Is Nigeria ready for digital banks?

There is so much confusion out there about what digital banks are. Bring a thousand self-proclaimed experts and you will probably get two thousand different definitions.

I am confused too, but for today, let’s pretend that I know what I want to say.

A digital bank, sometimes called a direct bank or online-only bank, is a type of bank where there are no branches and interactions with customers are through the internet, and of recent, mobile apps.

There is a distinction between mobile money and digital banks. Mobile money is usually a wallet accessible from mobile phones using SIM Tool Kits (M-Pesa by Safaricom in Kenya) or USSD (M-Pesa by Vodacom in Tanzania). Mobile money is primarily driven towards financial inclusion and the most successful examples are mobile telco led.

Mobile money is limited in features, have less than required interoperability with existing financial payment systems and for these reasons have failed in countries with a sizable chunk of middle-class population. MTN and Vodacom just shuttered their mobile money services in South Africa.

Digital banking is also different from mobile banking in the sense that mobile banking is banking on the mobile phone for accounts which are already opened in a traditional bank. So if you decide to smash your phone in the latest craze of clapping while taking a selfie, you can visit your nearest bank branch to wink at the new teller while taking cash over the counter.

Is Nigeria ready for a digital bank? Let’s analyze this from a simple point of view – what would it take to have a digital bank in Nigeria.


Forget about the story of enabling technologies and a shift in demographics: Banking is a highly regulated business which the government has 150% interest in. There is a financial and documentary barrier to having a bank. N25B anyone? That aside, the Central Bank of Nigeria has different classes of banking licenses for which a digital bank type is conspicuously absent. Not to be deterred, some brave individuals are bootstrapping digital with minimal microfinance bank licenses. But having MFB as part of your brand is so meh.

Prospective Customers

Digital banking isn’t financial inclusion. One is driven by capitalism and the other by altruism. Digital banking is narrowly focused on middle-class customers who are tech savvy or comfortable enough to do their transactions away from the banking halls. Trust me, I’m one of them and our Nigerian local association is large enough.

Going to a bank branch in Nigeria is an exercise in self-flagellation. Sending someone else to a branch on your behalf is worse than water boarding. You endure endless traffic, you could get robbed coming back, the tellers don’t smile anymore (they were never smiling), you could age literarily standing in the queues for hours and when you get to the front of the queue, the system is down.

While mobile banking hasn’t been successful in Nigeria, it has been more of the poor back-end of the different banks. In fact, banks have been more inclined to open new branches and chase around for deposits than providing an awesome mobile or web experience.

Trust me, many of us would not miss going to a bank branch!


At no time in my life has my salary been good enough, so I don’t play with it at all. To hand over my hard-earned money to a digital bank without a branch where I can go make a scene or head-office where I can join others to picket is asking for too much.

I’m not so sure if the average Nigerian trusts an average Nigerian. Trust comes from ubiquity and longevity; a digital bank would need to be in the face of Nigerians for a while before it can be trusted. That would cost a lot of money in marketing – radio jingles, TV adverts, billboards, social media, tie-ins, etc.

During this love session, the digital bank must never ever, ever, ever, ever, make any mistake, if not the trust will deflate like a pricked balloon.

Customer Support

Things would go wrong, not once, not twice but as many times as it could go wrong. When this happens who will provide support? The contact centers of Nigerian companies are notorious for adding to problems and not solving them. Complaining about an emergency is an exercise in futility and even floor managers are impotent and wouldn’t help you.

A digital bank must build customer service into its core. It would be difficult but not impossible. Floor managers must also be able to make decisions.

Cost of transactions

Banking in Nigeria is very regulated much more than a C Compiler (if you get the joke). As Nigeria is still a cash-based economy, a digital bank with no debit card offering is DOD (Dead on Departure). However, giving cards would also be a DOA (Dead on Arrival) as the Central Bank mandates that the first 3 transactions are free for the customers (not the banks). A digital bank can probably never have its own ATM network. How would it fund it when it would cost at least N20M per ATM gallery?

I’m not a pessimist but I can’t figure out how it could be done at this time. Maybe an alliance with large banks? I don’t know any philanthropic bank in Nigeria who is ready for free ATM withdrawals for customers of digital banks.


Traditional banks are a mishmash of disparate systems held together by badly implemented integrations: Nothing works. Data are held in silos and never talk to each other. It’s a technological hell-fire where badly behaved bits and bytes are sent by the god of science.

These technologies are also insanely expensive and with USD beyond the reach of everyone, building a digital bank on available technologies is a business suicide.

