Four (4) simple ways to preserve the unity of Nigeria

April 17, 2017 § 5 Comments

Kenneth Amaeshi, PhD

The Nigerian social media space is full of hate and bitterness. The comments on blogs and online articles are usually very revealing. You don’t need to look far or search hard to stumble on them. They have one thing in common – trustlessness – which can easily be harnessed and mobilised for national disunity.

Nigeria suffers from trust deficiency. Trust is at its lowest ebb. It is very difficult to trust any of our public institutions: the police, the legal system, our politicians, bankers, the education system, our hospitals and health system, and so forth and so on. No part of the country is spared. It will not be false to say we are currently witnessing a crisis of trust, which has continued to eat deep into the fabric of the Nigerian society.

The most dangerous of it all is the inter-ethnic and inter-faith trust deficiency on which our feeble democracy is built upon. No wonder it was allegedly rumoured that Nigeria could break-up before 2015. Although 2015 has come and gone peacefully, the tensions and signs upon which the alleged break-up rumour was founded on are still very much around.

Unfortunately, the feeling and culture of distrust are deeply entrenched. The North does not trust the South. The South does not trust the North. Muslims and Christians do not trust each other either. This is a problem, which can be solved by the following simple ideas:

  1. Let’s challenge our worldviews: there is a culture of over-sensitivity that has grown overtime in Nigeria, probably due to our history marred by civil war and ethnic rivalry. To rebuild trust, we should be more open about our thoughts and feelings whilst respecting others. We should also be prepared for our thoughts and feelings to be thoroughly scrutinised and constructively criticised. We should be more open to our past and historical baggage. It is in sharing our views and off-loading our past that some of our biases could be counteracted, our fears assuaged, and trust rebuilt.
  2. Let’s reach out beyond our comfort zones: research has shown that the more we remain firm in our established networks and circles of same friends, the more limited and entrenched our views will become overtime. In this modern age of social media, we have massive opportunities to reach out to new groups and views. Although this may come with the threats and fears of stepping out of our comfort zones, the rewards may be actually more rewarding and psychologically soothing. If possible, make it a point of duty to join a new and diverse forum to learn more about Nigeria and Nigerians. Reach out to new friends outside your ethnicity and religion and learn more about their worldviews, orientations, and beliefs. Follow and constructively engage with a politician outside your region and religion on the social media. Invest more time and resources to learn about Nigeria and her history. Ask questions, constructively challenge yourself and others, listen, and keep an open mind.
  3. Let’s be actively involved in politics: to be actively involved in politics does not mean that we should all aspire to be elected politicians. Those who are gifted in this respect and who have the genuine intentions to serve the country should be encouraged. However, for many who are neither gifted nor prepared to go down the route of being elected politicians, there is every chance to be involved. Democracy is a deliberative political system, which requires citizens to be knowledgeable and well-informed. To be actively involved in politics would, therefore, imply some sense of political awareness. It also implies making very good use of one’s votes with the understanding that the power to elect credible leaders who will work for the interest of Nigerians is with the people. Civic knowledge and awareness will also entail that the electorates are able to make sense of political promises and rhetoric in order to make better and well-informed decisions.
  4. Let’s celebrate and reward politicians and leaders who stand for a free and fair one Nigeria: oftentimes, there are few people who come across as true Nigerians who are de-tribalised and inclusive in their faiths. Unfortunately, these people are often vilified because they do not fit the normal paradigm and expectations of how we want “our people” to behave (i.e. giving us undue and undeserved privileges). We need people who are sincere, patriotic, and visionary. Irrespective of where they are found, these people should be celebrated as role models. The more such people are publicly rewarded and recognised, the more others will want to emulate and replicate their behaviours. We obviously need true role models – the Mandelas and Obamas of Nigeria.

