Iyinoluwa Aboyeji: Can connections change Nigeria? (YNaija FrontPage)

I have always wondered what Nigeria would look like if more business people co-operated to lobby government for policy that benefited business in Nigeria as opposed to fight each other to be government’s anointed monopoly.

So, so I “JFK”

Join forces with the kings and we ate all day

–          Rick Ross “Free Mason”

The Nigerian brand of Christianity gets a lot of flak from for a fair number of sins; many a member’s millionth act of foolish faith, an often overtly ostentatious spiritual leadership, a special brand of higher education secondary schools, even the huge traffic nightmare our roads turn into on revival night. However, the one thing they manage to do well, perhaps their staying power, is the power of their community.

There is little the network that is the church can’t do. The trust, ill-advised or not,  is so strong that spiritual affiliation has become the single thread that has bound most Nigerians across ethnic groups together, from business partners to life partners.  Little wonder, Nigerian churches are packed full week to week.

One thought that has pre-occupied my mind this past week is how different the outcomes are in segments of Nigerian society where this kind of trusting communal relationship that characterises the church community exists from other aspects of society where it doesn’t exist.

Nigeria’s business and technology sector for example is one of those segments of society where there is more flair for competition and re-inventing the wheel than in sharing experience and resources. Very recently, I joined a group of Tech Company founders trying to build an online community focused on technology in Africa. A lot of the content was interesting – except only on a very surface deep, philosophical level. Not much deep sharing was going on. Most of the commentary was very motivational in nature, which is great but which is largely useless to someone already in the trenches. There was very little actual information about say, the thought process of the African enterprise or consumer buyer, or what to keep in mind with respect to good equity structure, how to hire, which venture capitalists in town to avoid when pitching, etc. When I posed a question to the group about enterprise sales in Nigeria, I got answers on the shallow end but very few specifics with some citing competitive concerns. By the end of the week, I couldn’t justify to myself, my membership in the group and so I left.

On the other end of things, there is politics, sadly by far Nigeria’s most flourishing industry. Beyond the fact that default mode of organization in politics is groups in the first place (political parties they call them), you can even see very clearly how communal circles of power cultivated over long period have changed the trajectory of this nation. This past weekend, I came across two examples of this.

The first was from a Twitter conversation between two of my fellow columnists about the Nigerian Law School class of 88’ whose members have for better or for worse, almost entirely dominated Nigeria’s current political landscape. Today, the class boasts three governors and several prominent politicians and members of civil society including Chibudom Nwuche, Pius Anyim, Joy Emodi and Chidi Odinkalu. I don’t expect this collective rise to the top could have been possible in isolation. They all probably helped each other up and out from time to time in their political careers.

The other was a picture of a army generals Obasanjo, Babangida, Abacha, and TY Danjuma playing draughts while they must have been very junior officers in the Nigerian army. Three out of four of these men went on to be Heads of the Nigerian state, at one point or the other in the lives. It goes to show how close bonds of friendship can with time and nurturing create an incredibly destructive force of power that controls the destinies of over a hundred and fifty million people.

I have always wondered what Nigeria would look like if more business people co-operated to lobby government for policy that benefited business in Nigeria as opposed to fight each other to be government’s anointed monopoly.

The next generation of Nigerians looking to assume positions of power and influence in the public and private sector will do well to learn the power of community. Today the tools we have to connect with like-minded Nigerians are even more robust that the institutional straits our parents were confined to. Instead of “setting P” and chasing follow backs, nurture connections and conversations with serious people that will raise your profile and contribute to your personal growth. Even more importantly, when you have built or joined these communities, share deeply and add value to others in your community. Serious people actively avoid communities in name only.

Allow me to close with a Margaret Mead quote “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

What small group of world changers are you a part of today?


Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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Comments (5)

  1. Maybe I should be reading you more often. This was unhurriedly written and less condescending than some of your earlier pieces.

  2. This makes sense. The social networking tools today are diverse and plentiful.

    There's just one thing missing – unequivocal trust in general.

  3. Bullseye!

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail