The Oasis Reporters

News on time, everytime

AnalysisBusiness & EconomyCommunicationsNews

Criticizing Abdullahi, Emir Sanusi’s Appointment To MTN Board: Afenifere Just Doesn’t Get It!

The Oasis Reporters

May 8, 2019

Yinka Odumakin (top right), Emir Sanusi.
By Greg Abolo

The release by Yoruba socio cultural pressure group, Afenifere signed by it’s General Secretary, Yinka Odumakin criticizing the two major appointments made by telecommunications giant, MTN, which it described as non-inclusive is beginning to portray the famous organization as descending to the level of needless frivolity.

Yoruba socio-cultural organization, Afenifere.

It said, “In terms of active internet per state for the period, Lagos also has the top spot followed by Ogun and the FCT. How come MTN cannot find suitable Nigerians to be on its board from the area of the country where its highest subscriptions come from?

Odumakin said the appointments of His Royal Highness Sanusi Lamido Sanusi,the Emir of Kano as a member of its Board of Directors and Dr Aisha Abdullahi a former Commissioner in Bauchi State, appointed into the International Advisory Board would not have raised an eyebrow save for the times Nigeria is in at the moment.

The statement reads in full: “Afenifere has examined thoroughly the recent changes the MTN Group made on its board with deep observations on fiduciary responsibility as far as Nigeria is concerned .

“Two major appointments were made from Nigeria viz:

1.His Royal Highness Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Emir of Kano was appointed a member of its Board of Directors .

2 Dr. Aisha Abdullahi a former Commissioner in Bauchi State was appointed into the International Advisory Board .

“We ordinarily would not have raised any eyebrow over these two appointments from one section of Nigeria if these were normal seasons in our country.

“Our first major concern is that though MTN is a private company, these choices tend to mirror the skewdness that has characterised public sector appointments in Nigeria in the last four years and have drawn serious flaks.

“Our secondary worry is that the MTN Group seeming pandering to the non-inclusivity that has pervaded national affairs in Nigeria may not be unconnected with the infractions the Nigerian government has alleged against the telecommunications company which have yet to be resolved.

“The MTN should have been more sensitive to its market base in Nigeria before taking decisions along the parochial trend in public service in Nigeria at the moment.

“The NBS quarterly communications report titled “Telecoms Data: Active Voice and Internet per State, Porting and Tariff Information (Q2 2018), Lagos topped and has the highest number of subscribers in terms of active voice per state and closely followed by Ogun state.

“In terms of active internet per state for the period, Lagos also has the top spot followed by Ogun and the FCT.

“How come MTN cannot find suitable Nigerians to be on its board from the area of the country where its highest subscriptions come from ?

“It is our considered view that the telecommunications company should have been careful with embracing prebendalism of Nigerian officialdom as it can affect the behaviour of its clientele. A timely redress of the situation may prevent reactions from the South where the preponderance of MTN subscribers are, and consequently major stakeholders! Fortunately they have option”.

Before analyzing the release, it should be stated that technically speaking, Yinka Odumakin’s statement on behalf of the respected socio cultural organization seemingly sounded correct from a point of view
Indeed, MTN as a private company, even if it were publicly quoted, ought to pander to where it’s hugest markets are.

But did it occur to Afenifere that the South where Afenifere lies largely is already a done deal and the north is their new frontier to add to their growing figures in the highly competitive telecoms business sector?
So who should MTN preach to, is it to the choir that is in church every Sunday, or to the outsiders looking in through the window by using what they are familiar with?

Yes to Odumakin, in the last four years or so, many Nigerians in the south have been distressed over public sector appointments and the seeming deterioration in several indices of national life.
But then, MTN is a private firm from the Republic of South Africa, and therefore hold the rights to make appointments based on their peculiar needs at any given point in time.
To understand what I am driving at, let’s take a historical excursion into the entry of MTN into Nigeria. In it’s native South Africa, the company was rather small, a distant number 3, after the giant Vodacom. Followed by I think, Orange (hope I am right).
One could say that MTN was struggling to catch it’s breath in a population that was probably less than 50 million people at the time they started. Though by 2017, South Africa’s population was 56.72 million going by World Bank figures. MTN’s subscriber base among the adult population of the nation was quite small.

