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In this, the government today fails miserably. The World Bank ranks Nigeria at 147, near the bottom of nations in its Doing Business report.

Some look to Mr. Kalu, who understands entrepreneurship and promotes political reform. As a teen, he started trading palm oil and now chairs SLOK Holding, with interests in energy, shipping, finance, journalism, real estate and more.

Mr. Kalu argues that “the more the economy goes out of government to the private sector, the better it will be for the economy.” He denounced restrictive licensing, advocated privatizing state enterprises, and said he “would like to see small government and big enterprise.”

Mr. Kalu may run for president in 2015. Could he implement his message of freer markets if elected? He forcefully argued that committed leadership could make the difference.

Whoever becomes president, any reform agenda will be long and its implementation difficult. Only Nigerians can make change happen.

“We need friendship with other nations, but we need to do it ourselves,” says Mr. Kalu. Nigeria’s people must liberate their land.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan.