Empowering Nigerian Professionals To Turn Around The Economy

by Bode Eluyera

It will be no exaggeration to say that Nigerian specialists or professionals are one of the best in the world. Nigerians have not only studied in all major or leading higher institutions in the world, but their academic performances are outstanding as well. Nigerians in the Diaspora have distinguished themselves practically in all spheres of human endeavours: academics, medicine, banking, finance, arts, music, law, business, consulting, journalism, literature, engineering, e.t.c.Just name the field and you’ll definitely find some Nigerians who rank among the best in the world. Nigerian specialists are considered among the best in the U.S. and, many have won not only national and international medals but command the respect of their colleagues and their host countries.

In spite of this, ironically, I’m perturbed by one question. Why do we allow half-baked British, American, Indian, Chinese, French or other foreign nationals or workers come to Nigeria as ‘international consultants’ who are hired by the multinationals, or in some cases by the Nigerian government, and automatically the status of ‘expatriate’ is bestowed on them?

They live in mansions or choice houses, ride flashy cars and earn salaries or fees 100 times more than our local specialists; who in most cases are better qualified to do the same jobs for a much cheaper pay. And worst of all, most of these so called expatriates go Scott free for doing a shoddy job or rendering substandard services in Nigeria.

These self-proclaimed ‘American experts or gurus’ come to Nigeria to give seminars or consultations of practically little value at a sky rocketed fee. They get easy and free access to our ministers, senators, top managers of our strategic industries, senior government officials, policy makers e.t.c. For their services, they charge the country and government enormous amount that we could have made a better use of.

Why can’t the federal government or our major industries use the professional services of Nigerians at home or in Diaspora? Why don’t we understand that practise makes perfect? Why is it difficult for us to understand that by patronising the services of Nigerian specialists, we are not only giving them the opportunity to earn money; which they will definitely spend in Nigeria, but we are giving them the opportunity to learn and grow professionally simultaneously? Why can’t we understand that it took time and lots of practical experience even for the best western specialists to attain their respective professional levels? And if they were not patronised, they won’t have the practical and rich experience today.

I was disgusted to read on one of the Nigerian web sites that Roger Dawson visited Nigeria from June 11 to June 24. In the announcement, Roger Dawson was referred to as the chief executive of the Power Negotiation Institute of America, and one of the world’s renowned experts on negotiation. He was hosted by i-Skill Limited, a knowledge management company committed to empowering individuals and organisations with capacity building tools designed to significantly optimise their personal, professional, and corporate effectiveness.

According to the program, during his stay in Nigeria, among other engagements, he was supposed to facilitate exclusive knowledge transfer sessions on business negotiation and persuasion for organisations and select groups.

Speaking on his itinerary while in Nigeria, Mr. Kayode Falowo, chairman of the Implementation Committee of the Roger Dawson in Nigeria Project and Managing Director/Chief Executive of Greenwich Limited, stated that Dawson would be hosting a select group of captains of industry, Chief Executives in the private and public sectors as well as professionals to a breakfast meeting in Lagos on June 13, where he would be sharing his experience and ideas on negotiating international and local partnerships, strategic alliances, concessions, mergers and acquisitions.

On June 20, 2006 at Abuja, he was scheduled to host a group made of Ministers, members of the National Assembly, political leaders and senior government officials to another breakfast meeting. The theme of the meeting was supposes to be: “Strategic Leadership and Negotiation.” Dawson was also slated for Port Harcourt on June 23.

I appreciate and commend the efforts of Mr KayodeFalowo and the management of i-Skill Limited in their quest to improve the negotiation skills of Nigerian professionals and government officials. Undoubtedly, It is a worthwhile effort. Strong negotiation skills is one of the most important skills for managers, business-men, bureaucrats and anybody engaged in any transactions. Unfortunately, I believe that the wrong person was invited.

Believe it or not Mr Falowo, I have read more than 25 books on business negotiations; including Mr Dawson’s book, and I have about 20 books on this topic in my personal library. I can tell you with full confidence that Roger Dawson is a mediocre and his book on negotiation is trash compared to other books on negotiations that I’ve read or that I have in my personal library. Dawson and many other mediocre and self-proclaimed western experts are just using us to learn, experiment, boost their professional ego and resume, and making a hell lot of money out of us.

Roger’s book is a big flop. In fact, the quality is so low that I can’t even recommend it to anybody interested in business negotiations to read. I don’t know the criteria that i-Skill uses in selecting or inviting western experts, but I can tell you that your audience did not get much from Dawson compared to the enormous fee they paid for Mr. Dawson’s service. Believe me I can’t even pay a kobo to attend Dawson’s seminar. It’s really very unfortunate that you’ve paid so much to this mediocre specialist to have a free access to our ministers, CEOs, policy makers, bankers, senior government officials, e.t.c. Mr. Dawson must really be laughing at us wherever he is now.

For God’s sake Mr Falowo, is Nigeria a banana republic that every Dick and Harry from America can come to, and have access to anywhere and anybody he wants, and he gets well paid for that too? I’m convinced that based on the number of books that I have read on negotiations coupled with my professional experience and my Nigerian background, I can tell your audience much more on this topic than Mr. Dawson.

