The odyssey of promoting free market ideas around the world continues with the publication of a localized Nigerian edition of The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible: A Free Market Odyssey (JG), originally published by Small Business Hawaii and now available in 35 languages. This was accomplished recently through the work of Agwu Amogu, founder and director of the Individual Liberty Initiative of Nigeria (ILIN). On my visit to West Africa, I also met with two other dynamos of free market education and promotion, Thompson Ayodele and Franklin Cudjoe.
AGWU AMOGU & ILIN, ABUJA
I first met Agwu at the world conference of the International Society for Individual Liberty (ISIL) in Dax, France several years ago. Since then, Agwu has been tireless in his efforts to bring free market ideas to Abuja, the seat of the federal government. This is not at all easy in a country that emerged from tight military control just a few years ago. Nevertheless, Agwu and his energetic collaborator, political scientist Fred Isename, move easily in circles that are dominated by government officials, the press, academia, and functionaries of various NGO’s because they are so friendly and so well respected for their sincerity. email@example.com
The conference scheduled for the release of the new JG allowed for my address on “Freedom and Economic Development.” It was followed by comments from a panel of prominent dignitaries in the private and public sector. Packed with students, journalists, and interested parties from around Abuja, the conference was highly charged. One of the fascinating points raised by a young woman in the audience was a solid reference to personal responsibility, charging that individuals must first look to their own behavior in setting the example for public policy initiatives.
Agwu introduced me to many fine research scholars, notably Dele Akeem Sonubi, a senior program officer for the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. Agwu’s conference also led to an invitation by the Personal Assistant to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Femi Johnson. Mr. Johnson was excited about the accomplishments of Agwu and expressed an interest in working with ILIN on a variety of youth oriented projects.
It was great meeting Agwu’s friends and relatives. All were interested in the issues of democracy, freedom, and change that were confronting various political factions of the country. I was particularly impressed to see Agwu carrying a sort of bible everywhere he went—a well-worn copy of Alan Burris’ Liberty Primer with notations all over the margins. Agwu and Fred both seemed to live and breathe the ideas of liberty and understood fully the value of books to hungry minds.
My time in Abuja, a very nice city of modern architecture, expansive boulevards, and a relaxed pace of life, was short and I soon had to leave for Lagos. My flight was cancelled due to a truckers’ strike that left one airline without fuel. Agwu quickly booked me on another airline in a highly competitive airline market. Despite anxieties that had been raised by U.S. State Department warnings and news reports of airline crashes in recent months, these airlines were superior in comfort, courtesy, and efficiency than the Northwest Airlines flights that I had taken on earlier legs of my journey.
While the logistics of travel in Africa are sometimes complicated, there is no place in the world where one will encounter nicer hosts. Everyone I met was extremely friendly and helpful. And I do recommend the Rosebud Hotel, fine accommodations at $50 a night with good food and inexpensive internet access.
THOMPSON AYODELE & IPPN, LAGOS
I was greeted in Lagos by Thompson Ayodele, founder and director of the Initiative of Public Policy Analysis (IPPA) and taken to his headquarters to meet his vibrant and talented staff. firstname.lastname@example.org www.ippanigeria.org
Thompson explained that the IPPA was previously called an “institute” until Nigerian officials arrogated the word “institute” for the exclusive use of government agencies. IPPA now may be called an “initiative.” At IPPA headquarters four journalists had been patiently waiting four hours for my arrival. I doubt that any journalists at the major newspapers in Hawaii would have waited so patiently. These fine and curious interviewers were from among a multitude of newspapers in Lagos, one of the most competitive news markets I have ever come across. The only comparable example of such journalistic ferocity in my hometown are the tigers of Hawaii Reporter. I first met Thompson at a convention of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) in Kansas City. Thompson is the country director for SIFE, now hosting more than a dozen top-rate teams, placing among the top three in the world for entrepreneurial projects. This is largely due to Thompson’s talent in recruiting and inspiring young people in universities across the Nigeria, much as James Shikwati has done in Kenya and Franklin Cudjoe in Ghana. Thompson is a decisive man of action; a man of gentle persuasion and firm conviction about the benefits of the market; the ultimate organizer and strategist.
Thompson has developed a highly sophisticated public policy research institute and newsletter that is laying the foundation for the promotion of free markets, for challenging corruption, and for exploring alternatives to the dependency on the western governmental interference and “assistance” that has so long plagued and retarded genuine economic progress.
Having allowed myself only two days in the midst of a holiday season, my visit was not ideally suited to the full-fledged speaking tour that is usual for IPPA visitors, but Thompson handled it masterfully. An engagement to speak on “Entrepreneurship, Freedom, and Economic Development” was arranged at the University of Lagos in conjunction with the Collegiate Chapter of the Junior Chamber International of Nigeria. The lecture was standing room only and a myriad of questions were about starting and operating small businesses. The enthusiasm for starting business is unrivaled in any business university class in Hawaii.
Next, driven by Thompson’s partner Seun Efunkoya, we attempted to make our way to the prestigious Lagos Business School, Center for Applied Economics, for an address on “Economic Freedom and Development.” On the way we were literally highjacked by thugs who pulled us over. A burly local official opened the door and actually sat on Thompson’s lap, directing us off the road to an holding pen for official “highway robbery.”
