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Diamond Bank: Battling for Survival Under Uzoma Dozie

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Diamond Bank: Battling for Survival Under Uzoma Dozie

By Bamidele Ogunwusi

The last four years have not been years with more of good news for Diamond Bank, one of Nigeria’s wholly indigenous banks that emerged in the banking architecture of the country in December 1990.

Since it started operations in 1991, the bank has challenged the market environment by introducing new products, innovative technology and setting new benchmarks through international standards. At a point, the bank was Nigeria’s fastest growing retail bank.

For fourteen years, the bank was under the control of its founder, Mr Pascal Dozie, who was also the Chief Executive Officer of the bank. The fourteen years, according to many stakeholders, were the formative years of the bank and the bank indeed rose to the occasion churning out several innovations.

He relinquished the Chief Executive position to Mr Emeka Onwuka at the end of 2005. His exit would however be heralded with improved performance of the bank, which recorded a profit of N5.445 billion for the year 2005.

Onwuka, who took over effectively from January 2006 and handed it over to Alex Otti in 2011 and later to the son of the founder, Uzoma Dozie in March 2014.

The Otti’s years as Managing Director of the bank was referred to as the golden era and the most productive in the history of the bank.

Diamond Bank in Numbers

The period between 1991 and 2000, the bank tried to make its mark in the murky waters of the banking industry in the country and from 2000 the bank began to see improvements in its performance.

In 2001, the bank reported a loss after tax of N467.819 million while there was an improvement in its performance the following year when it reported a loss after tax of N134.960 million. This greatly improved in 2003 when it posed a profit after tax of N903.411 million.

This steadily grew to N7.086 billion at the end of 2007 financial year. It was N2.508 billion in 2004, N5.44 billion in 2005 and N3.977 billion in 2006.

This leaped to N12.821 billion in 2008, while bad loans brought the operations of the bank on its knees in the subsequent two financial years when profit dropped to N1.328 billion in 2009, a loss of N11.214 billion in 2010, another loss after tax of N13.940 billion in 2011.

There was, however, a resurgence in 2012 when the bank posted a profit after tax of N22.108 billion , the first full year in the Alex Otti’s leadership of the bank.

Under Dr. Otti’s leadership, Diamond Bank made a remarkable return to profitability with impressive growth across all performance indicators year-on-year.

After writing off toxic risk assets, which resulted in the loss of N16 billion in 2011, the lender posted a profit before tax of N28.36 billion in 2012 and N32.5 billion in 2013. The bank also saw its total assets rise from N564.9 billion in February 2011 to N1.18 trillion by December 31, 2012 and N1.52 trillion on December 31, 2013.

He is credited with creating the office of the Chief Risk Officer and designating an Executive Director to head the department. He also spear-headed the expansion of the bank by doubling the full staff count from around 2,000 in 2010 to over 4,000 as at mid-2014, even as he vigorously grew the bank’s footprints from a network of 210 branches in 2011 to over 265 branches three years later. It was also under his watch that the bank established an international subsidiary in the United Kingdom, in addition to expansion in Francophone West Africa (Senegal, Togo, and Ivory Coast).

It is to be noted that the Central Bank only recently classified the bank as one of the eight systematically important banks in Nigeria under his watch.

Since the current MD, Uzoma Dozie took over the leadership of the bank in March 2014; the bank’s fortune has been nose-diving.

Many saw his emergence as desperation on the side of the Dozie’s family to ensure that the leadership of the bank returns to the family.

Pascal Dozie was the Executive Director in charge of Lagos Businesses between 2011 and 2013 until his appointment as Deputy Managing Director in April 2013 and charged with the responsibility of overseeing the Retail Banking Directorate of the Bank.

He has attended various specialist and executive development courses in Nigeria and overseas

Following the resignation of Alex Otti, Uzoma Dozie was unanimously appointed by the Board as the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Bank effective November 1, 2014 while the appointment was approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria in December 2014.

In 2015, the bank’s profit after tax went down from N28.36 billion to N5.656 billion. It went down further to N3.499 billion in 2016 and a loss of N9.011 billion in 2017.

In 2017, noticing that it could no longer continue to cope with losses from its subsidiaries, the bank sold its West African operations in Benin, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal to Manzi Finances S.A., a Cote d’Ivoire-based financial services holding company.

The bank said the sale of these operations was to enable it focus its resources exclusively on Nigeria as it is poised to capitalise on the positive macro fundamentals inherent in the Nigerian market.

Commenting on the transaction, Diamond Bank’s CEO Uzoma Dozie said: “After 18 years of building the Diamond Bank franchise in other markets in West Africa, the time has come to fully apply our resources to Nigeria. This, Dozie said aligns with Diamond Bank’s strategic objective: to be the fastest growing and most profitable technology-driven retail banking franchise in Nigeria”.

Aside the sale of these operations, the bank is also on the verge of selling its United Kingdom’s operations.

The lender struck a deal with British industrialist, Sanjeev Gupta, earlier this year, after selling its West African subsidiaries last year.

In May, Diamond Bank posted a 2017 loss, its first time in the red in six years after selling assets to conserve capital and to focus on its home market.

Its half-year 2018 pre-tax profit declined by 69 per cent to N2.92bn, hurting its shares, which further fell by 1.60 per cent on Tuesday.

The bank said it expected loan growth to return; growing five per cent this year after credit declined in the first half by 3.6 per cent.

A Bank in Coma

With the latest S&P Global Ratings downgrade of Diamond Bank, it is evident that the fortunes of the bank, which was once one of Nigeria’s top banks about a decade ago has strangely deteriorated into a bank in a coma.

Diamond Bank was downgraded On Weaker-Than-Expected Asset Quality; Outlook Negative

S&P believes that the bank’s provisioning needs will be higher than it initially expected, which will put pressure on the bank’s capitalisation.

Additionally, its foreign-currency liquidity position also remains vulnerable, due to a large upcoming Eurobond maturity in May 2019.

“As a result, we are lowering our global scale ratings on Diamond Bank to ‘CCC+/C’ from ‘B-/B’ and our Nigeria national scale ratings to ‘ngBB-/ngB’ from ‘ngBBB-/ngA-3’.

The negative outlook reflects pressure on the bank’s capitalization and foreign-currency liquidity,” The foremost rating agency said.

The rating action by S&P considers Diamond Bank to be currently dependent on favorable business, financial, and economic conditions to meet its financial obligations.

It said it believed that the bank will have to set aside higher provisions than they initially expected, following the adoption of International Financial Reporting Standard No. 9 (IFRS 9), which implies weaker asset quality than expected and exerts significant pressure on the bank’s capitalization,” The report said

It went further to say that “Following the bank’s successful disposal of its West African subsidiaries, and imminent disposal of its U.K. subsidiary, it expects it to convert its license into a national banking license. The license conversion would mean a lower minimum capital adequacy ratio (10% versus 15% currently) and lower risk of breach. However, the timing is uncertain, and it considers that there is significant pressure on its capital position. Moreover, four of the bank’s 13 board members have resigned recently, which could create instability if left unresolved in the near term.

“As at Dec. 31, 2017, the bank’s regulatory capital adequacy ratio reached 16.7 per cent. It dropped to 16.3 per cent in Sept. 30, 2018, on the back of IFRS 9 implementation and amortization of tier-2 capital instruments. The initial implementation of IFRS 9 resulted in the bank taking a Nigerian naira (NGN) 2.5 billion (approximately $7 million) deduction from retained earnings at June 30, 2018.”

The agency believes that the bank will have to take higher provisions for IFRS 9, using the N31 billion of regulatory risk reserves that it holds under the local prudential guidelines. Based on peers’ experience and the bank’s weak asset-quality indicators, it estimate the impact will significantly exceed the regulatory risk reserves and estimates that their risk-adjusted capital (RAC) ratio will reach 3.4%-3.9 per cent in the next 12-24 months compared with 5.3 per cent at year-end 2017.

