September 6, 2014. A day I can never forget till the very end. A day of sorrow and pain. The day I lost my bosom friend and co-author, Dimgba Igwe, knocked down by a mystery hit-and-run vehicle while jogging for good health on an early Saturday morning. It would be five years since this tragedy disrupted my life.
I was helpless. I prayed to God to give me the strength to carry on and do exactly what my friend would have expected of me. In a cathartic response to the agony of his death, I decided to write a book, a book he would have loved if he had been alive. A book that would make him proud wherever he is today. I decided to write this book: “50 NIGERIA’S BOARDROOM LEADERS—Lessons On Corporate Governance and Strategy.” A book that explores leadership from the boardroom—the apogee from which business wisdom oozes. Talking to 50 Boardroom Gurus, sharing their experiences and distilling their wisdom for this book. A book that can serve as a toolkit for training students of business management and managers who would one day find themselves in the boardroom and be able to perform the roles expected of them as executive directors, non-executive directors or even chairman of the board.
From this book, they would be hearing and learning straight from the masters of the boardroom, sharing their thoughts, their experiences and stories of their lives on the board of companies which they served on. This is a practical book, a hands-on book where the boardroom gurus are made to tell it all, answering questions like: Why do we need a board? How do you constitute a board? What is the role of the board? What would business be without a board? How do you pick the chairman of the board? What qualities are needed to lead the board? Who are the legendary leaders and heroes of the Nigerian boardroom? What are some of the qualities that stood them out? How does a chairman prepare for a board meeting? How does a non-executive director prepare for a board meeting? How important is good preparation for a board meeting both for the chairman and the directors? Why do boards fail? What happens when the owner of a business usurps the power of the board? Why do businesses not outlive their owners in Nigeria? What is corporate governance and how does it function in Nigeria?
These were some of the questions we asked. There were questions on every issue: gender balance, diversity in the boardroom, relationship between boards and their CEOs, the trend of bringing in Independent Directors, ethics in the boardroom and the workplace, corporate governance, the case of board committees, evaluating the boards, good boards, bad boards, why boards fail, what makes effective and ineffective boards? Virtually every question on boards is answered—be it public sector boards or government boards or not-for-profit boards. Then of course we featured the Central Bank and its board, the various governors that have come and gone and the revolutionary things some of them did in their time. Then we took note of the increasing importance of women breaking the glass-ceiling and occupying strategic roles in the Nigerian boardroom. We interviewed the three powerful women who chair the boards of three Nigerian banks: First Bank, Access Bank and GTBank.
My co-author for this book is Jibril Musa, a young brilliant journalist who started as someone I was mentoring. We really, really enjoyed this project, even though we missed the intellectual input of Dimgba Igwe—the headmaster. It was like going back to school all over again and learning from the professors from the University of Boardroom Experience. We learnt from corporate giants like Dr. Michael Omolayole, Dr. Christopher Kolade, Felix Ohiwerei, Prof. Joe Irukwu, the late Apostle Hayford Alile, Chief Olusegun Osunkeye, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe (The Obi of Onitsha and Chairman of Unilever Nigeria) and big brother Biodun Shobanjo who was simply just wonderful in supporting this project. I thank him and I thank everybody who played a supportive role in sharing their knowledge and experiences: Chief Dele Fajemirokun (then AIICO chairman), Sir Steve Omojafor (Zenith Bank chairman then), Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah (Union Bank/African Capital Alliance), Dotun Suleiman (Accenture, then chairman of Cornerstone Insurance), Chief Olusegun Osunkeye (former chairman of Nestle, GSK and Lafarge boards), Sir Ogala Osoka (of NICON fame), Dave Ifezulike (chairman of Nestle), Dr. Chris Ogbechie (chairman, Diamond Bank), Dr. Chris Eze (former chairman Fidelity Bank), Ndidi Nwuneli (LEAP), Yemi Adeola (former MD Sterling Bank), Oluremi Omotosho (Standard Merchant Bank chairman), Chief Ephraim Faloughi (Chairman, Sovereign Trust Insurance), Dr. Olatunde Ayeni (former Skye Bank chairman), George Thorpe (Sterling Health), Gbenga Oyebode (MTN/Access Bank/Okomu Oil), Mohammed Hayatudeen (Alpine Investment Services), Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa (Pfizer/Neimeth), Dayo Lawuyi (on the fate of Dunlop), Tunde Lemo (WEMA/CBN), Raymond Obieri (Intercontinental Bank experience), Yaw Nsarko (Unilever MD), Segun Adebanji (Nigerian Breweries and former Treasurer Heineken), Udoma Udo Udoma (UAC/Union Bank former chairman), Dr. Adenike Fajemirokun (Chief Risk Officer, Dangote Group), Chief Arthur Mbanefo (UAC/Citibank fame), Arnold Ekpe (Ecobank), Dr. Mailafia Obadiah (CBN and Nigerian Breweries board), Asue Ighodalo (Chairman, Dangote Flour, Chairman Sterling Bank), Olusegun Onasanya (Independent director Dangote Cement), Ajibola Ogunshola (former Chairman Punch), Emmanuel Ikazoboh (Dangote, Ecobank), Ernest Ebi (Fidelity Bank chairman), Lateef Bakare (Independent director, First Bank) and Seyi Onajide (R.T. Briscoe). Then of course, the three powerful glass-ceiling breaking women: Mrs. Ibukun Awosika (First Bank’s first woman chairman), Mrs. Osaretin Demuren (Chairman GTBank), Mrs. Mosun Belo-Olusoga (Access Bank chairman) who dazzled us with their brains.
We have combed the whole world in search of a book of this nature—a book bringing together 50 Boardroom Leaders sharing their experiences, but so far, we have not found any. This makes us proud that this book is an original Nigerian offering to the global literature on corporate governance and boardroom practices which would benefit anyone desiring to become a director, a trustee or even chairman of the board. It is more than that. This is a book about the life and times of some Nigeria’s business minds. It is also a story of the Nigerian boardroom and difficult landscape as told by those who have been through it, plus what to expect when coming to do business in Nigeria—Africa’s biggest economy. This is a book Dimgba Igwe would have loved and would be happy to see it carrying his name. More so, it is now on Amazon where the paperback edition sells for $100. For enquiries on hardback: 08033445125 and [email protected]