By Emmanuel Azikena
In his first coming as military head of state, Major General Muhammadu Buhari was remarked for his unconventional economic policies.
Foremost of them was the non-descript counter-trade policy that was framed on his conservative proclivities and perceived disinterest in Western culture.
In fact, it was during that first advent that the flag of patriotism was most flown in the country as was exemplified by the popular television promotion of Andrew checking out of the country.
Buhari’s message at that time was that Nigeria is our country and that we must all collectively salvage it.
However, following his overthrow and a new wife in the person of the cosmopolitan Aisha, Buhari, perhaps appeared to unravel.
The new children were sent to the best schools outside Nigeria, in Togo and in the United Kingdom.
A man we thought was so poor in retirement and who could not afford to buy the All Progressives Congress, APC presidential nomination form, according to new tales, has been consulting with foreign doctors in the UK since the eighties. That was despite the message of Andrew and not checking out of the country.
It is in the light of that narrative that as President Buhari returned to the country after ‘checking out’ on a 16-day three country tour that the tendency of Nigerian leaders for foreign products and services was again brought to fore.
In the last leg of his three-nation tour, President Buhari attended the Second Intra-African Trade Fair in South Africa.
That fair followed the first one held in Egypt. The fair was aimed towards boosting trade among African countries with the intention of boosting economic growth among African countries. Corollary to that is the aim to reverse the negative balance of payment between Africa and the rest of the world.
Also present at that summit was President Olusegun Obasanjo, arguably one of the greatest pan-African leaders of his generation.
Your correspondent waited to hear reports of the two Nigerian presidents having a meeting given their famous political quarrel at home.
After all, it seems both men have become used to bumping into one another more outside Nigeria than in the country. However, it seems as if they quietly avoided one another this time around.
Another notable Nigerian present at that fair was Mr Innocent Chukwuma, the owner of Innoson Motors. He came to exhibit his vehicles to other African countries.
Your correspondent is bold to describe Innocent Chukwuma and put him in the category of notable Nigerians alongside Buhari and Obasanjo on the basis of his unique practical contributions to Nigeria’s economic development.
Mr Chukwuma’s presence at the trade fair in South Africa would have been underpinned by the hostility of successive Nigerian governments to his motor vehicles.
With Nigerian governments forgoing his products for the more expensive foreign brands, Mr Chukwuma has apparently decided to try his luck abroad. It seems the odds will favour him.
It is a shame that Presidents Obasanjo and Buhari would canvass inter and intra African trade despite failing to pay attention to a major leveller of economic growth that Innoson and other local car manufacturing companies provide.
Yes, President Obasanjo would be remembered for his indigenization policy and the modesty of his military regime as exemplified by the dumping of the use of Mercedez Benz cars for Peugeot.
However, on his return in 1999, President Obasanjo appeared to join the affluence that is typical with the political class by not promoting local vehicles.
Some may defend President Obasanjo and say that there were no local manufacturing motor vehicles during his second coming. However, none can defend President Buhari on that score.
President Buhari with a consistent disregard for things local despite his repeated and sanctimonious avowals in the past is the opposite of what we saw in 1984.
The disregard for things local by Buhari is not only in despising local doctors, but his silence to the avarice of the All Progressives Congress, APC controlled National Assembly for foreign cars.
Just like Buhari who have not seen anything good in patronizing our local cars, the National Assembly in 2020, in the year of the pandemic, poured billions of naira on Toyota cars for themselves at the cost of the local car manufacturers. Even if as some allege that Innoson was despised because it is Igbo made, but there are other car assembly/manufacturers who have come out after Innoson.
It is a proven fact that car manufacturing is a major catalyst in boosting the economy. The spin-offs that come through car manufacturing in the form of ancillary industries are such that would boost any economy.
However, it is unfortunate that successive governments in Nigeria have continued to despise Innoson.
The billions of naira spent in importation of vehicles by various governments if devoted to locally made vehicles would ordinarily have boosted the competitiveness of the local manufacturing companies.
President Buhari and Nigeria’s governors preaching African trade must show the example by doing what they preach. Buhari can begin by riding in a locally made vehicle, it won’t kill him.