Very seriously, if you have some money starched out some where which you want to invest in Nigeria, your best bet is to start up a church or a private school. You can be sure of these; strong patronage, huge short term return on investment, tax freedom, safety of investment and a guaranteed juicy long term financial outlook. You can take this information to the bank.
This does not have anything to do with holding a degree from Harvard or the London Business School. This is pure, practical Nigerian investment reality. Global credit crunch or not, these two businesses are sure to continue to not just thrive, but expand greatly.
These two businesses however show, more than any other example, that Nigeria is a very sick nation.
Church business on the one hand is the exploitation of a peoples misplaced and exaggerated spirituality, borne out of the hardships they are facing and the baseless fear of the unknown. Operators of this business have a simple task of continuously orchestrating the peoples helplessness and gullibility to such issues as ill health, poverty and unemployment (which are all outcomes of a failure of leadership in the country) to remain in business. Quite Simple.
Private school business on the other hand reminds us of the systemic breakdown and shameful rot in our public school system. It is the cashing in on the need to fill up the vacuum created by the failure of public schools and to satisfy the people’s desperate need for education in what ever form it comes. But then, it is not just about being desperate for education, it is about having the money to pay for it.
Owning any of both businesses is so simple. For the church business, you don’t even need to register with any body. Just build or hire a hall, batcher or even a good tree shed, place in some plastic white chairs, get a microphone, a pulpit stand and an offertory box. Depending on the style you prefer, begin to advertise the sudden discovery of you anointing, and make sure you spice it up with your ability to cure all sorts of ailments and to perform outstanding miracles. You can simulate a third world war situation in the country, it is permitted. Tell the people that all the demons on earth have gathered here and have sworn not to leave until we are all ruined. Tell them, they are the specific target of some extra terrestrial super power witches. Tell them, their neighbor or mother in-law, or landlady are responsible for the troubles that have beset them and make sure you convince them that you, you alone has the solution to all their problems. What ever, just make sure they continue to part with their meager hard earned income.
To ensure success in the business, you have to be a good orator, a psychologist, a dramatist and a perfect con-artist. It is important to hold your congregation spell bound at all time and to make them revere you as an Omni potent being. Very importantly, you must run the business like a sole proprietorship. You alone should give the directives and no one should question your authority. Any of your close associates who gets too ambitious should be disgraced, called an agent of the devil, ostracized and ex-communicated. Your only confidant should be your wife, who should share your anointing and for easy of administration a council of elders who join in sharing the booty on pay day.
Returns on investment are huge. Sources include: Sunday and weekday fellowship offertory collections, seed sowing, fruit plucking, tithes, launchings, special thanksgivings, gifts to you, sales of audio and VCD’s, sales of ornaments, uniforms, holy oil, holy water, blessed candle, donations, sales of bibles and all sorts of books.
Nigerian laws provide that to start a private school, you should be registered by appropriate agencies, but the rate at which these schools proliferate around our streets and corners and the way they operate leaves one doubting if really any registration is actually going on. If there is a doubt on the registration, then surely, monitoring of their activities is non existent. With that, private school owners can do what they want with both their pupils and workers.
Personal residents, batchers, shacks, cubicles, unmarked buildings and very shabby structures can be used as private schools. All that is required to legitimize the operation is a sign board which says among other things “Government Approved”. One very important thing however is that, the school fees must be mind burgling.
The mind burgling fee does not necessarily translate into a good pay for the teachers. Unemployment is so high that giving them a job was enough privilege. If they were not ready to take the peanuts thrown their way, they were free to leave. So many others are out there begging to get in. what the teachers are teaching doesn’t equally matter. What mattered was that the school made a good result during the external exams. Accomplishing that is easy; know the right people in the external exam bodies and grease the right palms and your students will have a field day cheating on exam day.
With the good result, patronage is ensured as parents desperate to have their children get ‘good education’ will keep rushing your way. Good education here doesn’t necessarily mean intellectual competence but a certificate that qualifies them for a place in a secondary school or a university. A record of ‘good results’ will also open another vista of opportunity for you. Candidates will come flying in from far and near to register for external exams in your school-where they can cheat with confidence. Double the registration fee and keep smiling to the bank.
With private schools as it is with the churches, there is large room for expansion. You could start as a nursery school then expand in record time to have a primary, secondary and even a university. That way, you can keep your customers from the start to the finish. The beauty of this business is that once you have established yourself, you can review your fees and charges at will. Your customers won’t leave, because they don’t have any option as the government owned public schools are an eye sour. They will continue to scrape out what they can from their meager incomes to pay you. Good business don’t you think?
Perhaps these are the kind of investments our leaders talk about when they junket the globe at our expense to invite foreigners to Nigeria to invest.
Both businesses exploits us as a people and it is a sad tale that both flourish because of the complete failure of good governance. A person with a well paying job has no business being in a church gathering by 9.00am on a Monday morning, and will have less cause to continue contributing to the wealth of his pastor, in the way of seed sowing and all that from the little he has. Really, if the economy was what it should be, not too many people will find time to sit around listening to melodramatic men of God on the pulpit. They would be gainfully engaged in some worth while venture. Less we forget, hard work is one way by which we can truly Glorify God.
Like wise, if our government makes anything of its responsibility to provide free and qualitative education at all levels, we wouldn’t have all been turned into slaves of the private school owners. Recently, public school’s were shut for weeks because the long suffering teacher’s demand for a modest wage increase sounded meaningless to a government that increases the salary of political office holders at will.
Kofoworola Bello in The Nation of Thursday October 16th 2008, reported that the when in 2015 a roll call will be taken to determine which countries of the 164 that signed the Education For All (EFA) goal in Dakar in 2000, Nigeria will still be far from the target. In fact, the Global Monitoring Report for 2008 states that Nigeria will still be on the way by 2025. This is a target that smaller countries like Mauritius, Seychelles, Sao Tome and Principe are already set to meet.
Until our Government wakes up from her slumber-which they appear incapable of doing- we shall continue to be exploited by business men who cash in on the deficits of our society to make brisk business. In the meantime however, like someone-a man of God- told me in am e-mail in response to my article Nigerian Men of God as Con-Artists, there is enough room for every one in the business. So if you have the money, invest.
Sylva Nze Ifedigbo