Proudly Nigerian

I am beginning to think that our country is not at a dead end after all. I have always been a die-hard optiminst and I know that Nigeria will be great, someday. I believe so much in this country that even when I had the opportunity to live and work in one of the most developed countries of the world, I turned it down. Such is my faith in Nigeria. Holding onto this conviction though could be challenging and many a times lonely.

My hope was raised again on Thursday last week when I stumbled upon the launch of the new national electronic identity card by President Goodluck Jonathan. I watched the entire event on television and I was captivated by the implication of the launch of the first electronic identification platform for Nigerians.

The event was a remarkable milestone in the National Identity Management System (NIMS) as well as a huge achievement in the overall objectives of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), which has the responsibility to create, maintain and operate the national identity database.

Although the registration is ongoing nationwide, Jonathan had directed NIMC to conclude the process by December this year.

NIMC also has the mandate to issue a unique National Identification Number (NIN) to all eligible citizens, provide a secure means to access the national identity database in order to authenticate and verify identities, and to issue the e-ID Card to every eligible citizen.

The National e-ID Card is a multi-purpose card for identification, electronic signatures, biometric on-card verification, and other applications.

The e-card will have five applications activated at issuance, with a built in capacity to host more applications on request. I have a strong conviction that the NIMC initiative will work this time around. I know many will remember past failed attempts to issue ID cards to eligible Nigerians but the involvement of reputable private sector operators including Mastercard International and Access Bank Plc will boost its chances of succeeding. Besides, I see seriousness and a strong desire by President Jonathan to make a difference.

Many Nigerians will rather look at the problems facing this country but in the midst of this problem, some of us see huge opportunities. Nigeria has a lot going for it including abundant natural resources and a strong, youthful population.

A 2009 Havard Business School case study titled “Nigeria: Opportunity in Crisis?” which I read a few years back aptly captures the potentials of our great nation despite the daunting challenges confronting the largest black nation on earth.

Several companies have been here and they have proven the resilience of the Nigerian economy and opportunities therein. I am sure the likes of DSTV, MTN, Shoprite, Dangote Group et al will think they are in dreamland with the kind of returns they’re enjoying on their investments.

IN 2001 MTN, a fledgling telecoms company from South Africa, paid $285m for one of four mobile licences sold at auction by the government of Nigeria. According to The Economist, observers thought its board was bonkers. Nigeria had spent most of the previous four decades under military rule. The country was rich in oil reserves but otherwise desperately poor. Its infrastructure was crumbling. The state phone company, NITEL had taken a century to amass a few hundred thousand customers from a population of 120 million. The business climate was scarcely stable.

“MTN took a punt anyway. The firm’s boss called up colleagues from his old days in pay-television and found they had 10m Nigerian customers. He reasoned that if they could afford pay-TV they could stump up for a mobile phone. Within five years MTN had 32m customers. The company now operates across Africa and the Middle East. But Nigeria was its making and remains its biggest single source of profits,” The Economist stated.

Tales of rich rewards have many firms scrambling to invest in Nigeria. Africa contains some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Nigeria is the largest.

Dangote Cement, the biggest producer in Africa, makes a whopping 62% margin on sales right here in Nigeria.

I cannot forget one of my favourite Warren Buffet quotes: “Profit from folly rather than participate in it.” That’s exactly what MTN, Dangote, DSTV and the rest are doing. It is folly to complain endlessly. Be the change you wish to see. Take advantage of this huge economy; the largest in Africa. And our burgeoning population is mind-blowing. Experts say in another 30 years, our population will be more than USA’s. And I believe Nigeria will also become a super power by then.

At the risk of sounding like Labaran Maku, I think President Jonathan, and our past leaders, have not been as dumb as their adversaries want us to believe.

I think we are marching on albeit gradually to a better tomorrow and the national e-identity card scheme is a great step in that direction.

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