The impact, according to S&P, will be somewhat tempered by the capital gain when the sale of the bank’s U.K. subsidiary is finalized.

“We expect the bank’s credit losses to average 5 per cent over the same period, while nonperforming loans (NPLs; including impaired loans and loans more than 90 days overdue but not impaired) will remain above 35% in the next 12-24 months after reaching 40 per cent at Sept. 30, 2018.

“Overall, we think the bank will display losses in the next 12-24 months. In May 2019, Diamond Bank will have to repay its maturing Eurobond principal of $200 million. The bank plans to use its foreign-currency liquidity and the proceeds from the sale of its U.K. subsidiary for the repayment, among other sources. Any delays or unexpected developments could exert downward pressure on the ratings.

”Following the recent resignation of board members, the bank could face some outflows of deposits, but the granularity of its deposit base and its historically good retail franchise are mitigating factors.

“The negative outlook reflects the pressure on the bank’s capitalization from weaker-than-expected asset-quality indicators and on its foreign-currency liquidity due to a large upcoming maturity in May 2019. We could lower the ratings if provisioning needs proves higher than what we currently expect, leading to a decline in capitalization as measured by our RAC ratio (below 3%) or a breach in the local regulatory requirements.”

Financial experts believe that the declaration by S&P may have further put the bank in a more precarious situation and many are calling on the management to look into the system of the bank and proffer solution.

Cyril Ampka, an Abuja-based financial expert, believes that the dwindling fortune of the bank was not unconnected with the decision of the “owners” of the bank to keep the management of the bank in the family.

“If you look at the time the bank started having this problem you will see that it coincide with the emergence of Mr Uzoma Dozie as the Managing Director of the bank. The decision of the owners of the bank to still keep leadership of the bank within the family is not favourable to the fortune of the bank,” he said.

Though the bank claimed it now controls 40 per cent of the volume of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) transactions in the banking sector but there are indications that the bank is losing several of its clients in most parts of the South-East and South-South to another Tier 2 bank.

No Merger Talk

Reacting to a report that the bank is in discussion with Access Bank over a possible merger or takeover, Uzoma Uja, Diamond Bank’s Company Secretary, said it was not in discussion with any financial institution at the moment on any form of merger or acquisition.

Uja said that the attention of Diamond Bank had been drawn to the rumour in the media stating that the bank was purportedly in discussion with Access Bank to acquire the bank.

“We wish to state categorically that the bank is not in discussion with any financial institution at the moment on any form of merger or acquisition.

“We trust that the above clarifies the position of the bank with regards to the rumour on the various media platforms,” Uja said.

However, recent analysis by proshare had revealed a concern around the survival of the bank and the need for the CBN to act decisively on its financial stability mandate; given the disposition and realities of its Tier 1 banks, a few that had its own hands full in dealing with legacy challenges apart from new operating environmental issues.

The bank had to content with a CBN levy over a disputed role with regards to MTN Nigeria causing it to issue a notice on CBN Levy on the London Stock Exchange on Sep 07, 2018

Sometime later in September 2018, as the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) issued letters and was set to suspend Skye Bank, Unity Bank and Fortis Microfinance for non-submission of its financials in violation of the post-listing rules. A day before the ultimatum expired, the CBN Governor wrote in to ask the NSE to stay action on these institutions because the CBN was involved in serious discussions for which such an action by the NSE may complicate/jeopardize.

It noted that the withdrawal of license of Skye Bank Plc, and issuing a new one to Polaris Bank, equally left a lot of unanswered questions about the investor protection mandate of the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) and of NSE’s observance of its post listing rules which, at the heart of it, dealt with the investor-market trust and integrity issue.

Consequently, it observed that if in the case of the stress test conducted by CBN, which they found out had three (3) banks failing the minimum regulatory liquidity ratio of 30%, but that the non-disclosure of the names of such banks in a controlled manner presented signaling challenges.

“If in the case of Diamond Bank, with its sheer size and base, has its capital eroded due to huge NPLs with no proactive approach to its resolution plans; and continues to engage in communications juggling, what signals should the markets pick from the state of affairs of such an institution?”

The hole created in the capital gap is quite huge and to fill the hole will require, according to the analysts. Significant haircut from the CBN; Forbearance of accounts (including NPL’s) against the bank; and A fresh injection of capital that could easily come from an ‘acquisition’.

Note: The headline of this story was cast by Business Post but the article was culled from Daily Independent Newspaper

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CEPEJ and the Reality of Niger Delta Underdevelopment Crisis

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flood in bayelsa niger delta

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

Talking about the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, it is true that today there exists in the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) which made some far-reaching provisions for the host community’s development such as its demand that any oil prospecting licence or mining lease or an operating company on behalf of joint venture partners (the settlor) is required to contribute 3% of its actual operating expenditure in the immediately preceding calendar year to the host communities development trust fund. This is in addition to the existing contribution of 3% to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

It is also true that recently, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President of Nigeria, at a function in Lagos noted that the present administration was determined to see through to the completion of all the critical projects in the region.

Once more, we are equally witnesses to the fact that the Minister of Environment, Dr Mohammad Abubakar, after a meeting in Port Harcourt, said his ministry was in talks with key stakeholders in the Niger Delta region on devising a blueprint for alternative ways to preserve, conserve and restore mangrove in the region.

Abubakar, who said the destruction of mangroves was catastrophic to the economy of the nation, noted that the resolution of the meeting in Port Harcourt was to focus on starting with short term goals of seeking alternative means of making people stay away from mangrove destruction.

However, if a serious statistical study is carried out about the area, it may be ‘amazing’ how the Niger Delta region has, and despite all these moves remained a backward and degraded, coastal region occasioned by crude oil exploration, exploitation and production with no better chance of development as the government is not ready to learn from its past mistakes which bother on the adoption of a non-participatory approach to development that strips the people of the region their sense of ownership over their own issues.

And as a consequence, cast a long dark shadow on efforts to improve the wellbeing and economic development of the region’s individuals, peoples, and communities while resulting in a state where the region’s communal right to a clean environment and access to clean water supplies was brazenly violated. And fierce war raged in the region between ethnic and social forces over the ownership and control of oil resources in the Niger Delta.

Bringing this ugly account to the fore is a recently well-timed statement/alarm raised by the Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ), Comrade Mulade Sheriff, calling on the Federal Government of Nigeria not to hands-off Niger Delta region until it completes the environmental remediation and socio-economic rejuvenation of the zone devastated by long periods of oil spill neglect, crude oil exploration/exploitation, deprivation and marginalization.

The group spoke recently in Warri, Delta State against the backdrop of speculations, claims and counterclaims in some quarters regarding the advent of the PIA that the federal government will abandon its responsibility to remediate the environment.

It was argued that the PIA and allocation of 3% to host communities do not mean the federal government should shy aware of its primary responsibility of providing basic amenities for and care for her citizens, especially when the government is the main beneficiary of oil production proceeds from the region and the cause of degradation of the Niger Delta environment.

The environmental rights group, while speaking with newsmen in Warri, asserted that it is the responsibility of the Nigeria government and oil companies to remediate the degraded environment, pay adequate compensation to affected host communities and rejuvenate the lost socio-economic wellbeing of Niger Deltans for the impoverished state caused by crude oil exploration activities engineered by the federal government.

CEPEJ drew the attention of the federal government and other relevant agencies to the fact that the region has long been degraded and the environment devastated before the emergence of PIA, hence, it cannot and should not hide under the Act to further marginalize the region, rather, it should be directly involved in the remediation and socio-economic rejuvenation of the region.

Remediation and rejuvenation of the socio-economic life of the people in the Niger Delta region of the country is a responsibility that is extremely important which successive administrations have failed to address and spent far too long a time not only to attend to but also to accomplish.

In explaining the importance of the PIA to host communities, CEPEJ said “the Law or Act cannot take retrospective effect on the people it’s meant to benefit and Nigerians should not lose sight of the beneficial reality of the Act.

“Before the federal government can hands off the Niger Delta, it must complete its environmental remediation as well as socioeconomic rejuvenation of the environment which is what the federal government owns the people living in the region.

“It will be unethical for the federal government to hands off at a time when the world is in agreement in terms of citizen and communal right of the people, and that it is the communal rights of the Niger Delta people to have a clean environment and access to clean water supplies which are being violated by Nigeria government and oil-producing companies operating in the region.”

It also asserts that, by the admission of oil companies to the region, ‘the oil industries have abandoned thousands of polluted sites in the region which need to be identified and studied in detail, He, therefore, called on environmental experts to go the extra mile to identify these spots, study them and make cases for the affected communities.

While complaining about the negative effect of oil operations in the Niger Delta, CEPEJ said due to degradation of the environment, aquatic organism and water supply sources are being adversely affected including the health and wellbeing of the people which has resulted in high mortality.

He also said that the present environmental state caused by oil companies and their operational activities need to be recovered while affected communities are adequately compensated for their losses.

Referencing what is obtainable in other oil-producing nations around the world, the rights group said, “We expect the federal government to apply what is obtainable in countries such as the Netherlands where the Dutch government requires all operators to restore their areas of operation back to how nature intended, which means all infrastructures used for operations during active production will be removed at the end of production and proper maintenance of the environment need to be carried out.”

“He said this method of operation is referred to “abandonment liability” which the operating company need to carry out at the end of active operation, and that is what he expects the Nigeria government to emulate.

On the management of the 3% to host communities, the group submitted that the 13 per cent oil derivation fund and the PIA fund are meant to address the environmental, ecological and infrastructural development issues of oil communities and “we expect that should be done to better the lives of people living in oil and gas host communities.”

He further insisted that the 3 per cent PIA fund should be managed by the Host Community Trust Fund as stipulated by the PIA.

It concluded that leaving the funds under the hands of Ministers or State Governors to control or even nominate candidates to manage the fund for host communities might lead to its being mismanaged the same way the 13% derivation fund allocated to oil and gas producing states for the development of oil and gas host communities was misappropriated.

To avoid a repeat of such stories, the host communities should nominate credible individuals to manage the Host Community Trust Fund as stipulated in the PIA for speedy infrastructural development and environmentally friendly condition of the oil-rich region of Nigeria.

Indeed, CEPEJ, in my view, may not be wrong.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374

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#EndSARS: No Real Consequence for Leadership Failures in Nigeria

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Chinwendu Ohakpougwu Consequence for Leadership Failures

By Chinwendu Ohakpougwu

I was in Zanzibar, on a work leave when the protest that held Nigeria standstill happened. It was the #EndSARS, a protest which was largely and primarily against police brutality, but which spiralled to all other things holding the Nigerian nation down.

It was the 20th of October 2020 precisely – and our flight had left for Nigeria from Zanzibar. We had a stop-over in Addis Ababa. Just as we landed in Ethiopia, we received news that flights were grounded from entering Nigeria.

This was the second time I could clearly see a reflection of what I had watched in the movie ‘Sometimes in April’. We had no transit visas and were stranded in a foreign land – with our own country evidently in ruins. It was a painful feeling. It was clear things had gone out of hand.

The airport hotel we were put in felt like some prison. Apparently, they too had received the news of what was happening in Nigeria – and they made sure to treat us in a way that was demeaning. We were not let out of the hotel. They wouldn’t let us have the keys to our rooms. We slept that night, praying and hoping that the next day we would receive good news from Nigeria. Some of us had started to make plans about taking a flight to neighbouring Ghana, after all, we had the ECOWAS passport.

Miraculously, the next morning, they allowed a few more flights into the country and we took the opportunity. Ethiopian Airlines landed in Lagos in the late afternoon on the 21st of October amidst great tension. There were soldiers everywhere. We were told not to leave the airport, but most people tried to get accommodation in the hotels around the international airport.

