By Abdulaziz Abdulaziz
It was pin drop silence. All heads turned to his side of the hall listening as the man gently, but firmly, made a case for his country to this crème de la crème of the Saudi Arabian economic bureaucracy and business community. He grabbed attention with an off-the-cuff speech that exuded confidence, authority, assurance and truthfulness. It was a little wonder his audience followed through and nodded all through!
The setting was the Saudi-Nigeria Business Summit and the speaker was President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It was a forum held on the sidelines of the recent Saudi-Africa Summit held in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.
President Tinubu went into the meeting hall at the JW Marriot Hotel in upscale Riyadh as the President of Nigeria. By the time he picked the microphone he quickly wore the garb of a chief salesman for a product he is excited to market.
It was an effortless exercise in sophisticated arts of marketing and advocacy. It was a presentation from the heart that was as unpretentious as it was unscripted. He spurned out the facts and the figures, reeled out the justifications and tickled the boardroom chiefs where it mattered without appearing weak or pitiable. It was a classic case of economic diplomacy and salesmanship at the highest level.
Since the beginning of his campaign for office, one of the most frequent words on his lips has been “prosperity”. President Tinubu is a prosperous man. His life is tinged with footsteps of prosperity, from the corporate world where he was a successful businessman to the prosperous political career that was capped with his election to the highest office in the land.
It had not always been rosy for him. He had told his story again and again to motivate the younger generation and inspire the country. He had toiled to reach the top. He knew the pains of want and starvation, and the sweetness that comes with economic liberation and prosperity. It is the latter that President Tinubu is desperately working to see that all Nigerians have tested.
He had the lifelong ambition to lead his fatherland. He has fulfilled this ambition. He could, if he chooses, stay back and enjoy the pecks that come with it and pass the time in office. But because the ambition was not a vain one, President Tinubu is up and doing. “I campaigned for it. I begged for the job. I even danced to get elected. There is no excuse!” That is his mindset and the philosophy of leadership for him, and it is for this mindset that he is willing to go to any length to ensure that he bequeath to Nigerians a prosperous country that everyone desires.
It was in his quest for this objective that the President chose to use his time in Riyadh to address the country’s top boardroom chiefs. It turned out to be not just another meeting or a boring address from just another President. It was dazzling interaction that stole the minds of almost everyone in the room, by their own admission.
“We came with high expectations but you have exceeded them,” said the Saudi minister of investment, Khalid Al Falih, who moderated the three-hour session, after the rousing applause that greeted President Tinubu’s address to the Saudi business community. The minister had in his welcome address spoke about how they had followed President Tinubu’s campaign promises and how he started off with the “boldest economic reform agenda in decades” for Nigeria, likening it to happenings in Saudi Arabia.
Mohammed Abunayyan, Chairman of Saudi’s ACWA Power confessed to being “inspired and motivated” by the President promising to see how his company can make foray into Nigeria. In the same vein, Abdulrahman Alfaqiq, the CEO of Saudi oil trading company, SABIC, promised to upscale their business relationship with Nigeria due to the assurances he got from the top. They were just a few of the many who spoke in glowing terms about the President and in optimistic sense of the new business environment being created by President Tinubu for domestic and international investors.
This was not the first time and certainly not the last. In September, the President’s participation at the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India, was a potpourri of achievements. He maximally used the time to network with the right people and seek out investments for Nigeria.
It was, in every sense, a bumper harvest for the country as the President came back with a basket full of goodies amounting to billions of dollars in investment pledges. Most of the commitments are in areas dear to the heart of the President and at centre of our quest for development. These include the $3 billion promised by Jindal Steels for iron ore processing to aid Nigeria’s drive for industrialization, Skippersells’ plan to invest $1.6 billion in the power sector by building 2000MW power plants across the country in 4 years, Indorama’s pledge for $8 billion expansion of their petrochemical facilities in Rivers State, a billion dollars secured by the Defence Industry Corporation Of Nigeria (DICON),
The President’s last trip to Germany for the G20 Compact with Africa Summit also garnered as much fruits with the signing of the $500 million gas and renewable energy pact with the German government, among others.
As a young man, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was trained as an accountant. He was a very good student, his records show, who finished from the Chigaco State University with flying colours. In the aftermath, he pursued strings of career opportunities in Accounting and Auditing. He left his job on his own volition and ventured into politics. But in his new job President Tinubu is demonstrating that beyond his training in Accountancy, as omo iyaloja he has imbibed not a few skills from his revered mother and notable businesswoman to apply in his bid to market Nigeria to investors and the larger international community.
Abdulaziz is Senior Special Assistant to the President on Print Media. He’s on X @AbdulFagge