would you make a mistake before you learn?” The first and the eldest of the sons said, “Two times”. The second son said, “once”, and the youngest of the three said, “Papa, I will learn from the mistakes of others”. My dear brothers and sisters, which of these three sons is the wisest?
As a people, we people of Nnewi, appear to have not only refused to learn from the mistakes of others but have also refused to learn even from our own mistakes. We have, therefore, been making the same mistakes over and over in several areas of our community life. We have literally, in those areas, been running at a hundred kilometres per hour standing at one spot!I believe they call thatmotion without translated movement.
Is it news to anybody here that our country, Nigeria, has lost several international soccer matches because the selection of players has often times been based on ethnic consideration rather than merit or proven performance? Now coming home, is it any news to anybody here that Nnewi has lost many opportunities because of Ịzọ Nsụ? We place quarter above Nnewi. We can pretend not to know what Nnewi has lost because of Ịzọ Nsụ. The catalogue of items would be lengthy but since I am an Nnewi man, speaking to Nnewi people, I believe you know what I am talking about. When, for example, an Nnewi person gets appointed into a top position in government on that person’s own merit or personal connection, we all rejoice without asking which quarter he/she comes from. But frankly, if we were called upon to present a candidate for a very important public position within a limited space of time, would we be able to do it? We know that the monster called Ịzọ Nsụ would make Nnewi miss the opportunity or if the opportunity was accepted, then a mediocre may be presented who, after occupying that post for several years will not bring any significant desirable change to Nnewi.
In order to march forward more purposefully we must resolve to and actually gradually kill this great monster. In all the affairs of the town that affect the destiny of our people, we must place Nnewi above every other consideration.
(e) Our Craftiness(Aghụghọ)and Extreme Republicanism(Ịnaakulu m):Let us now look at the issue of our craftiness. Wherever you go in Nigeria and introduce yourself as an Nnewi person, the general reaction is “watch him/her”. But watch him/her for what? I believe it is because we are said to be exceedingly cunning. Frankly speaking, we are indeed very cunning, for therein lies part of the secret for our business success. We also believe that it is because the typical Nnewi person is so very bullish on success that he/she will tenaciously apply himself/herself toward achieving any set objective. These attributes have helped many of our sons and daughters attain enviable heights in their various professions and vocations.
Unfortunately, however, this great gift of an enterprising can-do spirit very often has been allowed to fuel the development of the individual, leading to extreme republicanism or i na akụlụ m, at the expense of the overall community interest. Therein lies the shamefully tasteless building construction habits and planlessness. We stand in danger of bequeathing to future generations one big slum called Nnewi, containing many palatial residences.
Our great town belongs to all Nnewi people. Individual interests must be subsumed by the common good. We must join our forces to make it work for the benefit of all.
(f) Integrated Town Unionism For Nnewi: Finally, we get to the issue that has consumed mefor a very substantial part of my life. How do we build an energy network that spans the globe tapping the energies, professional and vocational expertise and experience, financial and economic resources, community influence and connections of Nnewians for the orderly development of Nnewi.
In 1986, I had this to say on the matter: “Integrated Town Unionism For Nnewi
The Nnewi community meeting, as presently constituted, (each of the Local Government fifty-one wards sends five representatives to monthly meeting called Nnewi community meeting) is an excellent way to tap the energies of Nnewi people at home and also for routine administration of the town. But is it really democratic or fair for a meeting holding in Nnewi to impose a levy on an Nnewi son living in, say, Kano (which has no representation at this electoral college-type meeting) and then proceed to enforce measures against default?
It is my considered opinion that our League is presently the organ for harnessing the energies and resources of our people resident outside Nnewi for the development of our dear home town. Unfortunately, the League does not command popular support at its home base, Nnewi.
I also believe that every adult Nnewi person should contribute in some measure to the development of our town whether he resides at home or in Potiskum or in Sokoto, Lagos, Maiduguri, Port-Harcourt or Enugu, or anywhere else.
How do we achieve this?
I dream that it is practicable to integrate the Nnewi community meeting and the Nnewi Youth League into one organization to be called by whatever name we may choose, such that all adult Nnewi persons living outside our home town are compelled to join the branch of this dream meeting wherever they may reside, while the present composition of the community meeting, or a modification thereto, evolves into the home branch of this great Nzuko Nnewi.
Dreams? Can we dream for a moment what can be achieved if this arrangement was effected?
Nnewi will become unstoppable!
But how do we go about realizing this dream? I know that nearly all of the structural frame-work is already in place. What may be missing is the fiery passion of patriotism. The fear of the unknown is also an inhibiting factor. Fortunately much of this fear can be allayed, I believe, through sustained discussion. In fact, similar arrangement has been proven to work effectively in some other major towns. The proposed arrangement must take into full cognizance the fact that no healthy person likes to be put on the shelf. In other words, the new arrangement must bring about a reconciliation between the dreams, energy and drive of the young and the experience and conservatism of the elderly. There should be defined, appropriate and generally satisfying roles for Nnewi people of all ages who are healthy, able and willing to serve our community”. That’s the vision I put forward in 1986.
My dear brothers and sisters, we worked very hard at it. By the Grace of God, ittook us ten years of relentless struggle to arrive at the point where Nzuko Ora Nnewi was created by a near unanimous mandate of our people. The Home Branch was inaugurated on December 1, 1996, the very day and on the occasion at which HRH Igwe K.O.N. Orizu III took the historic step that reunited Nnewi and heralded the return of peace after a ten-year period of strife that nearly tore Nnewi apart.
The constitution of Nzuko Ora Nnewi stood on a solid foundation of our shared vision of the future of our dear hometown, as encapsulated in the following statements:
a future in which every Nnewi person will have a voice in how the affairs of our town are conducted;
a future in which any disagreement whatsoever will never again paralyze our great town;
a future in which our vast and highly developed human resources will be eager to serve us;
a future in which our vast financial and economic resources will efficiently and effectively work for us;
a future in which our human and material resources can work in synchronism for us;
a future in which the craftiness in us will work for us rather than against us;
a future in which the older generation of Nnewi people cannot hand over to the younger generation a culture of hate, a culture of division or a culture of fear;
a future in which all Nnewi people can join all their forces so that our town can achieve its immense potentials.
