If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara desert, in 5 years, there will be a shortage of sand! – Bismarck Rewane

Bismarck Rewane spoke for the first time at the Platform. 

He commenced his speech by sharing his thoughts on the theme – REDESIGNING THE NIGERIAN ECONOMY WITH NEW IDEAS

According to him, “There is a fatigue of ideas. Nigeria has always had great Ideas. Execution is the problem.”

He quoted the words of Milton Friedman who said, “if you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara desert, in 5 years, there will be a shortage of  sand!”

The Nobel Prize winner in Economics, leader of the Chicago School of Economics and father of ‘monetarism’, made that unkind remark about government’s propensity for ‘depleting sand’ – economic resources.  

Dr Rewane defined ‘DESIGN’ as a plan or something created often in art or fashion. He gave the example of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco done by Joseph Strauss amongst others.

This is also where the likes of Steve Jobs and others were located! Therefore, one can say there is a link between intellectual development in a nation and its continuity in space.

In the world of fashion, he mentioned that the Forbes list identified the second richest man in the world as the CEO of Louis Vuitton. He quoted Coco Chanel, “In order to be irreplaceable, one must be different.”

In his exact words, Dr Rewane asked, “is it new ideas Nigeria needs or the execution or the implementation of the old ideas?”

He argued that we are not short of ideas. What is most needed and important now is the mental discipline.

He emphasized that the thought processes on conceptualization to execution are critical.

In Nigeria today, the internal things such as our policies are the things we have control over – the social contracts, the credibility of leadership – corporate, traditional rulers, elites etc.

According to him, when this is down, what we have is anarchy! We have no control over the external factors that can affect our economy such as changes in oil prices, etc.

He charged that today, as we fear about population growth, we must remember that the social community is important.

Over the last forty years, the domestic variables are becoming more obvious. In 1974, the price of oil quadrupled, we had a surprise price shock, but he said we haven’t learnt from the lessons of the past!

He argues that this economy needs mental discipline more than it needs new ideas. “We must learn the lessons from the past such as the various global meltdowns of the past that affected nations and not let it happen to us as a nation.” 

“How vulnerable is Nigeria to external shock? Why are we vulnerable?” He asked

He cited the example of the recent closure of the Nigerian – Benin border and its effect on the cost of food and other commodities. He simply stated that we have refused to learn from the mistakes of others!

In rounding off, he shared his suggestions on what he believes should be our next points of action. 

1. We have to stop doing dumb things, start smart things and modernize those smart things. 

He jokingly highlighted the fact that individuals now have to do a daily analysis of the events and decisions in the daily news – dumb/smart/modern and how this should inform us at election times!

To be competitive, he said, we must embrace the digital world but more importantly is the mental discipline. Without this, all of the things we do to be competitive means nothing. The gap of credibility must be bridged. Sincerity must be embraced, as success is no longer an option. 

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