By MICHAEL OMOLAYOLE
SALTVIM is the acronym for, Society for the Advancement of Local Talents and Virtue in Management. It was established about eight years ago, to promote, first and foremost, Virtue in Management and secondly, Nigerian talents in their aspirations to reach the highest level of management in the very large companies especially the Globalized Corporate Organisations operating in Nigeria.
At its inception, a number of retired Nigerians who had been CEOs of many blue-chip companies in Nigeria, came together to create an awareness about the apparent inability of virtuous and talented Nigerians, to reach the position of CEO any more in the large multinational companies, unlike what happened in 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
Some of the Nigerians who came together were:
Chief Ernest Shonekan; former Head of State and former CEO of United Africa Company of Nigeria (UACN).
Late Chief Moses Makinde; former CEO of Nigeria Breweries Plc
Late Mr Adeoye A. Abidogun; former CEO of Unilever Nigeria Plc
Elder Felix Ohiwerei; former CEO of Nigeria Breweries Plc.
Dr Christopher Kolade; former CEO of Cadbury Nigeria Plc.
Chief Segun Osunkeye; former CEO of Nestle Nigeria Plc
Olola F. Bode Ogunlana; former CEO of NICON
Late Sir Remi Omotosho; former CEO of Odua Investment Company and Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI)
And my humble self; former CEO of Lever Brothers Nigeria Limited now Unilever Nigeria Plc.
The intention of this article is to review what progress had been made during the year 2020 and to highlight any set back.
Progress: It is heart-warming to know that, the Annual Omolayole Management Lecture now has a slot known as SALTVIM MOMENT that started last year 2019, when three eminent and virtuous Nigerians were honoured with the SALTVIM LEADERSHIP AWARD. They were Mr Olakunle Alake; Group Managing Director of Dangote Industries Limited, Mrs Oyeyimika Adeboye; Managing Director of Cadbury Nigeria Plc, Mr Kunle Oyelana; Managing Director of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Nigeria Plc.
During the 36th Omolayole Management Lecture which took place on September 24, 2020, three more virtuous Nigerians were found worthy. They are (i) Mr Paul Miyonmide Gbededo; CEO of Flour Mills Nigeria Plc, (ii) Ms Ola Debayo Doherty; CEO of Mandilas Group Limited, and (iii) Ms Oluwaseun Abimisola Oni; CEO of A.G Leventis Nigeria Limited.
The recipients were urged to project Nigeria through outstanding performances which add value to their Organisations; but even more importantly, by doing so through scrupulous attention to honesty and sound ethical values in management, accountability and transparency.
SALTVIM focuses attention very heavily on Virtue because, it is an area where many of our compatriots are found wanting, especially at the highest level of management. SALTVIM honestly believes that there are virtuous Nigerians, even if they are few and between. It is the duty of corporate organisations operating in Nigeria to look for such rare breed of people until they can find them.
Thereafter, they should be properly trained, developed and groomed until they get to the position of CEO. Only then can aspiring middle management employees believe that the position of CEO in multinational corporations is not unattainable.
Challenge: During the period of Annual General Meeting (AGM) viz April to October 2020
SALTVIM had tackled some large multinationals, who still have expatriates as CEOs; some of them for as long as 23 years. This intervention happened during the annual meetings of those companies. SALTVIM reminded the Chairmen of those companies that one of the most important responsibilities of any Board of Directors is the preparation and pursuit of a serious top Management Succession Plan.
All the companies tackled, by an articulate and most eloquent proxy, agreed to have dialogue on the matter and to work towards accelerated progress. They were taken for their words. It is hoped and believed that as from the year 2021 those companies still lagging behind, will as a matter of routine, report on their efforts in pursuing management succession plans.
We sincerely hope the matter will be reported as a key item in the Annual Statement of the Chairman and Board of Directors. The Audit Committees of Companies quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, are urged to report on Top Management Succession Plans as part of the audit of the system.
It is exhilarating to note that, a few months ago a worthy and virtuous Nigerian was announced as the incoming Group Managing Director of MTN. His name is Karl Toriola. I have made contact with him, and expressed the good wishes of SALTVIM to him. He will be honoured in 2021. To MTN Nigeria Plc we say, Bravo !!
A definite setback was the demise of the Honorary General Secretary of SALTVIM since its inception, Sir Remi Omotosho. It was a big shock to SALTVIM and he was appropriately remembered and celebrated “Sweet are the memories of the righteous”.
He will continue to be remembered wherever and whenever SALTVIM is mentioned. He was an embodiment of honesty, hard work, impeccable character and a true Soldier of Christ. Eternal rest grant him O’ Lord and let light perpetual shine on him. He was succeeded by Otunba Lawal Solarin who has started to discharge his duty with enthusiasm and distinction. Otunba Solarin will be assisted by Otunba Seni Adetu, a former SALTVIM Leadership Awardee.
Finally, SALTVIM has set itself the task of reviewing progress or retrogression from an observatory and will not hesitate to tackle any company that pays lip service to the idea of Nigerianisation at the topmost level, in particular the “laggards” who promise much and deliver nothing in terms of human capacity development to the highest level. Our proxies at the annual general meetings had done excellently well and extracted promises that must be kept.
We, in SALTVIM will continue vigorously to draw the attention of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, the Security and Exchange Commission and the Federal Ministry of Interior, to the ugly situation where “the expatriate camels continue to pass through the eye of the needle” without batting an eyelid.
One day the millions of unemployed Nigerians will mount a protest against the Federal Ministry of Interior if great care is not taken. Nigeria should not be a dumping ground for expatriates.
I plead with the Honourable Minister of Interior especially one with the appellation “Comrade” to take note of this innocuous warning. Those who make peaceful changes impossible make constructive but determined/boisterous activism inevitable !
In particular, there is a big question for the Federal Ministry of Interior. How do companies continue to get permanent expatriate quotas for over 25 continuous years? The silence of the Ministry of Interior is deafening !! If a new law permits what the “laggards” are doing, the law needs to be abrogated “tanta celeritate” !! Nigerianisation and the Nigerian Local Content Laws are not dead.
I rest SALTVIM’s case !!