The constitution of Nzuko Ora Nnewi was approved by the accredited delegates of the fifty-one administrative wards of Nnewi at a meeting summoned for that purpose on Sunday 10th November 1996 at the NYL Hall, Nkwo Nnewi by a majority of two hundred and two votes to four and signed by the premier trustees: Chief (Dr) DozieIkedife, Chief V. A. Orizu, Chief (Sir) I. N. Asomugha, Chief E. N. Izundu, Mr. E. N. Okafor, Dr. Chief B. U. C. Aghazu (Chairman), Mr. E. C. Egwudo, Chief E. N. Mbonu, Engr. Dr. Sam E. Chukwujekwu (Acted as Secretary) and Sir Dennis Ofodeme (Secretary).
In my valedictory address at the end of my tenure of office as Chairman, Board of Trustees, on 7th April, 2002, I exhorted the incoming administration in respect to “Integrated Town Unionism For Nnewi” in the following words:
“We have laid the foundation for this purpose. The foundation has already set. Nzuko Ora Nnewi (Home Branch) is now firmly established, based on the Constitution approved by us.
Now is the time to rapidly begin to erect the super-structure. Nnewi people all over the country are eager to join but they have not been told how. Our sons and daughters in the USA, United Kingdom, India, Germany, France, Ghana and other parts of the world have already organized themselves and are waiting to be integrated into this great Nzuko Ora Nnewi. My dear brothers, let us just pause for a moment. Let us ponder for a moment.
What would happen when the ingeniously creative energies of Nnewi people all over Nigeria, other parts of Africa, Europe, the USA, … all over the world, are synergistically coordinated for Nnewi development?
My dear brothers and sisters, Nnewi will become THAT TOWN. THE TOWN.THE ENVY FOR ALL OTHER TOWNS IN NIGERIA. Nzuko Ora Nnewi (Home Branch) has special responsibility to create the conditions that make this possible and work with the Board of Trustees to make this happen.
Many months ago, your Board of Trustees laid out before you a plan for mid-wifeing the branches in Nigeria so as to have the National organisation. You were required to submit to us names of committed builders of the future in various towns so that your Board of Trustees can use them as the nuclei for crystallizing these branches. These names have not reached us. Please let us wake up to this issue. And Act. Today”. That was in April, 2002.
Regrettably, my dear brothers and sisters, not much has happened since then. It has been practically business as usual, until now.
Happily, things are changing. The Chairman of Nzuko Ora Nnewi, Home Branch, Chief AguOnyeka, mandated me to invite NUSA to immediately join and to get other Nnewi unions in other countries, such as United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, e.t.c., to follow your lead. I was given a copy of the Constitution to give to you and to answer all your questions truthfully and completely.
My dear brothers and sisters of NUSA: you hold the key to the take-off of this worldwide movement that holds so much promise. Please share this dream.
As soon as you join along with a few other branches, a national convention will be convened for the purpose of electing the President-General of Nzuko Ora Nnewi who will lead us into that new future in which the immense potentials of our town will be realized. Now is the time. Please seize it.
Your Convention Theme: “Promoting Structured Development In Nnewi: Building a Strategic Alliance With NUSA” is very timely.
During this address, I have put forward a vision that I believe many of you already share. I appreciate some of your frustrations over the past few years in your attempt to construct some projects at home. Please do not become disillusioned. Please stay engaged.
I believe that the most effective way for NUSA to help determine the future direction of Nnewi development is to expeditiously become part of Nzuko Ora Nnewi, the government-recognized town union for Nnewi backed by law. Once you are in, you can participate fully in all key decisions.
Our ancestors left us a legacy of doing great deeds. We should therefore strive to improve on the records of the past and thereby earn the right tobe called good ancestors too. We can do whatever that is good that we dream about collectively. Yes we can.
Please permit me to end by paraphrasing a songwriter:
I vow to thee, my hometown, all earthly things above.
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love:
The love that asks no questions, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the alter the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted any required sacrifice.
Can you make this vow and strive to keep it?Will you make yourself available as God’s effective instrument for positively changing the game for our beloved hometown?
Please let us all join our forces so as to make our town work efficiently and effectively, ….progressively achievingits immense potentials in all areas of our community life, to the Glory of God, our Father, who, from generation to succeeding generation, has endowed Nnewi with so much human and material resources.
Thank you for your attention. And may God bless you all.
Ben U. C. Aghazu
Dallas, Texas, USA
7th July, 2012
SENATOR ONYEABO OBI (OS’OJI NNEWI)
2012 NNEWI USA (NUSA) NATIONAL CONVENTION
DALLAS DFW, TEXAS, USA
I THANK THE PRESIDENT, PATRONS, OFFICERS AND MEMBERS OF NNEWI USA, A USA CHAPTER 51 ORGANISATION OF NNEWIANS IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA FOR THEIR INVITATION TO ME PERSONALLY (AND OVER THE YEARS) TO YOUR 2012 ANNUAL CONVENTION. I HAVE ALWAYS TRIED TO HONOUR THIS INVITATION BUT HAVE NOT ALWAYS SUCCEEDED, BUT LET ME REMIND YOU, IN MY PLEA OF ALLOCUTUS, THAT I DID ATTEND YOUR CONVENTIONS IN BOSTON 2001, ORLANDO, FLORIDA IN 2004 AND AM HERE THIS YEAR BY THE GRACE OF GOD.
I AM ALSO HERE IN MY CAPACITY AS CHAIRMAN OF THE BODY OF TITLED CHIEFS OF NNEWI (BOTCON) AND ON ITS BEHALF, I THANK YOU ALL FOR THE INVITATION SENT TO THE BODY AND WHICH WAS I CIRCULATED TO ALL OUR MEMBERS. ON ITS BEHALF, THE HON SECRETARY OF BOTCON CHIEF BEN C. IKEJIAKU (ENYIORA NNEWI) AND I SIGNED AND PLACED A GOODWILL MESSAGE TO THIS CONVENTION WHICH APPEARS ON PAGE 31 OF THE CONVENTION BROCHURE. I SHALL REMIND YOU THAT THE TWO PAST CHAIRMEN OF BOTCON HAVE ATTENDED YOUR CONVENTIONS – THE FIRST CHAIRMAN, ENGR AJULU UZODIKE (OZI-UZO NNEWI) HAS ATTENDED SEVERAL AND IS OR WAS A MEMBER, OR IS/WAS IT CHAIRMAN, OF YOUR NIGERIAN BOARD OF TRUSTEES, AND HE IS HERE AT THIS CONVENTION AND ADDRESSED YOU YESTERDAY. THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT HE HAS BEEN AND REMAINS AN AMBASSADOR OF GOODWILL OF NUSA IN NNEWI.
