WHEN BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE TRAUMATIZES

If you have four speeches to give in four cities on three continents in five straight days it is not unusual to be anxious, regarding airlines. One delayed departure can make your commitments a nightmare.
In the week before, I had such a schedule and I was anxious. Eventually I suffered real trauma. But it was not from a delayed departure. All my flights took off on schedule indeed most of them actually pushed back a few minutes before departure time. And it was not from any of the other typical airline irritations that can become aggravated; like your bags heading from Europe to Latin America as you move towards your destination in Africa at more than five hundred miles an hour. On this trip, crammed with activity and many reasons to be sensitive to anything going wrong, nothing went wrong, yet I came away feeling much traumatized from the airlines doing nothing negative. The stiffness came from past experience.
As a business teacher I find it typical that some mantras about what makes for good business tend to be part of your repertoire. Seldom does this become a matter more than how you deliver superior performance over rivals. The above recent personal experience led me to a view I never thought much of, which is that bad customer service may actually traumatize customers to point that they can be affected medically.
You are in trouble when the logo of an airline makes you feel you are about to mess up your commitments just by the sight of the logo of an airline. If and when that happens to you your troubles may really be big even though logic should suggest the coming troubles of that airline may be bigger. As a business teacher, it also was, for me, a huge learning point about how little it takes to make a customer feel valued and how a customer that feels abused by a commercial enterprise can actually be so negatively impacted by experience it can affect their mental and physical well being in a way the bad enterprise may not realize could amount to some form of genocide if it seems the lot of a particular group of people.
My travels of the last week, which many around me would consider routine, in my experience, were similar to an experience two years ago that made me abandon this airline I found myself booked last week on by an international organization, even though I have meticulously tried to avoid it for two years.
Twenty two years before I had told myself something has to be wrong with you to ever be seen aboard this airline.
I had been a regular First Class passenger on this airline, as an execute in industry on a regular commute into Europe. In those days they had a practice of significantly overbooking the Lagos route. It was not unusual to come with a First class ticket and end up on an Economy seat. As the troubles for getting a refund were just so much, few people bothered to pursue the matter. After numerous occasions of experiencing this I decided it was a deliberate scam on the part of the airline. I did then what many customers believe is their only option, walk away. This was after a London Lagos flight of July 11 1991.
For nearly a decade I never stepped on board an aircraft operated by the airline. I had, as a marketing teacher friend of mine used to say, voted with my feet.
In one newspaper interview a question led me to remarking that I never fly that airline because of the experience I had. At the time they evidently had a General Manager in Lagos who scammed the environment and was told it was not a good idea to allow people live with such views, especially if those were people whose voices were heard. So he asked for an appointment to visit me at the Lagos Business School. He came with his team to persuade me that things were different and that they would like me to return to flying with them.
That visit, with no special offer, was enough to say to me that someone cared. Many times that all customers are looking for, a sense they have not been taken for granted. I promised I would resume flying British Airways.
As promise keeping is a key personal value, I progressively returned to that airline, to the chagrin of my friends at Lufthansa. That was until two years ago.
The structure of my movement that week in September 2012 involved a high profile lecture in Lagos on a Thursday, a class at the Lagos Business School that same day, a speech at Imperial College in London the following day Friday, alongside then National Planning Minister Shamsudeen Usman, a meeting of the Board of American University of Nigeria on Saturday in New Orleans, Louisiana in the US, a meeting on Monday morning in London and the opening keynote for the ICAN conference at 9am Tuesday morning in Abuja, a class at the Lagos Business School in Lagos on Wednesday and the next day the annual lecture of the Nigerians in the Square mile, (Financial Services) in London and a visit to the Film Village in Mumbai India on Saturday. I had to hope that everything went smoothly.
I did my Lagos duties, got into London, enjoyed the time with the imperial College students and Larry Izamoje whose daughter was in the executive of the association of Imperial College, and had used her father’s contact to reach out to me. As the session would run into the early evening I had to get on the very last possible flight across the Atlantic. The British Airways late flight to New York got me across, arriving close to midnight and I connected on one of the US airlines at 6am to New Orleans.
As my meetings ended on Sunday at Noon, I rushed off to the Airport with Alhaji Ahmed Joda and Akin Kekere-Ekun who were also bound for London via a Washington Dulles connection. The difference was they were booked on United, I was on British Airways. Both our flights were for about 10:30pm, the last flights across the Atlantic. On landing at Dulles I saw on the monitor that British Airways had cancelled their own flight.
Alarm bells went off in my head. My noon meeting in London and my connection into Abuja. I raced to the desk to request they transfer me to the United flight. They just kept trying to encourage me to go home and come back the following day to get on the next BA flight. I tried to explain about my afternoon meeting in London and my need to be in Abuja on Tuesday morning, good and ready before 8am. They pussy footed around till the United flight closed then they said to me United is departing now, that option is too late. I had never been more angry in my life. Just the slightest of consideration would have led to solutions. The flight was cancelled by them, not me. But that can happen. All kinds of reasons can cause that. Just good faith effort based on my own commitments could have made them get me on the United flight. When I insisted that even if I had to try and reschedule the London meeting I could not imagine not being at the ICAN opening, they suggested that if I got to New York I could get on the 7am flight which would bring me into London about 7pm and allow time to connect to Abuja.
It was nearly midnight at this time. So how do I get to New York. Sorry all flights are now gone say the BA officials, just find your way over land. And by the way, because the Dulles flight was cancelled you lost your seat to Abuja. It is a very tight situation, right now we have an economy seat for you but we are sure we will get something done before you arrive London. So I call a taxi driver. He could drive me to New York for 650 US dollars. I could not afford to disappoint the ICAN people so I took off on a 5hour all night ‘’vigil’’ drive to New York. Got on the flight and arrived London. In London Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and the contingent from the World Bank annual meeting in Tokyo were connecting to Abuja. That meant any premium class seat bumped, even if it was BA’s fault, was bumped. I asked for my seat properly booked and confirmed and a nice polite gentleman kept saying he was trying to do something until boarding was announced and he apologized, promising customer service would get in touch with me as soon as I arrived Nigeria. Not heard from BA customer service to this day. Not even with prodding of a letter of protest.
I returned to London two days later on the same airline and went on to Mumbai on Friday on the same airline. Complained to anybody who could listen but nobody gave a damn. And it seemed, as I look back that all I was fishing for was ‘we are sorry’. But it did not seem to matter to BA how they mess up your world on contracted agreements where they failed to do their part.
So I came before ICAN, thankfully, but without two nights of sleep as I could not sleep on an economy seat from London to Abuja. I survived it, but not without bruises.
On my way back I shared the experience with a British Architect friend who came to get me from Heathrow as I had a day’s break on the return from Mumbai.
My friend in London harassed me into writing about my experience to the Chief executive of British Airways and undertook to deliver it to the BA head office in London. No reaction came from British Airways. When next I was in London, he asked if I heard from BA. I said no, and he insisted on my printing another copy of the letter. He took it again to the BA HQ and had someone sign acknowledgement of receipt. Still not a note of receipt of the mail from BA.
I became so irritable at even the sight of the BA counters at airports and just refrained myself from suing the airline in the United States by the American University President who said she avoided British Airways for their poor customer service, urging that a law suit just increases aggravation. Is just voting with the feet enough? I found out when on this recent trip that when an international organization booked me to go from London to Dubai I almost took ill just stepping unto a BA cabin. I had been booked to come to London by an organization that invited me to speak in London but chose to buy an Arik ticket and allowed the return ticket on BA to lapse without use. That was how bad I felt. But I could not imagine the effect of flying the airline again. The trauma and the logic of the loss is a matter for debate. Before landing Dubai I could feel really ill even though nothing untowardly happened on that flight.
It was a wake up call for me that poor customer service really truly beyond irritation can traumatize. If an executive club member who was in the Gold category could be treated with such disregard, my British Architect friend had said, imagine what is happening to the fellow who saves up all he has to make that one flight in two years
Customers need to begin to organize and fight back. The cost they beer for poor service is high. Ralph Nader may have been motivated by a number of reasons to fight for the rights of the consumer, trauma of the psyche is a sure good addition.

Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship, is the founder of Centre for Values in Leadership.
the-loyalty-test-500x261

FRAMING THE ISSUES

Elections are in the horizon but the issues do not seem to be aligned with the real trouble of the moment. Why are we in such a trauma of poverty and so much unemployment and we are caught up with a thousand unrelated issues. Is it life imitating. Art as we seem to have found all kinds of jokes about our condition. Is the political class trying to prove the jokes. Sometime I wander if it is a bad dream.

Perhaps we can get to the really serious issues but begin with the jokes. The first one is credited, I hope correctly, to Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah. It goes more or less like this: Africa’s education system produces some incredible outcomes. The brightest, first class minds go to University and study medicine, Engineering and such others. The next best go to Business schools and boss the ones who went to study engineering and medicine, as CEOs; then the 3rd class materials enter politics and rule over the smarter ones.

But the ones who could not make it to University become criminals and politicians are beholden to them because they make the abuse of elections possible. So they become the true bosses of the politicians. Finally the drop outs who could not even find the courage to try crime become prophets and all from the engineers to the politicians and criminals follow them.

Truth about this is that it seems an anecdotal reference to our reality; just that some of the Doctors descend to be politicians and some of the CEOs end up as prophets so it is a little more fluid than the joke makes out.

In the second joke the criminals and politicians are threatened with arrest for not paying their taxes. They pay their taxes promptly and the Pastor announces that to thank God for the tenth anniversary of his Ministry he has bought a private Jet and A Rolls Royce and the entire church including the policeman guarding him and the chairman of the Inland Revenue service in the Congregation rise to bless God for His doings which is marvelous in the their eyes. None as much thinks of tax.

This may not be the best of humor even though we laugh quite loudly about it but does not point to why a country of very talented people manages to under-perform so spectacularly? Many doubt it. But that could be a ticking time bomb.

So we enter an election season that should be a single issue election because of how much that subject threatens the future, yet there is hardly any sign the issues are being framed or that this issue will loom large in the campaigns.

That issue, of course, is unemployment. In any normal country nobody running for office today who cannot show how their seeking office will be leading to significant job creation, or incumbents not defending their job creation records should even as much as get a listening from voters. But, as if to prove the point of the joke that we in the political class are the Third class people governed by the criminals the unwillingness to frame the issues and encourage debates makes the normal feel nausea welling up inside.

The lie about the level of unemployment, compounded by the significant phenomenon of disguised unemployment and an unproductive enterprise called politics as the most lucrative business in town, make a mockery of the election process and the main issue we should all be focusing on still desperation to ‘win’ persists. And you ask win to what. See how many died and how many sustained issues in local government election held in Delta state a week ago.

The triumph of politics over leadership and serious care for a viable future for the generations to come can be seen everywhere, from five Group Managing Directors of NNPC in as many years, and the wobbly state of Oil and Gas sector. Yet no one is taking on these challenges as part of the elections process. Except in Agriculture and one or two other areas the story is more or less the same, worse at the subnational level that should be the real drivers of development than at the centre.

What are the effects of the choices being made in Oil and Gas for our collective well-being and how can elections help us discuss them and make that enclave sector that hardly creates jobs yet has the potential to be a source for hundreds of thousands if not millions of quality jobs.

The NNPC revolving doors reminded me so much of how we make objects of international ridicule, our ways, making a serious conversation critical to an election year. In 1996 a departing World Bank country Representative, Gerald Flood remarked at his going – away reception how the Nigerian assignment was without a dull moment. For example, he said, he had the privilege of working with six finance ministers in the three years he spent in Nigeria.

I thought it unlikely. Then I began counting, Kalu Idika, Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji, the other Alhaji Abubakar who was succeeded by Oba Oladele Olashore, Aminu Saleh… oh my God, it is true.

Let me tell you of one damage that did to the economy. Banks we predominantly government owned at the time. Each minister, wanted to appoint his own Managing Directors of Banks and Executive Directors. The banks became revolving doors of graft and the shocks reverberated across the economy.

Why is this not part of the electioneering campaign so that institutions can emerge that set boundaries to such unwelcome conduct. Can the effect of such instability around which I wrote the 1998 book Managing Uncertainty, not so obvious in poor economic performance, job loses etc?