Trust is expensive; it takes time to build, but very easy to destroy. With new challenges and courage, let us be prepared to work towards rebuilding trust in Nigeria. It may not be an easy exercise; but collectively, we can achieve it. Most successful democracies and economies are founded on solid trust. Is it something beyond us? Why can’t we rise above our biases and build a better country through trust?

We can definitely do it; for Nigeria is ours, and Nigeria we serve!

Amaeshi is professor of business and sustainable development and director, Sustainable Business Initiative, University of Edinburgh Business School, United Kingdom. He tweets @kenamaeshi

 

Rethinking the emerging football mentality politics in Nigeria

April 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

Kenneth Amaeshi

The beautiful game of football, as most other sports, is entrenched in a win-lose mentality. And the more the loser feels the pain of loss, the sweeter the victory. The pain of loss and the sweetness of victory are so powerful, and make the game what it is. The English Premier League is a typical example of the all-consuming power of football. The chants, the binge drinking, the comradery, and the adrenalin rush, all present the necessary ingredients upon which this passion is built. The passion is entangled in and expressed as an emotive force, which readily transforms football (or footie – as it is called by some fans) into a cult of some sort. Football cultism, in most parts of Europe, is becoming a new religion. In the UK for instance, football cultism draws more people on a typical Sunday than all the churches combined.

Despite its win-lose mentality, football is not necessarily evil. It is a good game, which provides some sense of community, nurtures identity and talents, and offers huge exportable commercial opportunities to many actors – from club managers, players, fans, to investors. In that regard, football acquires a rare trinitarian essence of being a game, a religion, and a business. One of the quintessential characteristics of this game-religion-business triad is that it has become a global phenomenon and a poster child of globalisation consumed in season and out of season by many in the world today. Nigeria is a football loving nation. It is no surprise that the footie mentality can sometimes be glimpsed from other spheres of our lives as Nigerians, especially in politics.

For instance, I saw this footie mentality expressed through the recently concluded presidential elections. There were passionate fans on both sides of the divide. There were campaign managers and spin doctors. There were also commercial pundits, who make a living out of gambling. The pre-election campaigns were littered with promises, threats, and in some instance, raw and obnoxious lies. In truth, they looked more like boxing campaigns than footie. The shouting bouts of boxers making outrageous and intimidating claims weeks before their matches are both entertaining and exhilarating. They exude physical and animalistic power couched and framed in the benign language of sports.

Nonetheless, when the elections arrived, they were more like footie: there were players, fans, referees and others. The context was fierce and each group bit their nails as the results started rolling in and were counted. There were also dramas – some of them rude and extreme.  It was a battle between two titans – i.e. the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), as the ruling party, and the All Progressives Congress (APC), as the opposition. The other parties did not count much. Even if they had superior arguments, here and there, to the titan parties, they merely attracted “wasted votes” at best. The social media was enthused – it has gradually become a cyber-world of fantasies, where grand wishes easily become realities. It created its own estimated results based on the intuition of its nouveau pundits who created a whole new science and art of numbers.

At the end, the real results were in and out, and there were winners and losers.  In other words, some Nigerians won and some Nigerians lost. Unsurprisingly, the victories and losses came in different shades and shapes. Some claim victory because their preferred candidate won, while others claim victory because they thought they had better intuition and insights as to how the elections would go. The latter group almost now assume to be the new sage who can see the unseen in the distant future – something close to being magical soothsayers. While these come across as signs of active citizenship engagement in politics, there are some pressing questions begging for deeper answers and careful scrutiny: what is a victory and what is a loss, in this case? Can a loss be a victory, and can a victory be a curse?

