By Simon Imobo-Tswam
The Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Hon. Emmanuel Jime, recently interacted with the management and staff of the Kano Zonal Office: he left everyone speechless after addressing them.
Normally, the rule (you may call it tradition too) is that when the head of an organisation meets with staff, especially if it is a maiden meeting (as this one was), everyone wants to say something, to make a comment or, at least, to second.
And there is always a plethora of dormant issues to be resurrected and tabled at such meetings: condition of service, delayed promotions, unjust/punitive transfers, requests for better pay, a call for a new template of operations, overdue conversion, contract staff appealing for
regularisation, union demands etc.
But after Jime finished his address and remained standing (he refused to talk, sitting) to take the questions or responses, there were none! What was more was that, instead of ovation, there was pin-drop silence in the House – at least, for the first one or two minutes.
Not only was everyone overwhelmed and flabbergasted (if I may borrow some words from the Old School register), every staff was overawed and dazed. The MD’s words disarmed all – including undaunted and irrepressible labour unionists.
First, staff had expected him to come in a long convoy – he came in a single vehicle. They had expected to see him in overflowing Agbada, perhaps, with the Adeleke-style hat to match – he wore a simple, white Khaftan, with an equally simple black cap!
And in speech, he had proved that he was: Jime, unrehearsed. They expected him to talk at them, to give marching orders, to hear him speak about his vision – he spoke with them, appealed for cooperation, and spoke about our collective vision!
And they expected him- in fact, they knew, he would dodge the issue of staff welfare, and hope no one would bring it up, but the man pleasantly disappointed them: he brought the issue up, and assured that incentivizing staff is not a matter of the future, but something for the now…and as now as when the budget is signed into law!
But there was the icing, the icing that made them ice-cold. That was when he spoke about his newness to the executive system; how his executive experience was just 31 days; how his governmental experience had, hitherto, been limited to the legislative arena; how he might make mistakes, but not pre-planned mistakes; how he was committed to running an Open House, and making NEPZA One, Big Happy Family….
And to prove that he was not talking as a politician, he gave them his personal e-mail so they could reach him with creative ideas and value-adding suggestions that would see to the achievement of “our collective vision” for NEPZA!
It was too much for the staff: no one had seen such in NEPZA since its establishment. And no had heard of such in other government agencies: such openness, such demonstrative sincerity, such evident humility, such transparency…from a CEO, from someone who might be described as a chartered politician; and, above all, from a politician, who is also a lawyer!
Even the anchor of the event, Sr. Manager Shehu Abdul Beri, could not help, but voice it that: “It has never happened before” as he looked this way and that for any raised hand! There was no hand!
The General Manager, Business Development, Engr. David Nongo, exhilarated beyond measure, therefore, said since the staff were, thus, overwhelmed, they might as well shun such things as happen in other organisations like petition-writing, back-biting, envy, jealousies, blackmail, strife etc.
Giving the vote of thanks, another Senior Manager (Research & Development), Hajia Aisha Iya Tahir, described Hon. Jime as “an extra-ordinary man with extra-ordinary simplicity,” but added: “Power intoxicates even innocent people. Our prayer for you is that God will preserve this your innocence so that power doesn’t intoxicate you. And even that small thing you are looking for, God will give you a bigger one.”
She then prayed for the MD. But before her prayer, the irrepressible Hajia told JIme: “We prayed to God for good change, and good change has come. You are that good change. In you, NEPZA has the right MD; and the right MD at the right time.”
So, what was her prayer? That the Almighty God should, therefore, give JIme the wisdom he needs “to do the right things and at the right time too so that you can get the right results.”
Even when the Deputy Imam of the Zone, Comrade Yahaya Samisu, was saying the closing prayers, one man beside me was whispering to another: “This man – he speaks Hausa very well, he cracks jokes, he is a politician, but he talks straight; and he is a lawyer, but he is sincere.” Mnhn!
Well, only God knows tomorrow, but we can safely say that the new NEPZA helmsman has not only started well – he is speaking the right language and striking the right notes. May God give flesh to his noble intentions… for NEPZA and Nigeria!
– Imobo-Tswam is the Head, Corporate Communications Unit of NEPZA