Sunday, August 7, 2016
Scarcity of Integrity in Corporate Nigeria
I have noted before that integrity is a scarce commodity in Nigeria and many people agreed with me. The disregard for integrity is actually the cause of widespread corruption in Nigeria from Lagos to Abuja and from the Niger Delta to Lake Chad.
What is integrity?
The English dictionary defines integrity as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.
That says it all.
Honesty they say is the best policy, but not in Nigeria, because for majority of Nigerians dishonesty is their best policy.
They are scared of the truth.
I parted ways with a celebrated blogger in Nigeria; because she chose to be an unrepentant liar and even had the effrontery or buffoonery to say “Who the fuck are you that I cannot lie to you?”
She displayed her disregard for integrity without apologies and regrets. And majority of Nigerians are like that. They are allergic to the truth and celebrate falsehood and mediocrity over dignity and probity. But the fact is, their fear of the truth shows that they are immature and insecure and the insecurities of Nigerians make daily headlines online and offline. But they don’t care, because they have no conscience and no shame as long as their lies have enriched them.
Talking of the scarcity of integrity in Corporate Nigeria is going to unsettle many corporate executives in Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy.
Nigerian corporate executives are as corrupt as majority of Nigerian politicians and in fact, there is no difference between them, because many of the corrupt politicians in Nigeria were former corporate executives in the private sector and I am saying this from more than 20 years experience of interacting with them since the early 1980s when the Prince of the Niger was reigning as the Head of State of Nigeria.
I have been interacting with Corporate Nigeria since when Insight Communications had their old office off Eric Moore Road in Surulere, Grant Advertising was at the T- junction where Eric Moore met Bode Thomas Road and Lintas was at Falomo in Ikoyi, Lagos.
I was in my early twenties, but was already an Art/Features Editor of Kiddies World magazine published by Hon. Tunde Stanley Ereola who was a young millionaire in the late 1980s when he was still in his early thirties and already built his own house whilst still living at the popular 1004 Federal Housing Estate on Victoria Island and had his office at the famous Western House on Broad Street.
His Akwa Ibom wife, Eno was a senior confidential secretary in the office of Admiral Augustus Akhabue Aikhomu who was the Chief of General Staff in the military government of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida from 1986 to 1993..
I was chauffeur driven in a Toyota Land Cruiser jeep and dressed in designer suits like my boss who was among the best dressed executives in Corporate Nigeria in the late 1980s and also among the most travelled after qualifying as a chartered accountant in France and worked for the late Senator Olusola Saraki’s Societe Generale Bank on Lagos Island before he left to become his own boss.
Before then I worked as a public health illustrator for Johns Hopkins University’s Population Communications Service (JHU/PCS) at 21 and joined Kiddies World at 24 and left to become a national Program Consultant for the UNICEF in Nigeria at 25. So, I interacted with corporate executives who had to respect a 24 year old media executive in a Valentino suit and chauffeur driven in an SUV and seeing the black and beautiful Fidelia Anyia, daughter of a former diplomat and her mother, Mrs. Bridget Anyia was the General Manager of Federal Palace Hotel with their residence in high brow Ikoyi. I had open doors into the boardrooms of Corporate Nigeria. And then later I was seeing the mulatto African American wife of a retired military general of the Nigerian Army who thought I was having a love affair with his beautiful wife and threatened to shoot me! He beat her up so badly that she fainted and ended up in the EKO Hospital in Ikeja, where I visited her and later dared to see her in their bedroom.
“What do you think Brigadier will do to you if he comes in now to see you in our bedroom?”
I grinned boyishly.
“He will throw you over the balcony.”
I left before he returned.
But I told her that it pained me to be accused of doing what I did not do, but would have loved to do it and she giggled.
We were very fond of each other, because of our mutual intellectual passions in the appreciation of art and literature. She once came all the way from off Oduduwa Street in Ikeja, GRA to Morocco in Shomolu to see me and we would go riding in her posh Mercedes-Benz car all over Lagos city like lovers. And once, when I did not visit her for weeks, she came screaming my name “Nelson!” from her car.
“If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, Muhammad will go the mountain,” she said and off we left in her car to her friend’s beauty salon, Colors By Terry on Bajulaiye Road in Shmolu.
As a leader of Niger Wives Association, she looked after the welfare of her fellow members. Then, she was the most powerful woman in Nigeria and even the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha called her “Madam”, because her husband was his Camp Commandant when he was still a young military officer during the military administration of Gen. Yakubu Gowon, the Head of State of Nigeria from 1967 to 1975.
Lagos was still the federal capital and the State House was at Dodan Barracks.
She was the first person to tell me how a Nigerian female fashion designer got an oil block that later made her the first female billionaire in West Africa. Today my lady is on the board of trustees of the billionaire’s Rose of Sharon Foundation. This powerful lady later wrote the novel, “The General’s Wife”. Before then, in 1988, she supported me during the prestigious launching of my first book “Children of Heaven” at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) on Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island. The news was in the Punch, Radio Nigeria and on Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) 7pm News read by the celebrated news presenter, Ms. Sienne Allwell-Brown.