Upon reflection, this footie politics mentality reflects some deeper fault lines in our polity, which are often wished away by many. These are bold fault lines characterised by insiders and outsiders; winner and losers. These fault lines can be ethnic, religious, or “economic” (in every sense of it). Beneath the footie politics mentality are some (un)conscious selfish interests masquerading as patriotism, which are reinforced by such trending comments as: “We won, you lost, deal with it!”. For the undiscerning minds who are truly patriotic, this can become a dangerous trap. In their naivety, they inadvertently become victims of organised ploys and footie politics. For those who are aware of these fault lines and speak out, they run the danger of being labelled. Either way, the fault lines win and become deeper. What is missed, unfortunately, is that the more these fault lines are entrenched, the farther away we are from our dreams of a prosperous, equitable, and sustainable society. Any win that does not prioritise the interests of Nigerians, as a whole, is not healthy for our democracy.

Finally, despite our unconditional love of the beautiful game, we must eschew the dangers of football politics and its lope-sided sweetness and pains. We shall be better off with a win-win mentality, no matter how unsavoury this may sound. At the end, we win and lose together, as the struggle continues in many ways.

Amaeshi is a member of Thought Leadership Forum, Nigeria, and a visiting professor at the Lagos Business School.

 

What is in a name? The case of Goodluck and Patience

December 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

Kenneth Amaeshi

NOTE: ***A version of this article was first published as an Op-Ed in The Guardian (May 9, 2010) ***

President Yar’adua is dead; may God rest his soul. President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has been sworn in; may God guide his conscience. However, whether he likes it or not, the political history of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has grown to embody a double-edged public discourse which may not be entirely accurate, but yet resonates powerfully across the country. An aspect of the discourse presents an image of a humble and peace-loving man who patiently goes through his ordeals until success is achieved. This heroic imagery is further intensified when you bring in Patience, his wife, into the frame. In this case, the Goodluck and Patience phenomenon becomes the embodiment of the heroic traits of the virtuous person. These are powerful and essential traits for rebuilding Nigeria – a country currently riddled by unpatriotic traits and characters. I applaud this discourse and imagery, especially if it eventually translates to a potent force in redirecting the footsteps and conscience of our political elites to serve the interests of the populace, and not their selfish indulgence.

The other side of the Goodluck discourse evokes a very discomforting dark imagery. Here Goodluck becomes synonymous with brazen corruption (chop-I-chop mentality), laziness (sit-down-look attitude), apathy, and reckless subservience to power and authority, as long as one is not caught out unexpectedly and prematurely, too. It fine-tunes the selfish inclination of the person who patiently awaits the downfall of the other for him or her to shine with good-luck. It diminishes the worth of hard work and showcases inaptitude as a viable alternative. In general, it portrays the emptiness characteristic of the shallow mind who ignobly says: let’s feast and merry today, for tomorrow we shall all die! This version of the Goodluck and Patience discourse is very uncomfortable to imagine, especially as one thinks of it as an apt description of the continuing unchallenged public psychology of the Nigerian populace, essentially orchestrated by the public debauchery of the political elites.

Lagos and Abuja appear to eloquently represent these sharply contrasting imageries of the Goodluck and Patience discourse. Despite the criticisms voiced against the recent BBC documentary captioned Welcome to Lagos, which, in my opinion, mainly (and lopsidedly) portrayed Lagos to the outside world as a filthy environment of people living in abject poverty and sub-human conditions, it also highlighted the resilience and hard work that accompany such existence. It showcased people who were not prepared to abandon themselves to the fatality of fate, but were rather prepared to shape and formulate their destinies, despite the odds against them. It showcased Lagos as the hub of positive private entrepreneurship and creativity. This imagery of Lagos is further enhanced if one steps out of the squalor portrayed in the BBC documentary into some of the civilised parts of the city, which the documentary, in the popular characteristic of the western media, refused to explore. I am by no means suggesting that Lagos is a perfect city. It still has its significant drawbacks and yet thrives in private entrepreneurship and audacious stories of the human ability to survive extreme conditions. As most people who live in Lagos would say: “anyone who survives in Lagos can survive in any corner of the globe”. And most of the time, this turns out to be a truism.

Then contrast this private entrepreneurial spirit of Lagos with that of Abuja. In Lagos, money changes hands and economic productivity is enhanced. Despite the serenity and luxury of Abuja in comparison to Lagos, it is a city where most idle minds talk about money, money changes hands, and we are plunged back a couple of years back. In all its glory, Abuja has come to symbolise the face of the seeming massive and horrendous looting of public funds in Nigeria on a daily basis as a result of bad governance. It is very difficult not to sense this bad governance since our infrastructure has continued to remain poor despite our national wealth; and the poverty level in the country has continued to grow hand in hand with the incredible bank accounts held outside the country. However, one might quip that it is not easy to embezzle public funds creatively and go unpunished, even when it is public knowledge that one is a thief – no, it is nowadays called political entrepreneurship. The political entrepreneurs in turn serve themselves and their political god-fathers. Yes, this is a form of a diabolical entrepreneurship, and certainly the inspiration for such must definitely come from no other source than from below – i.e. the brute and primitive elements of the human person. Abuja appears to epitomise this gory side of the Goodluck and Patience discourse.

Coincidentally, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his wife, Patience, will live and work in Abuja. Some political regimes in Nigeria have been alleged to notoriously promote public corruption on a massive scale in the country. So, it is also for the President and his wife to choose whether to promote the Lagos or the Abuja culture. One thing that is certain is that the choices they make, as leaders, will definitely rub off on the public psyche. For instance, and on a lighter note, it will not be surprising if the number of the population bearing the names Goodluck and Patience increases as a result of the Goodluck and Patience discourse. Unsurprisingly, some people on Facebook are even beginning to use Goodluck as their middle names! However, on a more serious note, the Nigerian public psychology does not need more of a laissezfaire attitude to bad governance. We need a change of orientation that rewards the discipline of hard work and recognises fairness and justice. We need a change of orientation that deters public recklessness and punishes corrupt political entrepreneurship that has continued to set us all back as a country. Unfortunately, we all know this, but yet fail to act.

Whilst I agree to the view that each and every Nigerian needs to take responsibility for propelling the country forward, I equally recognise that some people are better positioned to champion change in the country than others. And what position can be better and more powerful than the Office of the President? Although there may be more than meets the eyes in both the President and his wife, unfortunately they do not easily and collectively radiate an identity far from being products of luck. The general opinion is that luck has continued to trail their footsteps, probably because of their names. I am inclined to dismiss this as fetishism. Notwithstanding, the ball is now in their court to lean on the side of the discourse they subscribe to and, thus, diffuse the inadvertent public myths and fetishism around the Goodluck and Patience phenomenon. They have a dream opportunity to, at least begin to, right the ills of the Abuja culture in Nigeria. Although they will live and work in Abuja, they do not necessarily need to live out the Abuja culture. As leaders, we want to know what they believe in – i.e. their political ideology. Let us know our president and his wife and who they truly are – and here, actions need to speak louder than voice.

President Yar’adua’s regime has gone with its uniqueness. This is a new beginning for President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his wife, and a golden opportunity for them to either write their names feebly on sand or firmly in history. What would be immensely disappointing is just to see their regime gone as an ill-fated product of luck, which will be an unfortunate sharp contrast to the wise saying that: luck meets the prepared! I pray they are adequately prepared; and time shall tell this.

Adieu, President Yar’adua; and welcome, “President Goodluck”!

Dr. Amaeshi teaches Strategy and Policy Innovation at the Cranfield School of Management, United Kingdom, and is a Visiting Professor of Corporate Governance at the Lagos Business School, Nigeria

Obasanjo vs Jonathan: a meta-narrative of elite antagonism and class struggle?

December 19, 2013 § 3 Comments

Kenneth Amaeshi

The current public squabbles between former President Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ) and the incumbent President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ), which tend to border on moral heroism, is both revealing and intriguing in many ways. In the first instance, the difference between OBJ’s and GEJ’s moral rectitude (and in fact the difference between these two and most former presidents of Nigeria), in my view, is akin to the difference between six and half-a-dozen. Nigeria is yet to have a Mandela, unfortunately. In that regard, as much as OBJ’s letter to GEJ might contain many a truth, it reveals some disturbing sublimal characteristics of Nigeria and her polity lurking around seemingly unnoticed.

Beyond the rhetoric of the letter, I see a meta-narrative of an institutional void and abyss, which gazes back at those who are drawn to its abysmal depths. I see a reckless and false democracy that has gone out of control, and on rampage to consume itself and the disenfranchised citizens. Democracy, as the government of the many for the many, requires strong institutions and voice to function effectively for the interests of the many. What we see unfolding before us is a shadow of democracy – a government of the few for the few – being sold to the many as true democracy.

Beneath this public grandstanding and elite antagonism between OBJ and GEJ is a very ugly elite activism for private interests. After all, there are no permanent foes in politics, but permanent interests, as they say. These interests are, unfortunately, not ideologically driven; instead they are often driven by primordial sentiments and instincts devoid of any public interests, and are definitely anti-common-good.

The emergence of elite antagonism masquerading as elite activism spells danger for a budding democracy. It clearly signals that the public space and voice have been hijacked and muffled by the powerful few in society. OBJ, GEJ et al., no doubt, are members of this elite class. This emergence of elite antagonism, whilst seemingly appealing, is a subtle annihilation, alienation, and impoverishment of the critical mass required to challenge and put elite power in constant check. In the classic Marxist expression, it signals the triumph and continual domination of the bourgeoisies over the proletariats.

In other words, OBJ’s letter points to the absence of a critical and powerful civil society. It highlights the marginalisation of the commons by the elites and the powerful in the society. The letter in the public space has met a toothless bulldog resigned to the fatality of learned helplessness.  A public that has been brutalised, betrayed, and bamboozled by different governments and regimes over time. The public has become the proverbial suffering grass in the fight between two elephants. It is from this perspective that OBJ’s letter makes more sense to me.

The obvious absence of the critical mass in our democracy is a clear signal of under-development and the entrenchment of belly politics in Nigeria – a dangerous politics that does not put the interests of the country over and above the interests of the very few elites who falsely parade as messiahs in human flesh. No wonder this form of politics has continued to fail Nigeria and Nigerians.

Whilst some have focused narrowly on the content of OBJ’s letter, I see the need for the civil society to reclaim its rightful place in democracy in Nigeria. I see the need for the average Nigerian to explore the dynamics of the current elite antagonism not from a religious or ethnic lens, but from a class perspective. This is a classical class struggle that needs to be dismantled.

The elites have creative ways of selling their antagonisms as laudable activism for the many. Succumbing to their antics, again, is to further strengthen their resolve to use this strategy against the many. As much as the civil society has been subdued, I see this subjugation as a function of information asymmetry employed by the elite class to decimate the many. This subjugation will only be overcome if the many engage, mobilise, and support common interests.

There are a couple of new active civil societies out there at the moment. They need all the support they can garner to create a critical mass that will be able to challenge the elite few. Democracy, as much as it advocates peace, is a form of governance sustained by constant and creative contestations. It is a governance system whose equilibrium is sustained by constant tension.  What we are currently witnessing in Nigeria is a lope-sided contestation and tension, which will only sustain the domination and interests of the very few elites in the country who have treacherously continued to feather their nests while many people in the country roast in penury and abject poverty.

OBJ’s letter is a welcome development. At least, it exposes the under-belly of the elite ruling class, and at the same exposes the absence of a credible and powerful civil society in the country. Creative, thoughtful, and informed activism by the many is at the heart of effective democracy. Such engagement is a clear demonstration of active citizenship. The time to act is now and always. 2015 will come and go; but active citizenship should always continue.