We had a clue of what we were in for as another car drove by with the driver screaming at the officer, “You’re nothing but a robber, a thief!” Once inside the compound, we were informed that we owed them $120 on the spot for driving outside of our (non-existent) lane. Finally, with the intervention of the Dean of the Lagos Business School, Pat Utomi, and a firestorm of angry protest by Seun, we were allowed to leave after paying a reduced fine—all the money in our pockets. In Hawaii the official highway robbers once tried to get around this kind of commotion by taking a picture of the “offender’s” license plate and sending a bill in the mail for an alleged violation that was virtually unchallengable.
Eventually I arrived at the College and spoke to a very appreciative full amphitheater of MBA students, all of whom are executives in businesses around Lagos. This classroom of Professor Utomi, equiped with state-of-the-art facilities, is a center for elite education on the foundations of the free market. Thompson tells me that our engagement impressed some prominent businessmen with the IPPA philosophy and activities. They have since offered to sponsor IPPA research projects.
Lagos is a city of amazing traffic that would challenge the best drivers in the world. Seun, an expert at Nigerian law, maneuvered us deftly through the congestion to see the port of Lagos, Victoria Island, the inviting and vibrant Atlantic coast beaches, and the families of a couple of my Nigerian students in Hawaii. Comfort and refuge from the daily schedule was provided each night as the guest of Thompson, who so graciously hosted me in his home.
FRANKLIN CUDJOE & IMANI—ACCRA
Arriving in Ghana, again four hours late due to the fuel truckers’ strike in Lagos, I met up with Franklin Cudjoe and his young sidekick, Afrikanus Kofi Akosah Adusei. I had heard much about Franklin, but missed meeting him at the ISIL conference in Cologne, Germany last summer, where he made a very positive impression on all those in attendance.
Franklin is the the Director of IMANI: The Centre for Humane Education. IMANI adopted a mission to promote economic prosperity in Ghana and the whole of Africa through property rights, the rule of law, free markets, and free speech. email@example.com, Web: www.imanighana.org
As with ILIN and IPPA in Nigeria, IMANI is a freedom institute of the highest calibre, making waves in a country worn down by years of socialist dogma and bureaucratic repression. Franklin is also involved with Students in Free Enterprise—Ghana.
On our way home from the airport we called on leaders of institutes that were promoting markets in a perisistent, subtle, academic manner. By contrast, Franklin is neither subtle nor indirect. He cuts through the confusion of public policies with clear, articulate passion. Franklin is a public relations genius, developing positive relationships in a political arena long accustomed to the intrigues of powerful political figures. At IMANI headquarters or in his home, where I was so comfortably accommodated by his fiancee, friends and family, hours passed in intellectual dialogue and great feasting. It was here that I became acquainted with Kofi. Kofi is a positive, dedicated dynamo of intellectual thought, sure to energize the youth of Ghana into vibrant and creative market-based reforms.
Our first official engagement was at the University of Ghana where I lectured to a full house on the principles of free market economics. How much more these students appreciate the market as an engine of growth and prosperity than the students of Hawaii. The lecture was followed by an extensive session of questions and discussion, all quite enthusiastic.
Later Franklin arranged interviews on nationwide radio and television. The publicity resulted in numerous contacts from people interested in becoming involved with IMANI. And some IMANI supporters have offered to produce a comic strip of JG for local periodicals.
Franklin and his beautiful fiancee, Sandra Birago Duah, took me for a visit to the market for souvenirs. My daughter wanted jewelry and my wife insisted that I return home with a large drum! We then made our way to a gorgeous garden park at the city center—surrounding a mammoth tomb, museum, and memorial to Kwame Nkrumah. It was an ironic twist to my journey.
Nkrumah spread Marxist values to much of Africa, became a dictator, and brought Ghana crashing down—from one of the richest countries in Africa to one of the poorest. Strangely enough, Nkrumah is strangely revered with a monument to his “greatness,” despite being so thoroughly responsible for the ideas behind the destitution of African today.
This monument reminded me of a statute in Honolulu to King Kamehameha “the Great,” who is revered with holidays and parades for killing thousands of fellow Hawaiians in a grab for power over all the islands. Kill one person and you are a murderer. Kill thousands and you are a national hero.By contrast, I felt fortunate to be in the company of the men and women who, through their brilliance and courage, are the source of a spectacular rebirth of Africa, like the rise of a Phoenix from the ashes. Hopefully the monuments of the next generation in West Africa will be memorials to success, not to failure. They will be tributes to the champions of liberty: Agwu, Thompson, and Franklin.
By contrast, I felt fortunate to be in the company of the men and women who, through their brilliance and courage, are the source of a spectacular rebirth of Africa, like the rise of a Phoenix from the ashes. Hopefully the monuments of the next generation in West Africa will be memorials to success, not to failure. They will be tributes to the champions of liberty: Agwu, Thompson, and Franklin.
Ken Schoolland is on the Board of Directors of the International Society for Individual Liberty, the Board of Scholars for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, and an Associate Professor of Economics and Political Science at Hawaii Pacific University.