Enyeribe Ejiogu, Christy Anyanwu and Agatha Emeadi
Nigerians in all walks of life are again showing their resilience and resourcefulness by adopting new strategies to survive, thrive and excel in all aspects of endeavours, and in the process are overcoming the disruptions caused by the novel Coronavirus disease and the attendant new life, socio-economic, religious and other activities.
With governments trying to end the lockdown while the research to produce vaccines is ongoing, a new normal is taking shape and it is manifesting in the forms of virtual meetings, virtual learning, virtual trading, virtual fashion shows, adaptation of old practices to fit the new realities, among others.
In addition, enterprising Nigerians are actively pursuing new opportunities and devising new ways of doing old things or re-purposing existing assets or tools to do new things in innovative ways. As the pandemic took root in the country, it compelled the government to impose a lockdown in the country to curb the spread of the Coronavirus. This forced over 95 per cent of businesses to drastically scale down their operations. Most of the staff resorted to working from home relying heavily on technology.
Meetings, discussions and other necessary interactions that used to be done physically suddenly became anathema. In response to this and to be able to maintain contact, technology came to the rescue as individuals found Zoom cloud meeting, video-conferencing and others as effective alternatives.
This new technology made it possible for the very vital Federal Executive Council meetings, suspended in the wake of the COVID19 pandemic, to be resumed though in a scaled down manner in observance of WHO and other protocols. For this purpose, the government adopted the Zoom technology to hold the FEC meeting. It was a joy to see President Muhammadu Buhari enthralled and awed by the beauty of the technology as he spoke and interacted with ministers who joined the meeting from their various offices.
Notwithstanding the beauty of video-conferencing and other means of holding remote interactions occasioned by the realities of the new normal, former senior banker and Chief Executive of Lenpris International, Ada Obaje, who now runs a high-end marketing consultancy firm, having made her name in UBA and other banks, argued that for certain marketing purposes and other very important discussions, people are still having in-person meetings.
“Yes, I agree that COVID-19 threw the plans of many organisations out of joint and caused horrendous disruptions to beautifully laid plans and initiatives, bringing social distancing and all that, I want to tell you that people are still meeting in-person for very important discussions. People just wear their face masks (some of which are so fine and elegantly colour-matched by ladies with the main outfit – call that power dressing if you like) and then go for the meetings. I think that the whole thing about the new normal and video-conferencing is over-hyped. Recently, President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina flew into the country from Abidjan to have a high level discussion with the Nigerian government right in the middle of COVID-19 pandemic. We all know about the false allegations against him by vicious group working against his re-election. Even with all the video-conferencing technology that the AfDB has why did he not choose to hold a Zoom meeting with President Buhari? The fact is that critical meetings remain physical. That is the truth. Virtual meetings are stop gap measures.
“For my firm, of course, our modus operandi has been modified, but the fundamentals remain unchanged. Under the present circumstance, some businesses would be run from home, but where there are major issues, such meetings will not be effective. In-person meetings allow you read the other party’s body language. As I said earlier, critical issues require in-person meetings and this will remain the normal.”
Who can forget the huge hospital tent donated by Guaranty Trust Bank Plc to the Lagos State government, located at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos Island. It was set up and fully equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment. Sunday Sun gathered that the huge tent was supplied by a leading events management firm which helped the bank to re-purpose the tent for use as an isolation centre for treatment of COVID-19 patients. This successful application soon created a market for other owners of similar tents who provided in this regard and made money.
Sunday Sun learnt from Kelechi Anyalechi, a renowned managerial staff training consultant to blue chip companies and founder of REVAMP Africa, that several fortunate firms and entrepreneurs have done well during the course of the pandemic.
“If you focus on how to survive in these present times, you may just get the little crumbs. If you focus on how to thrive, your mind will open up to greater opportunities. The truth is that some people have made more money legitimately within the past few months of lockdown than they made through last year.
“The world is moving on and many adjustments are being made. Cashflow is king. At a time like this, you can think of how you can be involved in the supply chain. The reality is that this new normal would make many businesses become obsolete. Innovation will keep businesses afloat and liquidity for individuals. I am privileged to be the founder of a non-profit organisation, REVAMP Africa. All up till the lockdown, our high impact work had been focused on children in schools. Most of our work in the past was in public secondary schools. Imagine the large population. We were almost rounding off one of our projects where we reached 90,000 students across the 36 states before the schools were shut down. The lockdown affected our work a great deal. We did not allow our minds go to sleep for one minute. I held a strategy meeting with our National Executive Support Team. We had to come up with several ways we would still make quality impact even if we are not allowed access into the schools for the next one year. By the time we were done with the meeting, everyone was excited and looking forward to implementation. The problems caused by this pandemic have opened opportunities for Nigerians. It depends on what and how you see things. For those that will lose their jobs, my first advice is for them to be stable emotionally and mentally. If you lose it in these two critical areas, it may be difficult to bounce back or be open to other opportunities. The days of trouble for some people are opportunities for others. Despite the state of the economy, people are making more money, getting new jobs and starting profitable businesses. Do your research and discover the critical needs of organisations. Develop the necessary skill set and be ready to apply for other jobs. For some people, the job loss may be the trigger for them to start up that dream business they have nursed for years.
“With the right mind-set and emotional stability, great things can happen. At the point where we are, almost everyone needs to develop tech-related skills. It is needed more now than ever. The pandemic has made many organisations revise their business models, to embrace technology. Remote work will continue and become the new normal. This is a good time to shine in your organisation. Think of ways you can help your organisation make more money, reduce their expenditure, increase the brand visibility or market share. You will remain relevant and even grow. Three other important skills I will like to mention here are adaptability, flexibility and resilience. They are needed now more than ever. I believe this is another time for people to look inwards and discover inert skills or learn, as long as they are relevant to man’s basic needs for survival. Another important skill needed is financial intelligence. We need to know how to make smart decisions in regards to expenditure, savings and investments.
“A major need for most people every day is money. Despite the fact that the state of things has become bad, money has not disappeared. It only changed hands. Let it change and come to you legitimately. It was Robert Schuller who said this: ‘Tough times never last, but tough people do,’” Anyalechi said.
For the chief executive of Ade Bakare Couture London, a highly respected and sought-after Nigerian designer, Ade Bakare, the COVID-19 has caused changes and he had to adopt new operational modalities as he revealed to Sunday Sun in a WhatsApp chat: “Since the pandemic lockdown we have had to readjust our business strategy with more focus on online. We have been fortunate to still remain busy. This initially started with mask orders that came to us; then design orders for loungewear followed. We partnered with a courier company that handles all our deliveries for Lagos and then used DHL for deliveries to other parts of Nigeria and the United Kingdom where we have our base in London. Fashion shows would not hold anymore until early next year, due to safety issues. We will continue to show our new couture designs to our clients for selection. Our new collections of RTW are shown on Instagram and other platforms.”
Though the Federal Government has rolled out guidelines for Christian and Islamic congregational worship to be resumed, the pandemic also dealt blows to specialised Pentecostal ministers whose ministries do not really run church services in the traditional sense, but rather engage in church-related training activities.
A leading ministry in this category is International Church Growth Ministries, headed by Dr. Bola Akin-John, who told Sunday Sun that the “core purpose of the ministry is to raise healthy pastors and church leaders that will raise healthy churches that will lead to healthy societies.”
On the pandemic he said: “COVID-19 affected us in several ways because I cannot hold training classes or travel to interact with pastors and churches scattered in many places and communities. It took a while, but I had to adjust, and began using online platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Telegram, YouTube and Webinar to reach out to them. Technology has really been very handy to bridge the gap to some good extent, though quite expensive and sometimes unreliable. Members of my staff have had to learn and adjust in a hard way to the new realities. I had to pay them substantially as a motivation, even though nothing has been coming in terms of income during the months of lockdown.”
As people begin to adjust to new life in the era of COVID-19, President of International Coaching Federation (Nigeria), Mrs. Adaora Ayoade, believes that corporate organisations need to pay close attention to the effect of the pandemic on mental health of their employees.
“When considering how people should adjust to new realities, one area that organizations need to pay attention to is health and safety, which should be number one priority on their agenda. As I think about Health and Safety, a new reality that has emerged is the increase in mental health concerns due to all the fear, anxiety and uncertainty brought about as impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In dealing with mental health, coaching comes to play. Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative manner that inspires them to maximize their person and professional potential. There is an inextricable link between coaching and mental health with a major benefit being the psychological wellbeing for a ‘healthy’ population. A coach is able to facilitate a client to explore their situation and problems, to solve the obstacles. They also help to highlight the discrepancies between the client’s current and desired states, thus enhancing their motivation to come up with options towards achieving their goals. Therefore, in this new reality, people need to be much more aware of their general health and safety and should pay particular attention to their emotional well-being and their mental health.
“In speaking to the opportunities, I would like to share a quote by Sonya Renee Taylor, which states that we will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-Coronavirus existence was not normal, other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. I see opportunities for us to have a better appreciation of what truly matters. Things like having meaningful conversations, being mindful and present, slowing down and avoiding a frenetic lifestyle as well as being truly appreciative and grateful.
“On the personal front, there will be the opportunity of using the period of working from home to bond better with family and to live a healthier and more balanced lifestyle. Whereas on the business front, with more organisations getting rid of unnecessary spending, bad performers and traditional working methods, there will be a rise in leadership as leaders will be required to facilitate change,” Ayoade told Sunday Sun.