Apart from the scorching sun that raised the ambient temperature within the rickety typical Ibadan commercial transport bus to about 45oC, it was a blissful sunny afternoon and a quiet ride with a serendipity that was only interrupted every time the driver dished out prayerful curses on any private car driver that attempted to overtake his road-unworthy thick smoke-oozing bus.
Things, however, got interesting when three youths – two young men and a lady boarded the bus. From their impressive diction and literary proficiency, it wasn’t hard to infer that they are university graduates. And from the heavy Bagco super sacks that made their cubital veins more prominent, soothsayers aren’t needed to accurately conclude that they are marketers.
Just like their contemporaries who know no one in government, nor have parents or uncles with businesses, companies or empires they could inherit, the only guaranteed way that they can practice their profession is by marketing goods for indigenous corporate companies or foreign (usually Chinese) technology manufacturers.
Without even asking any question, the three youths said all that was needed to know about how they make ends meet.
“I really tried today, I was able to drop four product samples at a shopping complex in Iwo road and another two at that new generation bank near the roundabout,” said the lady.
Before she could enjoy her “success”, one of the young men literarily clipped her wings when he said he was able to sell more products although he was told to come the following week for the money.
They went back and forth arguing over whose method is better while the third (and eldest) sat motionless, quiet and apparently sad.
In my mind, I wanted to ask what was wrong but I took a closer look at the fourth finger on his left hand.
“Oh he’s married,” I said to myself.
There and then I understood his dilemma. He has bigger responsibilities but with limited resources.
At first, you’d want to criticize him for walking a lady down the aisle when he obviously couldn’t boast of a reliable, stable and consistent source of income with which he could make ends meet.
You can even blame the parents of the bride for lowering the bride price (typical of Yorubas you may say) or even vent your anger on the wife who was blinded by love, future potentials or the man’s dexterity at inguinal explorations. But you cannot blame the young man whose white shirt had the collar region stained from sweat and wore a facial expression that depicted a man doing his best but with little or nothing to show.
The only time he talked was when he reminisced about the promotion a company had the previous year in which every marketer got a product for every product sold in addition to the usual 10 percent commission.
According to him, that was the best moment unlike today when companies are so stingy, reluctant to increase their marketers’ bonuses or reward their hard work, not minding the harsh weather.
The field of marketing, according to the course curriculum being used at Olabisi Onabanjo University Ago Iwoye (school where the three had their undergraduate training) is a highly promising field that has churned out successful individuals across the globe. The curriculum also recognised the highly competitive nature of the profession, especially the fact that unlike medicine, law and other professional courses that require special training, you don’t have to hold a degree in marketing before you can market a product. Mary Kay didn’t study marketing; neither did the able-bodied young men at Aba market.
However, a degree in marketing is expected to expose the student to latest ideas and marketing innovations and solutions that would allow the student to stand out in the field that is currently filled with an unlettered demography. But it is quite disheartening that none of the institutional faculties offering marketing as a course that were contacted expose students to Google Trader, GNBO’s cheap websites and other latest tools which could improve their packaging and connect them to the corporate world.
For instance, instead of dashing from one point to another like the illiterate septuagenarian selling Wonder Rat Killer at the market square, the three marketers could have obtained or compiled a list of potential target customers who would be thoroughly studied and they would have prepared presentations that would peak the interest of their customers in the product they are trying to market.
Furthermore, they were three in number, and the lady hinted that her boyfriend is also a marketer. So, how come they couldn’t come together and go as a team, instead of the one-man-for-himself business model that I saw?
The answer is simple; they acted like typical Nigerians who believe in popular on-your-own slogan. And it isn’t restricted to marketing alone. No. As a matter of fact, the situation is the same across every demography, age group, social class and religious delineations. One would have expected the educational institutions to properly tackle this aberrant misdemeanour. But it is also groaning under the impacts of a myriad of problems that had characterised this nation.
The dwindling fortune of the education system here in Nigeria is obviously an issue of utmost concern (forget online JAMB examinations, all na wash) but it’s not as strong as the pusillanimous attitudes of the graduates.
While there is the need for the course curricula of Nigerian institutions to be revised to equip students with knowledge required to combat contemporary challenges, sticking to false stereotypes, running away from risks, jumping into hasty conclusions, taking illogical actions, serial wrong steps, and the sheer desperation to start fending for themselves are issues that are squarely on the shoulders of the students themselves vis-à-vis the society in general.
The current status of the economy and the non-availability of well paying jobs make every graduate – over baked or half baked – to grab whatever offer comes their way. But it’s expected that in the middle of the crisis, education ought to empower the educated with the necessary information to hijack the situation, ideate solutions and become successful through their innovations, even in the midst of the innuendos that abound.
While this is not an attempt to belittle marketing, or any course for that matter, it has become expedient to re-echo the general rule that career counsellors do give students who are undecided about career path – do what you love!
But how many students of marketing are studying the course just because they love it? Few I must say.
A larger proportion belongs to the demography whose destiny is extensively altered, battered and reshaped by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) through its UTME examination. These students are the ones that will fill Medicine and Surgery (University of Ibadan) as first choice and Dentistry (Obafemi Awolowo University) as second choice during their first UME attempt.
After getting ‘JAMBed’, they often change their first choice to Physiology (University of Lagos) and Anatomy (Ladoke Akintola University Ogbomosho).
If they still fail at the second attempt, they often go drastic with their choices because desperation would have set in. Hence it is not unusual to see choices such as Yoruba Education (JABU) and Sign Language (TASUED).
Through the stress-laden labyrinthine process of getting admission into universities, very few Nigerian youths often get what they desired in the first place. The rest are often compensated with something entirely different. But as typical Nigerians that they are, they are often optimistic and take solace in the popular notion that “degree is degree, success is what is different.”
They start such programmes and endure longer-than-usual educatio
nal sessions where they are further oppressed, suppressed, embittered and frustrated. It is therefore not unexpected to note that when such students graduate from their respective Ivory Towers, there might not be much difference between them and those that didn’t get in in the first place because they are the ones that studied marketing, but know nothing about what marketing actually entails.