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I read with mixed feelings the piece on Chevron Nigeria and its rm belief and support for local content promotion, notably its many years of patronizing Zinox, an indigenous tech giant.Mixed feelings because, on one hand, I was delighted and extremely proud of themanagement of Chevron Nigeria for shining the light, leading from the front and evenshowing the way to government, other sub-national entities in Nigeria, as well as thehordes of other multinationals operating in Nigeria. The moving article equally made me proud to be a Nigerian because, most times,Nigeria makes the news for the wrong reasons owing to the actions of a misguided few.But to see a renowned, American-based multinational retaining a strong faith in thecapacity of a Nigerian tech company, is something worth celebrating. But on the other hand, the article also elicited some misgivings within me. Here we are, hailing Chevron Nigeria, an American-headquartered multinational, forchoosing a Nigerian brand ahead of other competing foreign brands, including a fewknown names from the country where it is based, but we can hardly nd Nigeriangovernment establishments and their agencies giving a similar fair chance to localbusinesses.This was the biggest contradiction that hit me from that well-written article by aNigerian US-based academic. Thankfully, the company in question – Zinox – did not betray the trust reposed in it byChevron Nigeria. It would have been a missed opportunity if Zinox had failed, maybewhen it received the rst supply contract from Chevron Nigeria, as I doubt that theywould have had a second chance and that door would have been closed forever, even toother local players. Such is the merit-driven and highly competitive nature of the techsector that it would have been virtually impossible for the management of ChevronNigeria to consider entrusting its supply contract to Zinox for over 16 years without astrong justication.We must begin to patronize and promote our best brains, rather than accordunnecessary privileges to foreigners. This is the only way we can employ our youthscreatively and reduce security challenges confronting the nation.I have not met Leo Stan Ekeh, the Chairman of the Zinox Group one-on-one but I havefollowed his landmark strides in the ICT sector. A huge inspiration, I recall whenHaroun Adamu, a former Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) described him atan event as a miracle child, a genius. He had told the story of how Leo Stan returned toNigeria against the advice of his tutors in the UK, eventually leading the current waveof digital democracy that ushered the Nigerian printing and publishing industry into thenext level by computerizing all the newspapers, magazines and book publishingestablishments in the country.According to him, Mr. Ekeh, who used to wear an afro back then as a young man, waslike a pastor, an evangelist moving from city to city across Nigeria with a lot of energy,taking his message of digital evangelism to various parts of the country andtransforming the landscape with his introduction of technology into the entire printingecosystem.
Also, in 2001 or thereabouts, I was privileged to attend an oil servicing conference atEko Le Meridien and during a short break, I was able to sneak into another event takingplace at the same venue. The event, which had a long list of dignitaries, prominentNigerians and even diplomats in attendance including the-then Vice President, AlhajiAtiku Abubakar, the Senate President at the time, Anyim Pius Anyim, many servingMinisters of the Federal Republic and Executive Governors, saw the hall packed full,with many people unable to even get in. That was the launch of Zinox and equally therst time I saw Mr. Ekeh from a distance.I still recall the emotional gesture he made at that event which left many people intears. Incidentally, it happened within the short period I spent in the hall. After tracingthe history of Nigeria’s disadvantaged status as a country which many in the advancedworld believe would not experience technology in the next 30 years, Mr. Ekeh hadraised his right hand and declared that he was mentally, physically, nancially andspiritually prepared to create an IT identity for Nigeria. That gesture got the hallcharged and was a remarkable sight to behold. I left the place highly touched as I hadto return to the conference I was attending. But that scene remained with me for a longtime. Same Zinox, a few years later, changed the face of Nigeria and other African countries’elections by deploying digital democracy tools to aid the process. Nigerian businessmen are not known to stick to one line of business. The majority arealways on the lookout for the next big thing to invest in. However, Leo Stan is one manwho has remained consistent in his chosen eld of technology and his roadmap.Therefore, it is hardly surprising that the same man, Leo Stan Ekeh backed by his team,has today achieved all he has in the tech sector. It is gratifying, a sign of hope and a story that is worth telling, especially with the recentrevelation of the long years of patronage from Chevron Nigeria, that this man hasachieved so much with little or no support from government, still setting records,creating jobs and a bright future for millions of Nigerian youths. I recall reading in the same article about Chevron Nigeria how well the administrationof former President Olusegun Obasanjo supported local content drive. While I am awarethat this was the case, government, at that time, was not really buying a lot oftechnology products as it was largely analogue in its processes.There are thousands of Nigerians in the same technology sector who are struggling outthere today. Many of them have quietly exited the sector after being unable to keeptheir heads above water. This brings into sharp relief the commendable e>orts of LeoStan as a shining light who has consistently built new successful businesses, while alsoexpanding the Zinox Group for over 30 years. To see all these happen while not beenable to count on the patronage of government is nothing short of a miracle.Consequently, it was not strange when Zinox made the news early in 2018 with itsacquisition of e-commerce brand, Konga. Nevertheless, many had queried the rationalebehind Mr. Ekeh’s decision. For some, it was a suicide mission. I also understand that atthat juncture, Konga was technically dead, as one of my cousins, who was a merchanttrading with the business then, reliably informed me that, before the acquisition, theformer managers of Konga had invited them to come and pick up their itemswarehoused with them. But a new story is being told about that e-commerce giantbarely three years down the line. Today, that same Konga was recently reported to havebroken a global e-commerce record, becoming the rst African e-ecommerce companyto turn protable.
The Chevron Nigeria article represents another eye-opener and I wish to congratulateZinox and, especially, Leo Stan Ekeh, for what he is building. He has done this for over30 years without any hint of a scandal which is not an easy feat in a Nigerian businessterrain that is prone to blackmail and betrayals. Perhaps, what has saved him from themineeld of subterfuge and the pull-him-down syndrome is the fact that many Nigeriansare still analogue and Leo Stan is operating in a sector in which only a few Nigeriansreally understand.I would equally like to appreciate the current administration led by PresidentMuhammadu Buhari and the referenced Minister of Communications and DigitalEconomy, Dr. Ibrahim Pantami, a young man I admire, for their unequivocalcommitment to Nigeria. I believe their clear signal is helping domestication in thissector and I advise other Ministers of the Federal Republic to emulate Dr. Pantami tocreate jobs for our educated youths and reduce security challenges caused byemployment. I also urge them to concentrate some of their e>orts in pushing our besttalents forward. Certainly, we must support and promote our best so that other emerging ones can beencouraged to outdo their feats, not only in the area of technology, but in other sectorsas well. There have been a few surprises in the ntech sub-sector and in agriculturewhere some young Nigerians are leveraging technology in transforming the space. However, there is no doubt that Nigeria lacks new model mentors and world classentrepreneurs in the mould of Leo Stan Ekeh. The government must promote our best names, men and women whose rise toprominence is documented, people we know their background and their history and notAy-by-night entrepreneurs or undeserving foreigners.It is by so doing that we can assure these patriotic/successful entrepreneurs ofgovernment’s support and encourage them to do more, inspire the next wave of buddingentrepreneurs and contribute in building the Nigeria of our collective dreams.
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