Feature: Nigeria needs a Minister to Canvass for the Manufacturing Industry

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by Ayo Akinfe

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Our new president will need to appoint a minister that will canvass for accelerated manufacturing because at the moment he does not have manufacturers he can call on to kick-start our economy

[1] This is a picture of the chairmen on the three major US automobile companies and their directors outside the White House. It was taken in December 1941 after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. These chairmen had been summoned by President Franklin Roosevelt

[2] Totally unprepared for war, lacking military equipment and not having any armaments manufacturer who could equip a modern army, President Roosevelt knew he was in big trouble after the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbour. His country was at war with a nation that had spent the last 10 years arming itself to the teeth

[3] On December 8 1941, the US declared war on Japan and to make matters worse for Roosevelt, Germany, Japan’s ally, declared war on the US. Subsequently, on December 11 1941, President Roosevelt signed a declaration of war against Germany too

[4] Knowing he had zero chance of winning this war against the industrial armies of Japan and Germany, President Roosevelt summoned William Knudsen, the president of General Motors, Henry Ford, the president of Ford Motors and Kaufman Keller, the president of Chrysler to the White House for a make-or-break meeting and read them the riot act

[5] President Roosevelt told them in plain language that they had to turn their factories into war machines or the US would be crushed. These three gentlemen did not disappoint him as they delivered big time

[6] It took the US automobile industry 18 months to get up and running but when they did, they out-produced everybody else but such a gulf that there was only going to be one winner in the war. General Motors became the largest military contractor on earth, manufacturing 119,562,000 shells, 206,000 aircraft engines, 97,000 bombers, 301,000 aircraft propellers, 198,000 diesel engines, 1,900,000 machine guns and 854,000 military trucks.

[7] Chrysler had never made tanks before but the company built a factory from scratch. Known as the Detroit Tank Arsenal, this Chrysler plant made roughly as many tanks during the war than all the Nazi factories combined

[8] For its part, Ford, which became the nation’s third-largest military contractor, built a production facility called Willow Run, the largest factory under one roof in the history of the world, churning out 18,482 B-24 Liberators bombers. So many labourers worked at Willow Run, the government had to build a city from scratch. It was named Bomber City, providing the workforce with homes and infrastructure near the factory

[9] Nigeria’s next president needs some chief executives he can invite to Aso Rock and ask them to fill the country’s production vacuum by manufacturing 2m tractors, 5m electricity transformers, six 10,000MW power plants, 500,000 railway carriages, 200m tonnes of processed foods, 100m tonnes of clothing materials, etc to kickstart the economy

[10] Unfortunately, 60 years after independence, there are no such industrialists and manufacturers a Nigerian president can call on. Nigeria’s rich made their money shamelessly importing finished products and distributing them, looting government funds or getting government contracts. Is our problem really bad political leadership?

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