Oftentimes many see the great events of life only in the things that are dramatic. But that is patently false, even forged. The bulk of human history comes and goes, imperceptibly. Whether it is in politics or culture, in business or information technology, slow but relentlessly grinds the wheels of history.
Perhaps, that is why contemporaries are shocked when historians catalogue the changes they themselves have enacted. In other words, that history is being made contemporaneously, that is on the go, is for most people counterintuitive. Many people think history is only made in the past and never by themselves or their contemporaries.
One can report that today a great sea change is happening in our corporate sphere. Yes, this sea change is barely perceptible at eye level, but we can tell this. This sea change is likely to be the most momentous change in our business history for a long time to come.
If we took the branded names as our historical markers, Nigerian industrial and entrepreneurial history may be characterized by  the pre-colonial Dantata-Ojukwu age,  the running Dangote-Adenuga epoch, and then  the emerging Young Turks era. And these Turks, more than their entrepreneurial fathers and uncles, come in their legions.
But history is not made by numbers. History may be taken as a vector, that is, direction giving quantity, rather than its opposite, a scalar value. The fact of this is important. And we will illustrate. From Dantata to Dangote, it was essentially an era characterised and dominated by traders. Europeans brought in the civilisation to run Africa. And our traders’ briefs, it appeared, were to be subcontractors and suppliers of produce and related needs, not inventors of technologies. And they have done quite well. It is even in the books that a Dangote led the transition from trading as apex money machine to that of being an industrialist.
But the Dangote transition was essentially in the realms of “finance” not “industrial capitalism.” We explain. That is, while Dangote was successful as an industrialist, fact is that he was not technically tutored or equipped in any of his industries. The point needs to be stressed that there is nothing right or wrong with this. It is just that, as historians, it is proper we notice it. The fact of it is just a phase of our industrial experience.
But pushing beyond the Dangote epoch seem to be a group of young and swashbuckling Nigerians. These new Nigerians come in two guises. The first, and quite a number, are in business to push their passions, as they tell whoever gives them ears. But a more quiet group are around and in business as a continuation of their tertiary studies. I ran into one of such. And we bring you his story.
Fortune Towers is one of the prominent addresses in Victoria island. And I was on appointment to see Nze Chibuike Achigbu. Achigbu is the chairman of the board, Solberg Nigeria Ltd. Solberg is an engineering construction firm with commissioned works throughout Nigeria. Achigbu is actually a prize-winning student and well decorated engineer. And that is what makes the big difference and excites one the more. One could as is the best practice talk not just money but the underlying philosophy to it all. The market is not just a money machine. The marketplace, more importantly, is a socio-technological institution and ranges beyond money.
And here was Achigbu. With a balding pate and a less than medium size to match, as it were, Achigbu was mentally as sharp as nails. His was not just a marriage of fortune and brains, but there was social amiability thrown in. And as I walked in, a troupe of international journalists were leaving. They had just talked with Achigbu as a representative of new Nigerian enterprise. He was one of the selected numbers to represent Nigeria in a survey of new businesses across emerging markets.
But bright as he is, I asked, why did he not take to academics, to becoming a university lecturer, was it the money?
“Well,” he began, “money is an issue everywhere. Whether it is New York or London. Whether you play by Lagos or Abuja, money is central to every system. But take it from me, money is not always as important as it has been exaggerated.”
“Jimanze, there is another way to see it. And it is this. Businesses are major arms, faculties if you liked, of universities and scholarship. It is not just in the sense of town and gown. It is so in a more profound sense.
“Businesses are, in a crucial sense, attempts to give flesh and form to the ideas that have been canvassed in the universities. It is true we run a swelter of business. But, for me, Solberg, which is where my heart lies, is an extension of my engineering education. That is, for us, Solberg is like a laboratory experiment, perhaps a faculty at the marketplace, if that makes sense. And all we try to do is to continuously invent how we can give greater value to clients at lesser costs. That amounts to literally improving, however marginally, what we have been taught at the universities. And our efforts constitute some feedback to the university system. Yes, it is a loop. It is the faculty to the market and the market back to the faculty.’’
“Jimanze,” he almost stooped forward as if to whisper to me, “we are not trading. We are creating, we are giving value. So, money is not really the issue at play. What is at work is the value. Money merely helps us to keep tag. Are we doing well, in the marketplace, not by making money, but by creating values. Were the measurement of how well we do a matter of whale teeth, naira or dollar, we did have been as blessed being engineers.”
“And we have made sure we are exposed to the latest thinking. And this is not just in engineering science, but in business processes. Our staffers stay with us. They know that self-development at company expense is a given plank of our operations. We have people who started with us and are still here and happy to be.”
Well, I think he did quite need to say so. Just as I was going, a young man introduced himself. And Achigbu had forgotten. And the young man, began, “Sir, I worked here before I left for university education. I have just finished my NYSC.” And he smiled knowingly. It was a telling smile, saying I have come back to work for Solberg. It was one of those moments of corporate history. External testimonies match internal banner templates.
So, that is in essence the new seismic shift in corporate Nigeria. It may not yet have hit the radar, but that is the direction of our future. People are not just doing business for passion or money. A new crop of young Nigerians are in the marketplaces, well educated, brilliant and giving the marketplace a feel of being a campus or a learning laboratory
What is important in all this is that that was how Europe, Asia and the rest were built. Bright boys left the university faculties not to make money. Money comes after as a matter of course. They left the universities to create value. From Amazon to Infosys, from J.P. Morgan to Facebook, these epoch-making companies were founded to be faculties in the marketplace. Solberg, one can hazard, is one of the leading faces of the Nigerian enterprise playing this game of business as faculty. They are the ones to take us beyond the Dangote-Adenuga era. We wish them well.
From corruption to forgery
The breaking news that the finance minister is a certificate forger is unsettling. Its implications are beyond imagination. Did she do it?
Anyway, one thing is sure. I can say that the iron lore of fighting corruption is that governance must do it in the open. A closed government is almost invariably a corrupt government. And what we get from this government is that it is not particularly open. There is too much opaqueness. And it is that that accounts for its insularity. Sometimes people say it is nepotism, sometimes people say it
is cronyism. In all, the important point is that immediately people run government or systems on “mom and pop” templates, there is danger. The first danger comes in the form of substituting persons for processes. That is, if a preferred son or an in-member is to be taken, he or she is admitted not subject to processes but to “goodwill.” It is just assumed she is holy, she can’t be guilty, and then admitted.
We say this because, if it is true that Kemi Adeosun forged her certificate/s, it was the simplest thing to discover. To be minister of finance, an elite job by the way, one needed to possess impeccable credentials. And the fact of this is easy to check. But I suspect nobody checked. Adeosun was taken in on “self-recogni- tion.” So, the fault is not really hers. That is, the fault that she was not found out. What she fails at, if found guilty, is moral shamelessness. And lawyers are saying it borders on felony and criminality. We suggest we give the devil her due. She should be investigated and, if appropri- ate, tried. And jailed. After all this is an anti-corruption government as it alleges.