The good news is that digital banks are mostly building their own technology stack (Atom, Starling, Simple, Monzo, Fidor, N26, etc.) and Nigerians have the intellectual chops to build better platforms than even these guys.

Established networks, especially MasterCard, are also lending their weight behind these initiatives to allow digital banks enter into mainstream interoperability.


Traditional Nigerian banks offer everything and probably nothing. However, the average Joe like you and me just want a simple current or savings account, a debit card to go with it. You can throw us some overdraft or personal loan when we go broke. Let’s be able to send and receive money to/from other banks. Let’s be able to take cash from the ATM and when the dollar is available, let’s use our cards abroad.

We want an awesome mobile app. USSD banking is a must else don’t even bother talking to us. The internet app must be great and we don’t want to click until our fingers break just to do anything.

SMS and email alerts are compulsory and should get to us instantly. Don’t also lose our money to fraudsters. When we have transactions to dispute, don’t try to mock our intelligence or stretch our patience beyond limits. Let someone answer our calls and proffer intelligent analysis/solutions to our issues when we dial the Contact Center number.

These are not too much to ask for and I believe any digital bank worth its salt should be able to deliver them.


It has been a rambling long post but barring cost of transactions and technologies, digital banks can dip their toes into the storming river of Nigerian banking.

I think the country is ready now – there would be many casualties at first but over time, these digital natives could become behemoths, and you never know, appear in the top 10 of largest Nigeria banks.


5 mistakes I made mentoring

There is no greater joy, for me, than helping others achieve their career potentials. I’ve few things that really make me happy; mentoring is right there at the top. Followed by beans cooked in red oil. And then èbà with èfó rirò.

Just like my mentees, the mentoring journey has taught me quite a number of interesting things which I think would be nice to share with others who may want to annoy their younger friends and colleagues in the name of mentoring.

The joy of coaching others doesn’t mean it comes easy to me and those I mentor.  In fact I could be very exasperating while trying to help others: I’ve heard phrases like “Na by force?”, “Na fight?”, “E don do!

I’ve made a gazillion mistakes helping others achieve their dreams but the following 5 stand out remarkably.

My aspiration is not yours

When I was younger I wanted to be everything – from piloting a plane, to going to the moon and every random career in between. I finally found myself studying engineering in the university, which I barely excelled at, and eventually ended up a banker.

Guess what? I wanted all my mentees to work in banks. I extolled how banking is a nice career, how you could move up and own half of Banana Island.

Utter rubbish!

Luckily I learned quickly that as a mentor, my job is to help my mentees achieve or exceed their life’s goals and aspirations. Instead of shoehorning my own myopic career ideas into their already jaded brains, I started listening to them, discussing their ambitions and helping them move towards that.

Professional career is everything

I used to look down on people who wanted to do things that don’t fit into my narrow view of professional careers. How stupid I was!

Luckily nobody has been hurt yet as I never had the chance to force people talented in non-professional inclination into suits and ties. Imagine the damage I could have done to Usain Bolt if his mum was my cousin? He would probably be slaving his backside at some law firm now.

I’ve since understood that success comes in different flavors and at the beginning those who don’t want to be professionals may look different from me but it doesn’t mean they don’t know what they want to do.

Careers and family are zero sum

A colleague told a friend of mine that she thought I was cold to her because she wanted to get married. That wasn’t the reason but it showed how bad my view about family and career used to be.

To have an outstanding career, something has to give, but mine was on the extreme side.

It took a long time for me to come around to the fact that you can have a good family life and an outstanding career. It is going to be tough but tough things are what successful people do.

Competing with mentees

Sometimes I set goals for my mentees and I to achieve and most times I beat them hands down. It never had the right effect.

Mentees look up to me for strength not as competition and when they lose it had demoralizing effect on them.

I’ve since learned to coach, support, encourage and sometimes give a little kick to the back side but I would never again compete with my mentees. Next time I should take on competition of my own size.

Giving up easily

There is nothing as annoying as giving your time and effort to move a mentee ahead and he’s not measuring up: He’s taking time to slack off or doesn’t appreciate the effort. The natural thing for me was to think they weren’t serious or deserving of my time so I promptly bumped them off.

How wrong of me! Yes, it is still annoying but I’ve since learned that Rome wasn’t built in a day. No kid growing up has ever stopped walking just because of occasional tumbles. So I’ve learned to chill a bit and give as many second chances as I can muster. After all I used to be annoying too and others took second bets on me.

The upside to mistakes

Knowing nobody is perfect is the biggest step towards Nirvana and this has helped me more in life than anything else. Instead of killing myself from doing the wrong thing, I simply learned from it and moved on.

Making the same mistakes over and over again is a different story entirely – you may need a trip to Yaba Left to find out why your gear is stuck at 2. Like my old boss, Joshy, would say – mistakes are allowed, errors are unforgivable – whatever that means!

Finding good in a bad economy

It’s hard to see a silver lining in the awful economic cloud currently flogging Nigeria’s backside.

But as an unrepentant and obsessive optimist, I’m sure there would be something good to come of this. If history is anything to go by, quite a number people start their journeys to success when things go titsup.

Real Estate
Things are really cheap now, especially for my cousins abroad. In fact cost of houses are going down while dollars exchange rate is going in the other direction. So if you live outside Nigeria and you couldn’t afford to get your own place in Lagos or elsewhere previously, this is the time to do it.

Some people have been doing export for a while but I think the time is ripe for Nigeria to go into export frenzy. We all know how to copy, let’s over copy and paste this!

Nigeria is full of abundance of everything except FX. For example, hide and skin from the north are processed for export to those making shoes and fancy bags. We have cashew, timber, shea butter, etc. It’s easy to get into the game.

Finding customers may be a bit tough so that’s a job you need to do. Quality is also an important factor, always supply what has been requested.

Software and FinTech
This is the big one. In the last 2 years, I have worked with incredibly smart people; some are colleagues while many are vendors. This bunch of smart guys are building fantastic software and services that can be used anywhere in the world.

While their Nigerian customers are finding it hard to pay because of the economy, they can easily sell their services to those outside the country. The quality of their web applications and mobile apps would compete favorably on the global scale considering that their cost would be lower.

In fact, if I ran a global organization I would have my software team in Lagos, as their cost would be lower while getting same or even better quality.

Buying companies for pennies
Investors know that cash flow, ROE and ROI are kings. The rest is semantics.

If you checked the NSE of recent you would have laughed your boxers off. Big names are trading for next to nothing. They don’t even qualify to be called penny stock anymore, we should call them free stock.

Now this appeals to long term or Nigerians in diaspora investors who would want to hang around for the long haul. Reality is that we would get out of this funk so the best time to position for the future is now.

While I’m very optimistic that Nigeria would get out of this funk, I also know that’s dependent on the country to think its way out of the mess. If it doesn’t start with Buhari and others, it could start with me and you.

Maybe I ain’t in the best position to say this; I took the easy way out.

Learning to learn

It’s well known that the brain is like a muscle – the more you learn the better you become. In fact studies have shown that being intellectually active correlates with longer and more fulfilling life. Learning stretches the brain more than anything else.

I would have thought that a lot of people know this but sometimes it amazes me why many think it’s cool to be ignorant.

Let me break this down.

Nobody’s born with all knowledge but learning to learn is, arguably, the most important skill in life. Any knowledge or skill you have this evening is probably going to end up obsolete tomorrow morning but as long as you continue to explore and you are curious, you probably going to end up fine. That is, if you don’t eat the fruit of good and evil knowledge; Adam didn’t heed that warning as he was just too curious.

How then should you handle a friend who asks you about things he could have checked out on the internet – I mean, Google doesn’t require subscriptions?

Why is it hard for older people and sometimes senior professional leaders to learn new things? Why do people think it’s beyond them to just pick up a book and read?

Why can’t we just go the extra mile to enhance our careers by learning new skills instead of blaming everyone for how long we have been stagnant?

Knowledge is power

If raw power is of any use, then grave diggers would be richer than Mark Zuckerberg but hey it doesn’t work that way. He had knowledge, used it to make us play Farmville on Facebook and now could provide enough dollars to crash the exchange rate to N100/$. I know he won’t do it though.

Your career and life could change dramatically with learning. You can be fortunate to learn some things easily (like tatafo) but the reality is that you have to read again and again and again to have life impacting knowledge.

This is a late evening rant – I wonder who stepped on my tail this morning!


5 things you don’t know about Nigerian ATMs

Just a few years ago, we practically begged people to use ATMs instead of queuing up at the banking counters but at least that has changed. But then the change came with friends, family and other random people asking me random questions why they can’t brew a nice cup of coffee at the ATM.

Some of the oddities are explained here.

Why doesn’t the ATM retract cash?

If you forget to take your cash abroad (places where the snow falls in January) the ATM simply takes it back and then reverses the amount. Sounds convenient and nifty for forgetful souls like me.

Why doesn’t it do that in Nigeria?

Well it started that way until some dudes figured out that they could take out a bit of the cash and trick the ATM to withdraw everything back, crediting the full amount.

Warri no dey carry last!

Why doesn’t the ATM accept cash?

I remember walking into a NatWest Bank when I was in school and feeling funky with myself, deposited some scraggy notes into the ATM instead of bothering with the dour looking cashier. It went smoothly and I got my credit almost immediately.

Some random banks tried it in Nigeria but the experiment reminded me of Icarus. Icarus thought he could fly, strapped on some wings and jumped. It was his last jump.

Cash accepting ATMs have to count the cash, scan the notes and determine the currency by staring at it. Unfortunately the cash notes in Nigeria have been to more places than I could safely describe on the Internet without getting my HR to invite me for a serious conversation. NSFW!

The ATMs choked on the cash and the experiments went south. Simply put, we mangle our cash in Nigeria and no ATM made of man has been able to overcome that. A few banks are still struggling with these devices but I know as long as we still roll up our notes, write things on them like jotters or stuff them inside sostén then cash accepting ATMs will never work.

Why do I have to input my PIN for another transaction even when I haven’t removed my card?

There is something funny that happens in countries like Nigeria where you need lots of notes from the ATMs for even the simplest purchase. In the US, usually maximum withdrawal is $300 and nobody apart from Nigerians take that much cash.

Equivalent of that amount here is N84,000, that depends on who you ask though. Since ATM cannot just open its guts for you to point and select your cash, it can only push out at most 40 notes. So an average transaction in Nigeria needs multiple withdrawals.

What if you forget your card and it doesn’t require PIN for the next transactions? Actually that’s the way it was and suddenly forgetful people, who have taken their cash and gone, are separated from the rest of the money in their accounts by the next dude on the queue.

Their wailing and gnashing of teeth made banks to reconfigure the terminals. The wailing stopped but not the gnashing of teeth.

Why does the ATM have blue background and yellow text by default?

The engineers who configured the first set of ATMs in Nigeria have no taste. Next!

Fortunately some banks have since seen the light and have gone on to do graphical interface designs. Nothing impressive at this time though. One of these days when I have less to do, I may wander around comparing screens.

Who is the girl that talks on the ATM?

I don’t know her! I swear, she ain’t my cousin.

While she loves to say “Thank you for banking with us”, I know she’s saying exactly the same at other banks; she’s probably promiscuous and has no loyalty.

Nota Bene

You can ask me other random question on anything you want to know about ATMs and I will do my best to answer them. I’m not an expert so don’t scream blue murder if I try to pull the wool over your eyes.

The Body Count Conundrum

Everyone wants someone who’s got experience and can do a lot of amazing things, but then we don’t want someone who’s been around everywhere and will probably leave in a jiffy, stomping out into the late evening. To find that perfect balance is more of an art than anything else.

Wait, what do you think I was talking about?

Recently I helped a friend review a resume for a vacancy. It was quite impressive; and having spoken to the candidate previously, I was half assured of the quality. But, the resume said a bit more than the exciting background – candidate has worked at five different companies but never spent more than 2 years at any of them.

The person recruiting wanted a solid performer. But most importantly someone he could build a team around – someone who would stay for a decent number of years. For those of us out there who know the pain of building a good team, stability is as important as skills.

My friend never followed up on the lead as he was very concerned about the candidate’s stability on the job. I have seen this play out many times over.

Is it right to judge someone based on the number of places they have worked?

Experience is key but too much of everything is bad
When recruiting experienced hires, recruiters welcome diversity as we believe, sometimes erroneously though, that if you have been around, you probably have learned a number of important contexts which should bring the richness of your experience to bear.

However, if you have worked in too many places and it seems you frequently change jobs, then we are very worried you won’t stay long in the new role, fracturing the team and making a mess, especially if you are senior and lead a large team.

Think before you resign
Forget what you read on the Internet, including this one – every job will be annoying at one time or the other. The grass is greener on the other side, until you scale the fence and discover it was just an optical illusion.

Careers, just like relationships, aren’t inconsequential to get into – the history stays with you for a very long time.

Therefore, don’t leave your job on a whim or because your boss pissed you off, or because you missed that promotion. Unless there is a threat to your life, stay until you find a solid career move worth the hassle and increase in body count.

When you leave a job too fast or too soon, your resume stops talking about your experience but about your person. Recruiters and others start to think you have a commitmentphobia, can’t work in a team, get bored easily like a teenager or some other random problems. We are probably wrong about you, but the bad part is we won’t even discuss it with you; we just form a bias in our little minds and move on.

Don’t hate us, we have a mountain of resumes and LinkedIn profiles to wade through with not enough time pull a Sherlock Holmes.

Spin out the positives
When you finally get to have a chat about a new role and you have a career record longer than a street whore, you can still spin a positive tale around it.

Always have a good story to say about each place you have worked. When you say nice things about others, it makes people think highly of you, feel you are a team player and a grateful soul. Even if you aren’t any of this, stick to the script.

There is a limit to this though, if your ex-company was involved in salacious things, just say you had a good time but would rather not discuss what happened as many of the things you know are confidential. When you don’t run your mouth at interviews, we believe that you will keep our own secrets if you are brought on board.

Talk about the diversity of experience and how it has made you a more rounded person with a world-view…whatever that means. After all an interview is more like a solo theatrics performance.

Talk about other areas of your life that has been stable so nobody thinks you are a rocket on a mission. For example, you could talk about how you have been using the same dry cleaners for 150 years or that you love your old perfume.

Okay, so now that I’ve told you about why you should stay loyal, what’s your body count?

The stone the builders rejected – RIP Mohammed Ali

As a kid, I used to have a t-shirt with Mohammed Ali on it and I loved it so much until my rotund stomach couldn’t fit in anymore.

Growing up, I was regaled with different stories of Ali by my grandmother who felt there wasn’t any greater boxer than he was. Even when Mike Tyson came on the scene, his erratic behaviors ensured that he never amounted to anything important with my grandmother. I’m happy he’s cleaned up though.

But Ali wasn’t always the greatest. He was hated by his country and his life made miserable just because he wouldn’t want to be drafted into a war that is ranked as one of the worst ever. He fought for his conviction much more than he fought in the rings.

The lessons from him are very simple:

Never give up on your conviction even when it’s not popular.

If you are good in what you do, the world will come around to appreciate it – Psalm 118:22.

Rest in peace Mohammed Ali – you will always be remembered and send my regards to grandma up there if you ever happen to bump into her.

Ladies, please stand up!

I have known too many women over my professional career and have more than a fair share of female friends. In fact out of the 100 friends I have, 120 of them are womenfolk.

This unfortunately makes me a bit of a backyard authority on issues they face especially career related annoyances. I have heard so much gripe, my otorhinolaryngologist warned that the next time I come over for tinnitus treatment she’s going to seal the damn ears with wax. Ok, that was an exaggeration.

Back to more serious issues.

Gender inequality is over flogged everywhere; it’s more of a theory to the average Omobinrin on the street. But when that reality confronts them it’s clothed as something personal – career decisions, societal pressure, I need to have kids, I’m getting old, I’m a chic, what will my family say, bla bla bla.

Nature already stacked the table against every girl from birth (who said nature is nice?) – period, pregnancy, mishmash of hormones and Telemundo. But here’s the strange thing, despite these natural challenges, why do women still allow men and society to add to their pains?

This isn’t a blame-the-victim tripe. Far from it. This is a call to action to my beautiful friends although I don’t have the guts to give them this holier-than-thou lecture in person as I could end up with scratches from poorly fixed nails. Call me a chicken in pinstripe if you like, na you sabi.

The girl is good, maybe not all the time!

Some of the most amazing and talented people I ever worked with are women. They work hard, they are super smart and extremely ambitious. Not only that, they have empathy and solid emotional intelligence which the most sensitive of men can only dream off. I also know a few “Up NEPA” ones that make a dull office look pretty awesome on a rainy Monday morning.

Then they get married and most often than not their ambition, performance and sometimes some body parts go south. They become a shadow of their former selves. Ten years go by and countless missed promotions, they become bitter and angry.

It’s extremely confusing for me. Their brains are still there; their knowledge, and competence gained over the years, are not lost, what happened?

My male friends come back from honeymoon smoking hot and still productive for years. In fact studies have shown that quite a lot of men have career boosts post marriage. Why not the average working class woman?

I did a back-of-the-napkin study and found out that they never really lost the dreams or ambition.  They just got their backs against the wall….and not in the sense that you think of.

Usually a woman goes into a marriage, especially in my part of the world, and she’s expected to be the one to compromise. In fact if she’s a high flyer and unmarried her parents, the same ones who paid for the expensive education, are the first to fire the first salvo “Rolake, you are too career minded, no man will marry you!”

She will be advised to chill out, scale down, and underplay her progress so she can be attractive to some dude with very low esteem. Post wedding she’s the one to get home on time to cook, the one to take care of the kids, and worst of it if they both work in same organization without family friendly policies, she’s the one to resign to stay at home or look for another job.

If kids are ill she takes time off work. She can’t work away from home or abroad because it won’t speak well of her but nothing is wrong if her spouse is posted out of station to Kathmandu. If the idiotic husband loves to pound her instead of fufu, her parents will be the one to tell her to chill, pray, endure or whatever random rubbish anyone could think of.

There is nothing wrong with marriage (for those hung up on it) or having kids (they are fun when not annoying) but like everything you do, you have to know what you want and go for it. In fact good relationships are beneficial, they provide synergy and support not available to lone rangers.

However if you enter into any contract or relationship without knowing what you really want or deserve then you are a loser from day one.

So what’s a girl to do? 

Men and women are EQUAL but not necessarily the same (I don’t want to be a girl, duh). As simple as that sounds, it’s fundamental to everything! If you sincerely believe that your life as woman, hope, aspirations, etc. is as worthy as that of any man’s then you have taken the right steps in the right direction. Please repeat that ten times!

Find your dreams again. What did you want to become? How do you want to reap the years and countless millions you have invested on/for your life so far? Think about this; the degrees, certifications or even professional experiences you have aren’t required to be a good mum but to be a build a good career, then make good use of them. However if you are already married you are going to need a ton of diplomacy and compromise to get a decent traction. Learn it!

Marriage is fun and relationships are beneficial but there is absolutely nothing wrong if you aren’t married. It isn’t a failure as much as every man not being a millionaire a failure. Next time someone tells you that you are not complete without a man, let the person know he’s a failure for not being a Bill Gate. Case closed.

Look before you leap – things have to be clarified before you let him put a ring on it. Like a contract, if isn’t well defined before you go into it, you can’t change it to favor you once you are in it. Remember, it’s difficult to fix an airplane’s engine while in flight!

Don’t have more kids than you can manage and that means also projecting into the future; school fees go everywhere except downwards. Space them if you can so it doesn’t put stress on your career progression and you can even have one for the road later, I heard it’s fun! By the way, there is something called family planning, don’t depend on men to do the right thing at the right time; they won’t and the burden of their mistakes will be yours forever. #BorrowWisdom

Choose your friends carefully as you won’t be better than them. If you hang out with the type who have lost their sense of self-worth to their other partners or those who feel women were born to serve men, how will you do better? Their negative claptrap will corrode you and make your life miserable forever.

Learn to keep your cool as many will surely try to get a rise out of you because of your decisions. Just keep calm and keep your mouth shut – you can’t win an argument with any of them. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty or unhappy about your final decisions, don’t live your life for them.

What’s a girl not to do?

Don’t take this as an excuse to be a bitch at home if you are married, hey, if you got tossed out because of it, I ain’t got no spare room!

Don’t take a hardline on everything – your way or your way – life isn’t that way. A compromise is probably one nonviolent means to end any domestic warfare but make sure you never get the short end of the stick.

Don’t blame men, boys, grandpas, etc. for everything that goes wrong with you. Remember you take the ultimate responsibility for your life, careers and aspirations. The faster you know the buck stops on the stool next to you, the better for you and your sanity

Be careful of things you read on the internet, including this! Take what resonates with you and junk the rest as quickly as a bad habit (wait, ain’t bad habits difficult to stop?)

Before you form that conclusion

I’m just a simple guy with an honest belief that everyone is equal but same but I’m not a feminist. While I believe that those in positions of responsibility should ensure level playing ground for everyone irrespective of gender, women everywhere also have to standup for themselves.

So You Want to Be Respected?

I’m always amazed when I reminisce on the many stupid things I’ve done just to appear cool. I remember when I was a teenager I used to iron the back of my school uniform shirts in a certain way just to have that swagger. Boy, looking back now, that must have been one hell of madness, really!

But when you compare all I did to look cool (I still didn’t look cool, sad!) to what others did or are doing, you will pat me on the back for keeping most of the screws holding my sanity together. Em, you can’t blame me for losing a few.

So which begs the question: why do we desperately want to appear cool? Or what do we want to achieve when we do very outrageous things…to be respected by others?

You want to know what some of us do just to be respected? Here are some:

Lie about who we are
My mum owns the National Theatre or I’m the CEO of Somewhere Limited with interests in oil and gas, properties, etc. I’m also into forwarding and backwarding.

Drop names like it’s hot
Bihari and my dad play draught every weekend and if I don’t call Osinbajo every other day he’s going to throw tantrums, crawl into a little room in Aso Rock and bawl like a child.

Buy things we can’t afford on credit
Social media is replete with car dealers chasing celebrities around on cars not paid for. I know a couple of guys who get first class tickets on credit and then dodge the hapless travel agents for months. Enough said.

Sucking up
Become a lap dog to senior management, celebrities, just to be relevant. They treat you like crap but you take it like blessing all because you want to be seen as part of the hip crowd. You even laugh at their stupid jokes!

Fake it like it’s real
This is pretty common! Buy fake designer bags, shoes and accessories just to look like you’re happening! I once followed a friend into a real Channel store, saw the price tags and left with a profound knowledge that all the Channel brooches I’ve seen in my office are fakes. Walahi!

Date an eye candy
Do all you can to date that super skinny yellow girl with a hip/waist ratio – that can make even a Cardinal lose his faith. It doesn’t matter that she’s emptier than a washed out barrel. Sometimes it is to stick up to the abusive super rich oil tycoon married boyfriend who pounds her with blows better than fufu.

There are many more ways to be a dick head just because we want to be known, seen, respected and be successful. If you think I’m talking about musicians, Nollywood starlets, OAPs, etc. you are so wrong! Their misbehaviors are part of the drama that life gives us as entertainment; their craziness is what defines them. I’m actually referring to the everyday me, you, my cousins and some of your colleagues at work.

Fundamentally somewhere in the deep recess of each of us (especially me) we want to be respected and everything we strive for is to achieve that – money, career, fame, girls, husbands, etc. Since the need to be respected can’t be cured or is innate to us, maybe we should focus our attention on how to be respected in a wholesome manner.

Let me break it down. The best way to be respected is to be good in what you do. No other sustainable way.

I can illustrate this better with two Nigerian women. Dame Patience Jonathan was a favorite punch bag for everyone with her numerous gaffes and poor grammar; she provided a good comic relief. Nothing beats this YouTube performance. Nike Davies Okundaye, on the other hand, represents some of the best things that ever came out of Nigeria. She grew up uneducated but despite that developed herself into a world renown artist.

Both are Nigerian women with poor grammar and don’t speak with phoney but while one is lampooned at every turn, the other is revered. Why? Because everyone knows Nike is good in what she does.

How to get real respect
Understand that the need to be respected isn’t bad. Like the need to get Coldstone Ice Cream or to Netflix, it’s part of every one of us.

Real and enduring respect comes from competence. When you are very good at what you do, and you are smart and consistent, trust me, even your haters will give you sadankata. I don’t like Cristiano Ronaldo and it’s from pure jealousy; he’s rich and I’m not. He has a six-pack but I’ve just a large one. He’s popular but nobody even knows me on my street. Beef aside though, I respect him because he’s good and not from luck; he’s good because he works hard at being good. How do you explain scoring more than 50 goals consistently for 6 straight seasons, na yam?

So put in real efforts into what you do and after a while, everyone will give you the required praise and attention you need. Don’t look for a shortcut, real competence takes a while to have.

Be yourself and don’t try to be others. After all you weren’t born a clone so why become one? You will be surprised that the fancy people you want to be like aren’t even half as good as you are!

Don’t buy what you can’t afford, fake your accent or wear stuff just because it’s the in-thing. Be comfortable in your own skin. By the way, this doesn’t give you liberty to dress like an idiot. Being cultured is part of competence.

Don’t suck up to politicians, celebrities, supervisors, the happening guys in your office, bla bla. It’s just a sad display and will definitely embarrass your kids in the future. You can’t imagine how much I cringe at the sickening display of loyalty in different offices – you call someone young enough to be your child oga or madam etc. just because you want to be relevant, seriously? Dude, do your job!

Understand the fact that being popular wouldn’t last forever so why kill for it? Even if you are the trending item on Twitter today or the most sought after speaker on the talk circuit, after a while everyone would be naturally bored and move on to the next thing. It doesn’t mean you ain’t respected, so don’t sweat it. Continue to do what you are good at. It will most certainly speak for you in the long run.

This brings me to talk about supervisors, managers and other random senior people in random offices. If you want your subordinates or colleagues to respect you, it won’t be by politics or being the boss from hell. Be a leader and be competent. Leadership means you provide your team with vision and you lead them on a mission of towards greatness. Of course discipline is needed and if butts need whopping, please apply whatever whopping is prescribed in the company handbook. But you need to be good and knowledgeable on the job to be respected so preaching leadership alone is – meh! When things are tough, they expect you to reach into your endless wealth of experience to solve whatever problem the team or your subordinate is facing at that time.

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Do You Want A Job or a Career?

I was recently giving a career pep talk to my colleagues when one ambitious fellow pulled me aside to ask for the difference between a job and a career. In my usual sarcastic way (I swear, I’m gonna get beaten up one of these days), I wanted to remind him that Google isn’t connected to PHCN (if you ain’t a Nigerian, that’s probably lost on you).

But then I thought deeply about it and found that I didn’t have a ready answer. So that evening, while nursing a tumbler of Vedka, ice and Coke, I sat to dimension it from my own perspective.

The internet is chuck full of different meanings but since jobs and especially careers are deeply personal things, maybe it would be better to look at it from that intimate angle. My definitions are definitely mine and I ain’t making any attempt to be politically correct.

A job is something you do to stay alive while a career is something you stay alive to do.

I’m already having a headache digesting that.

The Job
A job is what you do to earn money for its own sake. You don’t, necessarily, have to like it or even want to stay longer than required. As far as you are concerned, a job puts bread on the table and shirt on your back. You may or may not like your boss. You could even be like some people I know, when bored, you fantasize about beating your supervisor up. Trust me, while it’s a bad thought, it can be satisfying.

You get into a job out of necessity unless you are greedy lass where the perks and the money is what drives you. Jobs can be stressful as you do it for survival; you practically have to drag yourself out of bed each morning just to be there.

If you find someone who is cranky, hardly smiling, drives like a maniac and it’s evening – he’s coming back from a job.

Most jobs are dead-end; but if, and I mean a big if, you can find a light at the end of that job’s tunnel and which isn’t a train, it could become a career.

A Career
If you’ve dated a very cute girl before, you would understand what a career is. You just want to do it. It may or may not pay as much but it makes you satisfied and happy. It’s usually a lifelong obsession.

You make a lot of stupid and irrational decisions about a career – get certifications or additional degrees with the hope that it gets better. You spend long hours toiling away and most often than not a career turns into something successful because when you put in that much passion and energy, you are almost guaranteed to succeed. I know people who have taken pay cuts to drive a career. Careerists and entrepreneurs are cousins – they devote their lives, savings, relationships and everything to something they truly believe in.

How did I find myself in a job?
It’s never a fair world and the fight between job and career isn’t fair either. We all usually start with a job.

You get out of school with a good degree, exaggerated view of yourself and a taller-than-life rosy picture of a career in investment banking or petroleum. In this pictured life, you have a Ferrari at 27 and a private island by 35.

The first thing life does to you is make sure you comb the whole street of Lagos until you are better than the latest version of Google Maps and can do better traffic update than Tsaboin Traffic talk. A thousand iterations of your résumé (CV) later you land your first job, usually a lowly contact center agent at a telco.

That’s a job.

I know a lot of people who marry people they don’t like but because of the goodness of their hearts, end up loving them. It happens with a job too.

You could start with a job but you make something good out of it. You become good at it and as you progress, people realize you are an expert and treat you as one.

A career is born.

What to do in a job/Upgrading to a career
Having a job isn’t bad. I mean, what’s the alternative? Even pimping is a job; it’s also a career for some…but that’s by the way.

Instead of fretting about how dreadful your job is, you could do the following to move from being in a job to having a satisfying career:

  • Be grateful for that job. No matter how terrible you think a job is, as long as it puts money on the table, it’s something to be happy about. Remember, it could be worse if you find your backside on the curb without any means of livelihood. While being grateful though, remember what it is, it’s just a job, don’t sell your soul, whatever it’s worth, for it.
  • Go for a very long walk to meditate and ask yourself what you want to do with your life. Don’t do less than 5 kilometers. It’s so simple to know what your career should be – if a genie assured you of success in whatever you do, what would you rather do?
  • Be reasonable in your expectations before your wife kicks you out of the house. Or how do you think she will react if you suddenly came up with the idea of a career in medicine when you lately spent N1M doing your 40th birthday?
  • If you think you can get joy out of your current job, then ask what you need to turn it into a career. You could have anchor role models and find out what they did to get to where they are or what set them apart in their fields.
  • Once you’ve decided on that career then act! Nothing kills a career faster than procrastination. The best time to start a good career was yesterday but the next best time is right now. Do you need some certifications to be able to practice? Go for it now. How much do you know about these career field? Read like a mad man! Does anyone know you and your capabilities? Go to industry events, network, play, mingle!
  • The journey to a career nirvana is narrow and full of blistering thorns but you can’t pull back. Long after the enthusiasm of being a CFA has died, you must have enough resolve in your reservoir to pull you to the next level.
  • A career is like a mahogany tree, it takes years and lorry loads of attention, affection and money for it to grow and blossom into something beautiful. Don’t play with fire while at it.
  • A career is a demanding mistress, it will take all of you. It can also be a bitch, it doesn’t care how much effort you have put in previously, if you don’t keep at it, you could lose it on a whim.

A Nice Job vs. Career, who wins?

I have discussed the easy part, here’s something to drive you crazy: You are sometimes unfortunate to be faced with a superbly paying job and just a career, which would you choose?

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