Negotiating has got what we call national peculiarities. The manners of negotiating in America, Europe, Asia, Latin America are totally different from that of Africa, and Nigeria in particular. What does Mr. Dawson know about Nigeria or the way business is conducted in Nigeria for him to be an effective consultant on this issue? But, I am not soliciting for your service mind you. Do not take it as a proposal.

We need to understand that Americans are very good in marketing themselves and every American consultant or trainer says that he’s the best not just in America, but in the world. Remember that it’s not all that glitters that is gold. You need to learn to separate the wheat from the chaff.If your organization is interested in inviting only western specialists, I can recommend some very good trainers in business negotiations.

I remember that not quite long ago, Covey was invited too to Nigeria. I have read the most popular of Covey’s books: ‘7 habits of highly effective people.’ It is a nice book that every business man or professionally minded person should read. Infact, I presented the Russian translation of this book to some of my Russian friends and colleagues. However, I still maintain the view that if you compare the value these foreign experts give to what they charge for their services, it isn’t really worth it. I am contented reading Covey’s book that cost relatively very little than attending his seminars. Moreover, I don’t really think that he’s going to say something completely new at the seminar that is not in the book. It is just the same idea but expressed in different form.

It seems to me that i-Skill has a lot of money to thr

ow around. I never knew that Nigeria is that rich. My only fear is that in the long run, it is the end consumer or the common man on the street that foots the bill of these consultants. Haba, we should have a conscience.

On a serious note, if you are really patriotic, I want to advise you to give Nigerian specialists a chance. It’s high time we had our own experts and gurus that we can import to Nigeria and export to other countries too.

Moreover, the government should formulate policies that will help in promoting Nigerian specialists. An integral part of this policy should be the establishment of a department whose responsibility should be identifying and creating a database of outstanding Nigerians who rank among the best in their chosen fields. The database can be compiled with the help of Nigerian In Diaspora Organization (NIDO) and other professional associations.

This database should be available to Nigerian companies for a certain fee. These Nigerians in the database can always be contacted from time to time to carry out various assignments or consultation projects.

Every country has its uniqueness socially, politically, culturally, economically and in the way business is conducted. The Nigerian background and the knowledge of itssociety give our specialists a big edge over their foreign counterparts. Another advantage Nigerian specialists have over their foreign counterpart is the commitment and the genuine desire to contribute their quota in the development of the country.

In addition, in situations where a consultation projects or advisory service are not only of strategic importance involving classified information, undoubtedly, our specialists are the best choice. Giving foreign specialists free and uncontrolled access to our ministers, law makers, bankers, senior government officials, CEOs of our major co-operation could constitute a security threat to the economy. It is a known fact that many westerners pose as business men, trainers, consultants when in actual fact they are agents of the secret services of their countries.

We live in the age of information technology. The ability to collect, analyse and disseminate information is of strategic importance today. And, many companies in the west are ready to pay substantially for it. At dinner parties where our government officials may easily loose their guard during conversation with foreign business men or consultants, information of vital importance concerning how to win contracts, tenders or how government key decisions and policies are made could be divulged easily, unknowingly. Such information may cost the country or economy billions of dollars in lost revenues.

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sam umah December 24, 2006 - 7:54 am

Jesus! You spoke my mind; I strongly wish that all our ministers will get to know this and have a comprehensive detail of this article on their desk. I will also need for them to pass it on to the next administration. Its unfortunate that Nigerians are the ones ripping off themselves.

In paragraph 13 line 1 I guess you meant to say that Nigeria is not a banana republic, check it out.

As for Mr. Falomo; I couldnt have expected less, he gave what he had. As a full fleshed mediocre he couldnt have gone looking for an expert in black skin since he couldnt come to terms with a different philosophy. He wasted the precious time of Nigerians and the money of his company; I am of the opinion that EFCC should close in on him.

Good work, try publishing in one of the widely read dallies in Naija.

Anonymous December 19, 2006 - 8:27 pm

Nigerians have distinguished themselves in all fields and are well respected the world over for their skills. Unfortunately the attitudes of Nigerians to their work and profession is different when they are outside the shores of Nigeria where they are competing with the very best. And we can have a lot of valid excuses for this. For example a Nigerian professional employed in the US will take his job seriously, will report for work on time and try to meets his work schedule and target as agreed with his employer. Take him to Nigeria and the shakara begins. He comes in late, does not care too much about his employer making profit or loss. He does his employer work at leisure. This may sound too harsh but it is the truth about most Nigerians but not all Nigerians. Our national attitude needs to change.

Another problem is the slave mentality. If Mr Falowo were to bring in a Nigerian for his seminar. Not many people will pay to come to the seminar. But if he goes to the streets of new york and bring in any smooth talking white skinned fellow, Nigerians are bound to flock to the seminar even if they have never heard of him for all they care they have been told he is an expert and of course they can afford they fees and most important of all they can boast about attending an expensive seminar in the circle of their friends. Mr Falowo is a business man and is probably aware of Nigerian experts in the diaspora but then he has to make profits. Until our mentality changes this trend will continue.

Also many Nigerian experts need to concentrate on building a track record before they can be trusted by their fellow country men to deliver. It is not enough to go to the best schools and acquire high sounding degrees. Start from somewhere. Do not expect to be invited to Aso Rock tomorrow. It takes time, dedication and vision.


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