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From Storeroom to Boardroom – How Omotowa reshaped global business with courage, integrity

By Igwebike Mbanefo
07 August 2022   |   4:04 am
Nigerians have not been afflicted with so grave a leadership crisis as we have presently. Not even during the Civil War. Now as then, two dramatically different futures are on offer.

Nigerians have not been afflicted with so grave a leadership crisis as we have presently. Not even during the Civil War. Now as then, two dramatically different futures are on offer. One is the old guard with its sense of entitlement represented by the political behemoths – the Peoples Democratic Party and All Progressives Congress.

Their stranglehold on Nigeria foreshadows a precarious and unpredictable future; a country compatriots, including school children, religious worshipers in churches, mosques, farmers, land rail, sea and air travelers will either die or regularly confront terrorists.

The other is the new guard with its aversion for hard, backbreaking work, represented by African Democratic Congress, African Action Congress, and other fly by night parties with neither spread nor structures. Going by previous attempts, one could conveniently call them daydreamers.

Of course, there is a third force represented by the Labour Party which it seems has gained some prominence with the entry of Mr. Peter Obi, a battle-tested, two-time governor with some notable achievements and of course, questions to answer… like how come Anambra State is giving Chukwuma Soludo sleepless nights, despite Obi’s famed achievements? Or why Anambra State is indistinguishable from Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo and Abia states, its immediate neighbours or other badly run states in the federation. The fear in many quarters is that Obi may be a good self-promoter with mastery of use of public language; another Obama who ran a digital campaign and an analogue government.

By refusing to call into question politics as usual and diversionary tactics of politicians as well as absence of thought-through manifestoes, Nigerians are not acting like they are in a state of emergency…there is fire on the mountain, but no one is running, Nigeria’s music superstar, ASA, sang recently. The important, question, however, is do leaders and their followers bear some responsibility for the current crisis?

Babatunde Jolayemi Omotowa, author of multiple awarding winning book From Storeroom to Boardroom thinks we do. Omotowa is the President of the prospective Nigerian University of Technology Management (NUTM). He was previously Managing Director of Nigeria LNG Limited, and Vice President, Shell Global Upstream.

Autobiographies, especially the Nigerian versions are ego trips or photoshopped or airbrushed history, written by people Americans derisively call Monday morning quarter backs – a person who criticises the actions or decisions of others after the fact, using hindsight to assess situations and specify alternative solutions. Most of the books are faction – a mixture of facts and fiction. This is the common thread that runs through a large swath of Nigerian history and biographical books.

This is why Omotowa’s book is refreshingly different. Right out of the gate From Storeroom to Boardroom, set out to show that one individual, with the right skills, attitudes, core values, and courage could make a difference. And the difference was not just skin deep. It is fundamental. And teachable. It is celebratory. Something to drink to!

Storeroom to Boardroom is a reproach to business (or leadership) as usual. The reproach went deeper: previous biographical works originated from a don’t-rock-the-boat-rub-my-back-and-I-rub-yours leadership culture that valued nepotism over impartiality, mediocrity over excellence, and corruption over integrity. A kill-and-divide culture – that prizes the steady norm over the turbulent exception, and so lacked appreciation of the current decay that is unsuited to conceive, fathom or understand the scale of our leadership crisis.

The precise term for the ongoing leadership behaviours and its reportage is Calamity. Most leader-autobiographers, it seemed, were tripping – to use the American street parlance – writing only about the individual moral adventure of character and interiority, but never about our collective menace and leadership failure.

Not that this is a new problem. It dates back to the pre-independence era, which also happened to be the era when sub-nationalities refused to submit or subsume their loyalties to the Nigerian federation. Omotowa’s book clears space for confronting our leadership failures in business, and government. Planning, visioning, team building, lean management, core values, courage and integrity are subjects within the novel’s remit. The book is divided into 10 sections: beginnings, determination, ambition, making an impact, developing communities, vision, integrity, courage, relationships, and reflections.

With an unparalleled gift for perspicacity and laser wit, he comments on the leadership landscape of our time. It is the perfect initiation for new, up and coming leaders and workbook and a glorious review for both present and previous leaders.

To be clear, the book does not contain migraine-inducing essays in the mode of The Economist, which most people sometimes scan and put away, unread and completely forgotten.

Sometimes we need a bit of escapism and that means an enthralling story. This book also serves the purpose. It is hilarious in parts, as well as serious and demonstrative. The stories range from Omotowa’s happy childhood in Okoro-Gbede in the present Kogi State, to his first job in SPDC as a store supervisor, ground breaking exploits as a Nigerian expat in the UK; how he created the aviation logistics support industry in Nigeria, how he restructured Nigeria LNG Limited and made it a world beater and in the process acquired a moniker – hurricane Babs – how he planned Ancient Bonny Kingdom – initiating the construction of Bonny-Bodo Road, bequeathing to the community assets – light and water facilities worth millions of dollars and a fully-funded 25 year development masterplan; how he secured President Buhari’s approval for construction of NLNG Train7; and how he initiated the construction of NLNG headquarters in Port Harcourt.

Omotowa emerged with a voice so original, and so uncannily precise and prescient in its assessment of issues and solutions that he was instantly acknowledged and celebrated as an authentic new voice. From Storeroom to Boardroom is a 2022 finalist for the British Book Awards; it is also bestseller in Amazon Books.

Subtle, wry, and unnerving, he is a master observer of the Nigerian leadership culture and of the myriad occurrences (big and small) and of all the shenanigans, nepotism and corruption that afflict it. He saw them all without dwelling on them; he is solution based. If you want to understand the previously unexplained, elusive characteristics of good leadership, Omotowa’s book explains it in great detail.

If you want an action plan to reach the highest levels of leadership – with courage and integrity – it is all in the book. A masterpiece – and written in simple language too. The reader will not rely on analogies and anecdotes from professional sport, warfare and other arenas beyond the experience of most of us, because Omotowa relies on simple truth and verifiable evidence, which permits and even enhances recollection of our own experiences. This is what makes teaching and learning powerful and durable.

Omotowa’s book offers a fresh, compelling definition of leadership and powerful new insights into how we can develop as leaders, resolve old and new problems. And it’s instantly readable with extraordinary richness and illumination inside. So much so that it will change the way we think about leadership. Anyone genuinely interested in becoming a better leader will want to use it as his guide to deep and rewarding personal discovery.