Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Omoluwabi “ Business excellence the Nigerian way”

Whilst the media and most commentators are enthralled with the antics of the Nigerian political classes as to whether there will be a third term or not, we as business people can ill afford such distractions. Since this is just an outline let me just mention one reason, the Nigerian population under the age of 15 stands at over 40% and our population keeps growing at just below 3%. This means to achieve any appreciable change in poverty the economy has to grow at least at 6%. We need to generate the economic expansion and job creation that will deliver these critical goals. This is not going to come from government even though they are critical for creating the enabling environment. It is also not going to come exclusively from oil or any other extractive industry because the market is too fickle, its expansion opportunities are too minimal. It can be a catalyst at best. The saving grace for our economy, our prosperity and the future of our children are going to be in the Small businesses across the land. It is the growth and transition of ‘mama put’ and market women, the expansion of the mechanic and the Alaba market trader. It is the transition from an informal sector to formal, from owner manager to small employer and finally to the broad spectrum of medium sized employers with up to 50 employees that will be the engine room for the economy. I know I can hear your Amen.

The challenge to achieving this much-needed expansion is that we are a low trust economy with a high transaction cost . There is very limited investment in Small and Medium size businesses as a result. Put simply, because we have little trust in each other, the cost of doing business is extremely high at the same time as there is refusal to take risk through investment. I do not suggest that there is no basis for this suspicion but it leads people to demand upfront payment in some cases two years ahead tying up much needed liquidity. If we want this growth then we need to change it. My fundamental position is that our social capital is low because the Nigerian character has been eroded into one value, conspicuous consumption. It acts as a masquerade for rampant mediocrity. Our character is inevitably our brand and it is synonymous with fraud, corruption and aggression. Everything is pursued on the short term with the sole purpose being quick financial reward. My answer to this is to develop a matrix and standard for character that we need in order to succeed individually, institutionally as well as nationally. Far more importantly we need it to sustain success. My choice is the concept of Omoluwabi.

Omoluwabi is Oyo Yoruba for ‘ Omo ti Olu Iwa bi’ its literal English is the offspring or child of the Lord of character. It is part of an ancient code in the same way that most noble Japanese were raised on Bushido. However it was never just linked to birth but a manifestation of values, attitude and behaviour. It is in the same way that Unbuntu is emerging as a model of progressive and ethical business conduct in South Africa and also being used across the world is the same way that Omoluwabi will offer a much needed standard for excellence in the Nigerian character. It should be our contribution to Management philosophy and Leadership thinking across the world. I hasten to add that what I offer is Omoluwabi for the 21st Century freed from the confines of its Yoruba origin and projected into the service of a Nigerian Transformation as well as an African Renaissance.

© Adewale Ajadi for Adaptnomics Ltd Page 1 3/5/06
There are seven elements or components emerge from my attempt to update Omoluwabi. Description, methods and practices indicators underpin each of them. They are the following:

1. Isiju: Illusions or distractions. They are mainly borrowed industrial philosophy that oversimplifies reality for the sake of efficiency without any real consideration for their effectiveness.

2. Oju Inu: Insight or trained intuition. This is critical to self evaluation and evolution of consciousness

3. Ami: Symbols and omens. This is about analysis and recognition of pattern as well as revelation.

4. Iwalewa: Character is beauty. The behaviours that reflect your values and beliefs

5. Eniyan lasomi: People are my clothing: The primacy of relationship in all human affairs and system

6. Afose: From word into action. The essence of continuous improvement especially the effective execution of words into action.

7. Ire : The blessings and prosperity that are result of values, behaviour and accountability

In summary we have reached a time when our battle is that of ideas. The most pressing idea is about indigenous business models that will lead to growth and success. I submit to you the concept and matrix of Omoluwabi offers at least the same level of possibility that you will get from any MBA programme. On the other hand it could be a more viable alternative. Either way the book that captures this dynamic process will be my humble contribution towards creating a competitive, sustainable and prosperous Nigeria. It will help create an economy that is the pride of Africa, envy of the world and a bastion of commercial excellence in its character and business results. It will achieve all of this without selling its soul. As entrepreneurs we should recognise this as an opportunity too important to ignore.

© Adewale Ajadi for Adaptnomics Ltd Page 2 3/5/06