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Chevron Nigeria local content drive: A credit to Buhari, Pantami

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 justication.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 therst 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 protable.

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 themineeld 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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