She later introduced me to Prince Sanusi, the elder cousin of the present Emir of Kano. The tall and handsome Prince was an Executive Director of the Savannah Bank on Broad Street. She told me she was in love with him, because he did for her what I could not even do and I agreed.
He was very noble and wore his royal nobility like the regalia of his highly esteemed personality.
We often met at the Motor Boat Club on Awolowo Road in Ikoyi where I also met the two beautiful mulatto daughters of Prince Sanusi.
Recalling this romantic, but platonic relationship is important to show how I was highly connected to the big and mighty in Corporate Nigeria.
Getting adverts for the Kiddies World magazine was without stress and we got full page adverts from many of the big companies, including First Bank, Federal Mortgage Bank and Coca Cola and the Federal Ministry of Education bought thousands of copies for all the government secondary schools in Nigeria. So, I was walking tall in those days.
The loyalty and patronage of Corporate Nigeria are not based on merit, but on partisan social and political allegiances of the ruling class of elites in Nigeria who play chess and monopoly with the fortunes of Nigeria and use the masses as their pawns. Majority of them are members of the same elitist clubs where they share government contracts and other dividends among themselves, including swapping mistresses too. And they have actually tried their best to make me compromise my cardinal principles of human dignity, integrity and nobility, but my Christianity did not permit me to bend to their whims and caprices.
I simply walked away in 1990 after working as personal assistant to Hon. Tunde Stanley Ereola, who was now into high level national politics and was the Director of Publicity for Alhaji Bamanga Tukur’s Presidential Campaign. Before I left, he had taken me to Abuja when he was a member of the National Constituent Assembly and I was treated like a prince in his official residence in Wuse.
What is the state of Corporate Nigeria today?
Have the executives changed?
They are still as they were then; men and women with Machiavellian principles, but without scruples. There are those who are either corporate villains or just plain corporate idiots whose greatest achievements in life is making it to the board of directors and finally CEO, but without any social responsibility. And to me, anyone who claims to be a big man or big woman without any social responsibility has no worthy legacy.
To fully comprehend the corporate psyche of these capitalists, you should read The Mafia Manager by V and 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene.
The executives of Corporate Nigeria are different from the executives of Corporate America, because majority of the American executives are more intellectually developed and informed than majority of the Nigerian executives who are intellectually challenged and prefer to live in denial of their intellectual shortcomings; posing and posturing like well educated corporate leaders, but they are empty suits. By their works you shall know them.
They are in the 21st century, but operating with the brick and mortar logic of the 20th century.
When you are talking, it is like you are speaking Greek to them.
They mistake confidence for arrogance and are scared of thinking out of the box.
That is why Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa, but only few of the corporate executives are global players, because they prefer to be local champions with provincial mannerisms.
Like a Nigerian executive bragging about having an MBA, but does not know how to write an executive summary or the advert agency executive who makes so much noise about Facebook, Twitter and Google+, but is ignorant of the demographics of the millennials in Nigeria in contrast to the millennials in North America and the UK.
They were there when Mark Zuckerberg and his Harvard roommates, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes co-founded Facebook in 2005 and Mark is now a multi-billionaire who is millions of times richer than them while many of them are in debt.
To me, when the amount of money you are owing is more than the money you have, you are bankrupt and poorer than the poor beggar on the street who is not in debt.
An empty suit is an empty suit no matter the colour, label or size.
Corporate Nigeria does not believe in merit, but in cronyism, nepotism and sectionalism.
They pay eye and lip service to their hypocritical religious beliefs and practice tribal bigotry more out of spite than even competition.
They prefer competing against themselves to competing with the best in the world.
They walk tall in the corridors of Corporate Nigeria, but become mere spectators at global corporate events where their global peers are the main competitors and speakers.
They prefer to settle for less than bargain for the best.
Only the young Turks know what is the time and going along with the global trends, but the Old School uncles still want to boss and bully them into submission instead of accepting the innovations of the young Turks.
That is why only few banks are really flourishing in Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, but the biggest banks are in South Africa. And corruption is why many Nigerian banks are failing.
The corruption destroying Corporate Nigeria is powered by the greed of the ruling class, incompetence of the middle class and ignorance of the masses.
The ruling class exploits the incompetence of the middle class and ignorance of the masses.
First Class graduates are still jobless, while sons and daughters of parents who belong to the ruling class get first offers of jobs in big offices even with Third Class degrees.
They simply graduate and take over the reserved corporate positions of their affluent parents and uncles as the son of the former Senate President is now the new Senate President and the vicious circle of Corporate Nigeria continues to dictate the lives of Nigerians with the powerless poor masses at the receiving end.
~ By Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima, author of Children of Heaven, Sleepless Night, Scarlet Tears of London, Bye, Bye Zimbabwe, Diary of the Memory Keeper, In the House of Dogs, The Prophet Lied, The Victory of Muhammmad Buhari and the Nigerian Dream, Lagos in Motion: Photo Documentary On Africa's Largest Megacity and other books.
See more on https://www.amazon.com/author/ekenyerengozimichaelchima.