Chief Executive Officer of Real Drill Hydrokonsult, Alhaji Najeem Ajani Babatunde, is also on top of public issues of importance and his economic analysis is always robust and penetrating. In an interview by The Tabloid.net, he raises alarm on the sky-bound prices of essential commodities and effects on well-being of an average Nigerian. Excerpts
How far with your work in face of this biting economy?
What is happening is universal; there is no need to pretend. The state of the economy, especially after the global economic meltdown and global pandemics, to say the least, is torturing. Foreign exchange determines a lot in our service, especially talking of our equipment. One does not need to have a bachelor of science in Economics to know the impact of that on us. But we are carrying on because we have no other job. This is not even talking of domestic challenges we face on field of operations. Bank loan is there with interest which can send one out of business.
Then what is your staying power despite these challenges?
We are adjusting with the situation as it comes, though it is not easy at all because it takes a lot of sacrifices to do this adjustment. For instance, you can hardly find me at social gatherings; I mean owambe parties where people wear aso ebi. I can’t be found there. I will rather send envelop to the person and save my time and other resources. You will meet somebody, who has been looking for you, and have to part with something. Giving is not the problem but spending an unplanned money. When won’t that affect one’s business and pull it backward?
Can we take that as your advice to your professional colleagues battling with the same experience?
I only used myself as a case study due to your question asking about my personal staying strategy. But I can say that there is nobody who is not affected by this economy, even beyond our profession. Doesn’t it affect yours, the media? Is readers’ purchasing power not badly affected? How many people can afford to go and pick as many copies of daily newspapers as it was in practice years back, when we were growing up in this same country? Apart from the fact that technology is reducing numbers of hard copies reader, can you compare cost of producing a copy of your magazine to what it used to be in the past? That is what I am actually talking about. If you know how much some professionals we hold in high esteem earn at the end of each month, you will be sympathetic; that is, if they are not owed a backlog of arrears. In fact, economic issues of this country are not what one should think about always. If one worries about it, one may develop heart attack, and if one develops heart attack and goes, life shall continue because the world did not start from you. I never witnessed a situation whereby price of beans was higher than price of rice. How many people were eating beans? But today, beans is now gold, so to say, in our market. And this is difficult to explain but I think our over dependence on the North for it is one of reasons for this unexpected price increase, although beans farmers would say that bandits who make farming difficult can be responsible. Yet, our government seems to fold its arm and watch things getting out of hand. I totally agree with those farmers because life is more precious than work. One must secure his or her life first before any other thing. That is why youths, who should be in farm and plant beans, are rushing down to the South-west, especially Lagos to operate okada. We can trace the origin of the exorbitant price of beans to this problem of insecurity. This is supposed to be government priority because there can never be any progress and development when security of lives and property is not guaranteed.
What will you tell your colleagues?
I have a portion of land which is undeveloped. I have made up my mind now to engage that portion. What do I mean by engaging it? Owing to high prices of food in market, the best is for everybody including you to see how we can feed ourselves. I am going to plant yam and other crops to be self-dependent to some extent. If you calculate amount which every household spend on food alone, you will understand why we should all return to farm and feed ourselves instead of waiting for the North before we eat beans and importing rice. This is my resolution, which I am sharing with my professional colleagues to face this current situation. I expected the South-west governments, all of them, to use their so-called regional integration thing, to embark on mass food production and save the region from depending on the North. There is no better time to do this as now that beans have become the lord in market. But I see that our culture of governance is not concerned about projects which will not bring immediate returns. And every kobo invested in farming will bring triple profits. I like what the Osun State University is doing now in area of empowering their students with different vocations to beat effects of this bad economy. I recently was in the campus where I spoke with the students and lecturer about our current economic reality. Apart from this diversification, I want my colleague not to abandon their job for their workers and aides. It won’t work. As a matter of fact, that is my findings recently when I personally took inventory of our operations. What I saw was amazing and shocking, meaning that I would not have discovered it, even if I bring in external auditor. We should consider what we go through in terms of loan interests and ensure we take our destiny into our hands before it is too late. Any employer of labour who is found by his employees to be weak in strict supervision, will be exploited and sent back to his village because some of these workers don’t care about what happens to your business as long as your business serves their immediate needs and those of their families. This reminds of me of what one of my workers told me when I discovered a certain irregularity in operation of his group. He advised me like his brother and expressed his mind on something which he had no control over until I personally found it out.
What do you tell the Osun State Government, as regards patronage?
I can only make an appeal because government is supreme; all machineries needed for development belong to government. And we cannot have two governments in a state. I am not talking of local government administration, which is under state government I am talking about, anyway. I want to appeal to Osun State Government to establish data base to access correct figures of qualified professionals to do business with. In my company, for instance, we have a modest record which can attest to our level of competence on the job. There is no need to be boastful; the truth of the matter is that we are blessed with right and up-to-date drilling machines which make our job more attractive to client. We thank God that our clients spread is beyond the border of this state. But since this is where we have our headquarters, there is no way we won’t be more attached to what goes on in the state. That is why I am seeking a better work relationship with the government. If we are better patronized, we are also duty bound to give back to the state. For instance, it will take me nothing to provide assistance on the bad road leading to my office and residence. How much will that cost, when I know the strength of our relationship with the government. I am optimistic that they will answer our call.