“Toyin, Innocent, other distinguished guests. Thank you for the opportunity to give the closing remarks today. This event today has been a wonderful contribution to the conversation about Nigeria’s direction and future. Without a doubt issues like entrepreneurship, agriculture, and youth employment will greatly affect Nigeria’s growth and prosperity.
It’s October and in the U.S. October is football season. As I was thinking about my remarks an old story about the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi came to mind. I believe the schedule has allotted me four minutes, so I’ll be brief.
Lombardi, the famous coach of the Green Bay Packers, was renowned for his emphasis on fundamentals. Every training camp began with relearning the basics of blocking and tackling. Lombardi knew that if you can’t do that properly you might win a game or two, but you won’t have a winning season. One Sunday, the Packers suffered a particularly bad loss to a much lesser team. Lombardi was furious and called a practice the next morning. With his team assembled and ready for a tongue lashing, Lombardi took a ball in his hand, held it up, and began to speak. “Gentlemen, this is a football.”
Getting the fundamentals right matters. They’re crucial to success in just about anything. This discussion today has been absolutely right focusing on youth employment, entrepreneurship, agriculture, and the creative arts. When we are talking about economic development, all of these things are fundamental. I would add one other fundamental necessary for transforming society: economic growth. The good thing is that we know what propels economic growth: trade and investment. Asian countries did not transform their economy by turning inward and shutting out imports and discouraging foreign capital. Growth happened when they did the opposite and began welcoming foreign investment.
That, in short, is my message today. Focus on the fundamentals. I would bet the credibility of the U.S. government that if Nigeria relentlessly focuses on economic fundamentals, transformation will follow.
James Plasman, Head of the Economic Unit, US Consulate, Lagos
October 7, 2015