All over the world, except in communist countries and struggling Third World countries, governments shy away from setting up companies and running them. The simple truth is that bureaucracy usually gets in the way and these companies make losses. A great example is the United States of America. You can hardly find one company run by that great government, not an airline or railway or oil company. The government concentrates in providing guidelines, setting the rules and providing an enabling environment. The British Airways used to be owned by the British government but that country has seen the need to privatise the companies it previously ran. Business is best left in the hands of private companies or citizens. These can take the hard decisions, cut off frivolities, stream-line the staff into a well-oiled machine geared towards profitability. That is the essence of business in a democracy – profit.
Nigeria under President Buhari is again trying to prove that this fool of a country has not learnt from its own mistakes. There are mutterings about reviving the Nigerian Airways. But we have tried several times and failed, each time selling off the carcase at a loss. I have also read of Olusegun Obasanjo warning against the re-establishment of a national shipping line. We simply do not seem to be able to learn! I still have painful memories of NITEL, a government company that was to provide telephone services. But it was mainly an avenue for criminal citizens to impoverish others, charge crazy bills, charge somebody for another person’s calls. Sometimes bills of up to a million naira were sent to private citizens whose telephone hardly worked. Thankfully privatisation has rescued all of us. Even the poorest citizen can boast of a GSM telephone line which works – most of the time.
Nigeria is an incongruous entity. Whoever is the ruler can use these companies or enterprises as private estates to enrich his cronies and tribesmen. The result is waste of scarce resources. The Federal government is well advised to keep away from these wasteful dreams. It is timely for the Imo state governor to advise his partners in the APC that government has no business running companies.

As I see it the Nigerian central government is biting off more than it can chew. This country needs to be urgently decentralised and some of the activities indulged in by the centre can be better handled by the zonal entities or states. But I fear this is just wasting words. The set-up of Nigeria will not permit this at least for the next seven years when hopefully the North would have had it turn to rule and moved out of the way. The status quo benefits them and they are basking in the glory of being in charge now – appointments attest to this. Perhaps the problem with oil business may in the end be a blessing in disguise. There is now little money to share. Whether we like it or not we are forced to look beyond petroleum. Perhaps those beggar states that have been depending solely on their `share’ of the national cake from the centre will now wake up and find alternative funds to run their states.   

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