By Sam Eyoboka
WHENEVER two or more Nigerians are gathered, chances are, they are discussing the nation’s prostrate economy which has defied all known economic theories and the political class’ response to the endemic problem.
They ruminate over issues bothering on high level corruption in different sectors of the economy including among those who vowed to salvage the nation for the sake of the down trodden. Very often, such debates or soul searching bouts end up on a spiritual note: “God dey,” without any meaningful effort to redress the situation for obvious reasons.
But there was a unique kind of gathering recently at the Protea Hotel Oakwood Park in Lekki, Lagos where some seasoned management consultants and captains of industry concluded that there cannot be any earthly solution to the global down turn ravaging the world today and instead advocated a fresh approach to doing business in the country. The group known as D’ Eight Eighteen Group is an aggregation of retired directors of large conglomerates as well as current managers and would be entrepreneurs willing to do business in a Godly way.
The brain behind the dream, general overseer of Wonders of God Church and a former associate professor at the New York University, Dr. John Utomi Aire partnered former chairman, Nigerian Breweries Plc and Nigerian Investment Promotion Council, NIPC, Elder Felix Ohiwerei to propose new ways Nigeria can get out of current economic woods.
Drawing inspiration from the Bible book of Deuteronomy 8:18: “But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore unto thy fathers, as it is this day”, the twosome opined that the nation and indeed the world would not gravitate their way out of current economic morass unless they return to Godly ways of doing things.
At the inaugural meeting, Dr. Aire, a one-time Bendel State Commissioner for Trade and Industry and retired deputy chief executive of A.G. Leventis Nigeria Plc, outlined the mission of the group to include a return to Godly principles, stressing that with the nation’s expenditure pattern it is obvious that something is not right in the sight of God and in the sight of Man and “only nations that do not want to make progress that would refuse to stop at one point and review the impediments against our development.
“After a cursory look at the nation’s economic distribution which has made the masses poorer even as the country makes more money, I realized that we have been disobedient to God in our ways of doing things. Any time people disobey God in the Bible there are adverse consequences and the reverse is the case when they are in obedience,” he explained, adding “there is a correlation to the obedience of God and what harvest one gets at the end of each planting season.”
In his keynote address titled; ‘A fresh look at business…How to prosper in partnership with God’, Elder Ohiwerei emphasized the need for everybody to crave for the prosperity of the total man, stating that prosperity is not all about money. According to the erstwhile chairman/CEO of Nigeria Breweries life is much more than financial prosperity.
“We always think of money without realizing that the wealthiest man is not necessarily the happiest man. We need to prosper in service to God and Man; social service, politics et al. So, prosperity is not just about money. It’s about the total man,” he maintained, explaining that money has become god to so many Nigerians.
According to him; in our inordinate ambition to acquire money, we are not mindful of our responsibility to God, “everything we do is just to acquire money. We believe that we’ve got to get this thing through man, rather than the One who created the man.
Man has been the centre of all our planning and that what leads to the monumental corruption we find in the country today. The root cause of corruption is greed. We have loved money so much that it has developed to greed.”
Said he: “As a nation, we have earned much more money than we have ever earned, but the quality of life of the individual Nigerian is worse than ever before; because of greed. At the individual level, the average Nigerian has evolved several human ways of doing business to make profit, but I dare say that all the human ways of doing business have failed. All human institutions have failed because Man is the centre of the thrust”.
Ohiwerei further argued that despite all the efforts by economic experts drawn from several nations of the world to revamp the global economic downturn, they would continue to fail until there is a concerted effort to reverse the trend, because the thrust of the economic problem is hinged on the fact that man is serving man.
“The desired change will only come if we change our attitudes,” he pointed out “the way of man has failed essentially because it is aimed at oiling man’s ego. We must go back to God because He made us and the earth belongs to Him and the fullness thereof just as His word told us that He gives us power to make wealth.”
He maintained that the old order left God out of our business and put man at the centre which is why we will continue to fail despite all the educational knowledge, “the new system must of necessity remove man from our business and put God at the centre. The reason is God created us in His image.”
Narrating his personal experience in the corporate world, Elder Ohiwerei said he came to the realization that 99 per cent of those who walk through his office door come with ulterior motive, stating that it takes the grace of God to survive in a climate like that where “colleagues openly say; ‘you no go chop and you no go allow other people chop. Sebi you go soon retire; you go chop sand.’”
My guiding principle, Ohiwerei stated, “has been: what will God have me do in this situation. I have never lobbied for a job in my life. I have never lobbied for anything in my life. If He did it for me, He can do it for you too.”
According to him, the only successful businessman is the one that involves God and does his business with the fear of God, who applies Godly principles in all his actions; work according to the Word of God; pays his tithes; supports the work of God; and who does not forget the poor and needy in his locale.
“What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and lose his soul?” Ohiwerei asked.
Answering questions from participants, he maintained that doing business in a corrupt country like Nigeria is fraught with several temptations; but every business man that is worth its name must be above board at all times, saying; “I did not give anybody any kobo as bribe.
Even when the Customs and Excise ceased some of our raw materials, demanding bribe from me, I refused and instead I ordered another consignment that was air freighted to Lagos within days and four weeks later, they called my workers to come and collect our goods, of course, not within several abusive words for me”.
When asked how a Christian who is under pressure to employ an unqualified relation or church member, wriggle his way out; he answered with his personal experience, saying that he sent the name of a relation’s son to human resources for employment.
The boy couldn’t pass the aptitude test and the “father came to my office raving mad. I sat him down and called for the files of the people who participated in the test and showed him the list and asked him one question; how on earth would you want me to disregard these ones and hire your son?” Do the right thing, was his summary.