By Uche Nworah (April 12, 2008)

It is 2.53 PM on a sunny Friday afternoon in Lagos, I’m seating at my desk thinking of what to do about lunch. Should I send Richard (aka Pastor) to Tetrazzini to buy their jollof rice, moi-moi and chicken or should I brave the lunch time Lagos island traffic for a short journey to Yellow Chili? As I pondered my options, I remembered that it has been a while since I last wrote an opinion piece. They say if you leave writing, writing leaves you. 45 days is a long time in this our business not to have written something. I have been feeling so ashamed of myself having not logged onto my blog (thelongharmattanseason.blogspot) in ages, talk about not wanting to visit a deserted house.

As I tried to open a Microsoft word page to string together some thoughts, I suddenly realized how rusty I had gotten, and how very much I miss writing. Not my fault if you ask me. Since I partially relocated to Nigeria, it has not been easy settling in. I am now caught up again in the Lagos hustle and bustle. So many things to take care of, so many issues to settle work- wise and home front -wise.

I am hunting for a house presently and at the same time trying to settle into a new job. New work ethics, new colleagues, new bosses, new sector, new everything. There are things to learn again, especially being a Nigerian again after sojourning abroad. Call this re-learning or unlearning if you wish but things are different here. Things move at the Nigerian pace, love it, hate it, this is Nigeria and that is the way we are.

I missed home for sure. All those years of paying my dues in another man’s country never really was my thing. It was Abacha that drove me and many other people of my generation away but things are better now, I think. Sure, we still have our wahala, the traffic, the power and energy situation, and the menace of the bad guys or armed robbers as they are called. There are also the thieving politicians but still, I’m happy to be back home. This is my country and the country of my forefathers.

As I am writing this, Ben, my driver and friend pokes in his head, just checking up on me. I don’t need him; I hardly do especially after he deposits me in the office in the morning. The next time if at all that I will need him will be late in the evening when he takes me back to the temporary accommodation my organisation has provided. I dismiss Ben with a wave of the hand and he goes back to his base office. Sometimes I feel that Ben is underutilized, such a young man should be doing more for himself and his country.

I have had this conversation with him but he says that this is the best he can do for now. This makes me to think that human capital in Nigeria is still not being well harnessed. The Bens of this world are caught up in a system that holds both the driver and the people they are driving down. I have recently encouraged Ben to stop spending his day idling away his brain in the driver’s lounge. Luckily, the guys in our general office have accepted for him to come in and help out with stuff. Hopefully, this will excite him well enough that he will begin to see endless opportunities, who knows?

Still on the issue of human capital development. There are indeed lots of hidden talents all over this country. Just the other day, I put forward a request to my bosses to allow me bring in a graphic artist to come in and train me and two members of my team on the use of Corel Draw. This was to enable us publish our in-house e-newsletter ourselves. Doing it ourselves will save the company tons of money judging by the quotes we got from external agencies who had indicated interest in producing the e-newsletter for us.

The consultant had asked for a fee of three hundred thousand naira for the two days training. Just a day before the scheduled training, I had to go into the general office to take care of some matter when along the line; the issue of the forthcoming training came up. You will never imagine my shock when Jerry, one of the office assistants whose other job includes going to the mama-put at Ghana High Commission in Obalende to buy food for staff told me that he could use Corel Draw with his eyes closed.

I challenged Jerry and in less than no time he knocked out a copy of the front page of the mock e-newsletter. I stood and stared at him in awe and just couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing. So for this I had been willing to pay an external consultant 300K? Jerry went on to design the first edition of the e-newsletter and received full credits in the front page for it.

When I told my boss my amazing discovery, he was also surprised and elated at the same time and suggested that I feature Jerry in the Employee Spotlight section in our next edition as a way of encouraging other departments to dig deep and see if there are other rough uncut gems in their departments labouring away at tasks that do not stretch their skills.

I want to wait a couple of weeks to have a fuller portfolio of Ben’s work with the e-newsletter before taking up his case with HR. Although he was employed on the basis of his not possessing any formal qualification, I want to believe that there should be other ways he would be compensated for the added value services he is now providing.

Jerry’s case has now inspired others in the general office including Ben; they now congregate around the computer to observe how he does his magic when ever he is working on the e-newsletter. Some are even teasing him saying that ‘Jerry level don change’. This has been one of my most exhilarating moments since I relocated back to Nigeria almost 5 weeks ago.

There is yet the best to come from Jerry, and from this country. That I can assure you.

Nworah is a company executive in Lagos.


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