• Friday, February 23, 2024
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Diary of a P&G staff: Farewell my 1st Love

Nigeria’s market shake-up: P&G’s woes and lessons for success

I finished my Youth Service in Feb. 2005. I was given a letter of recommendation from where I served in Jos (Vitafoam Nig. Plc). They scheduled me for an interview at their Head Office in Oba Akran, Lagos. I was to resume in their Kano Branch as Maintenance Engineer but a religious crisis happened around that time.

They had to shut down the site in Kano to forestall collateral damages. Hence, I had to officially be flung to the ocean of “labour market”. It was my first bite of “Nigeria Happened to You”.

Fast forward to 2007. I had switched to full computer engineering. I cloned computer systems for people and repaired same in the popular Computer Village in Ikeja, Lagos. I just ‘dey hustle’ anyhow to make ends meet. I always trekked from Opebi, where I was staying with the Owolabi’s (May God bless that family for me) to Egbon Ojo’s office in Computer Village where I normally perched with my flash drive tied to my neck as symbol of a computer guy. It’s in this state Sister Opeyemi sent me a link to text my details to in Ibadan. I did and from that text message, my journey of 11 years commenced.

I sincerely didn’t know how big P&G was. I already passed UAC Management Trainee Test and scheduled for their Medical when P&G interviews were going on. A classmate I met changed my mind about UAC.

I shared my predicament with Pastor Kehinde Owolabi who told me how big the company was in UK where he stayed for years. He told me about how Nigerians in the UK even lobbied and prayed to be on their adhoc staff. This made me settle for P&G as my First Career Love. I resumed Sept. 13, 2007.

Read also: P&G Nigeria exit ends 5000 jobs

P&G would first host you for a month in Kakanfo Hotel in Ibadan if you didn’t have anyone to stay with in Ibadan. All bills on them. The company had bus that conveyed you to and fro the designated Bus Stop. You’re trained about the culture of the Company for One Month. Free healthcare in the best hospitals in Ibadan and Lagos. Quality food at the canteen. My first salary was huge then because of all the prorated allowances. For the first time, I was treated with dignity. Naturally, the company gave me a sense of ownership till tomorrow.

President Olusegun Obasanjo might have his negatives but Ebora Owu knows Economics. He blocked border against products being manufactured in Nigeria. Businesses were booming. We work round the clock to meet up with orders from distributors. We only shut down on 24th December and startup night of 25th. Same thing for New Year Anniversary. We shut down on the 31st, start-up 1st January Night. Full operation by 2nd. We couldn’t cope with the demands. P&G had to be forced to invest more in Nigeria.

I first travelled out of Nigeria courtesy of my First Love, P&G. I, with four others were sent on an automation training with Rockwell Automation in UK. Our Nigerian course mates for that one month programme were from Total, Mobil, etc. No manufacturing company dared such investment but the almighty P&G. You’re escorted even to Visa Office by Mobile Police entourage. You’re taken to and fro the airport with same entourage. Because they see you as asset that nothing should happen to. Imagine giving “ordinary technician” such honour. That’s my P&G for you.

“AGBARA, THE FUTURE.”
Because of the market demands, P&G decided to expand their investments in Nigeria. Paper section of the company was relocated to Agbara. Over $300Million was invested there with state of the art facility built by Julius Berger Nig. Ltd. We had Gym facilities. We had massagers. We had table tennis. We had football pitch. We generated our own power with a massive Gas Generator. Your badge is the access to doors, offices, canteen, gym, everywhere. These were the stuffs you only saw in American movies like 24.

P&G prioritizes trainings. Some of my guys like Betiku Olubunmi Jude , Gbadamosi Adekunle , etc were on training for the new production lines in Cairo for a complete calendar year. If you’re married, you could go with your family, even some that gave birth there like Samson went with Malle that did omogwuo in Cairo. My friend even named his child after the Cairo Doctor that meant a lot to their family. That’s how important you are to that company. They valued you. How would you not love such company? The Femcare guys like Stanley, Aderanti, Adewale ,etc, went to Germany for their training. That’s how big P&G was.

“Agbara, the Future” became the slogan. That was the plan before Nigeria happened to my beloved P&G. The startups for the new lines started getting extended due to our Nigerianness. Custom’s policy summersaults started affecting the logistics. Border flung opened. Cheaper products littered the market courtesy of another Govt policies. Three brand new baby care lines were brought for initial installations but only two could be installed. Cheaper products had taken over the market before we produced our first diaper. The “future” was punctured from the world “go”.

We would produce but there was no one to buy. Sometimes you wanted to produce, Shell might tell you, they couldn’t supply gas to power you generator. You had to switch to expensive diesel to power the other diesel generators to produce to meet up with the little demands. To transport the finished products became a challenge too. The roads were horrible. Containers doing gymnastics by summersaulting anyhow on those gully-holes (because those were not potholes). I even learnt the companies around the axis like GSK, UNILEVER, P&G, to mention but few approached the Govt and proposed to fix the road with a possible tax waivers to no avail. They told them to bring the money while their works ministry helped them fix it. The companies backed out because of the integrity of the govt. Hence, the road became unpassable over time.

I will be hypocritical if I failed to mention that some of the damages were done in house. Before we even left Ibadan, stories of how pallets of products were disappearing in Alomaja wearhouse became regular news. To the point that a whole truckload of products was rumoured missing… T’ori Olorun! Guys became overnight millionaires at the expense of the company. Contracts were inflated anyhow. One that I was particularly privy of: our chiller had issues. I and a colleague narrowed it down to a defective compressor. We sourced for a supplier online that promised to bring it the next morning. Price was N600k with installations. We presented it to a TSG Manager then. He claimed it won’t fly since the guy was not on the list of suppliers. Lo and behold, the guy given it to presented N2.4m. He couldn’t even fix the electrical connections, I was the one compelled to fix it for him. How that made sense to anyone I don’t know.

Agbara ceased to be the future courtesy of both external and internal self-destructive birthed out of greed and untamed avarice. The investors borrowed us $300m at the exchange rate of less than #200/$. In Buhari’s first 6months, it had jumped to #500. He fell ill and Prof. Osinbajo was able to stabilize it at #350/$. P&G had no alternative than to do all it could to stay afloat business-wise. Gradual retrenchment was introduced. Flow-to-work became the mantra. Before the next OGSM in 2018, it was decided Agbara plant should shut down! Hundreds of professionals retrenched. I remember the words of Akinola while we were powering down Baby care Line 1: “We are shutting down what should put foods on the tables of the generations to come.” It daily rings in my ears.

I hoped against hope P&G would come back but it won’t. I first heard about it from a top echelon before it became ‘kariile’ news. You prayed such news shouldn’t be true. No one finds it easy to share the demise of his loved ones. Adieu my 1st Career Love. You actually “Improved and touched our lives”. You meant well but we honestly don’t deserve you. We messed you up. If you’re only being abused by outsiders, you could have stayed but abuse by your loved ones was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. All your “offsprings” like Ariel, Pampers, Always, Duracell, Oral B, etc would always have my endorsement any day, anytime.
Love you P&G