47 Cheers For The Chief Salesman Of Lagos - P.M. News

47 Cheers For The Chief Salesman Of Lagos

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Anything valuable is guarded tenaciously. This is due to the fact that the owner aims at the preservation of the valuable object for his continuous appreciation as well as for posterity. Much is therefore done, funds and time devoted and deployed towards the attainment of this noble objective. But much as the owner cherishes the valuable object, he would find it rather difficult keeping the prized object to himself, as he would want other people to acknowledge his possession of the object, hail his ability to push aside competing interests in its acquisition and rally round to rejoice with him for his prowess.

Lagos State, although the smallest in the country, has the highest concentration of human beings in Africa. Its soil is rich, possesses numerous mineral resources, its waters are bountiful, while its spirit of enterprise is legendary.

This melting pot of Nigeria and indeed Africa, boasts of an extremely rich and treasured traditional as well as cultural heritage. These huge potentials in the country’s former capital, are very much cherished by its people who have over the years done much for its preservation.

Now, the government and people of the State of Excellence, having attained the enviable status of a mega city, have realised the near impossibility of containing its treasures to itself. They have therefore decided to open up the state to others in the country and in the international community, to appreciate and contribute towards its further development.

Since 2007, the pace of communication of this heritage has been quickened by an administration which believes the involvement of additional hands equipped with experience and adequate funds, connection and necessary wherewithal is necessary.

Under the leadership of the Chief Salesman, Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN), every member of the administration has adorned the toga of sales persons, while other versatile sales personalities from across the world have been invited to sharpen their skills. Thus, all of them capitalise on any given opportunity to sell the potentials of the state, particularly as it affects their areas of responsibility, to the world and commendable achievements have been recorded in putting the state across as an investor’s haven.

In fact, the governor has shown much passion in personally taking on the challenge of selling the state, utilising personal qualities and a wide range of sales strategies.

At this juncture, it should be noted that salesmanship is a process with many steps and each step playing a distinct but collaborative role in the overall plan. In the first instance, there must be something valuable which the owner wants to get across to others, so they too might benefit from what he had been enjoying. Next is a plan on how best to package the object, so as to attract the attention of others. The plan would include transportation to prospective customers, communication strategies to influence customers, while after sales reinforcement is also embarked on to sway the customer back should he be influenced to the contrary by other external forces. Further reviews and research are equally carried out on a regular basis in order to build on successes recorded and strengthen areas of identified weaknesses.

As salesmanship is an art of effectively pushing a product or service across to others, certain skills are needed to effectively sway prospective clients in the direction of the salesman. These skills are naturally endowed in some people, while others would have to acquire such through rigorous training and capacity development. Such include communication skills needed to convince or influence customers to appreciate the product or service and part with funds or whatever in order to obtain them. Others are psychological and the need to study the clients, the environment they operate in, short, medium or long term impact of the product or service.

Other skills are those required in mobilising human and other resources towards the achievement of set goals.

Having successfully argued cases in court for over two decades before judges with varying personalities and approach to legal issues thereby attaining the enviable status of Senior Advocate at an impressively tender age, convincing clients with diverse mannerisms and approach on numerous issues, acquiring beneficial skills, while negotiating contracts and business proposals with individuals, groups and corporate organisations, the governor has obviously been fully prepared for the onerous task of selling Lagos with its potentials and opportunities before varied audience. These skills have become assets aiding him in his salesmanship role.

As a focused, determined and tenacious personality, the governor has been able to stay on undistracted, although tempted to lose focus on a continuous basis in the goal of selling the state locally and on the global level. Furthermore, in the course of his legal career, the governor has had the opportunity of leading negotiating teams, be they business, social, political or even between individuals and in doing so, he has had to select individuals with various skills and other endowments, as each member of the team has a distinct but complimentary role to play.  This particular task has been one of the most potent weapons in the governor’s arsenal in selecting the team to support him in selling the state across the globe. Unique strategies have equally been designed, adopted and effected in this sales drive.

Close watchers of the governor have identified his style which frowns seriously at the “business as usual” approach. This, according to the governor is lazy, unimaginative and would add no value. For him, it has been a different sales technique for different aspects of the sales drives.

