His Royal Highness, Onwuameze Ugonabo, is the Igwe of Neni, a community in Anambra State and the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Innovation Era Nigeria Limited, a major distributor of Nestle Nigeria Plc. In this exclusive interview with Daily Trust, he speaks on how appropriate government policies create a fertile land for the growth of small businesses. Excerpts:
What does it take to be a successful business man in our type of environment?
Permit me to say that there are things that one needs to know as a business man. Some people focus and struggle. I usually tell them that somebody’s sleepless night is what people call ‘luck’. You know in Nigeria, everybody claims to be a businessman. 419 is a businessman. Armed robber is a businessman. Everything is businessman.
How can we regulate our businesses appropriately?
The problem is that the law in the society seems to be against businesses. For example, when you are caught stealing my money, you are at an advantage more than me. If you go to the law enforcement that you have my money, and you divided it amongst yourselves, you are then a free man. Even in the court, in the next 10 years the case is still on and this entire law enforcement people have a way of frustrating one. So why should you open a business and allow people to take all the money? Will you survive?
Checkout all the countries; they make laws to guide business for survival. I also heard that they want to open doors for people to come and invest in the country while we are yet to strengthen our practices. There are no regulations. If one is made the local government chairman, they would be looking for business they can import money from.
I leant that you became first Nestle distributor Abuja or Suleja then. How did it happen ?
The answer is obvious from what you have said. I said it in my biography. Its risk taking, but when people hear that you take risk, its calculated risk. There is a difference between a gambler and a business man.
I don’t know what the gambler does. He makes money from nowhere, business men on the other hand, take calculated risk on what we call profit and reward for risk taking. That is what profit is. That’s why they said, the higher the risk, the higher the profit.
You temporarily stopped schooling and later resumed. How did that shape your business history?
People always think that the people in business are the people that dropped out of school. That is wrong because business is so task that it requires all the energy to succeed. Your question is training, like I said, you must be trained to do something. The most difficult thing to manage is human being and the next thing is money. You must know how to manage money because if you don’t know, the little money you see will dry up.
So it’s part of discipline. And let me tell you, discipline starts from home and that is why most people in business their children do not follow up because that discipline isn’t there. Why would I want to suffer when I can sit down at home and enjoy. I will be waking up 4am instead of 8am and be comfortable. It’s because one has eyes for success.
You are advanced in age and you are still in business.
Am thinking of retirement, but my business activities till now is Nestle Nigeria Plc, and I tried to go into hospitality industry, opening a hotel. But answering your question, I still do what I do best.
Why do some people fail in business?
Don’t go and venture in something you know nothing about. That is the surest way of failure. It’s not easy because if you start manufacturing in Nigeria, policy summersaults, everything changes and changes you out of business. Nigeria has not been consistent in their rules, policy and regulation. Hardly do Nigerians follow policies.
Policy and regulation can be changed in Nigeria just because of one man because he is on top. In Nigeria, there was a time they banned importation of raw materials but allowed importation of finished products. There was a time there was a ban in the Importation of flour but you can import bread. Why not import the flour and do the bread?
What is your take on dwindling oil revenue?
If you look at it from a business point of view, you will see that it’s an opportunity. If someone anticipates that in five years to come there would be problem, that is an opportunity. Every change eventually is an opportunity. There are opportunities for us and really do good business and not rely on exporting oil. Some people are refining and it is illegal and would make them legal?
It is opportunity lost. What are we talking about? Nobody is even asking if what they are refining is good. If they are not good, help them make it good by regulating and controlling it. That was why I said the country is not prepared. They make too much noise about difficulty. There are countries in this world that do not have any oil and they are powerful. That is an opportunity; create enabling environment.
How can government create the enabling environment?
We need to encourage local manufacturers and production. The largest production Nigeria does is agriculture. Nigeria can grow any kind of crop. We are not even feeding ourselves talk more of export. Any country that imports food is not there. One state in Nigeria can feed the whole country. Other countries are talking about economy. We are talking about religion.
Regardless your tribe and religion, if you are hungry, you are hungry. That’s why I said we Nigerians have not started. America is deceiving us. If they had not stopped slavery, they won’t be where they are today despite the fact that some people go to their own country and bring bomb and shoot in America. America is great because all tribes, religion and country are in America. Am talking politics now not business, but they are together.
We are lucky to be in a big country. Look at what they are doing now, the European union so that they become big. Luckily for us, English is the most spoken language all over the world. Unless we focus on economy, what do we do to grow? We are in trouble.