MY IMMEDIATE PREDECESSOR AS CHAIRMAN, CHIEF J. C. J. IKEJIUBA (ORANYELU NNEWI) ATTENDED YOUR CONVENTION IN HOUSTON TWO YEARS AGO; I UNDERSTAND THAT BOTH HE AND OZI-UZO NNEWI HELPED TO RESOLVE SOME ELECTORAL ISSUES AT THE ELECTIONS HELD AT THAT CONVENTION.
SO, BOTCON, IS WORKING AS PARTNERS IN PROGRESS WITH NUSA IN THE INTEREST OF AND FOR NNEWI.
BOTCON BELIEVES THAT “NNEWI DI NMA” AND THAT “ODINMA NNEWI” IS AN OBJECTIVE WORTH LIVING FOR, WORKING FOR AND, IF PUSH COMES TO SHOVE, WORTH DYING FOR, BUT GOD FORBID THAT IT EVER GETS TO THIS. IT IS NOT I, BUT SIR WALTER SCOTT WHO WROTE:
“BREATHES THERE A MAN WITH SOUL SO DEAD
THAT NEVER TO HIMSELF HAS SAID
‘THIS IS MY OWN, MY NATIVE LAND?...’”!
I MUST REMIND YOU, BORROWING FROM LORD NELSON’S CHARGE TO HIS TROOPS JUST BEFORE THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR,
“NNEWI EXPECTS EVERY MAN (AND WOMAN) TO DO HIS DUTY (FOR NNEWI)”!
FINALLY ON THIS POINT, I BORROW FROM THE WORDS OF OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM AND SAY:
“THE LABOURS OF NNEWI’S HEROES PAST SHALL NEVER BE IN VAIN…”!
NNEWI DI NMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I NOTE THAT THE THEME FOR THIS CONVENTION IS
“PROMOTING STRUCTURED DEVELOPMENT IN NNEWI: BUILDING A STRATEGIC ALLIANCE WITH NUSA”.
I HAVE AN IDEA WHAT THE THEME IS SAYING OR PERHAPS WANTS TO CONVEY, BUT MY ENGLISH TEACHER (HE WAS A SCOTSMAN!) IN MY SECONDARY SCHOOL – THE OLDEST, HOPE WADDELL TRAINING INSTITUTION, CALABAR, WHICH INCIDENTALLY, THEIR ROYAL HIGHNESSES IGWE ORIZU I, II & III ATTENDED – TAUGHT US A SIMPLE RULE FOR SPEAKING – OR WRITING - THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE:
“SAY WHAT YOU MEAN AND MEAN WHAT YOU SAY”!
WHO SHOULD BUILD THE ALLIANCE WITH WHOM? THE CONTEXT SUGGESTS, IN THE ABSENCE OF ANY CLEAR DEFINITION, THAT THE REFERENCE IS TO NNEWI.
THAT NNEWI SHOULD BUILD AN ALLIANCE WITH NUSA GIVES THE SEMBLANCE OF THE NUSA TAIL WAGGING THE NNEWI DOG! PERHAPS, THE THEME SHOULD BETTER HAVE READ:
“PROMOTING STRUCTURED DEVELOPMENT IN NNEWI: NUSA BUILDING A STRATEGIC ALLIANCE WITH THE HOMELAND (NNEWI)”.
THE POINT IS NOT MERELY A MATTER OF SEMANTICS, NOR LEGALESE; IT CHALLENGES A MINDSET WHICH COULD COMPLICATE AND UNDERMINE THE GENUINE AND WELL-MEANT INTENTIONS OF THE OFFICERS AND MEMBERS OF NUSA IN ITS EFFORTS TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF THEIR HOMELAND. IT IS NOT ME THAT COINED THE EXPRESSION THAT –
“THE ROAD TO HELL IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS”!
SO, WHEN, IN SPITE OF WIDELY-HELD OBJECTIONS IN NNEWI AND NUSA TO THE IDEA THAT A PUBLIC LIBRARY SHOULD BE BUILT AS PART OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF NKWO NNEWI TRIANGLE (NKWO EDO) AND THE CLEAR AND DEFINITIVE DECISIONS OF REPRESENTATIVE AND COMPETENT NNEWI ORGANS AGAINST IT, THE DECISION OF NUSA AT ITS 2011 ANNUAL CONVENTION IN ITS RESOLUTION NO. 5 CONTAINED IN ITS COMMUNIQUE OF THAT CONVENTION POSTED ON THE NUSA WEBSITE, AS FOLLOWS –
“THE NKWO NNEWI TRIANGLE DEVELOPMENT & LIBRARY PROJECT:
THE ORGANISATION (NUSA) VOTED TO CONTINUE TO PURSUE THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE NKWO NNEWI DEVELOPMENT TO FINALLY BUILDING A LIBRARY AS PART OF NKWO TRIANGLE DEVELOPMENT” (BOLDING & UNDERLINING BY ME FOR EMPHASIS ONLY),
RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT THE MINDSET OF THOSE WHO DRAFTED, PROMOTED, PUSHED FOR OR VOTED FOR THE RESOLUTION AND CELEBRATED ITS PASSING: SUCH AS, WHO OWNS NKWO NNEWI TRIANGLE (NKWO EDO): NNEWI COLLECTIVELY OR NUSA ALONE? WHO DECIDES THE NATURE OF DEVELOPMENT IN THE TRIANGLE: NNEWI COLLECTIVELY OR NUSA ALONE?
SOME ELEMENTS PURPORTLY WORKING FOR NUSA – OR FOR ELEMENTS IN NUSA – AND, USING ALL AVAILABLE CONNECTIONS, TRIED TO INVOLVE OUR STATE GOVERNOR TO SUPPORT AND IMPLEMENT THE DECISION AND IMPOSE IT ON THE NNEWI PEOPLE.