Then God helped Nigeria that the military rulers who held the country down gave up power for Chief Obasanjo to come in. He decided to liberalise the Telecommunications sector by specifically asking African GSM companies to come over and bid for license. The Nigerian population then was about 120 million that shared only 4,000MW of electricity. South Africa was already producing 50,000 MW. Vodacom scoffed at all the negative indexes Nigeria had and refused to play. MTN saw the negative indexes but embraced tightly the positive index of a population that almost triples South African figures, added to the fact that Nigeria was a new frontier and a virgin territory, and prospered together with Econet, to the regret of Vodacom that is now a distant number two to MTN on Africa’s scale. MTN’s far sight paid off. I believe that is the strategy they are still employing to enrol more of the north into its fold.

Afenifere must also understand realpolitik when it comes to business acumen, in the right way.

Yes, when Nelson Mandela came out of prison, freedom on his long walk to the presidency, we saw a great leader who ought to have been bitter at White South Africans who sent him to prison for 27 long years, but he was not. When power came into his hands after the Apartheid government of Pieter Botha resigned, Nelson Mandela had a one on one chat with the outgoing Governor of the Reserve Bank, Trevor Manuel and practically begged him to stay on the job. Mandela understood the importance and the workings of the economy. Trevor Manuel stayed, and even much longer for his African deputy, Mboweni to keep on learning and learning more.
It paid off for the South African economy.

Former Nigeria’s President, a Yoruba man, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo equally acted like Nelson Mandela. When he became president after being in prison for a while, he did not move immediately to compensate his Yoruba people who fought hard (in conjunction with other Nigerians from other tribes both in the North and South).
He went straight to the World Bank to pick a Delta Ibo, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to manage Nigeria’s finances because of her international exposure and expertise. Obasanjo ignored the finance champions in his local Yoruba backyard. Even in the choice of his Central Bank governor, he equally went to Igbo land. Obasanjo wanted no compromise on success. He was not tribalistic.

Then came President Yar’Adua, who in his choice of Central Bank governor, went straight into his Fulani tribe and picked Sanusi Lamido, who quietly and efficiently worked with the team and policies left behind by Prof. Soludo. And the man succeeded. This same Sanusi Lamido is today, the Kano Emir on the MTN board.

When President Jonathan came on board, he followed in President Obasanjo’s steps by going again to drag Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala from the World Bank, back to the Finance ministry and to oversee the entire economy. So Jonathan, like Obasanjo and Mandela, achieved success.

Therefore in normal times and the globally acceptable economic indices, the Afenifere release signed by Yinka Odumakin would be in perfect order.

The present times are markedly different as even Odumakin has often complained about the skewed nature of appointments made by the Federal government that is still struggling to get it right in the economy and in the area of security with a management team that is basically northern and mostly Muslim.

Nigeria has also had the march towards full deregulation of the economy, championed by Obasanjo and Jonathan, halted and possibly reversed by their individual successors, Yar’Adua and Buhari.

Every Nigerian knows that the wrong cough from the government can easily make a thriving company go back to foundation level with a broken back as it happened when many companies started leaving Nigeria, citing harsh business and operating climate. Unemployment and decline in living standards manifested. Insecurity is on the rise.

Now, let’s look at a hypothetical worst case scenario of MTN perhaps needing government help in this season. Between an Emir Sanusi and an Olubadan, who would get an appointment without booking it first at Aso Rock to impress it upon the president to reverse an unfavorable business policy as a board member ?
Emir, Oblong, Eze or Oba?
Yes, under Jonathan, one Nigerian monarch was as good as another.
But in this present time, who?

Besides, Sanusi is one man who has street cred. We saw how he balanced Soludo’s solutions with his own paint, and it worked.

Before I finalize, here’s a word for the respected nationalist and patriot, Yinka Odumakin.
Ignore some fights. Don’t get into every advocacy. What makes sense may not necessarily “move market”.

Thank you.

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *