This book, “50 Nigeria’s Boardroom Leaders—Lessons On Corporate Governance and Strategy” by Mike Awoyinfa, Dimgba Igwe and Jibril Musa is a collector’s item. From the outside, I see a beautifully packaged book. Although there is an adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover, from what I have picked through, it has the A to Z of corporate of governance. All the leaders in corporate governance, boardroom gurus in Nigeria are there. It’s going to be a great material for anybody who is interested in corporate governance.
I have seen Christopher Kolade who is our leader in corporate governance, I have seen my friend Mohammed Hayatudeen, I have seen Dayo Lawuyi, Dotun Suleiman, Osunkeye and many others. These are people who have been in the business. I am sure there would be many more people in it than I could immediately recall. But I think it’s star-studded. My prophecy is that this book would be in the shelves of every person who desires to understand the nitty-gritty of boardroom management and corporate governance. Why this book is exceptional is that it is not just theory, people are speaking from their experiences. And for 50 perspectives on an issue, I think that nothing else is left. Except what God has to say. But if it’s what man should say on corporate governance and boardroom management, I think the subject matter has been exhausted by these 50 people.
I have just given a lecture at the Learning Organization Conference organized by the Walter Ollor Foundation. I spoke on the impact of board structure and composition on the effectiveness of a board. And I looked at the composition, structure, conduct and issues that would make the board effective—diversity, different mindsets, experiences that are brought to the board, and the need to use board committees to make sure the board is effective and has a greater oversight. There was a time that the board was distant from the management but now the board is getting very close to the management and they are using board committees to maintain that torch and that relationship, and the need for high level of accountability in the board. First, the board is holding themselves accountable, so that they have the basis to hold management accountable. Because the overall concept is to ensure sustainability of the organization into the future. And it is the board’s ability to manage the different interests and balance them and ensure that everybody is happy. Those were the kind of things I was speaking about.
If I saw this book earlier, I would have just read the book to them. I would have spent thirty minutes reading excerpts. I would read my own excerpts, I would read excerpts from other people. I am sure they would have taken the book from me. Because ordinary presentation I made, the people wanted hard copies. Professor Ollor said he would send them electronic copies but one old man said “I have no email, I need hard copy.” So I am sure if I had gone with this book, they would have just taken the book from me and maybe wanted to buy. I think that this book would sell. At the price it is going for, it distinguishes itself from the ordinary. It is not everybody’s book. It’s those who want value that would buy. And I think the price is good for the book. It’s worth saving money to buy. It offers value, bringing together in one collection, the experiences of these gurus.
I spoke there for one hour and I was paid a little honorarium which is more than the cost of one book. So you can imagine where someone gets this book featuring 50 diverse real-life experiences. Like cases in the book, I gave my experiences of corporate governance in Neimeth at the time and the challenges I had. The company actually also went through a similar thing. That’s why they invited me. So I gave them live testimony but this book would have made the difference.
Right now, there is a new organization called the Association of Corporate Governance Professionals of Nigeria (ACGPN). Here, we are trying to drive corporate governance down the business ladder. Because we know that people who know corporate governance are the big companies—the multinationals. But the same corporate governance principles that made those companies succeed, medium to small companies in Nigeria need them too. Then we also want to democratize corporate governance, move it away from just being the private sector to both public and non-governmental, because they are also the same principles. Organization is organization. When they say corporate governance, people are just thinking of business. Fine, but business is not just top business. Medium scale business needs the same corporate governance, good board management and board ethics. And non-governmental and public sectors also need it. That’s the angle we are taking in the association. We are registering members, teaching them, recruiting them and making them corporate governance professionals. So while they are in the organizations, they have already imbibed it. Even if they haven’t gotten on the board, at whatever level, they already have corporate governance mindset. Corporate governance makes you look at the company as an entity with different parts that must work in harmony for that entity to survive, just like the human body. The moment there is a schism against any part of the body, it affects the whole body. So also if a company can approximate that, that company would thrive. Because it’s conflict of interest, people wanting to take more that is due them—to cheat, to steal, to commit fraud. That is what brings companies down. So those are the kind of things we are trying to promote in ACGPN.
Corporate governance is essentially the ability of the board of directors of a company to manage the interest of all the stakeholders to ensure that every stakeholder is taken care of and the company achieves its mandate and remains sustainable. Nigeria doesn’t know what corporate governance is. It is exemplified in everything we do. From the high level of governance to the lowest level of governance, corporate governance has just no place. And that is why we are making efforts in ACGPN to move it into the public sector. Because they always think it’s the private sector thing. If Nigeria can adopt corporate governance in running the country, we would be a better country. Take the issue of $8.9 billion awarded against Nigeria in a U.S court. It’s a clear case of lack of corporate governance. No system, people act as they like. In corporate governance, there are systems, structures. The moment there is a break, the system would know. Because there are people who have oversight. The board meets, there are committees and they get quarterly reports, they make sure things are happening. The board challenges itself first, then challenges management into doing the right thing. At the end, corporate governance speaks about righteousness. The right way of doing things all the time. It is the way God actually want us to do things. It’s all in this book—a collector’s item.
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