I WAS PRIVILEGED TO LEAD A DELEGATION OF SELECTED NNEWI LEADERS (WHICH INCLUDED THE CHAIRMAN OF NZUKO ORA NNEWI, CHIEF AGU ONYEKA (IKEORA NNEWI), ENGR AJULU UZODIKE, DR BENSON AGHAZU, THE CHAIRMAN OF THE NNEWI NORTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT CARETAKER COMMITTEE, MR IKE UBAJAKA AND THE CHAIRMAN OF THE NNEWI CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, MR NGONADI) TO A MEETING WITH GOVERNOR PETER OBI ON SATURDAY, 9TH JUNE, 2012. THE DELEGATION SUBMITTED A LETTER SIGNED BY THE CHAIRMAN OF NZUKO ORA NNEWI REMINDING THE GOVERNOR THAT THE TRIANGLE IS THE COMMUNAL PROPERTY OF THE NNEWI PEOPLE AND THAT THE ANAMBRA STATE GOVERNMENT SHOULD INVOLVE ITSELF IN ANY DEVELOPMENT OF THE TRIANGLE ONLY AT THE REQUEST OF AND WITH THE CONCURRENCE OF THE NNEWI PEOPLE AND INVITED HIS GOVERNMENT TO PARTNER WITH NNEWI ON OUR PRESENT PLAN TO DEVELOP A CIVIC CENTRE ON THE TRIANGLE.
HIS EXCELLENCY ASSURED US THAT HE WILL NOT DO ANYTHING ON OR WITH THE TRIANGLE WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF THE NNEWI PEOPLE WHO OWN IT AND THAT HE WILL PROCEED WITH PLANS FOR THE BUILDING OF A PUBLIC LIBRARY IN NNEWI WHEN NNEWI PEOPLE AGREE ON A SITE FOR IT. HOWEVER HE DEFINITELY RULED OUT THE LOCATION OF THE LIBRARY IN THE TRIANGLE AND THAT HE HAD TOLD ITS PROPONENTS SO.
FOLLOWING OUR VISIT, THE DELEGATION DECIDED THAT THE TRIANGLE SHOULD NOT BE LEFT UNDEVELOPED FOR MUCH LONGER AND THAT NZUKO ORA NNEWI SHOULD SET UP A COMMITTEE TO FINALISE ARRANGEMENTS FOR ITS DEVELOPMENT AND NEGOTIATE GOVERNMENT’S INVOLVEMENT WITH THAT DEVELOPMENT.
EVERY NNEWIAN KNOWS AND AGREES THAT NNEWI NEEDS A MODERN LIBRARY, AND THE DELEGATION RECOMMENDED THAT THE COMMITTEE SHOULD IDENTIFY A SITE OUTSIDE THE TRIANGLE WHERE THE LIBRARY WILL BE BUILT AND INVITE THE GOVERNMENT TO START ITS CONSTRUCTION IN GOVERNOR PETER OBI’S TENURE.
MY PERSONAL VIEW IS THAT NUSA CAN AND SHOULD PARTNER WITH NDI-NNEWI AT HOME FOR BOTH DEVELOPMENTS. FOR EXAMPLE, NUSA CAN PLEDGE FUNDS TO EQUIP AND POWER THE LIBRARY, WHICH OFFER CAN AND WILL ENCOURAGE OUR STATE GOVERNMENT TO QUICK-START THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE LIBRARY, AND ENERGISE NNEWI INDIVIDUALS AT HOME AND IN OTHER PARTS OF THE DIASPORA TO ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE IN THE DEVELOPMENT.
I CERTAINLY WILL WANT TO AND DO ENCOURAGE NUSA TO BUILD AN ALLIANCE WITH NZUKO ORA NNEWI FOR THE ACTUALISATION OF THESE TWO MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS WITHIN THE NEXT TWO YEARS. NNEWI WILL LOOK AND FEEL BETTER FOR IT AND NNEWI WILL ALWAYS APPRECIATE NUSA FOR BRINGING THESE DEVELOPMENTS TO THE FRONT BURNER. THE TIME FOR ACTION IS NOW!
I PROPOSE TO NUSA THAT THIS CONVENTION PASSES A RESOLUTION TO MANDATE ITS OFFICERS AND ORGANS TO WORK FOR THIS OBJECTIVE. LET THE NKWO NNEWI TRIANGLE AND ITS DEVELOPMENT UNITE, NOT DIVIDE US. THIS WILL BE YOUR – AND OUR – LASTING LEGACY TO AND FOR OUR HOMETOWN. NO LOSERS, JUST VICTORY FOR NNEWI!
WHEN I WAS PRIVILEGED TO ATTEND AND ADDRESS YOUR CONVENTION IN ORLANDO, FLORIDA IN 2001, I CHALLENGED YOU AND YOUR MEMBERS TO URGENTLY ADDRESS THE ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUE OF INDUSTRIAL WASTE DISPOSAL ARISING FROM THE RAPID INDUSTRIALISATION AND COMMERCIALISATION IN NNEWI. THE MATTER IS STILL CRYING FOR YOUR ATTENTION BECAUSE AMONG YOUR MEMBERS AND THEIR CONTACTS, NNEWI NEEDS HELP TO SOURCE MODERN SCIENTIFIC TECHNIQUES FOR WASTE DISPOSAL, SO AS TO SAVE PRESENT AND FUTURE GENERATIONS FROM THE SAD EFFECTS OF IMPROPER DISPOSAL OF INDUSTRIAL AND DOMESTIC WASTE, ESPECIALLY IN RESIDENTIAL AND FARMING AREAS.
IN CLOSING, I WANT TO JOIN ALL OF YOU IN THANKING GOD FOR THE RECOVERY OF YOUR PRESIDENT, ENGR NATHAN MOMAH AND THAT HE IS ABLE TO BE PRESENT AND PRESIDE OVER THIS CONVENTION. I HAVE HEARD THAT HE PERSONALLY UPGRADED THE NUSA WEBSITE, WHICH, IN MY OBSERVATION, GIVES USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT NUSA AND DETAILS FOR AND ABOUT THIS CONVENTION. I THANK AND CONGRATULATE HIM FOR THIS AND URGE NUSA TO ALWAYS MAINTAIN AND UPDATE THE WEBSITE.
I ALSO ACKNOWLEDGE THE EFFORTS AND CONTRIBUTIONS OF ALL YOUR OFFICERS AND MEMBERS AND FOR YOUR MEDICAL MISSIONS, EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES.
I THANK THE HOST CHAPTER AND MY OWN BIG SISTER MRS ETHEL MOMAH (ARUNNEM) AND HER COLLEAGUES FOR THE ARRANGEMENTS MADE.
FINALLY, AND LAST FINALLY, MY SISTER PASTOR (DR) DAISY OBI AND
OTHER PREACHERS, ALWAYS ASK EACH OF US THE QUESTION: WHERE DO YOU WANT TO SPEND ETERNITY? MAY I ADD ONE MORBID QUESTION: WHERE DO YOU WANT YOUR BODY – OR YOUR ASHES - TO BE INTERNED?
