Ire a ma foju jo ibi: Itan isele gidi oga ile ise Airtel

Irin ajo eda wa lowo Olorun oba. Eda kankan ko si mo ile ti yoo mola. Sugbon nipa aforiti, emi isin tooto, igbagbo, akikanju, jije olododo ati omoluabi, eda o de ibi to fe de laye. 
Okan lara awon oga ile ise ibanisoro airtel so okan lara awon iriri igbe aye re. Ma royin ki e fi arabale ka alaye naa nitori ohun to fun ni ni isipaya gidi ni

O ya, e je ka lo...

The Fall of Constantinople was a blessing in disguise. Discuss.

Not many will be able to relate with this Question, except for students of European History,like my cousin, Gordian B. Ihuoma and some of his intelligent friends. 

A more common and lazier version of this expression is that which says that "every disappointment is a blessing", a typically Nigerian escapism. Anyways, I was faced with this challenge some time ago and, today, I'm sharing my answer:

In 1997 or so, I was faced with a very difficult situation, career-wise. I was a young, bubbling and, I dare say, brilliant Middle Manager in Cadbury Nigeria. I was the Media Relations Manager, a position previously occupied by Chido Nwakanma, known in Cadbury nomenclature as CBN (Short for Chidorum Benedict Nwakamna), who had moved to become Institutional Sales Manager. My brother, Ugo Onuoha,then Head of the business desk at Champion Newspaper, was meant to resume on the job, when their Management promoted him Editor of Business Champion. Looking back, it was actually a blessing in disguise for Ugo for he not only went on to edit the Daily title, he rose to become Managing Director of the company. Victor Oladokun of CBS News was also once on the position.

Working under Kevin Ejiofor, then Corporate Affairs Manager, was a wonderful experience. I have written about that in the past and I will do further justice to the subject in my upcoming book provisionally entitled "Cat With Seven Lives". 

However, I must say it was my dream to succeed him and become the Corporate Affairs Manager of Cadbury Nigeria, a massive dream, by every standard at that time and a legitimate one at that considering my experience in the media, PR and Advertising. Besides, it was more of an unwritten rule that the Media Relations Manager would naturally be promoted to the job. I had everything going for me. Or so I thought.

I had a colleague and friend, Gbenga Adebija, who was more like a brother to me. We met upon my resumption in May 2004 and struck an instant relationship. 

The late Femi Ajayi, who joined me in Airtel several years later, completed the triumvirate. We spent a lot of time together at work and outside the office, and everyone including our families knew of our friendship. Gbenga was then JA (Junior A Manager) and I an MC (Middle C Manager).

About six months to Mr. Ejiofor's retirement, Adebija, a graduate of the Sciences, was curiously transferred to the Technical Department, more like the factory. Foolish me, I was telling him that as soon I was appointed Corporate Affairs Manager, I would bring him back to work with me. 

I must say with all sense of responsibility that the guy was good. He wrote well and spoke well with an excellent turn of phrase. We had a great personal and working relationship and we were both in the same age bracket and I thought that would really bode well for us. Well, I was terribly wrong-wrong in many respects.

It was with utter shock that I then received the news, one evening, six months or so later, that Adebija had been brought back to the Corporate Affairs Department and promoted ahead of me to succeed Mr. Ejiofor-and become my boss! It was as if my world had come to an end. 

My hopes were dashed and I was extremely disappointed. I contemplated resignation (not suicide. For what?) But first, I had to congratulate Adebija, my new boss. I assured him that before God and man I would work with him and I would give him my very best. And I did!!! He felt my pain and disappointment, I would imagine, and assured me he'd be a good boss, in a manner of speaking.

The company was abuzz. Many people were shocked I wasn't given the job. Journalists, who were my core stakeholders, were surprised-and some angry. There were even insinuations that the it was "Yoruba Politics" at play and so on and so forth. 

Momentarily, I didn't know what to do. I knew I had to speak to my father. Back then, telephones were for the rich and my father, being a poor man, didn't have one. There was, however, a hotel close to our house in Mbaise, Trans-Amadi Hotel, which had a Bourdex Line, and I could always call and leave a message for my Dad. So, I called and asked that he came to the hotel to speak with me. Of course, he did.

As usual, I told my father my story. He kept quiet for a while, true to tradition. He always took a while to process and digest such matters. Then, he broke his silence with questions: "How has your performance been since you joined?" "Have you been issued a query or been through any disciplinary proceedings?" "Do you have a good relationship with your boss?" My father knew all the answers already because I always kept him in the loop and sought his WISE counsel on most issues. 

He then asked me one final question: "Emeka, when you were joining Cadbury, did they promise you that you'd become Corporate Affairs Manager?" Of course nobody made me such a promise, and I told him so. "Then, go back to your work. 

This time around, you must put in your best. Note that, from now on you'll be under the snow (the first time I heard that expression!) and they will be watching to see whether you'll show disloyalty or lack of support. 

I know you feel hard done by, but hang in there until a good opportunity comes for you. I don't want you to leave Cadbury out of anger. Understood?" I understood, and I assured him I did. He always told me the truth and his advice never failed me. Not once.

So, when I got to the office the next day, the Managing Director & CEO, Mr. Bunmi Oni, who I know made the decision and apparently preferred Adebija to me asked to see me. He spoke for about five minutes trying to justify the decision. I was half-listening and half crafting my response. 

As soon as he stopped rambling, I told him I had no plans to resign, as he thought. I assured him I would work with Adebija, who didn't ask to be appointed but was indeed lucky to have been appointed. I reminded Mr. Oni that Adebija and I were friends-and that his appointment and promotion over me wouldn't not affect our relationship. And God knows I meant every single word of that.

I went to work with Adebija and I spent another 4 years in Cadbury until 2002, when I left to join the GSM Revolution as PR Manager of the Econet Wireless Nigeria. 

The HR Director, a very good man, a mentor of mentors and one of the best Human Resources professionals in this part of the world, assured me he'd keep my position vacant for six months-in case I decided to return. Many thought Econet, and indeed the GSM thing, would not work. Even my parents were a bit concerned. 

Most of my friends were worried for me-for leaving certainty for uncertainty. Well, I used to joke that most of the concern then was more for the Bournvita and Knorr cubes and sweets they used to get from me.


Well, here I am, 15 years later, Director of Corporate Communications & CSR, Airtel Nigeria to the glory of God. I remember that six months after I left Cadbury, an aburo and friend, Akin Fadeyi, took over the job of Media Relations Manager. 

He was later to join me in what was then Celtel, as Communications Manager-one of the verticals in my function then as Head of PR, Events and Sponsorships. Some disappointments can really turn out to be blessings. What if I was appointed Corporate Affairs Manager of Cadbury Nigeria? 

Perhaps, I would have been too "comfortable" to see the opportunities that GSM offered at the time. So many what ifs? In the end, I give God all the glory.

So, the fall of Constantinople is truly a blessing in disguise. If you read between the lines, there may be lessons to be learnt,but watch out for the full details of how I survived those four or years between the "disappointment" and my appointment in Econet Wireless Nigeria

Orisun: Cat With Seven Lives lati owo Emeka Oparah
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About Olayemi Olatilewa

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