There are many questions arising down this path and if our politics cannot address such the process will just be a never ending joke on us.

As the jokes suggest we have managed to reverse the order of things compared to societies that are making progress. Styles and images of leadership follow these patterns in my reflections; three emphasized in the Christian Biblical tradition; servant, Shepherd and Steward; and a typology I have called solicitor leadership based on advocacy and building followership into a movement from stoutly arguing a point of view, as Ralph Nader does, in consumer rights issues, and Mohandas Gandhi did for matters of rights of the colonized.

As we look at 2015 do we see leadership that can help with a myriad of problems confronting us even in the face of potential. But will the 2015 elections process, because of machine politics allow a leadership to emerge that can address today’s pressing challenges?

PROFESSIONALISM AND NATIONAL CHARACTER

What is it to be a professional? Discipline. A disciplined pursuit of an objective based on boundaries of ethical consideration and powered by knowledge and desire for respect of peers and standards in a global community. There is little doubt that the trouble with Nigeria comes from low levels of professionalism in many areas, yet Nigeria has produced many quintessential professionals such as Mr. Akintola Williams in accountancy, Dr. Michael Onolayola and Felix Ohiwerei in management. The CVL has celebrated or will celebrate all the men this year. If they abound why does failure of professionalism seem to define our national character so? Let us use Mr. Williams to reflect on this.
He is the grand pioneer and quintessential Professional. In many ways professionalism is about doing work with discipline, based on tried and test principles, and an ethic laced with integrity. Many consider Mr. Akintola Williams, pioneer accountant and pathfinder in the indigenous professional practice sector, a prime example of the breed.
The firm that would bear his name, Akintola Williams and company, now part of Deloitte, in response to globalization, which has affected professional practice, from Law, to Accountancy, and even Public Relations and Advertising, would also pioneer internationalization, especially with services offered to the African Development Bank, and outposts in Botswana and elsewhere.
In many ways Mr. Akintola Williams who is remembered as much for his professional work as he is for Corporate Social Responsibility and support of worthy causes is the ultimate role model. The icon as benchmark comes true with the number of outstanding people who use as measure of their self – worth how well they stack up behind Mr. Williams.
Even I use as the ultimate measure of providence being generous to me, the quiet whisper from Professor Yemi Osibajo on the day the Convention on Business Integrity, (CBI),celebrated a select few enterprise leaders for the first time in more than two decades of keeping watch on how enterprises operate with integrity. Among those honoured were two post humously and Mr. Akintola Williams, Dr. Michael Omolayole, Dr. Christopher Kolade and for some strange reason, myself. Speaking beneath his breathe Prof. Osibajo said to me’’ Pato, You keep good company. Only trouble is everybody else on the list is at least a quarter of century older than you’ I had to confess that my bones sometimes feel their age, so when on his 95th birthday Mr. Williams said to me “How would you like to be 95 and walk with the aid of a walking stick’ I had to resist joking that the mental age feel of my bones would be 120 years at that time. Jokes apart, it was the ultimate tribute to be counted in that company, makes a national honour of the Grand Commander type pace in value.
We all seem to measure by how we position relative to this icon of our times. But what has his sense of professionalism thought us about organizational integrity and corporate performance. Our panel at the CVL Leader without Title tribute colloquium to honour Mr. Williams, which is made up of Dotun Suleiman, Emmanuel, Ijewere, Marvi Isibor, Lateef Owoyemi and Uche Erobu will explore the challenges to professionalism in Nigeria.

This is a subject that has been the theme of the annual conferences of poise, the finishing school founded by Mrs. Isibor and at which I have been keynote speaker, No doubt the current crisis of governance in Nigeria, including how to align things in the face of collapsed oil price is a reminder that we need professionalism in the way we do things.
These discussion underline the three fold purpose of the LWT Tribute Colloquium series at the Centre for Values in leadership. The first is to honor and learn, the second is Think, Talk and lay the foundations for a Think Tank and the third is capture knowledge, inspire and help build institutions that shape the future, as worthy legacy.
On the first score we carefully choose Nigerians who made a difference to a world in their sector of human endeavor without care for title, more or less living Robin Sharma’s ideal of the Leader who had no title. They have to be 70 years or more in age and are clearly worth celebrating for the value they have created. In a century where we have missed the plot with our National honors list. It is hoped that we restore high value to those whose contributions are beyond dispute and whose values justify honor as values shape human progress by bringing them to this exclusive club of CVL LWT honorees. As Mahatma Ghandi reminds History remarks diligently those who do their duty. These men have done their duties exceptionally without looking for titles.
Lessons from the life of service of those honored, we hoped, will be gleaned from the roast and enable the up and coming identify enduring values to shape their own ascent.
The second goal of the series takes notice of the fact that one of the big challenges of Nigeria is the almost total absence of Think Tanks in our Policy Space. About a decade ago, Britain’s Department for International Development. DFID, commissioned me to research and produce a paper on the subject of Think Tanks and development in Nigeria. Capacity of Think Tanks, their lack, that is, has not only become a scandal for shaping policy in our development experience. It can be seen as partly responsible for the many challenges all around us.
So we look at the career of those we honor and extract a theme deserving exploring and raise an appropriate panel to engage on that theme. The discussion becomes feedstock for further research and advocacy to shape policy, and the policy process, especially around making markets work. In making a television series out of the LWT tribute colloquia it is our hope that the citizenry can become more enlightened and advocacy for policy with optimum outcomes, will be advanced.
Our hope is that from these will emerge a CVL Institution for Applied Economics of such global standing as The Brookings Institution and the Hoover institution in the United States.
On the third point we are confident to that these series can contribute to institution building which is key to sustainable development.
But the critical objective for now has to do we rekindle a strong sense of professionalism in Nigeria. A lot has to be said for what professional bodies do and how they hold their members accountable for the code of professional conduct and the nature of training which should instil a certain level of discipline, ethic and dignity that makes them feel above certain practices. As I said in a speech to the Eastern Zone of ICAN at Asaba a few years ago, accountants should feel a certain sense of shame from the broaden stealing of politicians from state government funds because they could not be done without the collaboration or acquiescence of accountants in government. I was glad the Accountant General of the west state agreed with me that day.
The bottom line is that to save a troubled Nigeria, we need more professionalism and institutions for making professionals more accountable.

Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is Founder of the Center for Values in Leadership.

EXISTENTIAL IMPERATIVES IN CULTURE COLLAPSE: THE MEDIA AND THE NIGERIAN CONDITION

The Media and what influence it may or may not wield have been subjects of intellectual fascination for generations. As Nigeria becomes the new Pakistan, with bombs going off anywhere anytime, people have repeatedly asked the question what can the media do? Some accuse the media of not doing enough to prevent where we have arrived, from coming, others say it has been so partisan, a tool in the hands of those who have and want power or money, that it has failed in its duty to the Nigerian people; and others claim the media is actually the problem.
I expect similar debates to be going on a hundred years from now, if man still dwells here. Does media have influence? Yes. It may have some. Is it influenced? Surely it is by many factors; culture, structure of the industry, economics, power, and the professionalism of its practitioners and even the politics of the time as well as the nature of the channels of media of communication.
MEDIA INFLUENCE
Media influence research from the days of press agency in the United States, the era of the PT Barnums’ when media influence was captured in the hypodermic needle metaphor, as definitive, has journeyed a remarkable course. As powerful newspapers like the New York Times endorsed candidates for political office, and such lost elections, the question of influence had to be reflected on. The answer; opinion leaders bridge such influence in a two – step or multi – step flow of communication. One question mark after the other and we all began to settle for a variety of explanations of variegated media influence. Of the more enduring are explanations that the media influences by its agenda setting function’ and by its status conferral function. Early on Marshall McLuhan had, in telling us the media is the massage, indeed the message showed how the nature of the medium, for example television influences demonstrators, and I would dare say, terrorists, whose goal is to generate attention, and panic. So just as demonstrators at the Chicago convention of 1968 were quickly brought to live by the arrival of a Television Camera, so do terrorists time their horrific acts for prime time news coverage.
Media also confers status. People emulate people they see in the media. They become celebrated and influence culture. The more the media show cases crooks, never-do-wells as leading politicians, the more it can be accused of degrading the quality of leadership and reducing Nigeria to mediocrity in the face of greater possibility. I must say that this is a critical factor in the current Nigerian condition. Many of our leading politicians are common criminals but the media has done little to educate instead it confess status on them, by featuring them.
Other explanations in media sociology like that offered by Siebert, Peterson and Schramm in the Four Theories of the Press look at broad media culture. The thesis of the Four theories essentially states that press systems are reflective and supportive of the governmental philosophies with which they operate: Can we say that the Nigeria Press System is Libertarian or Reflects a Social Responsibility paradigm?
Maybe it is more helpful to look at the media on a spectrum of developed/underdeveloped model like the Bazaar- Canteen development approach of the modernization of my former teacher Bill Siffin where underdeveloped media characterized by low social good’s values, limited education of the journalists, poor economic structure of the media which is not profitable enough to pay journalist well, as well as provide the right tools of work, is at the bazaar end, while at the canteen end, media is more sophisticated, more responsive to stakeholder aspiration and more focused on the common good.
My verdict is that the Nigerian press is somewhere on the spectrum, closer to the Bazaar than the Canteen end. What is perhaps more troubling is that even though today’s practitioners are better certificated than the era of the Peter Enahoro’s and the Gbolabo Ogunsanwos, those previous era practitioners seem infinitely more sophisticated, and of higher ethical standing. In many ways. Today’s journalism is struggling, with collapse of culture in the broader society in which corruption is systemic, and abuse of trust and authority, epidemic. These factors of reality pose existential challenges that affect professionalism in journalism and ultimately the role of media relative to the matters of now, like the security challenges crippling parts of the country.
PROMISE KEEPERS
In the face of the broad culture challenge and the existential pressures on journalists there remain many who have been steadfast and who put a greater premium on the professional expectations from the media than the challenges of the moment suggest.
Indeed there are some newspapers, beyond individuals, that by their corporate culture, are more institutionally insulated from the media that embarrasses the thinking man. The discerning citizen seems to know the difference.
The promise keepers of Nigerian Journalism, as I think the more discerning will observe, approach the security challenges as a threat to the collective destiny. On the other hand the extremely partisan media, and some in social media have reduced all matters to enemies and friends of those in power. Insightful analysis that can aid action to mitigate terrorist conduct are therefore not interrogated.
Good journalism is inherently skeptical, and probing. Not enough of that is happening today and that has deepened cynicism about what is going on. The case of abduction of a generation of the daughters of the people of Chibok is a case in point. Far too much time was lost because the press was slow to hold a government that sees everything through the prism of the next elections and the games of its opponents, rather than the trauma of parents and the value of human life, to account. Indeed one can argue that some curiosity about the peculiar adversity of churches being bombed prevented the media from realizing the consequence of what was coming in the early days of the Boko Haram, insurgency.
More sophisticated disposition should have meant that most journalists would have read Robert Kaplan’s Coming Anarchy and so would have been more discerning of where the brewing security crisis could be taking us.
I warned during the Niger Delta Militancy situation that even though there was a case of injustice there, we ran the danger of a mushrooming of a ‘violence blackmail’ syndrome of it was not intelligently managed. The blackmail of violence seems to have become a convention for political bargaining in Nigeria. In addition, conditions that lead ultimately to violence have festered for long without alarm bells from the media sounding so loud than even the deaf among the politicians would take notice. The levels of federal spending in Abuja versus that in the North East, for example. The media just seems inadequately resourced and much challenged professionally to do well. In similar light those factors of professionalism and resourcing means they are not embedded with either the government troops fighting Boko Haram nor with the insurgents to provide new meaning with insights into the operations of troops and motives of the terror group.

Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

GOD IS JUST

Nigerians are about to learn a frightening truth about the banks and the nature of God’s Justice.
As I scrabble it is March 27th and I have just come out from daily worship. The Priest had just delivered a brilliant homily on calumny and a natural inclination to be derogatory towards others but how God’s Grace is sufficient to fight that natural inclination. Nowhere, in my recent memory, has this deposition to lynch have been more evident than in the wrongs that have come out from the central Bank of Nigeria, clothed in the name.
We have seen lives shattered, careers damaged irreparably, reputations ruined, wealth destroyed, jobs lost and poverty increased for reasons evidence will soon show were totally unwarranted. But we all cheered as it happened because we like to believe the worst of others.
If you believe that God is just, you will know that ultimately the truth will come through. We should soon see the truth. Erastus Akingbola and company have fired the first shot. More will come. But it is not the raw justice of god that excites me. It is that in the end, while we will find rashness, and even criminal conspiracy to take from people what they labored for, thus harming the fundamental value of property rights what hurts more is the part of the actions that were well intentioned but because of a culture of impunity, limited regard for the dignity of other humans and presumption on matters of which those in charge had limited understanding and even more limited humility to learn, Nigerian banking suffered huge setbacks and the economy with it.
What we will see in the main is that ours is a country of elite too afraid to speak truth to power, so they kept quiet as innocents suffered under impunity. I feel good that I was one of the few who insisted the truth to be told. Today they make me feel like a prophet for what should be the norm.
When I took my view of doing right to testifying to the truth of what happened at Bank PHB I was privileged with interesting feedback. While a lot of informed, who could not distinguish a loan from monies stolen, and who could not see moral hazards from jingoistic lawyers who had no case but as with the tradition were trying to make defense witness uncomfortable through innuendo I found people who found the exercise an excursion in revelation. Two of those reactions particularly fascinated me.

One told me what the lawyer made him realize there were still saints and men of discipline in corporate Governance if all the lawyers dragged up was the worst they could find. But it Barth Ebong that made my day.

Said the former GMD of Union Bank of my testimony; if they were just a few like you this country would be different. Lamenting directors who distanced themselves from decisions they pushed for that were not ordinarily problematic he said his former chairman Elder UK Kalu had called to commend my stand for truth. Now all that truth will come out. Sadly they are coming because a man has fallen from power. Should it be so? Should he not have been saved from himself and saved a graceless fall from power by truth being spoken to power. I tried to tell the story of the story of the bold – faced attempt to steal Bank PHB from its owners, several hundred thousand hard working Nigerians under the guidance of elements in the central Bank after the Governor, with no evidence recklessly said it was one of the banks to watch, with clear intent of de-marketing the bank and starting a run on it, then rejected the stress test team was asked to return since they had collective amnesia on what they saw when they finished the test. But that is not the big story. The truly big story is how unnecessary stress tests torpedoed the momentum of banks who had either no troubles or troubles that could have been better managed differently, plunging the economy into massive job losses, creating challenges to the funding of many enterprise and instituting a fear of lending and borrowing in both bankers and potential wealth creating entrepreneurs.

It all began with an uncivil publication of names of so called bank debtors. Gross in the manner of attorney-client confidence being violated many of the publications were incorrect and some. In one case in which my name was mentioned. I was an independent director who joined the board of the company in which I had no shares five years after the transaction and the loan amortization frustrated by military in the Niger Delta had been sorted.

Many who went through that charade would never go near a bank again and some had learnt attacks. That damage the future of the enterprise culture in Nigeria is so huge that I wonder how come many who gloated over the damage to bankers did not see the bigger picture and greater harm, even if the charges against them were true. The cutting the nose to spite the face phenomenon left enough damage that one needs nine days of prayer (a novena) for Godwin Emefiele who takes over the CBN governorship position.

Were the stress tests that formed the case of and motive for the reforms necessary? I have argued for long that contagion from the subprime crises which spread with unprecedented speed through the world was the result of how interconnected the world had become with foreign banks investing much in the US risk cocktails. Nigerian banks were hardly so involved, and the Nigerian economy enjoyed the buffer of the huge reserves from high Oil prices.

The imitation of intervention elsewhere such as stress tests was evidence of lack of original thinking or alibi for premeditated abuse of the property rights of those whose banks were targeted as Bank PHB which the Yaradua’s wanted to pick up for nothing and the CBN proved a willing collaborator.

This government, now that it has come to admit what the old CBN leadership was, must do justice to those penalized for being hardworking Nigerian citizens whose sweat people in power targeted to steal. The human rights commission needs also to investigate what happened in CBN with reforms.

God is just. His justice may take time but it always comes, the “reforms” shot justice in the foot as all will soon discover.

Pat Utomi, a Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

HOW POLITICS RUINED NIGERIA

It is election season again. If you have ever been close to the process a number of words will rank high in usage. They include, structure, rigging, petition, and appeal. Little will be there on ideas on how to solve problems like the scourge of unemployment, improve teacher quality and provide better housing. In some ways politics is the ruin of Nigeria.

If I did not get involved I would never have become aware of how bad it is. It is not a wonder that Winston Churchill said democracy was the worst form of government, except for the rest. Still I wonder what he would have said if he saw Nigeria’s democracy and how a peoples rejects become the drivers of their country’s face on the world and shapers of the tomorrow’s of those who look down on those so called rejects.

Churchill mat still have settled on democracy as the best of the bad options but certainly he will have had a world for how you do not live with such ruination as the nature of our politics is burdening us with and threatening the future of our children.

One very frustrated repat who participated in the congresses of one of the political parties summed it up this way: this people just see politics as the arena to extract as much as you can; from candidates and the system and from going with anything that looks likely to get power so they can have access to public money to build houses that will be taken over by rats and buy SUV’s they cannot maintain, so they have to steal more to keep it up. None of these fellows think about tomorrow or sustainable development. To make matters worse, he continued. Those who know better know what is going on but they stand aside, mocking society for the end they can see will come, forgetting they too will be affected, no matter their pleas of being powerless.
Quite a statement of frustration. Why is it different elsewhere in the world. I have recently been reading one of the biographies of Aung San Suu Kui and can easily see how two Asian countries diverged, from accounts of Burma’s (Myarmar’s) journey in that book, The lady and the Peacock, by Peter Pepham, and the experience of South Korea. Just as the muscle of the military kept away the capable and saw the eclipse of progress in Myamar, South Korea turned around because it rejected the kind of politics we now have in Nigeria.