AS SIR WALTER CONCLUDES THE POEM REFERRED TO ABOVE –
“If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf (sic),
The wretch, concentred (sic) all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonoured (sic), and unsung.”
THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS AND TRY TO PROVIDE ANSWERS AS THE END FOR EACH ONE OF US MAY COME SOONER THAN EACH ONE OF US THINKS! VERBUM SAPIENTI SAT! A WORD IS ENOUGH FOR THE WISE!! UKPANA OKPOKO BUJE, NTI OCHILI YA???
NNEWI AND ITS DEVELOPMENT – SOME REFLECTIONS.
Professor Emeritus of Geography.
2012 NNEWI USA (NUSA) NATIONAL CONVENTION
DALLAS DFW, TEXAS, USA
Nnewi Town, which is the present Nnewi North Local Government Area of Anambala State of Nigeria, is the second largest city in the State. It covers a land area of approximately 2,789 square kilometres, and had a 2006 population estimate of 391,227. It grew from a rural setting to its present metropolitan status, and is made up of four autonomous quarters of Otolo, Uruagu, Umudim and Nnewichi.
The main occupation of Nnewi is trading and farming, and they depend mainly on agriculture and commerce for their daily livelihood. The location of Nnewi within the tropical forest- savanna ecotone gives it the ecological basis for the production of a wide range of tropical agricultural crops with a great potential for industrial conversion. The food crops include yams, cassava, cocoyam, breadfruit and maize; the cash crops include palm oil and palm kernel, raffia palm, ground nut and melon. When harvested, most of the crops are usually taken to the market for sale, after leaving the quantity on which the family would subsist. More recently, Nnewi has acquired a trait in entrepreneurship and industrial development that has earned it the accolade of ‘Tai 2’ (after Taiwan) or the ‘Japan of Africa’, and these are the two outstanding aspects of its development we shall examine in some detail.
ENTREPRENEURESHIP IN NNEWI.
Professor Chika Oguonu (2010) carried out an in-depth research on “Entrepreneurship in Nnewi”. The industrialization of the town began around 1970 when Nnewi motor parts traders began marketing their own brand name products instead of the reproductions of "original" parts. Prior to then, specifically in 1966, Chief James Edokwe (Jimex) was to have started a light-aluminum die-casting plant in Ọnịcha. The war disrupted his plans, but he still managed to set up a pit-furnace at Nnewi. He is generally regarded as the pioneer industrialist in Nnewi.
Today, Nnewi is home to many major manufacturing industries, including: Ibeto Group of Companies, Cutix and Adswitch, Uru Industries Ltd, Omata Holdings Ltd, Cento Group of Companies, Coscharis Group of Companies, Innoson Group of Companies, Ebunso Nig. Ltd, John White Industries, Ejiamatu Group of Companies, Jonatec Auto Supply International owned by Chief Nwabueze Emenike, Horizontal Ent. Ltd and the Chicason Group. Growth in the spate of industrialization in the Town is illustrated by the establishment of a new auto plant by a private investor, Chief Innocent Chukwuma (of the Innoson Group) in partnership with Chinese auto makers. It is encouraging to note that the Innoson Group won the 2012 “African Business of the Year Award”, which took place recently at Grosvenor House Hotel in London, in recognition of the Group’s spate of successes in Nigeria and Africa. This epoch-making yearly event was put together by African Business Magazine and the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) in partnership with Business in Africa Events, United Kingdom. The series started some years ago and has become one of the most prestigious events in the African business calendar.
Cento International was established in 1983 to manufacture plastic auto accessories andbatteries. This signalled the emergence of new industries in Nnewi. In 1984, the Ibeto photo processing was established. Cutix Plc and Adswitch Plc (both quoted in the second-tier securities market of the Nigerian stock exchange) came up in 1984 to manufacture Electric cables and Electric Switchgear respectively. Ebunso came up in 1985 for the design and manufacture of process equipment. S and M, a soap, toiletries, disinfectant manufacturer came up in 1986. 1987 saw the following: John White (Fan belts), Uru (Brake cables), Edison (Brake pads, shoes and linings), Armak (Rice and maize processing), Ibeto Marble (synthetic marble), emergence of Intercontinental feed mills (Animal feeds), Life vegetable oil (Palm kernel processing), OCE filters (Oil filters), Godwin-Kris (Rubber auto parts) and Ibeto (Batteries, accessories, brake pads, linings) and shoes & clutch fibres (1990). Dewaco
(industrial moulds) was setup in 1989, while Ifebi farms (Poultry, etc) came up in 1991.
According to Alexander Gerschenkron, the Russian-born economist, “historical events
influence the path of Industrialisation”. The Nigeria-Biafra War caused Nnewi people to “think home”.
Currently, there are many modern industries in the Town which, apart from some of those already mentioned, include Vegetable oil; Plastic industries producing water storage tanks, plastic chairs and tables, cups, plates and spoons; motor spare parts and big hotels. These are all products of people’s effort to alleviate poverty and transform the society in various ways through provision of employment, construction of road network, building of modern markets, provision of good water, etc. Nnewi, which was initially a rural town, has thus been transformed into a modern industrialized city with much potential for improvement. There is no doubt that entrepreneurship has contributed greatly to the socio-economic development of Nnewi, in particular, and the entire Igbo Nation of Nigeria in general.
The great majority of industrialists in the cluster of spare parts factories in Nnewi are also traders, and most of them are producing one or more of the products they specialize in marketing as traders (usually motor vehicle parts), and most began by distributing their products through their pre-existing distribution networks. Nnewi is part of eastern Nigeria's industrial axis. The town has through culturally grounded institutions that act as sophisticated networks expanded to include an international dimension through trading relations with exporters from Asia. Over the last decade, the town has experienced relatively rapid industrialization. In excess of 80 medium- to large- scale industries have been established across a variety of sectors in the Town. It is interesting to note that, since 1970, Nnewi residents have controlled approximately 80 to 90 percent of the motor-parts trade in Nigeria. Nkwọ Nnewi Market is the major import and wholesale point for motor spare parts in Nigeria. The industrialists of Nnewi are adapting foreign technology to local needs, providing employment to thousands, and making available goods and services which are relevant and actual needs of Nigerian citizens.
