Dubai in the United Arab Emirate is today unarguably one of the world’s wonders and a testimony to what visionary leaders could do to lift the fortunes of their nations. A complete desert, with no rain at all, all year round, Dubai is today a haven for tourists and businessmen from all over the world, all thanks to Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, who at a point in time chose to change the fortunes of his people. To accomplish his aim, he surrounded himself with the best and the brightest. In a book titled, Rashid’s Legacy, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Maktoum described Saeed thus: “ He ruled Dubai from 1958 to 1990, taking his city –state from a relative backwater and laying foundations for the 21st century.’’
By the time Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed died, the United Nations observed a minute of silence in his honour. This was a leader that began his reign when the people he was ruling knew nothing about a body called the UN. Truly, anyone that visits Dubai today would acknowledge that Sheikh Saeed worked hard for his people. He was a leader to be proud of. He laid the foundation for wealth and abundance for his people. His pictures are everywhere in the city. Truly, with the ultra-modern skyscrapers in Dubai, it would be hard to imagine that it was once a mud-walled city with people riding on camels and living in the desert. No doubt, the story of Dubai is a pointer to what can be accomplished by great minds in any society.
Back home in Nigeria, one of the governors trying to lay a solid foundation for industrialization of their states is Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State. Vice President, Prof. Osinbajo publicly acknowledged this during the inauguration of the needle factory in the state a few years back. Describing the syringe factory as a landmark project, not only for Akwa Ibom but also Nigeria, the Vice President who was visibly impressed by the governor’s foresight in attracting the project to the state had said: “You are one of the cleverest people I’ve ever come across.”
Chairman of Syringe and Needle Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (SNMAN) and Managing Director, JSM Company Limited, Zubeyir Gulabi,, would echo the same sentiment in a newspaper article:” Africa is blessed with lots of wealthy people, well educated and knowledgeable individuals scattered all over the world. One of the examples of these great leaders is Udom. When you are discussing with him, he discusses with you as a technocrat. He gives you the figures, not just support; he shares your problem with you. And this is the greatest encouragement we need to invest everything we have in Akwa Ibom.’’
The N15billion Jubilee Syringe Company in Onna Local Government area of the state is the largest syringe manufacturing company on the entire African continent according to experts. It is expected to produce 700,000 syringes daily and over 350 million syringes yearly.
Apart from what Nigeria as a whole stands to gain from such huge project, syringe business is a major commerce across the world. Disposable syringes are the most consumed medical services in the world and according to Transparency Market Research, the global disposable syringe market is expected to reach $7.5billion (N2.6trillion) in 2022. Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Company hopes to take 500 Nigerian youths off the congested labour market, with further commitment to grow the numbers. Investments in the syringe industry alone, according to Gulabi, can boost the nation’s economy by about 50 per cent, if the Federal Government implements the medical devices industry policy meant to enhance the sector.
Although the initiative is a 100 per cent privately driven investment, investors have said Akwa Ibom State has what it takes to attract investment to the country. Apart from the encouragement from the state government, investors said the state is the safest place in the country in terms of security. While it might look far away from the market, the good policies of the government are giving investors the confidence to see it as the best location to do business.
Beyond the needle factory, the government has encouraged the setting up of more industries in the state in order to open up the state for inflow of Foreign Direct Investments and create more jobs for the people. For example, the Toothpick and Pencil factories in the state are currently producing over 15,000kg toothpick and 20,000 pencils in every eight hours of production shift. By so doing, the state government has created direct employment for many youths and businesses for many others who indirectly benefit from the industries. These include bamboo suppliers, newspapers suppliers, gums distributors and diesel suppliers.
There is also the metering project described as Africa’s first ever electric metering industry, located in ONNA Local Government Area of the state, established to reduce the metering gaps in the electricity distribution sub sector. Just recently, the Managing Director of 4Power Consortium Limited, Matthew Edevbie said that the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company will soon distribute 150,000 meters to its existing consumers – this made possible under the governor’s metering project initiative.
Also, to the governor’s credit, an agreement was signed with a foreign firm to revive the abandoned Ibom Science project started in 2006 by former Governor Victor Attah later abandoned by previous regime.
The governor a few months back signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with SERGE Capital Investment to resuscitate the moribund multi-billion project in the state.
Back to the UAE example, despite having huge crude oil deposits, the country is investing heavily in clean alternative energy sources. It is doing so with the understanding that the world would soon shift from dependence on crude to alternative energy sources. The country is making early preparations for the post oil era. At a government summit in Dubai in 2015, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, His Highness, Shaikh Mohammad said by the time the last barrel of oil is lifted from the country, the citizens would celebrate because government must have invested in the right sectors. This is what it takes to be a visionary leader. If the rate at which Emmanuel is focusing on industrializing the state is sustained in the next five years, the state would have something to point to as sources of revenue besides oil.
- Ibe writes from Lagos.