They had to walk long distances to these hotels in Ajao. No cab wanted to leave the airport premises – and those who eventually did charged outrageous prices.

As we walked out of the airport premises to find hotels nearby, the young men littered around, blocking the road, yelled at us and cursed us, that we were the mistresses to some of these politicians and are kept away from the chaotic scenes happening back in Nigeria. They searched our bags and took some items. Soldiers were patrolling like it was Lebanon, the air was too tense and volatile. Eventually, I made it back home, safely.

Fast-forward – it’s 20th October 2021, and I am witnessing the memorial of the #EndSARS. The feeling is still the same – hurt everywhere, and yet more oppression and injustice can still be seen and felt. It is as though we never picked up any lesson one year after.

As a Comms person, I try to look at these things with an industry eye and wondered why the Lagos state governor was not present at the #EndSARS memorial. I had an exchange with a friend heavily involved in political PR and he said something that struck me “Two weeks after the 2020 massacre, APC won the election in that same senatorial zone by like 10k votes. Do you know what 10k votes are? You can mobilize 10k people.

So, when I sit with politicians and tell them to care about young people, they can only scoff because there is no consequence to ignoring them. Each time events like this happen, all politicians need to do is ignore their social media accounts for a while, send some other young people to disrupt the activities and the world is fine again.”

This, right here is my vexation with Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB – all that power and influence and yet all they do in the SE is a Sit At Home? What happened to real influence over who wins elections in the SE? What about teaming with the people to pick only the crop of leaders who are fit for the future we want to achieve? Nigerian youths have the numbers – and in all games, numbers are great leverage. Get out and get involved in politics. The change we desire will not happen on social media. Let us start to strategically get more smart young people into the National Assembly. That is where true and long-lasting change happens.

Chinwendu Ohakpougwu is the Head of Corporate Communications at DLM Capital Group

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Nigeria: Between Persuasive Leaders and Coquettish Behaviour

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Persuasive Leaders

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

For most of our political history, concept and reality, particularly banking on the underlying understanding of a Coquette by Robert Green, the author of The 48 Laws of Power, it will not be out of place to describe an average Nigerian as a Coquette.

The reason stems from the belief that they are experts at arousing desire through a provocative appearance or an alluring attitude.

Their strength lies in their ability to trap people emotionally and to keep their victims in their clutches long after that titillation of desire. This is the skill that puts them in the ranks of the most effective seducers. Instead of persuasion, some resort to lies, many to propaganda while the rest take to intimidation of their followers.

Regrettable, while this attribute has not only flourished but thrived with unhindered access in Nigeria, it is true that today in many parts of Europe, America and Asia; it is in sharp contrast with the demand of modern leadership. Let’s look at particulars that support this claim.

First, writing on the theme the Necessary Art of Persuasion, Jay A Conger, a Henry R. Kravis Research Chair in Leadership Studies at Claremont Mckenna College, noted that gone are the command-and-control days of executives managing by decree.

Persuasion is widely perceived as a skill reserved for selling products and closing deals. It is also commonly seen as just another form of manipulation-devious and to be avoided.

Certainly, persuasion can be used in selling and deal-clinching situations, and it can be misused to manipulate people. But exercised constructively and to its full potential, persuasion supersedes sales and is quite the opposite of deception.

Effective persuasion he argues become a negotiating and learning process through which a persuader leads colleagues to a problem’s shared solution. Persuasion does indeed involve moving people to a position they don’t currently hold, but not by begging or cajoling. Instead, it involves careful preparation, the proper framing of arguments, the presentation of vivid supporting evidence, and the effort to find the correct emotional match with your audience.

Also, Deborah Tannen, a Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University, in a similar research report titled The Power of Talk, Who Gets Heard and Why, underlined something that could be described as a missing link in Nigeria’s leadership corridor when she among other things thus observed that In organizations, formal authority comes from the position one holds. But the actual authority has to be negotiated day-to-day. The effectiveness of individual managers/leaders depends in part on their skill in negotiating authority and on whether others reinforce or undercut their efforts. The way linguistic style reflects status plays a subtle role in placing individuals within a hierarchy.

