The chairman of BUA Group, Abdul Samad Rabiu, recently said his BUA Cement company would soon crash the price of cement. Good news. He said this just after his meeting with President Bola Tinubu. Ordinarily, this should stir a fountain of optimism, even joy, among Nigerians. Nay, it hasn’t.
There is an overwhelming reason never to bank on such promise of a better tomorrow for builders. Life teaches that there are times to believe the message and discount the messenger. At other times, you are admonished never to believe both the message and the messenger. This is such a time in the case of Rabiu and his cement price crash sermons.
First, this is one promise too often. In almost all instances, such a promise ends up a mirage. Broken promise, broken hope with a trail of despair. Almost every year since 2016, BUA has made a pledge not to increase the price of cement. On all occasions, the company had defaulted by jacking up the price of its cement. Why this irks is that nobody has put undue pressure on the company to commit to hyping its intent to crash the price of cement. This is usually after its management has had a meeting or about to meet with shareholders or when its top executive(s) meets with a senior government official.
BUA has shown a disturbing consistency in this pattern that now, in context and pretext, appears to be a well-scripted sophistry of language to deceive the people. This consistency in raising the hope of the people with an imminent price slash of a critical product like cement only to dash such hope by doing the opposite smacks of pretentious altruism. You do not continue to make a particular promise and keep reneging on such promise and expect the public to still believe you. This is what BUA is doing, a worrisome act of playing to the gallery just to wear the garb of benevolence when in actuality, you’re anti-people, unsympathetic and viciously mean.
Rabiu, by every measure, is a successful entrepreneur; a great employer of labour, and an astute creator of wealth and value. He and his Group have done a lot to uplift humanity, bolster the economy, and sustain living and livelihood in many homes, but they must learn to respect the sensibilities of the public. Raising the hope of the public and bursting such hope in the most cavalier manner and at such dizzying frequency amount to total disrespect of the same people you claim to comfort. Such a pattern of corporate behaviour is anti-people and crudely insensate. It is simply an exercise intended to inflict pain on a people in the guise of bringing them succour.
Pray, did BUA not assure Nigerians in 2019 that it would crash the price of cement? That was an assurance it gave to shareholders at the company’s Annual General Meeting, premising its promise on the company’s plans to sign an agreement with a Chinese firm for the construction of three new cement plants of 3 million metric tons per year in Edo, Sokoto and Adamawa states all of which will be completed by the end of 2022. Did this happen? Never!
Again, did this same BUA, without any prompting, on June 18, 2021, via a press statement, not announce that “as a responsible corporate entity”, it will not be part of a decision to increase price of cement? What happened afterward? BUA increased the price of its brand of cement barely two weeks after the “responsible corporate entity” show of ‘goodwill.’
Truth be told, BUA is playing to the gallery obviously in the hope of attracting public goodwill or being seen as a people-oriented corporate entity. But it is adopting a wrong strategy towards achieving this. Rather than being perceived as public-spirited and consumer-centric, BUA is publicly perceived as deceptively toying with the emotions of the consumer. Wilfully raising the hopes of the people through marketing sophistry is to do incalculable damage to their psyche. It amounts to emotional terrorism, an act unbecoming of a responsible organization. Just think of those who had made their building plans on the basis of BUA’s promises. Think of what became of such plans. Predicting the net effect is no no-brainer: a plethora of abandoned building projects, and a corrosion of public trust in corporate entities. It’s a long list of woes.
Uncle Rabiu and his BUA will serve humanity better and more sincerely when they reduce the price of flour, sugar, and other consumables from their stable. Nigerians do not eat cement, but they consume sugar, flour, noodles, spaghetti, and allied products produced by the BUA Group. Nigerians will be happy, indeed very happy, if the prices of the afore-listed products are slashed especially at these times of biting pangs of fuel subsidy removal when many homes are in dire need of palliatives.
And you just wonder why BUA would be so fixated on playing ping-pong with cement prices while maintaining a deafening silence on the price of flour. It’s not in every home that cement is in demand every day. But every day, in every home in Nigeria, flour is consumed in different ways as bread, sundry confectionery, noodles, spaghetti, etcetera. Our avuncular Rabiu should focus on reducing the price of flour if truly he loves the people. The pervading hunger in the land makes such demand on him. But will he, and has he? Never!
A few statistics tell the story lucidly. In the last two years alone, BUA has increased the price of 50kg bag of flour by 135 percent, from N13,200 in January 2021 to N31,000 in June 2023. Now, you know why the good old bread, including the easily affordable and always available Agege bread, is fast disappearing from the menu in many homes on account of their soar-away prices.
The increase in the price of flour hurts more than any jack-up in the price of cement. As I write this in my Kano home, and look out the window, I see hordes of people trekking, not as a form of keep-fit routine, but on account of their inability to afford transport fare to their destination. Worst of it all, Gurasa, a local and once-upon-a-time easily affordable delicacy made from flour, has disappeared from the dining table of many homes in Kano. Because of the incessant increases in the price of flour, Gurasa has been priced out of the mouth of many Hausa, forcing members of the Gurasa Bakers Association to go on strike at a time.
Our ‘good-natured’ brother, Rabiu, should exorcise himself of the strange spirit that pushes him to make promises of cement price slash without keeping them. He should think less of cement and focus on how he will crash the price of flour, a commodity that is a staple in every home. That is more humanitarian and morally dignifying than his ceaseless tomfoolery with the price of cement.
· Abdulmalik writes from Kano