As an INEC Commissioner once shared with me, the big lesson from a visit to their South Korean counterparts in Seoul, was the story on how shift in electoral process helped accelerate progress in the country. As he told it, South Korean politics was, at first money politics where the deepest pockets and ability to rig determined outcomes, like in Nigeria. All kinds of characters emerged political leaders, doing damage to prospects for progress until the people got fed up and took to street protests.

The result was reform in which debates and the battle over ideas became central to the electoral process in South Korea. The effect, the charlatans took flight, is seen in how Korean politicians have absorbed a strong element of National character of accountability and personal price for failure and high sense of shame for failed promise. You can witness this in the President, who committed suicide because he was accused of corruption, the vice- Principal who arranged the boat trip that went wrong for several hundred students, killing himself, oust as the Prime Minister on whose watch the accident took place resigned. Compare with how the Jonathan Administration responded to crushing of so many young people who applied for jobs in the poorly thought – out and ill- fatted recruitment exercise of the Nigerian immigration service. In our case the victims were accused of being stupid. Had the South Korean government been run by Nigerian politicians of today they may have accused the students who died on the ferry trip of being too foolish to swim to the shore.

The reason Nigerian politics has become an all- comers place and significantly a domain of the corrupt and criminal is essentially because of people are not accountable. The lack of accountability has also resulted in traditions of impunity that have deadened the conscience of politicians.When you hear stories of what people have done to others because they have political power and you wonder what happened to their humanity but more importantly you wonder how they can make statements inviting outcomes which their actions negate.

I have a plethora of personal experience here, from politicians trying to steal whole commercial banks, to state Governors killing investments by citizens because approval came from a predecessor in their office who they do not like.

I am numb where, for example, I hear a state government talk about foreign investment when they have frustrated an investment I am part of with foreigners that was legal, and binding, and they have not been able to show where anything in law or morality is faulty with the project. But they hide under the banner of reviewing things and the fact that people are reluctant to go to court because the court processes hardly ensure justice. One former attorney- General of Lagos state in reflecting on that matter said to me, if they can do that to you think of what others have suffered. Yet we announce with glee that the welcome mat is laid out for foreign investors.

The ugly politics of our land so generally debilitating of progress makes you wonder if politics is not the death of us. Civil society will have to return to challenge politicians the way it chased the military away. This time though it will not be to chase out democracy, because bad as it is democracy remains better than the alternative, but Civil society has to be ready for a long drawn campaign to change the electoral process, as was done in South Korea case and to chase out many who continue to camouflage as the grassroots politicians of today.
In the end though the key is education. Only education can help people appreciate that the short sighted penny- wise pound foolish focus on sub optimizing for the moments gratification while losing out on the more valuable benefit of the long term which advances the self-interest within an upgraded common good. The short sightedness is self-defeating.

If civil society does not act quickly enough we may find that the gains of the struggles to rid us of military rule may be lost to anarchy from ineffective governance. Thankfully the terrible Chibok abduction by Boko Haram and the Bring Back our Girls campaign may be reviving a civil society in slumber.

Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

ON ZONES OF DEVELOPMENT

That every part of Nigeria can blossom and achieve a full employment economy is a vision that has been clear to me for a long time. The path to it has been, for me, the idea of zones of development which first took concrete form in my efforts 17 years ago to fashion a development unit out of the parts now generally in the South East and South- South Geopolitical zones of Nigeria. When recently I was invited to give a keynote address at a summit of South South- South East professionals I could not but recall my journey to a template for developing that economic area.

But I owed the development of my ideas on parts of the big picture to nuggets of wisdom in the work of other people. Principal in this area has been the idea of breaking Nigeria into zones of development for purposes of development planning, and the concept of economic development areas for the purpose of competitive exploitation of factor endowments of local economic units in global value chains.

I first encountered the concept of zones of development in Nigeria in the writing of a University of Lagos Economics teacher Anusionwu more than 20 years ago, before he left to work for the African Development Bank. The idea resonated with me immediately because it seemed a good way to get people to see the endowment of the nation and realize that every part of Nigeria was endowed enough to develop rapidly at the regional or sub national level.

The local development areas and value chain support concepts came to me from the Monitor Company who were leaders in competitiveness execution and had developed the concepts of growth drivers mapping of local economic units. This company that came out of the work of Harvard School Professors years ago had tried to enter Nigeria not long ago but has since gone through metamorphosis.
In 1996 after attending the Aspen Institute, France, Europe, – Africa summit, which had theme: Africa must produce or die, I began to look for structures that would support rapid production platforms for development.

Why, I asked, did we see the demise of the competition between the regions, in the 1950s and 60s,a phenomenon Howard Wolpe and Robert Melson at Michigan state described as Competitive Communalism ethnic nationality groupings competing to bring the most progress to its peoples. Three good examples of this competition come from the dawn of television broadcasting, the race for education, and the quest for industrialization.

With the west leading off in launching the first television station in Africa with the bragging pay ff: WNTV- first in Africa, Eastern Nigeria quickly followed with its own audacious call tune: ENBS.TV second to none. Free education in the west set the Eastern region racing in same direction but with wore limited cash. The answer would be a great formula that brought the state, the community and missionaries into a synergy partnership known as Ibuanyidanda. This enabled the East leapfrog a lag relative to the West. In the same way, on industrialization, the East reacted to the Ikeja Industrial estate with Aba and Port Harcourt and the Sarduana with the Kakuri, Kaduna, Textile hub, and Bompai in Kano.

This reinforced for me the idea of bottom up development in a Federal state in which the development thrust is significantly domiciled nearest to the people at the sub national government level.
I shared my thoughts on how to apply planning for rapid growth at the sub national level at a meeting of an Igbo Think Tank group, Aka Ikenga. I argued that just as the Province of Penang led the way in Malaysia’s ascendency, a region like the South East and South South could become the Rhine Valley of Africa. As I was Chairman of the Economic and finance committee of the group I was mandated to produce a blue print for the region. The product was called the Niger Basin Project. It constructed linkages between production hubs linked by rail and 12 lane turnpikes highways with connector grids. Hydrocarbon hubs in Port Harcourt, driven by crude oil, and around Warri, driven by Gas, were modeled. The western side, using Gas to power initiatives would supply most of the power, supplemented by clean burning coal from the extensive coal belt running through Enugu but Gas would drive both fertilizer production and Heavy industries’ parks dependent on cheap gas which would be made extremely cheap to trade off on taxes from power dependent industries to be located there; Nnewi would be an Industrial Centre for consumer goods and automobile parts just as Aba would be a hub for light manufacturing and fashion goods. Agriculture cities would be located in the North of Edo state, Ebonyi and CrossRiver.
With new bridges across the Niger making Asaba- Onitsha twin cities like Minneapolis-St Paul or Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas. It would be easy for Onitsha to grow in status as the retail hub for west and central Africa, expected at the time to be serviced by the Airport planned for Oba, a role now played by Asaba.
The Agriculture hubs of Edo, and Ebonyi and the palm oil and rubber belts running across the region and feeding industrial parks in Edo and Ebonyi with standard gauge rail links between the parks and supply routes were to provide form for infrastructure development and some areas in which global leadership would be sort by investing in human capital and competitiveness drivers.
I took this plan to the 1998 World Igbo Congress in London. That year, unfortunately was the year General Abdusalam Abubakar flagged off return to civil rule. Politician of all hues from the South East descended on the summit and aborted the core issue of development.

Ironically, many years after, the Governors of the South South decided to collaborate on regional economic development. In their wisdom they asked that I serve as chairman of the South South Economic Summit. It was a chance to revive the Niger Basin project. Once again, the triumph of politics has slowed down reaching the possibilities.
I continue to be persuaded that a regional development strategy based on value chains and competitiveness derived from becoming globally dominant around some factor endowment; supported by reforms on issues of values and national character will be what propels Nigeria into a global power house status.

Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

PRESS RELEASE CVL CALLS FOR CHIBOK MOMMENTS ON SUNDAY

The Centre for Values in Leadership has called for all people who value the dignity of the human person to spare a moment on Africa Day Sunday May 25th, to pray, make a commitment, and take an action that will lead to return of the girls abducted and Chibok and the restoration of Nigeria and its neighbors to the path of peace and progress.
CVL Founder Prof. Pat Utomi in the announcement said the Sunday programme #Bring Back Our Girls will begin at the CVL Centre in Victoria Island, Lagos, with a collaboration with the Art of Living Foundation at 9:30am an hour long internet technology enabled Africawide meditation led by Art of Living Founder Sri Sri Ravi Shanker that will have about 22,000 participants in Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Cameroon, Morocco and many more African countries joining. This is part of the I meditate Africa Program. The meditation will be followed by a session of prayers and then the lighting of candles around the Freedom tree on which a ribbon is hung every day the Chibok girls remain in captivity.
The CVL team called on all not only to pray on Sunday for freedom of the Chibok girls and for peace but also to try and do something that will encourage peace on the return of the girls.
The CVL a social enterprise pursuing the goal of a global centre of excellence in leadership development is presently mounting a campaign to get Nigerians to walk their talk, reject corruption; advance the dignity of the human person, the work ethic, and the spirit of enterprise.

DIASPORA AND THE FLYING GEESE

Will Nigeria rise up again? Can the country of promise reclaim the Dream of its founding fathers? And will the Nigerian Diaspora be able to play a pivotal role in the country’s renaissance or are nationals abroad just a group of internet warriors shooting with loaded guns on tweeter and facebook yet unable to make any real sacrifice or contribution to redeeming Nigeria? These and many other questions have come my way these last few weeks as I have met with several Nigerian groups in the United States and in Europe.

The place and role of the Dispora in the rise of many countries, from Japan to India and China is fairly well documented. But much has been said about possibilities of the Diaspora as catalysts for progress in Africa even though documentation of contribution seems largely limited to financial remittances.

In speaking at several gala dinners organized in the United States by United Kingdom based Nigerians on the platform of Nigeria Dialogue, with the ambition of mobilizing Nigerians living abroad into Nigeria’s literal 37th state that could be an exemplar to the others, and help to move Nigeria to a place of pride in the world, I had to pointedly reflect on the string of effort to make Nigerians abroad a positive influence for development and progress.

That effort to organize Nigerians abroad has not always been salutary. Fractured and sometimes divisive as the engagements have been, the potential benefits, if we manage to get it right, clearly justify the effort. A starting point in gauging that value is the experience of other counties.
Much credit for Japan’s ascendance, following the Meiji Restoration, has been given to Japanese returning from Germany and elsewhere in the West but it is in the resurgence of India and China that the full benefits of a Diaspora community provides models we could learn a few things from.

When in 1991 India’s current accounts situation was terrifying and the foreign reserves were barely able to sustain a month’s trading, change became imperative and the appointment of Manahan Singh as Finance Ministe,r triggered reforms. These reforms excited the Indian Dispora into such a level of engagement that it was soon ranked second only to the United States, in the listing of sources of the surge of new investments into India. The category of non – resident Indians (NRI) would not only account for new investment funds but also for the engagement of ideas such as outsourcing and globalization in their countries of domicile which would eventually serve India’s purpose. Economists like Jagdish Bhagwati at Columbia wrote a book aptly titled In Defense of Globalization just as several leading business School Deans, such as Deepak Jain at the Kellogg School who served on the board of Relliance Industries helped bring their knowledge and network to enhancing the disposition of global players towards high growth Indian companies.

Attempts, led by government, to engineer similar outcomes for Nigeria have been far less successful. The creation of NIDO, as the umbrella for Nigerians in the Diaspora (Organization), produced, in many cases, unhealthy scrambling for position. Position – coveting, a Nigerian malaise associated with the view that positions are fungible assets that could be converted to personal gain, rocked NIDO in a way that suggested the host cultures had not robbed off on those Nigerians so inclined.

The Federal government even tried to institutionalize Diaspora affairs, giving Joe Keshi, who as Consul – General in Atlanta, had provided guidance for organizing the Diaspora movement, charge over the subject at the Presidency.

Then there also emerged conduct that suggested competition and disputations between the Diaspora and home based bureaucrats and citizens. Some professionals at home, instead of looking forward to what they could learn from colleagues abroad saw them as threats to their livelihood. The reason for the ineffectiveness in harnessing the Diaspora dividend has, in my opinion, been the wrong expectations and government involvement. This is partly why I find the Nigeria Dialogue, a movement by a group of young Nigerian Nigerian professionals to weave the body of foreign resident Nigerians into a tapestry of passionately committed change agents that can be seen as Nigeria’s 37th state, as very laudable.

