23rd December, 2011
Â Mr. Anthony Obidulu is one of those that graduated from the Pan African University, Ajah, Lagos. In this interview with Akin Kuponiyi and Paul Sanusi, he speaks on his plans to employ 5,000 Nigerians in the next five years and what the governments should do if they want to achieve the MDGs.
Â Can we meet you sir?
My name is Mr. Anthony Obidulu, from Awka, Anambra State. Iâ€™m not a title chief and prefer to be addressed simply as Mr.
What were you doing before you become an industrialist?
I was into veterinary consultancy.
With your international connection, can you tell us a bit about your background?
I was trained in animal husbandry in Oyo State between 1975-78. My father was the Chief Agriculture Officer in Iwo office of the Oyo State Ministry of Agriculture. My grand father also had a plantation in Awka, Anambra State in those days. My father studied agriculture and I studied learnt about animals in the ministry.
Did you work in any organisation after your training in animal husbandry?
No, I never did. I read a professional course and I donâ€™t need to work in any company. There are so many opportunities in the course.
When and how did you break into entrepreneurship?
I have been in it since 1980. I started with animal husbandry, later I began to import veterinary drugs and I have 36 licences from NAFDAC. These are area that are not popular but are growing. Veterinary is a strategic business like military arms; that is how important veterinary business is.
Now that you are going into noodles production, how do you intend to break even with the already saturated noodles market?
The market is there; that is not going to be a problem. This is going to be second indigenous noodles to come into the market after Chief Otudeko. Also, remember that indigenisation is very important in the industrialisation of any country.
With challenges such as unfriendly business policies, electricity problem and insecurity, why do you still have to invest such a huge amount in a business?
That is why Iâ€™m a Nigerian. A Nigerian should show confidence in the country. Iâ€™m not a foreigner; that is why we always recite the national pledge.
Is it the pledge that propelled you to invest in the country?
Yes. I strongly believe in it.
Do you have any foreign support in the establishment of the company?
There is none. Those that are here are expatriates employed by the company.
How do intend to handle the issue of industrial pollution?
Nigeria should look for ways to reduce unemployment. We are born into a noisy environment and we shall continue to live in it. What should be our priority is employment generation. Even Chinese also abused their environment.When they succeeded in reducing unemployment, they start talking about pollution control. We are very concerned about our environment but what is important now is how to reduce unemployment in our country. There is a politics behind global warming and that is why Americans said they would not be part of it because it would affect their industries. All these world issues are politics and our government has to be smart in playing the game. What we need now is industrial output.
With the rate industries are being established in the country, how do you see Nigeria in the next 10 years?
If government provides necessary assistance, 10 years is too long a period for the country to join industrialised nations. The government has to provide regular electricity, good roads and policies that will help industrialists.
Do you see industries in the country impacting positively on their host communities?
The issue of Corporate Social Responsility,CSR, is not as important as job creation. If there are enough industries and people have work to do, that will become a forgotten issue. If people are working it is necessary that they will impact on the environment. What is important now is getting people to work, thereby reducing unemployment.
What is your employment generation projection in the next five years?
Iâ€™m targeting between 3,000 and 5,000 jobs, though it may be above that.
What are the names of your companies?
We have Kony Limited, Al Grain Limited, and many others that will help meet the employment target. Iâ€™m not happy seeing graduates of five, six years not working and that is the problem Iâ€™m thinking of how to solve.
What is your advice to the government on how to make the country an industrialised one?
My advice to government is that it should involve private people. The best way for Nigeria to achieve such is private partnership. Any government that does not partner with private individuals will fail.
How would you want government to assist industrialists?
The government should see industrialists as second government; that is the only sector we have now to revive the country. Without industries it’s going to be difficult. Do not forget that many states now depend on taxes from industries to survive. Government should ensure that all sectors are given attention. Government alone can not generate employment, it is the private sector and government should give all assistance to industrialists. Lagos State government is trying in giving attention to industrialists and other states should toe the same line.
How do you manage your business with the family?
In all the schools I attended, I learnt that the three things that I must not play with are my business, family and community. These are the three things you donâ€™t play with. The family is the backbone of any nation, if the family fails, the nation will fail and if the family succeeds, the nation will succeed. It is important that we pay attention to our families. If anyone fails to give home education to a child, the chance of such a child surviving is slim.
Do you wish to see your child taking over from you in the management of your establishment?
That is for God to determine. We have seen many industrialists whose children take to other jobs. It is ideal for a man to say I want my child to take over from me but it is for God to say yes to that.