• Monday, May 27, 2024
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BusinessDay

Beyond OATT: How well do you know your organisation?

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  The ‘oga at the top’ (OATT) national comedy that went viral in recent weeks once again affirms the towering place of social media in Nigeria. Story is told of how a Second Republic governor, in the full glare of viewers of national TV, listed Coca Cola and Fanta as mineral resources his state is endowed with. The joke is still around, more than three decades on. But with the personality involved in the ‘oga at the top’ gaffe occupying a lower office than the governor’s, the joke may not go beyond this generation.

But these blunders became national because of the personalities involved and the platform (TV). Truth is, many of us exhibit similar, if not worse, ignorance of basic things we are expected to know of places we work. We are only lucky that we are not public figures. I was in a training session in Ghana last year and the facilitator asked the representative of a well-known Nigerian oil and gas company about a business combination deal the company was consummating. Despite the fact that it was all over the place in the media, this employee did not know anything about the transaction. I am not talking about the nitty-gritty of the transaction here, I’m talking about knowledge of existence of such deal in the first place. It was the facilitator, an external party to the company, that had to inform her about what was going on in her company. Knowing this company well, I know they issue memos to their staff explaining goings-on in the company to keep their employees abreast. But many people don’t care to read such explanatory emails. After all, it is not about salary increase!

How many managers in a bank know all the non-executive members of their bank’s board? Beyond the chairman, the MD and the executive directors, many staff of many organisations don’t know the names of other non-executive board members. Yet, these are pieces of information that are contained in the company’s annual reports. How many staff read annual reports of their company, anyway?

How many students can list the names of the three deputy vice-chancellors of their school? I know they know the VC’s name, but what of other principal officers? Pick students of tertiary institutions at random and ask them which year their school was founded, and you will be surprised that as many as half may not be able to provide correct answer.

I have never hidden my admiration for people that know so many things, including little details that can be easily discarded. This partly explains why I am a huge fan of Wale Tinubu, Group CEO of Oando, and Babatunde Fashola, Lagos State governor. I felt a sense of pride watching Tinubu face fuel subsidy committee of the National Assembly early last year. Without whisperings from his lieutenants who sandwiched him, Tinubu demonstrated vast knowledge of his organisation, reeling out little details and statistics with precision. Watching the programme, someone tweeted: ‘This Tinubu impressed me, knowing his company like back of his hands.’ I am not aware of any other invited oil company CEO that posted half of such performance. Same with listening to Fashola, who analyses virtually every street in the megacity that Lagos is without recourse to his special assistants.

Too many of us are not concerned about what goes on around us and the result can be embarrassing. All some employees do is get to office in the morning, carry out primary tasks as contained in their job descriptions (which is good anyway), and leave for home in the evening. This they do in all their years in the organisation. They don’t have any business with other things that go on in their organisation. Reading those internal communication emails is adding to their task. Annual reports are for the finance managers only.

Now, should an employee be sanctioned for not knowing these little things? I will say no, inasmuch as he performs his duties, as contained in his JD, satisfactorily. This is why I rose to the defence of Obafaiye, the ‘oga at the top’, when rumours made the rounds that he had been sacked. A lot of people have testified to Obafaiye’s mastery of his primary duty. He is said to have done creditably well, guarding the petroleum pipelines that are prone to vandalism, in his Lagos duty post. His competence has been attested to by people that should know.

Obafaiye is one of the many high-ranking civil servants that rose through the ranks from the service and refuse to catch up with the digital age. They are many in the civil service. The internet, to them, is for their children. They will tell you they had been doing this job before internet came to Nigeria. And in truth, they know their job more than many jet-age officers. But that is still not an excuse. Everyone must join the train of technology. This is why government should consider training for these men to bring them up to date in computer-aided service delivery. This will also save government many embarrassments. After all, a top cabinet member asserted that President Jonathan brought Facebook to Nigeria, when some of us have had Facebook accounts before President Jonathan ever thought of becoming president. These are what we get when our public officers, no matter how good they are in discharging their manual responsibilities, refuse to move with the train of global technology.

 

SURAJ OYEWALE

Oyewale, a chartered accountant, is the editor of Jarushub, a Nigerian blog with focus on career, mentorship and political economy.

 

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