When they recently put up a road show of Gala Dinners across the United States and invited me to speak at some of them I found the initiative striking. While many battling in NIDO for supremacy were asking what government could do for them to enable them give something back to Nigeria, the Nigeria Dialogue team working with the Future Awards people, and others, were putting out their resources for Dinners in 5star Hotels, before Town Hall meetings which tend to attract more of the Twitter, Facebook internet warrior types, who ask why the problems of Nigeria have not been fixed, rather than what they can do to fix it. I spoke at the Galas at the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta, and the Houstonian in Houston. It seemed like a good strategy to meet those who like to Dress up and go out at such Gala, then afterward get ready for the people who want to tweet their frustrations, both rightfully and in unhelpful exasperation, and hope eventually to find enough common ground to have collective aspirations on Nigeria that can alter the cause of history. Of course all find social media valuable and many. The variety of dispositions not withstanding there is good news. As chairman of the board I was favored to cut the tape to open the Victoria. I stand offices of a global software Business enterprise created by Diaspora Nigerian which has been doing business with Fortune 500 companies in the US.

As I told those at the Dinners the net effect could be to get Nigeria to getting it right enough that its neighbors seek a similar path resulting in a region of affluence that would raise the dignity of the person of negroid descent anywhere in the world. So it was of direct personal benefit to them whether they planned to ever live in Nigeria again or not. I am indeed persuaded that a re-oriented Nigeria that leads a pack of flying Geese from Africa towards prosperity and away from media report of the type of the abduction of the Chibok girls and Ebola and Famine and Civil War will be one whose triumph will be appropriated by many far from the continent of Africa.

This is the way of hope but it will be manifest at least cost if all the stakeholders understand how much of a win-win scenario it can be. Not seeing the possibilities clearly, sometimes results in outcomes of competition from people who should be collaborating. A good example can be seen in a tweet I put out on this recently. In indicating that I believed the children of the generation that left town will renew the land I touched off comments among which were those who thought those who left town have no interest in where they left from, and those who thought their children would never come back, as well as those who said they would take meat from the mouths of those who stayed behind. But the majority saw the Diaspora as asset.

The truth as I see it is that working well together all should be able to gain more than any can lose in the collaboration of stakeholders from home and abroad.

Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

THE QUINTESSENTIAL PROFESSIONAL

He is the grand pioneer and quintessential Professional. In many ways professionalism is about doing work with discipline, based on tried and test principles, and an ethic laced with integrity. Many consider Mr. Akintola Williams, pioneer accountant and pathfinder in the indigenous professional practice sector, a prime example of the breed.
The firm that would bear his name, Akintola Williams and company, now part of Deloitte, in response to globalization which has affected professional practice, from Law, to Accountancy, and even Public Relations and Advertising, would also pioneer internationalization, especially with services offered to the African Development Bank.
In many ways Mr. Akintola Williams who is remembered as much for his professional work as he is for Corporate Social Responsibility and support of worthy causes is the ultimate role model. The icon as benchmark comes true with the number of outstanding people who use as measure of their self – worth how well they stack up behind Mr. Williams.
Even I use as the ultimate measure of providence being generous to me, the quiet whisper from Professor Yemi Osibajo on the day the Convention on Business Integrity (CBI) celebrated a select few enterprise leaders for the first time in more than two decades of keeping watch on how enterprises operate with integrity. Among those honoured were two post humously and Mr. Akintola Williams, Dr. Michael Omolayole, Dr. Christopher Kolade and for some strange reason myself. Speaking beneath his breathe Prof. Osibajo said to me’’ Pato You keep good company. Only trouble is everybody else on the list is at least a quarter of century older than you’ I had to confess that my bones sometimes feel their age, so when on his 95th birthday Mr. Williams said to me “How would you like to be 95 and walk with the aid of a walking stick’ I had to resist joking that the mental age feel of my bones would be 120 years at that time.
We all seem to measure by how we position relative to this icon of our times. But what has his sense of professionalism thought us about organizational integrity and corporate performance. Our panel at today’s Leader without Title tribute colloquium which is made up of Dotun Suleiman Emmanuel, Ijewere, Marvi Isibor Lateef Owoyemi and Uche Erobu will explore the challenges to professionalism in Nigeria.

These discussion underline the three fold purpose of the LWT Tribute Colloquium series at the Centre for Values in leadership. The first is to honor and learn, the second is Think, Talk and lay the foundations for a Think Tank and the third is capture knowledge, inspire and help build institutions that shape the future, as worthy legacy.
On the first score we carefully choose Nigerians who made a difference to a world in their sector of human endeavour without care for title, more or less living Robin Sharma’s ideal of the Leader who had no title. They have to be 70 years or more in age and are clearly worth celebrating for the value they have created. In a century where we have missed the plot with our National honors list, it is hoped that we restore high value to those whose contributions are beyond dispute and whose values justify honor as values shape human progress by bringing them to this exclusive club of CVL LWT honorees.
Lessons from the life of service of those honored we hoped will be gleaned from the roast and enable the up and coming identify enduring values to shape their own ascent.
The second goal of the series takes notice of the fact that one of the big challenges of Nigeria is the almost total absence of Think Tanks in our Policy Space. About a decade ago DFID commissioned me to research and produce a paper on the subject of Think Tanks and development in Nigeria. Capacity of Think Tanks, their lack, that is, has not only become a scandal for shaping policy in our development experience, it can be seen as partly responsible for the many challenges all around us.
So we look at the career of those we honor and extract a theme deserving exploring and raise an appropriate panel to engage on that theme. The discussion becomes feedstock for further research and advocacy to shape policy, and the policy process, especially around making markets work. In making a television series out of the LWT tribute colloquia it is our hope that the citizenry can become more enlightened and advocacy for policy with optimum outcomes, will be advanced.
Our hope is that from these will emerge a CVL Institution for Applied Economics of such global standing as The Brookings Institution and the Hoover institution in the United States.
On the third point we are confident to that these series can contribute to institution building which is key to sustainable development.

Pat Utomi
Founder/CEO CVL