A major factor that hinders effective entrepreneurship in Nnewi, as in other parts of Nigeria, is poor management. Poor management includes poor planning, poor finances, poor record keeping, poor inventory control, poor promotion or poor employee relations, insecurity and poor infrastructural amenities. All these are reflected in ineffective management. Management entails the combination and utilization of organizational resources for goal attainment. It entails using managerial tools or functions – planning, organizing, directing and controlling- to achieve organizational goals. Effective management is desirable for effective entrepreneurship. But effective management is difficult to attain in the Nigerian environment, especially in Nnewi, where realistic planning is almost impossible (Oguonu, 2010).
Planning is deciding what to do, how to do it, and when to do it before action is taken. It is difficult to plan in Nigeria because we lack the necessary information to predict the future. There is lack of adequate statistical data for planning. Planning is not a mere guess work. Information is needed for effective planning but, generally, there is lack of effective generation of data in Nigeria. Again, for anyone to get involved in meaningful entrepreneurship, finance is needed. Financial assistance from either the government or Financial Institutions is difficult for Nnewi Entrepreneurs. This discourages people from getting into entrepreneurship. In most instances, the Financial Institutions would require any one seeking financial assistance to present adequate collateral. In the case of women, it is even worse because some Financial Institutions would require consent letters from their husbands.
Poor record keeping and poor inventory control result in poor accountability. The reason for this includes lack of the necessary skill and unwillingness on the part of some entrepreneurs to employ capable people.
Again, some Nnewi Entrepreneurs do not take care of employee problems. These employees are poorly paid and some of them are not given any sense of belonging. The result is that the Entrepreneur may be surrounded with staff that are not committed to the goal of the organization.
More important, there are poor infrastructural facilities in Nnewi. These include the epileptic nature of the power supply which is a major impediment to entrepreneurial success. There is also poor road network. This has always discouraged entrepreneurs, because poor road network limits the marketability of their products.
A lot still needs to be done to ensure effective entrepreneurship in Nnewi. For one thing, Government must endeavour to create an enabling environment for actual and potential entrepreneurs. As is well known, the political and economic environments of a nation positively or negatively influence small businesses and entrepreneurial development. For Africa to meaningfully promote small businesses and entrepreneurial skills, there must be reasonable
political, financial, legal and administrative infrastructure put in place by government. This enabling environment entails improving on our security since no genuine business can thrive in a place which cannot guarantee security of life and property and respect to the rule of law. Enabling environment also includes improving our infrastructural amenities like provision of good road network, regular power supply, etc. Policies should also be made to encourage entrepreneurship. These policies should reflect on issues like soft loans for actual and potential entrepreneurs. Repressive government policies should be reversed and, as much as possible, entrepreneurship programmes should be made compulsory in Tertiary Institutions as this will expose the youths to the opportunities that exist in this area.
It should also be noted that, for successful entrepreneurship, the functions of the business must be explored. These functions include planning, knowing the customers (marketing), managing employees (human resource development) and keeping records (accounting).
For long-run success of entrepreneurship, there is need for necessary changes to be made as the environment changes. This may involve replacing obsolete technology with viable technologies in a changing environment. It should however be noted that organizational changes are not desirable at all times. This is because there may be times of relative stability during which technologies are considered to be efficiently employed by standard policies and procedures. In order words, an organization is stable when it is efficient, and organizational efficiency simply indicates the existence of a measure of performance quality within a given technology. It entails making improvement in the standardized procedures of doing things so as to reduce waste and raise quality levels. That effectiveness is also necessary for long term viability of an organization. Effectively, organizational effectiveness is “a measure of the quality of relationship between an organization and its environment”, and there must be a proper balance between efficiency and effectiveness for entrepreneurial success.
THE NNEWI INDUSTRIAL CLUSTER.
Animalu et.al. (2010) carried out an in-depth analysis of the Nnewi Industrial Cluster to trace its history and unravel its evolution, which led to the technological and industrial transformation of Nnewi from a rural trade post in the Igbo heartland to an industrial beehive of activities that earned it various glowing tributes, such as the ‘Nnewi Miracle’, or “Tai 2’, or the ‘Japan of Africa’, all within the decade of mid-1980 to mid-1990.
Nnewi is located almost in the middle of the Ọnịcha-Nnewi-Aba (ONA) industrial corridor of Igboland, “that miracle of resilience that stoutly challenged Government’s deliberate marginalization and the devastation of the three-year Nigeria-Biafra War” (Animalu, etal, 2010). Is its vantage location in that famous ONA corridor by accident or by providence? What were the economic forces, the technological challenges, the institutional support infrastructure, the knowledge base of engineering for design and restructuring, and the critical linkages with the outside world that nurtured the “Nnewi Dream” that materialized as the “Nnewi Miracle”?
The Nnewi Experience.
As has already been indicated, Nnewi people started with peasant subsistence farming, palm produce trading, and transport business and commercial apprenticeship (mostly in motor trading). Ọnịcha played an important role for the palm trade up to World War II (1939-45) when the road transport to Port Harcourt became more competitive than the river route.
During World War II, it was not easy to import motor parts. This gave the trade in motor parts a boost. Second-hand motors and military vehicles were purchased and cannibalized. Little wonder then that the founding fathers of commerce and industry in Nnewi started with palm produce and transport businesses. Late D. D. Onyemelukwe, who operated from Aba, was a produce merchant and a pioneer in transport business. He also invested in landed property and agriculture. He owned a fleet of vehicles and monopolized passenger services between Aba and Ọnịcha until the 1950s. Late Sir L. P. Ojukwu operated from Lagos and was regarded as a business leader of his generation. He was a produce merchant, a transporter and a philanthropist. He became Vice President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce, and built up a large fleet of vehicles and lorries in the 1940s.
Other well-known transport magnates of the 1930s and 1940s included J. C. Ulasi at Aba, C. N. Egwuatu at Nsụka, F. E. Okonkwo at Kano, and Benson Okoli at Ọnịcha. In the 1950s, a new wave of transport companies appeared. These included Ekene Dili Chukwu Transport owned by Chief A. E. Ilodibe, Izuchukwu Transport owned by Chief Ubajaka and Chidi Ebere Transport owned by Chief L.C Amazu. Chief A. E. Ilodibe later expanded to other activities as motor sales and services, insurance brokerage, communications, steel fabrication, etc. in the late 1950s, Nnewi people were said to have sent European motor parts to Japan for copying and importing back to Nigeria. It is believed that Nnewi people controlled about 60 percent of the motor parts trade in the late 1960s prior to the Civil War. The pogrom of 1966 forced the Nnewi people home, as their security was no longer guaranteed outside. Most of their investments outside were lost or declared abandoned properties. The forced homecoming exposed the inadequacy of the Nkwo Nnewi market then situated at the Nkwo triangle. The need therefore arose to establish a bigger place to contain the influx. The traditional institution of Nnewi showed its love, concern and commitment to her people. A decision was taken for the relocation of the Nkwo market from the Nkwo triangle to the present site, which is bigger. Thus began the march to establish the Nnewi motor spare parts market. At the end of the war, other people came to Nnewi from far and near to trade in spare parts and to live in Nnewi.
When the war ended, importation was difficult due to lack of funds. This difficulty in the obtention of foreign exchange boosted the initial domination of old motor spare parts trade over the new parts. In 1970 there were about 700 members of the Nnewi old parts union. By 1978 membership of the new parts union outweighed that of the old parts union.
The product of peace and strong community ties and the support of the traditional institution remain factors that helped in the setting up of new industries. Also the loss of properties outside Igboland, especially in Port Harcourt, the need for security and the aftermath of the northern massacres and the civil war have also triggered the industrial surge. Another
reason is the vast experience and skills acquired in trading which made it easy for Nnewi people to move from trading to manufacturing. However, it is not all the early industries in Nnewi that have survived the founders. The reason has been traced to the quarrels over properties by their siblings and/or successors at the death of the founders. There was in most of the cases an absence of managerial culture and plan for succession and survival. This post founder crisis has limited economic development, as the principle of cumulative legacy is lost to generational extinction of wealth accumulation.
According to the records of the Nnewi Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NCCIMA), there were 40 registered members in 1992. This number rose to 118 by 1995. However, not all members are manufacturing. The period of 1984-1995 witnessed a high growth in the establishment of industries. A significant number of those industries are still in existence. The survival rate of industries in Nnewi is relatively higher than in other parts of Nigeria. The reason may be because of sound economic studies and acquired skill/expertise before investment. It is not based on reliance on political access and state patronage. The profile of manufacturing firms as at this year indicates that out of 37 officially registered firms, 24 are still in operation. This works out to over 60% success, which is encouraging.
Very few industries were established between 1996 and 2003. Though this was a National problem yet, for Nnewi, the major constraints remained – as they still do - poor infrastructure (road, electricity and water). Others are a hostile business climate due to multiplicity of taxes and excessive regulatory practices and high cost of self-provision of basic services. It also includes absence of a pool of skilled and knowledgeable manpower, and a limited access to technical and managerial advisory services.
According to late Engr. Prof. S. E. Chukwujekwu, “the result of all the above is that the rate of industrial growth has slowed down in Nnewi – while some old industries are struggling to survive, new ones are not coming up fast enough. The reality of the situation however is that for Nnewi to survive, the industrial sector must grow substantially to a point where it is impacting significantly on the commercial sector”. The recourse to commercial importation as a way of survival will greatly hamper industrialization. Some big time industrialists are already involved in the commercial importation of such items as rice and cement because of the low profit yield from the manufacturing sector. This is an unfortunate development because industrialization is impaired in any economy where commercial importation yields better than manufacturing.
Over 95% of industries in Nnewi are built by indigenes. The absence of a developed Industrial estate may be the single most important factor why the non-indigenes have not contributed noticeably to the industrialization of Nnewi. The Nnewi Chamber had initiated steps for the provision of land for the industrial estate. The estate will help existing small and medium industries and lead to a planned industrial development. It will also ensure that the indigenously driven industrial revolution in Nigeria for which Nnewi has come to be known is sustained. The 76 hectares of land already earmarked by the Government should be developed. Also the 50 million Naira pledge by General I. B. Babangida (during the special trade exhibition in his honour, at Anaedo Hall in 1992) for the development of the estate should be followed-up for release and effective utilization.
The assembly of motorcycles in Nnewi with local brand names is a good development that will positively impact on further industrialization of Nnewi. The emergence of such motorcycle assembly industries as Innoson and Maryment amongst others is definitely in the right industrialization path. Christomex Industrial establishment now produces motorcycle seats. In addition, there are many informal manufacturing activities in this area, and this gradual approach of conversion from importation to manufacturing and assembly will certainly augur well for the future of industrialization in Nnewi.
If one excludes the isolated case of partnering with foreign investors already mentioned, there are four distinct modes of investment financing in Nnewi. The first is where the owner finances the investment 100% with own funds and then some support from the Banks for working capital. This is the dominant mode with very few not receiving any support from Banks. There is always the problem of post founder succession and success. The second is where a few people collect money from others to set up factories that did not work. This second mode is replete with a lot of credibility as well as succession problems. The third mode is by going public by raising money from the Stock Exchange. This is the mode adopted by Cutix Plc and Adswitch Plc. According to the founder of Cutix Plc and Adswitch Plc, Engr. G. O. Uzodike, he initially started with private placement but quickly went public as soon as possible. He preferred to go public rather than use private placement for three main reasons. He wanted the shares to be marketable. He believes it would be easier to raise more funds in the future. He wanted the two companies to survive him. The fourth mode is from 100% bank financing. This could not be sustained as funds were diverted into other areas. The indiscipline in the management of such funds created problems that caused the failure and closure of both trading and manufacturing businesses.
Major Characteristics Of The Nnewi Industrial Cluster.
From available information, one identifies ten major characteristics of the Nnewi Industrial Cluster (NIC), as follows:
1. As a geographical concentration of enterprises, the Nnewi Industrial Cluster (NIC) did not emerge as a result of a Government or centrally planned intervention.
2. The loss of properties of Nnewi indigenes (the “abandoned property” saga) outside Igboland as a result of the Civil (Nigeria-Biafra) War and the consequent felt need for future security are among the major factors that forced Nnewi people “to think home”, and literally triggered the industrial surge that gave birth to the NIC. Another significant factor relates to the existence of strong community ties and the traditional extended family institutions. Consequently, over 95% of the industries/enterprises in Nnewi are built by Nnewi indigenes.
3. Most of the manufacturing industries were established between 1984 and 1995, following about 15 years after the Civil (Nigeria-Biafra) War, representing the period needed to accumulate venture capital from trading and merchandizing of imported goods.
4. So far, but for the establishment of the Nnewi Technology Incubation Centre whose effect is yet to be felt, both the State and Federal Governments have no policy and play no significant role in promoting the NIC. This is, of course, most unfortunate.
5. Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka’s publication (1997) titled “Nnewi: An Emergent industrialCluster in Nigeria” gave very interesting details of the industrialization and technological learning process of firms in the NIC. Although strikingly similar in their origin and investment strategy, the firms commenced and operated and still operate as individuals, with average-to-low linkages with one another. Most of the owners/founders of the firms are illiterate or semi-literate traders who became local manufacturers of the goods/products they import (mostly from Taiwan) and merchandize locally until they have accumulated sufficient/enough venture capital from trading. As Oyelaran- Oyeyinka (1997) put it, most of the firms got their technology from Taiwan; the learning path was bold and uniform.
6. An unfortunate common characteristic of firms in NIC is the absence of a managerial culture and plan for succession and survival, leading to post founder crises that limit development and sustainable existence of the firms at the death of the founders.
7. Most of the firms in the cluster produce for the local markets (in Nigeria) and have not been able to produce for export.
8. Common major problems include (i) poor product quality; (ii) stifling competition from, and preferred patronage of, imported similar products; (iii) poor access to loans for research and development; (iv) poor industrial/development infrastructure, and (v) variable Government fiscal policy.
9. Most of the firms can be classified as small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) and so can ill afford highly skilled manpower and cannot finance innovative projects.
10. Their level of operation is often limited by funds and manpower capability such that a sudden change in the market situation jeopardises the firms’ position and future.
It is clear that the sole proprietorship which is the common characteristic of the firms in the NIC must give way to combines and partnerships to remove the inherent fetters that tend to discourage the firms from developing into modern techno-economic enterprises. Okigbo (1986) put it in the following words:
The organization of Igbo in business which has survived from ancient times is highly individualistic … The Igbo businessman, even when he has gone corporate, has remained small and closed… In the role that we see evolving for Igbo entrepreneur in the field of technology, it is clear that the solitary individual entrepreneur may be unable to cope with the demands of a complex world. .. It seems that the Igboman must now re-examine his style and re-organize his structure and approach if he is to make a worthwhile contribution to Nigerian future economic development.
We agree, even though we are also aware that sole proprietorship is a survival strategy to combat the problems that invariably arise in Igbo partnership at the professional/business levels; the problems are usually created from fears that the other party or parties may not behave ethically in respect of funds and employment issues.
Another problem source in partnerships is the attitude of workers who endeavour to do the minimum possible amount of work for maximum possible pay. A possible solution is to adopt the Japanese model of organisational management which tends to regard a business organization as a corporate family, and not as an impersonal aggregation of personnel subject to the “hire-and-fire” principle. The model suits both the Igbo temperament and inherent loyalty to the extended family system.
According to Professor Michael Nwachukwu, another possible solution to the organizational problem is to allow the Igbo businessmen to organize in the small scale – as comes natural to them – and then device support systems to help them overcome the problem of size. Nwachukwu (2003) elaborates as follows:
To concretize, a support system could take the form of a new overseeing, quasi-technological cooperation, that can service the technological needs of a group of similar businesses and help them overcome the disabilities of smallness. Areas in which the supporting agency could operate would include: design, equipment procurement, staff training/development, research and development, etc. A technological commission set up jointly by governments in Igbo states or even Ohaneze Ndigbo might initiate this “technological cooperative”.
This recommended “technological cooperative” can certainly give Government an opportunity to play an active role in promoting further advancement of firms in the NIC and thereby accelerate industrial development and make it sustainable by solving the identified problem of post founder crisis.
It is highly recommended that the firms should be active members of NCCIMA, which possesses the political muscle to engineer a change in the indicated direction.
Some of the other problems associated with industrialization of Nnewi include:
Influx of people (workers from various towns), including criminals
Environmental degradation, including erosion, pollution by poisonous gaseous effluents from lead and plastic industries, road degradation from the impact of heavy trucks, trailers and earth movers that convey raw materials and finished products.
Overpopulation, with its attendant high cost of living, rising cost of rents, food products, transportation and land.
Erosion into the custom and traditions of the indigenous Nnewi people.
The motivation for, and the rate of industrialization in Nnewi are commendable and highly beneficial to the Town. Indeed, industrialization is the force currently moving the development of Nnewi, and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. But the pattern of the location of existing industrial plants is rather unfortunate. There should be clearly demarcated estates for the establishment of industries, and Government should make it a priority to establish such industrial sectors in the Town. The 76 hectares said to have been mapped out by Government for industrial establishment should be developed as a matter of urgency.
Again, there was a “Structural Plan For Nnewi and Satellite Towns”, undertaken for the Anambala State Government by UN-HABITAT (United Nations Human Settlement Programme) in 2009. The recommendations of that study should be revisited with a view, specifically, to ensuring that future industries are adequately located, as ad-hoc location of industries is not good for the environment. This will be a good starting point to tackle the urban planning/development issues in Nnewi which, at the moment, are at best chaotic!
In spite of the noted shortcomings in the operation of existing industries, the spirit of enterprise by Nnewians must be recognized and appreciated, and effort should be made to guard against post-founder decay of our industrial establishments, where the industry literally “dies” with its founder. Above all, Government must be visibly concerned with the industrialization of the Town by providing relevant infrastructure which individual industrialists cannot afford.
Animalu, A.O.E., Odigbo, E.U. and I. Nwaedozie (2010): Nnewi Industrial Clustre: A Vista of its History and Evolution. Chapter 22, pp. 599-626 of A Survey of the Igbo Nation, Vol. 2, edited by G.E.K. Ofomata and Chudi Uwazurike. Mason & Kpuff Publishing Group, New York. Nwachukwu, M.A. (2003): Beyond Technuzu. The 2003 Ahiajioku Lecture Published by the Imo State Government. Nzewi, C. G. (2003), President of the Nnewi Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture in an article entitled, The History of Industrialization of Nnewi.
Oguonu, C.N. (2010): Entrepreneurship in Nnewi North Local Government Area. Chapter 23, pp. 627-646 of A Survey of the Igbo Nation, Vol. 2, edited by G.E.K. Ofomata and Chudi Uwazurike, Mason & Kpuff Publishing Group, New York.
Okigbo, P. N.C. (1986): Towards a Reconstruction of the political Economy of Igbo
Civilization. Ahiajioku Lecture Published by the Imo State Government.
Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, B. (1997): Nnewi: An Emergent industrial Cluster in Nigeria.
(Technopol Publishers, Ibadan).
(Text of a Speech given in Dallas, Texas, USA, on Saturday, July 07, 2012, on the occasion of the 17th Annual Convention of NNEWI USA – NUSA).