Often, so many leaders assume persuasion is a one-shot effort. Persuasion is a process, not an event. Rarely, if ever, is it possible to arrive at a shared solution on the first try. More often than not, persuasion involves listening to people, developing a new position that reflects input from the group, more testing, incorporating compromises, and then trying again. If this sounds like a slow and difficult process, that’s because it is. But the results are worth the effort.

Now, this is the lesson that every leader in Nigeria must draw from this conversation.

For a leader to be a successful persuader, Deborah Tannen and Jay A Conger were unanimous in agreement that such a leader must ask this question; do those I am hoping to persuade see me as helpful, trustworthy, and supportive?

The duo also said something striking.

Let’s listen again; some leaders think the secret of persuasion lies in presenting great arguments. In persuading people to change their minds, great arguments matter. No doubt about it. But arguments, per se, are only one part of the equation.

Other factors matter just as much, such as the persuader’s credibility and his or her ability to create a proper, mutually beneficial frame for a position, connect on the right emotional level with an audience, and communicate through vivid language that makes arguments come alive.

In my view, it will not be considered as an overstatement to conclude that was Nigeria’s public office holder’s quest to achieve persuasive purpose considered as strategic, that explains as well as propels the never-ending manner with which offices such as the Minister of Information (for the federal government), the Commissioners for Information (states), chief press secretaries, senior special assistant (media), senior special assistant media (technical), special assistant (media), special assistant (information gathering), special assistant (print media) and special assistant (electronic media), among others are created.

Under this arrangement, a government spokesperson communicates to people the work done (i.e. political and institutional) by the government. The task of assisting and supporting the members of the government and the government itself is assigned to the spokesperson.

However, the question may be asked: has the discussed topic any relevance in Nigeria public leadership arena? How well have these appointed/elected public officials performed/harnessed persuasive leadership strategies in their day to day administrations? What is the future of persuasive leadership in Nigeria? What will the state of public leadership in Nigeria be like in hundred years to come; success or failure?

While providing answers to the questions are as important as the piece itself, one thing that bothers me, in addition, is that instead of developing the art and act of persuasive leadership, most of the present public office holders in Nigeria are capped with the spirit/attributes of Paul Joseph Goebbels, a German Nazi politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. He was one of Adolf Hitler’s closest and most devoted associates and was known for his skills in public speaking and his deeply virulent antisemitism, which was evident in his publicly voiced views.

This newfound attribute by Nigerian public office holders has made the innocent/well-intentioned position of persuasion in leadership become a platform for fierce political and ideological warfare in ways that negates rationality as human beings.

A great amount of innocent human character has been spilt, wars of words waged, countless souls/ambition persecuted and martyred.

Spokespersons have in recent times failed to communicate noble ideas and ideals. This consequence of their failures is responsible for why anarchy presently prevails in the country and accounts for why Nigerians daily diminish and are impoverished.

Take as an illustration, instead of telling their principals what the real issues are or encouraging them to keep promises that gave them victory at the polls, curtail the challenges confronting the people, and promote consensus politics, some government spokespersons encourage divisiveness, uphold autocratic tendencies, and endorse/promote media trial of political opponents.

In most cases, they become propagandists using radio, television and the internet as outlets to relentlessly false feed Nigerians.

Each time some of these spokespersons are faced with embarrassing facts about their principals, they fall back on data that is hardly objective, generating inferences that can never be described as explicit.

While finding solutions to the unwelcoming behaviours of government’s spokespersons will have far-reaching effects on both the public officials and the entire Nigerians, as it is laced with the capacity to engineer socioeconomic prosperity and propel the masses to work together for the greater good of the nation, it has become overwhelmingly urgent for government spokespersons, image makers and media assistants to understand that every decision they make requires a value judgment as different decisions bring different results

Jerome-Mario Utomi, the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy, SEJA, wrote from Lagos. He could be reached via; jeromeutomi@yahoo.com or 08032725374.

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