Despite the antagonism of the few elites in our society, OBJ, GEJ, and their likes should not be allowed to escape the constant scrutiny of the court of public opinion. Anyone who wants to act in the public space should also be prepared to be publicly held accountable. OBJ and GEJ are already in the public arena; let them face the wrath of the public scrutiny. Let us not lose our eyes on the ball.

It is a class war. The struggle continues.

Kenneth Amaeshi is a member of Thought Leadership Forum Nigeria @kenamaeshi

Africapitalism: Unleashing the power of emotions for Africa’s Development?

October 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

Kenneth Amaeshi

 

Africapitalism – “an economic philosophy that embodies the private sector’s commitment to the economic transformation of Africa through investments that generate both economic prosperity and social wealth” – is an emerging business philosophy from Africa spearheaded by one of the continent’s leading entrepreneurs, Mr Tony Elumelu. From my experience of interacting with business leaders, especially those interested in the sustainable economic development of Africa, I get the impression that Africapitalism has the power to unleash positive emotional energy and the ability to suck-in interests for Africa’s development. It has an awesome way of captivating the imagination of African entrepreneurs and citizens, in particular, in a manner that has not been done by any other socio-economic construct. It jolts consciousness and repositions the development of Africa in the world firmly as an indigenous project in which Africans will play significant active roles. I see this glimmer of audacious hope whether engaging with business leaders in Lagos, Nairobi, Accra, or Johannesburg. The message is unique, as well as the sentiments it evokes. (to continue, please click here)

 

First published by African Arguments of the Royal African Society (UK), October 2, 2013

Sustainable banking in Nigeria: a strategy or a mindset?

October 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

Kenneth Amaeshi and Chris Ogbechie

On 24 September 24 2012, the Central Bank of Nigeria launched the Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles. The adoption and implementation of these principles are compulsory and require Nigerian “banks, discount houses and development finance institutions to develop a management approach that balances the environmental and social risks identified with the opportunities to be exploited through their business activities”.

This move by the Central Bank of Nigeria, spearheaded by the current governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi – which has been internationally applauded – appears to be the first of its kind globally. In its approach to promoting commitment to sustainability, it is an unusual mix of soft and hard governance….. (to continue, please see the link below)

Published in The Guardian (UK) Sustainable Business Blog October 2, 2013

MTN Nigeria: Stop the Extortion!!! (and be socially responsible for once!!!)

August 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

Kenneth Amaeshi, PhD

I borrowed the first part of the title of this article from a Commentary by Christopher Akor on Sahara Reporter’s online portal (June 15, 2011). The piece ostensibly resonated very well with many readers given the comments it attracted. Two years down the line, MTN Nigeria, like the proverbial leopard, literally appears incapable of changing its spots. This is worrying given the recent pronouncement of MTN Nigeria as a dominant operator in the Nigerian mobile voice communications market – 44% share of the market!! – (NCC, April 25, 2013).

I have been a pre-paid customer of MTN Nigeria for a while now. I will struggle to classify myself as an uninformed customer – although it is easy to be unwittingly dragged by the likes of MTN Nigeria into doubting one’s cognitive and information processing capabilities through their unclear and in some instances, outrightly mischievous marketing strategies. MTN Nigeria appears to excel and thrive in this game of misinformation and information distortion. Here is an example: “Wow! The smartest way to recharge! Get double your recharge. Dial *888*PIN# from 6pm Friday to 11:59pm Sunday”. On the face of it, it looks straightforward, right? Dial *888*PIN# from 6pm Friday to 11:59pm Sunday and get double your recharge.

This is my layman’s interpretation of this message, but I was fooled. I did not know it was a hoax! I saw it, mentioned it to a friend and he tried it on a Saturday evening only to realise that the “double recharge” promised in the marketing message would expire at 11:59pm on Sunday. One would ordinarily expect that once the recharge is made within the stipulated time frame, the usage would continue as long as the customer wanted it based on his or her usage. If MTN Nigeria wanted to be clear and explicit with customers, I wonder why it did not also state in the same message when the doubled recharge would expire. That also left me wondering what MTN Nigeria had in mind in constructing such a deceitful and misleading message in a very unclear manner.

