At a private meeting in 2016, the former governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun asked what exactly was different with the Awolowo generation that made them so unique and matchless. He wondered why no political leader has enjoyed the same devotion that Yoruba people have for Awolowo. There are two reasons, one of which is strategic planning.
Awolowo would take no action that is not backed by evidence-based decisions or recommendations. Although he did not formally call them think tanks; he set up several committees tasked with thinking through issues by gathering facts from across the world. Even in matters of partisanship, he allowed reasons, instead of sentiments and imposition, to prevail.
This important component of Awolowo’s administration appears to be missing today in the administrations of their excellencies, the executive governors. A totem of this lacuna can be found in an advertisement that Nestle Nigeria Plc placed recently in the newspapers, in which it called for grain suppliers to “increase her supply base for quality grain delivery.”
This advert may not look out of place and many may wonder what it has got to do with strategic planning in governance?
Nestle, from all available public records, has announced no plan to increase its production capacity, so why the plan to increase grain suppliers? There are two instances in its 2020 annual report that may explain this decision.
“… our Company encountered challenges with the availability of key raw and packaging materials including sugar,” the report said on page 6, “The prices of some materials increased exponentially while access to foreign exchange for the importation of key items became more restricted.”
Further on page 7, the report stated that “the Company explores the use of local raw materials in its production processes and has successfully introduced the use of locally produced items such as soya bean, maize, cocoa, palm olein and sorghum in a number of its products.”
While it was not explicitly stated, “challenges with the availability of key raw and packaging materials” could imply the biting impact of Fulani herdsmen invasion of farms and Boko haram insurgency.
Why should it take a combination of these factors for Nestle to increase its patronage of local producers of grains, if strategic planning drives our governments' policy actions? What amount of grain does Nestles need that Southwest, nay Ogun State, where the company’s factory is located, cannot produce?
One may ask why it should take government intervention to plant maize.
Well, data collections are useful for making projections and creating what-if scenarios and government is the only engine that can warehouse holistic data. For instance, as a farmer, I need information to know what to plant. If the government of Ogun State is familiar with the needs of Nestle, it could have proactively mobilised its farmers to take up the opportunity.
Many owners of companies in the real sector of the economy said the only time that government agencies visit their offices is to extort levies.
Yet, the easiest avenue for any governor to plan policies that will have direct impact on the residents is being conversant with the interests and needs of going concerns within their states.
In its annual report, Nestle reported an income tax expense of N21.4bn, yet the government of Ogun State, perhaps the biggest beneficiary of this income tax, could not ensure that the company has its raw materials.
Businesses are sweating to source for raw materials. Farmers are bleeding from Fulani herdsmen attacks. Is there a better indication of poor strategic planning?
Apart from data collection and projections, another role that government has to play is capacity development. The requirements of Nestle have already excluded many local farmers and grain suppliers. “Availability of optical sorting and cleaning machine, storage warehouse, monitoring device (hygrometer), containerised transport system, laboratory for basic analysis… will be an added advantage,” the company stated in the advert.
What may likely happen is that a Chinese company will step in to meet Nestle’s requirement, because our governments do not deliberately construct their policy instruments to develop local capacities. If you are wondering how Yoruba people have fallen from the commanding heights of the productive sector to the scavenging rung that we are now, wonder no more.
There seems to be no strategic planning guiding our governments any longer. They should put their strategic plans in the public domain, if they have any. You may be doing the right things and still not do things right. This is the litmus test for a strategic plan that is worth its weight. The weight is not is what you are doing but on the outcome.
If Amosun—or any political leader—truly wants to attain the status of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, strategic planning for the common good is the starting point—a deliberate collection, analysis and usage of data to identify opportunities for capacity development and global competitiveness.
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