Taopheek Babayeju is the Chief Executive of iCentra Consulting Limited. In this interview, he says Nigeria’s problems can best be solved through project management.
Is project management solution to Nigeria’s problems?
It is one of the solutions. Nigeria has several problems, just like some other countries. But, we can start solving our problems, when we start conceptualizing our projects, when we start making our organizations project-driven, both in the public and private sectors.
Project management is key to national development. Any nation that succeeded applied the principles of project management which is the act of proper execution. Idea is cheap implementation is key. You can have all the strategies in the world but without having a proper plan of how to execute them you’d fail. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
Without that scheme of execution which project management brings to the table, you are definitely going to fail. Any nation that has developed has mastered the act of project management.
So, we felt the need to have this about 10 years ago and we started it. We have engagement across every platform. So, our aim was to visualise project management practice and we have done that successfully today. There are people studying project management in the country today. Ten years ago there was no course called project management. There is awareness across board now as every government project has provision for project management.
The important role of effective project management in national development across all sectors cannot be over-emphasized especially in the current competitive global economy where developed nations seem locked in a battle of supremacy with daredevil projects that are radically changing lives across the globe. Many third world countries are also taking advantage of technological innovation to embark on projects that are improving the lives of their citizenry and giving them a significant voice in global politics.
Numerous abandoned and poorly completed projects across Nigeria amounting to billions of dollars in waste point to the need for re-examining the nation’s general approach to project delivery.
How best can Nigeria’s economy be put back on track?
There are several things that are responsible for where we are today. Sometimes, there is a disconnect between, monetary and fiscal policies, there also has been a disconnect between government policies and reality. We’ve also had a disconnect with citizens’ expectations and the delivery from projects. But how can we bring the economy back on track after sliding into and coming out of recession? We need to, as a people, be deliberate about the decisions we make. We must consider the implications of the decisions we make; every decision made has impact on performance.
We have been mouthing the concept of going beyond oil, but I think we can get to where we are supposed to be by decentralizing government and delivery of services.
What do you think is wrong with Nigeria’s identity management, 59 years down the line?
From what I see, we are duplicating efforts, when it comes to our national identity. If we don’t handle the issue of national identity very well, we probably will not be able to plan for our citizens and we will not achieve results. You want to open a bank account, your data is collected for Bank Verification Number (BVN), you purchase a SIM card and your data is collected, same thing when you go to obtain or renew your international passport, driver’s license and even for your Permanent Voters Card.
Until we harmonise and centralize data, even from the LG level where births and deaths are registered and linked to a central data base, we can’t plan well. We should ensure that there is a handshake between all the agencies that collate data, so we have an integrated database which can be used and analysed for planning purposes.
There has to a presidential mandate for Nigeria to set targets for having data for an accurate national identity management system. We can’t continue to plan based on assumptions, like we have done in the last 59 years and expect good results.
iCentra has handled projects for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), do you think interventions from the apex bank have made impact?
Part of the things we have done for CBN aren’t only in the area of interventions, but at some point, we were part of the consultants who evaluated some of their capital intervention projects. I can tell you that some of those projects provided succour. For example, some secondary schools I visited got as much as N500 million to upgrade their facilities and some universities got as much N5 billion. These are amounts that these institutions ordinarily wouldn’t have been able to raise.
I saw the impact of the funds CBN gave on these schools. The Centre of excellence that was opened recently in Bayero University Kano State, I was part of the team that reviewed the project and as we speak it’s one of the best in Nigeria. As you know education is not a business, but more of an investment in the future. The more you invest in education, the more results we get as a nation.
Would you say project management has found a good position among professions in Nigeria?
Well, the practice of project management has evolved over the years in Nigeria. I remember 10 years ago when we organized the first project management conference and we’ve sustained that engagement. Now, we have the Chartered Institute of Project Managers of Nigeria, we have the Project Management Institute of Nigeria and we have the International Association of Project Managers. So, we have bodies on the practice of project management, even as the practice of project management has grown in the country.
Have we taken the rightful position as professionals? Well, I would describe us (project managers) as ‘upcoming’ in the field of recognized professionals, like accountants, engineers and doctors. These professional groupings have been, around for a long time, so we are creating more awareness on project management, with more and more sectors of the economy requiring project management for their programmes, projects and interventions.
What do you think government can do to make the country the toast of all, especially entrepreneurs?
The future we seek is going to be driven by innovation and entrepreneurship. The population of Africa, which Nigeria leads, is exploding. There is no way we can provide jobs for a huge population without entrepreneurship. Therefore, what government must do is to significantly improve on the ease of doing business in the country.
Government should reduce multiple taxation. Government should invest in improving basic infrastructure. I can tell you that, if government provides power supply, 24/7, this country’s economy will explode. Fashion, agriculture and other sectors can contribute much more to the economy if those operating in these sectors have the foundation of the right kind of infrastructure to start and grow their business.