On a similar note of seeming roguish behaviour, I use the MTN Nigeria blackberry services. I sometimes use the blackberry service to watch video clips on my phone, which I considered part of my blackberry service deal. However, without notice recently, I suddenly realised that MTN Nigeria opted out of my blackberry services and deducted from my call recharge credit instead for downloading video clips on my phone. Again, I find this practice very bizarre, predatory, and unfriendly; and it left me wondering why a firm like MTN Nigeria would engage in such ruthless pranks and gimmicks, despite its market dominance.

In my opinion, these despicable acts speak volumes in themselves, and I suspect there are many of such roguish behaviours out there. In conclusion, I came to the view that either MTN Nigeria thinks Nigerians are mind-readers or it is clearly out to prey on its customers. The latter is not untypical of big dominant firms with monopolistic tendencies, which MTN Nigeria seems to exhibit profusely. The bewildering dimension of it all is that MTN Nigeria would still go about posturing as a socially responsible organization. Yet, the company seems to forget that social responsibility goes beyond setting up a philanthropic corporate foundation. Misselling and misinformation, as allegedly exhibited in the examples above, are clearly acts of social irresponsibility.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) ought to be a sincere and genuine corporate commitment to reducing its negative impacts and increasing its positive impacts on its different stakeholder groups (e.g. customers, shareholders, employees, regulators, the government, unions, local communities, et cetera). It is about Creating Shared Value – i.e. win-win outcomes for the business and the society. It is a business orientation and culture that recognises the firm as an entity embedded in a network of relationships with different stakeholder groups; and to be successful and sustainable, a business should be genuinely committed and responsive to these stakeholder groups. It should afford any firm that is truly committed to it a richer and more advanced paradigm to continuously challenge its business purpose and align itself to its core values, aspirations and mission. It is a way of maintaining the legitimacy of a firm’s actions in the larger society by bringing its stakeholder concerns to the foreground and minimizing information asymmetries between actors.

MTN Nigeria appears to be far from this view of a socially responsible firm in the marketplace. To a large extent, it still seems to exhibit the locust behavior characteristic of impatient foreign investors. Yes, it was a risk for MTN to invest in Nigeria. Yes, MTN should recover its investments and extract as much value as possible. However, this shouldn’t be at all cost and by all means – including marketing pranks. Despite its alleged propensity to extort, MTN Nigeria would be better off considering itself as a truly Nigerian firm that has come to stay and behave as such. Otherwise, the long term sustainability of the firm is very much at risk. MTN should not be the proverbial roasting grasshopper that thinks of itself as an oily creature!

I have written this article to express my frustration. It is also an attempt to encourage other Nigerians to learn to hold firms like MTN Nigeria accountable for their seeming reckless behaviours and irresponsibility masked as competitive strategy. If we don’t, they will continue to take advantage of us all in the name of legitimate profit-seeking behaviours. I lost about N1,300 in my case, which I could have chosen to ignore; but imagine 100,000 Nigerians suffering the same fate! That’s a whooping N130m!! Little drops of water make a mighty ocean, as they say. To be more graphic, MTN Nigeria’s published customer base is about 45m (NCC, 2013). If it missells to 1% which is 450,000 and these customers spend an average of N100 per day, that’s N45m and up to N1.35b per month!! Why won’t misselling be a big strategic competitive move in Nigeria? Big firms are really big trouble!!

It seems MTN Nigeria needs a tutorial in Africonciousness – “a socio-mental awareness of Africa and her people first as a continent and human beings with genuine needs, before being a market with viable consumers” (Amaeshi, 2013) – to be a truly African success story.

Amaeshi is a member of Thought Leadership Forum, Nigeria