For instance, while discussing with the business class, the governor adopted the business round table or breakfast meetings approach. Here, his team and prospective business partners sit together in a cosy corporate environment, face-to-face and communicate effectively. Information is exchanged, clarifications made, negotiations conducted, phone calls made with tea and snacks moving round. However, when presentations of policies or programmes are made to the citizenry, the approach adopted was stakeholders’ meetings. Here, stakeholders involved directly or indirectly with the proposed programmes and policies are invited to spacious halls that would accommodate a very large gathering and the governor and his team would take turns to inform, educate and enlighten them on all aspects of such. The stakeholders are then allowed to express themselves through questions, observations, criticisms and commendations.

On quite a number of occasions, further meetings would be held when the initial one convened becomes inconclusive.  This was the approach adopted when the reviewed Master Plans of Ikeja, Victoria Island and Ikoyi as well as that of Lekki, were presented to stakeholders. Same style was brought to play when the state government interacted with citizens whose properties were affected by the Lekki Free Trade Zone project, the proposed Lekki Airport, the presentation of the digital mapping of the entire state, the Lagos-Badagry Expressway expansion and upgrading, to mention a few.

For issues that had universal appeal, the style was the organisation of seminars, summits and workshops. This approach was deliberate as they involved much academics and expertise, necessitating the invitation of world renowned experts to share their expertise with Nigerians and Lagosians in particular.

Aside the open lectures, presentation of speeches by dignitaries and question and answer sessions, participants were organised into smaller working groups where issues under discussion were broken into specialised areas and properly discussed by highly experienced professionals, while experiences and ideas were shared. It was at these sessions, that the state government sold its efforts in tackling such problems and revealed potentials that could be used in further dealing with such issues.

Its human resources were also shown to the world for appreciation as the high quality it has in stock. These certainly enhanced the value and image of the state.

This particular style was displayed when the state brought together Nigerians and members of the international community to look at the climate change phenomenon, waste water problem, financial opportunities available in the state via the Ehingbeti Summit. While exposing the sports potentials of the state to the international community, the unusual governor developed yet another creative approach. He physically played football with prospective clients or discussed with them in a sporting arena.

During his visit to Argentina, the governor played football with football-loving government officials to present what the state was capable of producing in terms of human capacity and other potentials and the officials appreciated this. He equally ensured that the state was one of the choice venues of the Under 17 World Cup, that the state hosted the FA Cup among others. The strategy was that while here, the players, their officials, the FIFA team, Nigerian sports managers and other sports lovers, would have the benefit of assessing sporting facilities in the state while during their movement in and around the state, they would be able to see and appreciate first  hand numerous potentials of the state. International sports personalities were also brought in by government or encouraged to visit the state in order to achieve the same objective.

Rio Ferdinand , then captain of Manchester United football club in Britain was brought in for the flag  off, of the Street Soccer programme. The visitor played football with the governor and other Nigerians interacted one on one with youths who revered his exploits, while he was able to talk to them and inspire them. He won the hearts of many when he told them he once played on the streets as they were doing now but that with a vision and tenacious disposition in actualising their dreams, the sky was their limit. Government’s salesmanship received an instant boost, when the Rio Ferdinand Foundation made instant pledge of investment in the Street Soccer programme and other areas of sports development in the state. Liberian soccer legend, George Weah was also at the Lagos House to discuss investment opportunities with the state government.

While seeking community participation and grassroots development, the governor again changed tactics by adopting the physical working tour approach. This enabled him assess the pace of local development in individual communities and local governments/local council development areas as well as interact  directly with the local populace, driving home his messages and listening to their plight without any intermediary. This gave the governor additional credibility, as the people further embraced him and the programmes and policies of his administration.

At quite a number of these communities, he made public pledges which were fulfilled, thereby further presenting both the personality of the governor and his administration as one that could be trusted. The governor was able to ensure such pledges were fulfilled as comprehensive reports of his visits to the communities were adequately documented, while he personally monitored the execution of all pledges made. This, in itself, has been a major personality trait of the governor, responsible for successes achieved.

Another creative home grown sales strategy developed by the governor was the rendering of public accountability to different sectors of the community.

In the mind of the governor, a government that is seen by its people and the international community as transparent and accountable to the same electorate that empowered him with their mandate, would certainly win their hearts and attract them to its domain. Thus, in addition to rendering an account of his administration’s performance in office as well as achievements recorded while on his national and international sales trips, the governor, back home, equally rendered such accounts every hundred days as well as during the celebration of the administration’s anniversary of its assumption of office.

This hundred days public accountability strategy came about after a careful review of  the style of preceding  Nigerian governments  at all levels, in which they rendered 100 days account of their stewardship to the people with much fanfare and wait till the next anniversary’s celebration before coming up with another public accountability.

While accepting the need to be open to the citizenry as normal as it was aimed at carrying the people along right from the onset, the governor felt that this should be a regular affair. In the first instance, it would endear him to them as they would interact directly with his administration every hundred days. It would further break the myth of governance as governments in developing nations, including Nigeria, have distanced themselves from the very people they swore to govern and improve their lives. The people, who move close to them only periodically, are even awed when invited to meet with them.

The governor also wanted to use the forum to denounce rumours and half truths, since they would not only hear from the horse’s mouth, but also inquire or seek clarifications from the horse itself. In addition, the novel idea of briefing the people through different groups and sectors within the state’s economy has been a master stroke. This is because aside from being informed and educated on diverse issues affecting the entire populace, each sector or group being addressed would seize the unique opportunity of being the focus to raise pertinent issues affecting them, from no other person than the man with the mandate himself.

The recent 1,100 days stewardship account rendering to the diplomatic community is one strategy that has continued to be commended as it was an unusual development. Gains of the strategy were realised on the spot as some countries through their ambassadors, high commissioners and top government officials invited the governor and his team over to their countries to share experiences on its development efforts. Others sought invitation to interact with the administration, while others commended the positive pace of development and transformation and pledged to work with the government.

While seeking the cooperation and support of public servants for his administration in addition to ensuring that they provide excellent service delivery to members of the public, the strategy took on a completely new dimension, as the Chief Salesman came up with the issuance of a regular publication tagged The Counsellor. In the publication, he sold an unusual commodity to government workers—new work ethics, new attitudinal disposition, values of hard work and dignity in labour, to mention a few.

According to the governor, this new orientation he was selling would hasten the pace of service delivery and present high quality products and services that he and his team would sell across the globe. In the edition entitled The enemy called procrastination, he  told the workers to recognise procrastination as bad, work out why they procrastinate and then get over it. In another entitled Of leaders and followers, he dwelt extensively on the responsibilities of leadership and followership and concluded that “the truth is that you can only lead by serving.”  Fruits of the state government’s salesmanship abound across the state. In relation to the international community, daily enquiries on various sectors of the economy are received by the state government from around the world. Some of these enquiries seek clarifications on information received on the state, others need information on how best to go about investing in the state, while some need information on institutions providing various services.

Numerous countries have also expressed their preparedness to send business delegations to study the business community in the country, while others have invited business delegations from the state to their countries for interactive sessions to share experiences on how the state performed feats recorded as well as how best to boost other areas of mutual understanding.

Just a few weeks ago, the governor led a team of salesmen and women to Hamburg, Germany, to discuss areas of common interest and how best to nurture the relationship.

Direct investments have also been recorded in numerous areas of the state’s economy. The Peru-based Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD), has offered to assist the state in crucial reforms and legal tools that would aid its informal economic sector. Through this programme, dead assets would be rejuvenated towards the ultimate creation of wealth and total eradication of poverty by operators in the sector. The Institute has already conducted a pre-diagnostic study of the state’s informal sector.

The Chinese government, apparently impressed by the salesmanship of the state government to the Chinese community, has invested directly in many areas.

On road development, they invested in the construction of the LASU-Iba road, Ago Palace Way and Okota-Itire link bridge. They also put their funds in the Lekki Free Trade Zone, while the much talked about Lagos Light Rail project is to be undertaken by a Chinese firm, CCECC.

The Malaysians have also been involved in diverse projects in the state. They have been working in conjunction with the state government on the conversion of banana to banana flour. They have also been brought in to the search for a vaccine for malaria.

The Ministry of Rural Development, through its Centre for Rural Development (CERUD), in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and University of Sains, Pinang, Malaysia, are developing a botanical park, a research centre for the purpose of herbs and medicinal development, development of human capacity in intro vito mass multiplication of plants as teak, cola nut, ogbono, pineapples, plantain, etc. The centre will equally engage in mass multiplication of ornamental and medicinal plants that are difficult to multiply in this environment.

Another partner, CNECO, a private concern, equally came up with the idea of funding rural projects with an initial funding of $100 million. The ministry has been holding discussions with a German company on the possibility of utilising wind energy to power rural projects.

Nigerians, impressed by the sales efforts of the Mr. Babatunde Fashola-led sales team, have been partnering with the state government in numerous areas. On the educational sector, for instance, the state government invested much time, energy and resources, selling investment opportunities to the citizenry.

After much talk on its investments in public schools including the massive rehabilitation of schools, payment of examination fees of students, provision of  school furniture, computerisation of schools, provision of over two million books for students, return of reading in schools, debate, quiz competition to mention a few, individuals, religious and corporate organisations responded in various ways. Two prominent businessmen, Chief Michael Ade Ojo of Elizade Nigeria Limited and Chief Razaq Okoya of Eleganza Group, donated education materials including desks and chairs generously to public schools in the state. Another business mogul, Chief Kessington Adebutu, has also invested much in the rehabilitation of infrastructure in Lagos public schools.

Day Star Christian Centre also rehabilitated education structures in some schools in the state, while a successful Nigerian and publisher of the popular sports publication, Complete Sports, Mr. Sunny Ojeagbase, who said a large part of his organisation’s successes were recorded in Lagos, also invested handsomely in the rehabilitation of education infrastructure in Lagos public schools.

On the health sector, where government has commissioned the ultra modern BT Paediatric Ward and BT Diagnostic Centre at LASUTH, the Highway Emergency and Accident Centre at the Old Lagos-Ibadan Expressway toll gate, where emergency services are provided to accident victims before being transferred to regular medical facilities,  purchased new ambulance boats to ply difficult to reach rural riverine areas, carried out numerous Eko Free Missions across the state to take medicare to the grassroots, commissioned a four-storey 100-bed maternal and child health complexes in Ikorodu, Ifako/Ijaiye, Amuwo Odofin; commenced the construction of three-storey 80-bed Integrated Trauma and Burns Centre at the LASUTH Annex, Gbagada; commenced the construction of a three-floor building at Harvey Road Health Centre; rehabilitated X-ray sites at Ikorodu, Ifako/Ijaiye, Lagos, Somolu, Surulere, Badagry, Mushin, Alimoso, Isolo General Hospitals and Massey Street Children’s Hospital, while 57 ambulances were purchased and distributed to all the 57 local government councils and local council development areas in the state; impressed individuals and corporate organisations as the Coca-Cola Foundation donated various medical equipment to the state government, while business mogul, Chief Razak Okoya donated ambulances to further enhance health care services in public medical facilities.

As the Chief Salesman turns 47, Lagosians should expect more sales strategies from the man who has continually stressed that “the best is yet to come.” Indeed, the best is yet to come. The much awaited light rail project is about to commence with the necessary logistics for its take off on ground, the expansion/upgrading of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway is ongoing, with construction work commencing from Eric Moore in Surulere, the Lekki Airport is yet to take off, but all is being put in place for the successful execution and compensation is being worked out for those displaced by the project. The Lekki Free Trade Zone is daily being developed, while a number of companies are on ground and more people expressing interest in the project. Basic infrastructure is being put in place and compensation paid to those affected. Wind energy as an alternative source of power supply which government is working on is yet to take off, solar energy which is already in place is yet to reach areas government desires, the ultra modern auto centre that government is putting in place in conjunction with Coscharis Motors in Ikeja, is yet to take off, but a formal agreement has been effected.

In addition to providing support services for various brands of vehicles, the centre would offer capacity building to relevant workers in both the public and private sectors. Students of Engineering and related courses in tertiary institutions would also receive practical training from the centre, where 650 certified and auto mechanics are expected to be trained in the next five years.

•Opeyemi Bamidele is the Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Lagos State.