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Adenuga’s Ghana project and killing the African dream

I have never met Adenuga, but he conjures in my mind, the image of a man who is determined against all odds to succeed with…

I have never met Adenuga, but he conjures in my mind, the image of a man who is determined against all odds to succeed with his brand and to take that success beyond the shores of Nigeria. From the moment he entered the GSM race, he has twisted the arms of the behemoths of the industry that had monopolized the arena by forcing down prices. And for those who believe in blind patriotism, he gave them the logo of green with the slogan ‘proudly Nigerian.’ With that, he stole the heart of many, even those who uncharitably perhaps say that he is a front for a loathed retired general.

By last year, he was working on creating a broadband backbone through the rigging of his submarine cables and set to leapfrog West Africa into the 3G level. A lot of writers made him the toast of their columns but yours sincerely being unlearned in these gizmos cowardly berthed on the safe side of wait and see. I hope I can be forgiven for that letdown.

But Adenuga was not satisfied being a Nigerian giant. In my public relations class, one of my lecturers alluded to the fact that with its billionaires of several years, none has created a global Nigerian brand. Such feats are left with the makers of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Microsoft, Toyota etc. MKO Abiola, the late business mogul, was once one of Africa’s richest, yet within five years of his death he had fizzled out of the business arena sliding into oblivion but for mortal his sacrifice for democracy. What a shame. Our millionaires buy the latest brand of cars, live in and out of the world mansions and ride in executive jets, but hardly impact on production. They are satisfied being commission agents to global brands thereby losing unique opportunities to etch their names in gold in the minds of unborn generations.

Not so Adenuga. Having established his brand name in Nigeria, he began what was meant to be an ambitious project to conquer the entire west coast. His first point of call was Ghana, perhaps because of the clement investment weather brought about by Ghana’s embracement of democracy by its clean break with the culture of dictatorship and coups. However, methinks easier reason is the linguistic contiguity. Sure, it is easier to do business in Ghana where the official language is English than to go to Cotonou even with the best interpreter except you have conquered the French language in the way that the likes of Prof. Pius Adesanmi who now competes with gatekeepers of the language – the Academie Française for new words.

A few weeks ago, I read what would be the most painful piece of reports in a credible magazine to wit; that Adenuga’s huge investment in the Ghanaian telecommunication market was being frustrated, nay destroyed. His attempt to make Glo a West African brand is stuck in a stumbling block. His posters and billboards are being ravaged by unknown persons while those of his competitors, unlikely to be Ghanaians or West Africans, are left standing tall. This is a painful story, coming at a time when Ghana had begun to mop up its business environment exclusively for its own citizens at the expense of other neighbours.

Readers probably know that Ghana, in spite of the ECOWAS Trade Protocol (aimed at encouraging cross-border trade and unified market) recently took steps to ease out the participation of non Ghanaians from its emergent favourable economic climate. Particularly targeted are Nigerian businessmen and women who are fast proving their worth across the globe. Recently, Ghana endorsed a law requiring Nigerians operating in that country to pay an annual subscription fee of $250,000 (US Dollars please) or close shop. It does not matter if the business in question is a plastic rubber retail shop or oil exploration bureau, what is required is that the owner is Nigerian. It does not matter if the owner has resided in Ghana since the days of Nkrumah or that he has just been introduced to John Atta Mills by his close friend, Prophet TB Joshua. If nothing else slaps relevant sub regional protocols and ridicules the dreams of our founding fathers, this one surely does.

I pity Adenuga and I pity those Nigerians who helped reduce the unemployment statistics by relocating outside the country. But the clear signal and lesson from all this is – we must fix Nigeria, because this is where we all return when the chips are down. And they are bound to come down for more Nigerians in other places other than Ghana. The clear warning is be committed to fixing Nigeria and would fix some space for you.


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