by Farouk Martins Aresa
Innocent Chukwuma, the Owner of Innocent Motors must be admired for bringing solid manufacturing jobs home. We are all praying or wishing that if more jobs are created in the any state, it would encourage more youths to stay home instead of leaving for greener pasture outside their enclaves. What we should do is encourage more Africans like Innocent Chukwuma to create more well-paying jobs at home throughout Africa.
Those blaming Innocent Chukwuma for turning his disagreement with Guarantee Trust into ethnic fight are suspicious of his good faith and those faulting both ethnic sides for defending their interest are either hypocrites or ostrich hiding in the sand. This cliché of “both sides” instead of calling a spade a spade is a new norm so that we can be seen as fair and balance. This is a matter that is neither fair nor can anyone claim it is balance.
Innocent Chukwuma unlike the politicians that loot and just pocket the money, created jobs for the masses. So masses interest were directly involved and Igbo youths were right to support him regardless of whose ox is gored. Claiming it is a fight between big boys as if the ordinary people did not benefit is actually dishonest. If many of you were Igbo, you would defend Innocent Chukwuma for bringing the bacon home, no matter how.
M.K.O Abiola, though not an active politicians until he ran for President, was even more generous than Chukwuma. He created jobs, not only in the West, he did throughout Nigeria; and he was generous to a fault. Yet, his Yoruba people never shy from pointing out the bad company he kept until these same friends finally killed him. Unlike Chukwuma, he had more money than the bank.
Majority of the clients, shareholders and owners of Guaranty Trust are Yoruba. In this case one may wonder or hide under “both sides” why the youths got into big boys’ business. Well, we have a history of banks going belly up. Nigerians in general and Yoruba youths saw another one coming that may affect their interest if people started raiding the banks. They remember how Society General, Bank of the North, and African Continental Bank e.t.c. were raided.
However, in each of these cases, it was a matter of dogs eating dogs. Even then, many people lost money in these banks. By and large, Igbo banks were looted by Igbo; Yoruba banks were looted by Yoruba and Hausa banks were looted by Hausa. If you are following me, you will notice the difference here. Innocent Chukwuma tried to get loans from Igbo dominated banks but they saw him as a risk. They have now been vindicated.
What we have here is a Robinhood or Ali Baba depending on whose side you are on. Any form of crime used to be a slight on the family. The country changed and the youths that are not well connected see how politicians that looted treasury get inducted with chieftaincy and praise singers; encouraging conspicuous spending habits. It got to a stage that when you reported our youths for 419 or drugs peddling, family’s response, unlike before, changed.
Shey na your money he steal? The parents that used to beat us for little infractions like bringing your friends’ pencil home or “forgetting” to use the money given to you to buy books are the ones now asking: is it your business? We were in seminar one day at one of those Ivy League schools when a presenter named a state and town in Nigeria where drug money built up a whole section. Nigerians there could not lift a finger in defense!
Before pointing fingers, there is an avenue in Lagos called Cocaine Avenue!
Does it make a difference how Innocent Chukwuma got money to build a manufacturing plant creating jobs for the people? We know that he did not use drug or ritual money, he “only” borrowed money from the bank the old fashion way. It is called “OPM other people’s’ money”. The difference here is that he got the money from a budding bank started by youths from scratch to equal the old generation banks in excellence.
Yoruba and Igbo youths have been involved in internet war for a while. They can easily predict who is involved in rituals, drugs or 419 at home or overseas. Yoruba youths became sensitive to a financial institution within them being cheated and may be dragged into liquidation by no other than some businessman relocating back home. They are grabbed by fear of those taking it all but giving little in return. Guarantee Trust can go under if others acquire such bad loans.
In this case, a debtor became the creditor on the order of a court by fiat, what is next? This is a case where Innocent Chukwuma is a hero at home but a villain at the home of his lender. You may not be able to move buildings, highways, industrial and agricultural areas away from a region but you can decapitate their operating incomes by liquidating their banks. Easier to justify at your home town than at the victimized bank head office.
This is why there is credit rating so that banks can predict who is likely to default before lending money. Obviously, some banks regardless of which ethnic group dominated their firm, were already cautious enough not to lend to Chukwuma. But Guarantee Trust took a risk and lost big time. Majority of their clients see another Societe Generale brewing and cried foul!
Claiming that this is between big boys neglect the interest of poor folks that may lose their life savings again. The poor folks that innocently applied and got good paying jobs at manufacturing automobile plant also have a stake in it. They are rightly defending their personal interest, not taking on the fight of the big boys.
There is nothing worse than a damaged name brand. Most businessmen must expand their market beyond their base or ethnic group. The goal is for Innocent Motors to conquer African and later world markets through competition not by damaging its name using ethnic, race or religious overtone to protect his loan when and if due.
Innocent Motors always has home advantage, cheap labor and access to raw materials of iron ore and plastics. Nigerian universities are turning out engineering graduates that can make or perfect latest form of plastics for cars. Our Indigenous car makers must face foreign completion head on by reducing their automobile prices, not by asking for market protection that will fail.