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The Nigerian entrepreneur and confinement of entrepreneurial spirit


CommercialI WAS inspired to write this essay owing to the challenge an acquaintance of a professional-associate of mine suffered in the hands of a service provider to her company.

As a rule, he has to provide efficient service at all times, that is, as a matter of course, but did not on this occasion. The health management organisation (HMO) that her company utilises for the general well-being of personnel has an in-house medical doctor that acts as a go-between his company (HMO) and the doctors of the hospital on their (HMO’s) payroll.

One night her child underwent a health emergency and, she had to seek medical help at her company’s chosen hospital, but the illness according to the doctor on duty was outside the area of medical-coverage subscribed for – by her company – for those in her category.

But she was offered latitude by the medical doctor on duty that night: The only person that could resolve the impasse was the sit-in doctor for the HMO.

Calls to his phone lines never went through: and it turned out after high powered complaint that he switches off his phone after the days’ work, as a habit. On impulse, she called a staff member of the HMO in charge of marketing and customer relationship, and in his capacity as company’s front man – begged the doctor to treat the child on self-recognition basis regardless of the diagnosis.

This plea took ‘forever’ until the child began to faint again and again and the doctor on humanitarian ground had to revive and treat the child. Who knows – the worst might have happened? Again, it might not have happened if there was a doctor at the other end to approve treatment or provide alternative advice.

You follow? It is amazing how professionals confine the entrepreneurial spirit in Nigeria. Someone once told me about a revolting experience that he witnessed at a public hospital to where he took his other-half. A young-adult brought his teenaged brother to that hospital, in an insentient state.

The grown-ups in the house had all gone out when this happened and his primal instinct impelled him on to take the kid to the hospital in a hired taxi.

The raconteur said he agitatedly called on the nurses to pay attention to the sickly-sweet child but they dragged their feet unlike in the movies where we see a combination of efforts to help people.

They managed to tell the unsettled man and the youngster that the doctor on call was busy with other patients and made no attempt to draw his attention to the emergency outside.

Moments later with the status quo, the man couldn’t help but charge into the office of the doctor without warning amidst protest from the nurses.

Guess what: the doctor was engaged in a cordial chat; he was never busy as told by these nurses. “Do we have oxygen? Get the oxygen tank,” the doctor snapped.

There was no speed to suggest an emergency situation by these professionals. The young fellow died before help could reach him. No thanks are due to the sloppiness and lack of attention of folks trained to save lives but chose not to be nimble-footed.

The narrator cried – like he had never done – all of his life – up to that point. The other day, I asked a company executive to send her employees for business training, “I can’t waste my money training those people,” she said.

Yet “those people,” are individuals she expects to exert efforts into the business so she can make return on investments. It is now a fad for Nigerian business owners to owe workers’ salaries for months and I wonder how Asian business owners in this country manage to run services without owing workers monthly wages – even though some of them are slave drivers.

I know a Greek businessman that pays a certain ratio on top of salary as compensation for failing to pay workers’ salaries on time but the Nigerian expects staff to understand without letting them know why they are being owed.

My acquaintance, in Hong Kong – in recent times said: “Take them to labour court, they dare not do that here,” in reaction to my compliant that I had not been paid for months and I wished ours is a society where laws to compel employers to do the needful works – regrettably it isn’t.

And worse, our labour organisations are not as alive – as in the days gone by. Can you believe this – my website was taken down by my service provider without warning, no emails sent to remind me of approaching expiration day and I blamed myself for not keeping a date as a reminder in my diary? They obviously didn’t see my account as worthier as those of other corporations and their executives – enough to alert me, don’t you agree? I called customer care; and was advised to send an email with ‘Cc’ to the chief executive.

Days later with no response, I called customer care and my call was transferred to the chief executive. He was nonplussed by my mail – never bothered to assuage my feelings.

You made us look irresponsible,” he said. As a customer I was not treated like a king. He complicated the issue by asking, “What do you want us to do now?” coming from a CEO; I knew I wouldn’t go on doing business with that web provider anymore.

Many thank you, to Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (now Emir of Kano) and Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo, for making our banks strong even though they could be better.

I need not go through stress to maintain an account. I got a token to do online transaction with a big bank and was asked by the care officer to set the platform up in the bank.

I couldn’t get rid of my first ATM number on the screen. The customer care officer couldn’t either. I was asked to do a mail to Lagos office. Everything starts and ends with Lagos these days.

As I write – neither Lagos nor Port Harcourt has resolved my issues for more than four years. I have abandoned that account but I keep getting emails such as this, “dear customer, you have been away from us for too long, and we would love to have you back.

Kindly reactivate your account………,” even though I have sent mails over and over again explaining why I abandoned the account, sometimes copied other people they copied – when they send me such mails, without expert reply to resolve the difficulty.

What’s there to lose? I decided to activate the account and to the bank I went. The name on my current ID card is Simon Abah but the name I used to open the account is Audu-Abah Simon.

For good reasons, I hyphenated Audu my father’s name to Abah my grandfather’s name so as to celebrate Audu Daniel my late father when I started work – after graduation.

The care officer declined to activate the account until I provide an affidavit to prove that I added Audu. I hurried home straightaway and brought an affidavit from a competent court of jurisdiction done years earlier but the story changed; they refused to accept it and directed that I go do a newspaper publication to that effect again and I remembered Soludo and Sanusi.

No need wasting so much energy, there are many robust and dependable banks now. Hope you wouldn’t be like a doctor who told his sister, an on-air-personality that she should go put her life in order because what she does at the moment is no job but a hobby? I wondered if he could tell Larry King or Oprah Winfrey that.

Every discipline and profession regardless of orientation deserves to be part of a larger dialogue that development provides.” I hope you aren’t a governor who even though finds it so hard to pay workers’ salaries never misses on the occasion to appropriate security votes and other perks as soon as monthly allocation comes – without recourse to paying salaries and discharging duties to the electorate.

I hope you aren’t like entrepreneurs raised in the U.S., worked there, took in their goodly values which fixated on managing effective teams, and managed teams in world class environment, but returned home (Nigeria) and, couldn’t replicate any of this within teams, and worse, used uncouth-vulgarities on junior staff members and can’t manage milestones? I begin to wonder if there are problems with our environment that —by default – thwart the efforts of Nigerians from besting international Grade A practices.

Most Nigerian entrepreneurs’ do not take the word leader out of leadership; have poor leadership skills, no strategy, lack operations management and execution. How else do you want me to explain it? Tell me!  • Abah wrote from Port Harcourt. 08023792604

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  • tosin nwafor

    I am highly disappointed in this article. Very disjointed and has no point! please guardian newspaper its not every article from the youths that must be published mbok.

  • Adegoke Oluwatunmise

    Tosin Nwafor, I stumbled on this article on the website All and had to revert to the Guardian Nigeria to read it all over again. What the writer mentioned are personal experiences and you cant take that away from him. If you disagree with the views of the writer, all you need do is send a rejoinder instead of pouring aspersion on a writer who can write. You need not also blame the Guardian whose publishers and stable is renowned all over the world. For this article to have made it to print. It means it passed the editors test. The address of the Guardian is on the back of every issue. Try and write and stop criticizing people who can write especially if you cannot write.

  • Adegoke Oluwatunmise

    Tosin Okafor, I also noticed from the the Guardian handle above that 9 persons tweeted same article and 4 liked it on Facebook and it couldn’t have been for nothing for them to do so. The writer is good. I have followed his work here and elsewhere. Keep an open mind to analyze issues objectively.