Mr Edikan Ekong is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers in Nigeria. He has practiced actively as an Investment Banker in Nigeria for two decades before moving on to work as a regulator with the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers (CIS). Privately, he is an Artist with endeavors in several aspects of creative arts. In this exclusive interview with ipledge2nigeria, Mr Ekong bares his mind on socio-economic and political issues in Nigeria, how the youth can be empowered to achieve the “Nigerian Dream” and how to rebuild patriotism into the psyche of Nigerian citizens…
Following on from your experience, how do you think Nigeria can provide an enabling environment to allow the younger generation to thrive with genuine professional dreams? “The Nigerian Dream”, and not this get rich quick dream in the eyes of many of the youth today.
My work at the CIS has been an eye opener because of the opportunity it afforded me to visit schools across the country and interact with our youth. I have discovered that most of our younger ones are immensely talented, hardworking and ready to put in their best whenever they get the opportunity; but therein lies the problem – ‘’opportunity’’.
Both the government and private sector need to invest substantially more in education. We need more schools at all levels, and even more importantly, we need a much larger pool of really qualified teachers who can impart knowledge.
At CIS, we have made significant efforts to empower the Nigerian youth by reducing the costs of registering for our professional examinations to the barest minimum that will allow us to maintain our world class standard.
Further, we have identified entrepreneurship as a veritable option, so we have introduced a Diploma programme and a Stand – Alone Certification scheme to help those candidates who may not necessarily wish to go the whole hog of being a wholly certified Stockbroker. The government and other benevolent organisations need to support charitable organisations like CIS with grants to enable them spread and deepen financial literacy across the country.
Most youths nowadays are not quite patriotic due to the disillusionment with public office holders not having their interest at heart. What is your take on that and how do you see things changing?
My answer may surprise you, but the truth is that, even with the realities of our society, Nigeria remains a land of opportunity for those who are ready to take their destiny into their own hands, positively speaking.
Our youth should learn to depend less on government – even though I’m not saying that government should abandon their own roles. I’ll give you an example: Back in the 1990’s the Nigerian music industry was totally comatose with most of the recording companies downsizing. It was not government that revived the music industry, it was the vision and creativity of young people like Kenny Ogungbe, Onyeka Onwenu, Tony Okoroji, and the like.
That was how the entire paradigm of the Nigerian music industry was changed for the better, and today, artistes like Davido and Wizkid are reaping from that phenomenal act. So youths should seize the opportunity of the social media and technology and use them positively to promote their passion. They should also participate actively in politics and vote in only people who deserve to hold public office.
How can we rebuild patriotism into the psyche of the Nigerian citizen, especially the youth?
First, the government of the day should continue from where Goodluck Jonathan stopped, by enabling a political process that allows for free and fair elections. Second, the cost of participating in politics should be significantly reduced to allow any credible person to contest, even if the person is not rich. Third, institutional mechanisms for discouraging corruption should be reinforced. So, by and large, we need to create a ‘cleaner’ society with less emphasis on materialism and more on the noble causes.
Going back to your profession, how do you see the gap between a robust NYSE (New York Stock Exchange) or the LSE (London Stock Exchange) as compared to the Nigerian stock exchange? How can the NSE help create jobs and investment to aid development?
Well, in case you didn’t know, The Nigerian Stock Exchange outperformed those two exchanges you mentioned in 2017, in terms of returns on investment. Generally speaking however, a lot of institutional reforms have been put in place in the Nigerian Capital Market over the last 6 -9 years: The market we have today is deeper, much more robust in technology, a lot safer, and overall closer to world class level than it was a decade ago.
The Nigerian Capital Market Master plan was instituted by the apex regulatory body, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2015 with specific and measurable action points to make Nigeria one of the best capital markets in the world by 2025. The Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers is championing the Capital Market Literacy segment with a bouquet of strategic measures to ensure that a significantly larger proportion of Nigerians become participants in the market, either as professionals or investors.
The current Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun is well versed in the capital market and that experience has substantially contributed to the progress recorded in recent years.
Recently the Minister of Finance suspended the DG of the NSE due to conflict of interest and other allegations. What is your take on this?
I think it is just a procedural issue that has been overblown by the media because of certain coincidences and suspicions. The matter will be resolved in due course.
How do you think Nigeria is faring generally under the current administration of President Buhari? Do you think he should be given another term in office? If yes, why? If not, why not?
Obviously the administration started slowly and that time gap unfortunately allowed some unintended outcomes especially with regard to the foreign exchange rate and the GDP which went into negative growth. Fortunately, the government’s Economic Management Team responded well, and today, the foreign rate has been stabilized while our GDP is back to positive growth. It is not my place to decide for Nigerians if the government should be re-elected or not. I have only one vote which I will definitely use according to my conviction.