Mr Femi Odumabo, a Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, is the CEO of Zenilum Company Limited, a petroleum and energy solutions outfit. Prior to setting up his own company, he had worked with Chevron, where he rose to the position of Regional Vice President, Africa Business Development for Chevron Africa and Latin America Exploration and Production. Aside sitting on the boards of a number of companies, he is a member of the Remo Corporate Council, set up by the Akarigbo of Remoland to facilitate business growth of the area. On the sideline of the council’s inauguration recently, he took time to speak with SULAIMON OLANREWAJU on the economy and the initiative of Oba Babatunde Adewale Ajayi to grow investment in Remoland.
How do you see the business climate in the country?
When you are talking national, it becomes political. It is a party system, a democratic system. If you make comments at this time, there is a party in government, they may see it as you are in favour or not in favour. But I see the stability that has been brought by the current regime as a good development. It is a thing that is laudable. Just the stability in several areas of business is laudable and I think there is a perceived higher sense of seriousness that is there. And then in the international space, there is more trust as far as integrity and all of that is concerned with the current regime. So that should be driving the economy and I think it is driving the economy somewhat.
What are the challenges facing the nation’s business community?
I think the challenges generally will be around funding, the value of the currency, also control of what comes into Nigeria because when you have a policy to build on your agricultural capacity and you still allow a lot of importation even of substandard things, then you dilute your vision to build your internal capacity. So there should be more control of what can come in. Bringing juice and similar things into the country is something that should be stopped or seriously minimised if we really want to develop. That is one major area that I see a dilution of the implementation of the vision that the various governments have been trying to have.
How do we combat the massive youth unemployment that we face as a country?
What I always say is that youths are a big part of any nation. They have energy, and it has to be gainfully employed. They need jobs, they need a sense of purpose while they are pursuing their academic careers. And they need role models. So the elders and the leaders should always have at the back of their minds that whatever they are doing is going to be copied a million times. So when you put a clown somewhere in leadership, he is going to be copied a million times. Society has to decide what does it really want? Because only what you desire should get to the top. Because whatever is at the top is replicated down. As a result, we need serious human beings in leadership. I am very pleased with the Akarigbo, the paramount ruler of Remoland to have created this vision which can challenge other rulers in other parts of Nigeria. So that is what you call knock-on effect or peer effect. But it is a positive peer pressure. The same thing when you have wrong people in leadership. It creates negative impact on society. Choosing people to be in position of leadership is a very serious thing. People that are not serious minded or not qualified should not be allowed to get to those positions. This has nothing to do with the party system or any party, it has nothing to do with where you come from or religion but only serious minded people should take leadership because whatever you do at the top there are children and youths that think that you are their idol and they will multiply it.
What’s your impression of this event?
I am quite impressed with the platform that has been created to help enable rapid growth of the economy of Remoland. It is a blessing to have a paramount ruler that is very well accomplished in the corporate world, both as an accountant and a lawyer, with vast experience in the marketplace leading the affairs of Remoland, and that is what has created the vision that he has, it is what has created this platform to interact with the corporate citizens around Remoland. So, it is very encouraging for people like us to join in supporting that vision. We are from the corporate world, and what he is doing is very proactive, unlike other places where they allow things to degenerate before they start looking for intervention to resolve crisis. This approach is better because you are mitigating the risk and by so doing you are in the driving seat of progress. I am quite impressed with the vision and the initiative and I am pleased to serve in the council I have been included in. I can only wish for more progress for Remoland and pray for more initiatives from the rulership of the land. I am very pleased with the calibre of people he has put in the board of trustees, and I think with their integrity and experience they will drive Remoland which is the gateway within the Gateway State to greater glory.
What impact do you think this will have on the business community?
In Nigeria one of the greatest challenges is security. So when you have a host community that is interested that you have good security, that brings high positive impact because you know they will watch your back. This is going to be a major factor attracting more people to the area and giving peace of mind to the ones already investing and operating in Remoland. What we want is for people to do their business operations peaceably within Remoland and to be accommodated with hospitality and with vision for growth which has always been the foundation of Remo people prior to now. We used to have a lot of factories and they are coming back and you have a good population of educated people from Remo, so this will have a very good impact on the business community within the state and they will go and tell their friends and associates to come to Remoland.
Do you see this becoming an annual event?
Certainly it will be more than an annual event. I am part of the Remo Corporate Council, and we will be having regular interactions with corporate bodies within Remoland asking if there are areas where we can help them, maybe interaction with government, approvals, security, employment, helping them to shape their CSR to be in alignment with the gap analysis in the land so they do things that the people want. So it will be more than an annual event. This particular function is a platform to interact with the corporate community. I believe that the interaction platform itself will be occurring more than once a year.
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