President Jonathan Attracts Foreign Investors in Rio

President Jonathan Attracts Foreign Investors in Rio

Pius Adesanmi

(At the lobby of the most expensive hotel in Rio de Janeiro. Overwhelmed hotel staff scurry hither and thither as they try to cope with the Nigerian delegation comprising not more than three hundred and twenty-five and a half persons. Seventy-five members of the delegation are shouting on top of their voices, insisting that hotel staff need Portuguese translations for “big man”, “all protocols observed”, “estacode”, “Chief”, “Alhaji”, “advance party”, “Chieftain”, “Stakeholder”, “First Lady”, “convoy” “personal assistant” “special adviser”, “senior special adviser”, “special room service”, “cash payment”, “anticipated payment”, “miscellaneous expenses”, and so on and so forth, in order to provide proper service to the Nigerian delegation. To the left, in a quiet conference room, twenty-five Western Business Executives, led by Mr. Albert Schreiber, are seated, sipping tea, coffee, doing small talk, and glancing anxiously at their Rolex wristwatches. On the conference table in front of each Executive: an ipad, a blackberry, The Economist, and Wall Street Journal. At the opposite side of the table, Ruby, Orontus, Renoks, some ministers, and state governors are sweating. On the table before them: half-eaten kolanuts, bitter kola, alligator pepper, tomtom, and old copies of ThisDay. The Nigerians avoid the inquisitive gaze of the potential foreign investors.)

“Orontus”

“Yes, Ruby boy, wetin?”

“Wey oga now, ehn? Which kain yawa be dis? These people are getting restless o. Na we fix this meeting for 9:00 am. This is 11:00 am and oga still never come.”alt

“Hum”

“Orontus, na hum you go talk? Even the Minister of Trade and Foreign Direct Investment is not yet here. Renoks, wey oga trade?”

“He needed to accompany his madam to the shopping mall this morning. I saw them when they were leaving. He promised he would be back in time for this meeting. Maybe traffic jam catch dem.”

“Ok o, but what about Oga now? What do we do now? Abi make we go check wetin dey happen for the Presidential suite?”

“Ruby”

“Yes, Orontus”

“When you reach there, don’t stop at the reception area of the Presidential suite. Go inside the presidential bedroom. Check inside the sheets of the presidential bed. If you find oga there, drag him here to this meeting”

“Orontus, you think say na joking matter be dis? Is this the time for sarcasm?”

“Do I sound like I’m joking? Go drag oga come now. Luckily for you, I hear say Nduka Obaigbena dey reorganize in case they don’t take you back at Rutam Times when we reach home. E be like say wetin we dey chop for Villa don tire you. Otherwise, which one be your own? Your papa name na Nigeria? Are we not all here together waiting for oga? And you are here trying to call oga a late comer”

“Ehn, emi ke? Call oga a late comer? Mewa baba mi o to be. Who born me? I never speak words that are bigger than my mouth o. Orontus, please don’t misunderstand me. I am not calling oga a late comer o”

“Ehen, are you trying to say that I am lying?”

“No now, Orontus, you too dey quick vex. I am just saying that Oga fixed this meeting for 9:00 am himself and it is now 11:00 am. And look at our foreign partners. They are getting restless. I am just saying we should at least pretend that we are doing something to get oga here. At least we can ask Renoks to go and check what is happening upstairs.”

“Ruby, you will never learn the tricks of this trade. What do you think Renoks has been doing on his ipad here all morning? You think he is playing Ludo?”

“Oh, is he not just reading newspapers to keep busy while we wait for oga?”

(Orontus and Renoks explode in laughter)

“Renoks, abeg, help out our friend Ruby. What are you doing on your ipad?”

“Oga Ruby, I am tweeting and also posting updates on the President’s Facebook Wall about the spectacular success of this meeting with foreign investors.”

“I don’t understand. Which meeting?”

“Oga Ruby, this meeting wey we dey now.”

“I don’t get it. This meeting wey we never see oga? This meeting wey we never start?”

“Oga Ruby, you are the one saying that the meeting has not started and we never see oga. That is not what my tweets and Facebook updates are saying.”

(Something beeps in Orontus’s pocket. He springs to attention.)

“Ah, oga is on his way o.”

(All the Nigerians spring to attention. The CEOs look bemused. President Jonathan breezes in and the CEOs finally stand up in respect but the look on their faces betrays their irritation at the President’s lateness. Two dozen aides buzz around the President as he makes his way to his designated seat. Some are carrying his papers. One is carrying his briefcase. One is carrying his cell phones. One is carrying his ipad. The President seats and invites all to seat but only the foreign CEOs seat. The Nigerians remain standing.)

“Gentlemen, I think you are all familiar with African time? Anyway, sorry, I’m late. These things happen.”

(You could hear a pin drop. The foreign CEOs do not share the President’s humour. Ruby winces painfully. Orontus scowls at him.)

“Anyway, we all know why we are here. Thank you for your interest in Nigeria. Before we start, I will invite two of the state governors in my delegation to each give a short welcome address.”

(Each Governor takes 20 minutes to run through protocol before delivering his address. One hour later.)

“Now gentlemen, we can get down to business.”

“Thank you, Mr President, it’s good that we are getting to see Nigerian culture. Can you at least ask the members of your delegation to sit down? We are not used to holding meetings with our potential partners standing up.”

“Did you hear him? You people should sit down.”

“Ah, Mr President, we are all fine like this sir. Just continue the meeting. You know oyinbo people don’t understand respect for protocol and constituted authority. Just continue the meeting sir.”

“Mr. Schreiber.”

“Yes, Mr President”

“I think you heard them. My people are ok standing. How much did you say your company was thinking of investing in my country’s energy sector?”

“We are looking at something in the neighbourhood of a billion dollars from now till 2015 Mr. President.”

“2015? I thought you were looking at a long term investment?”

“Yes, Mr President. But we think it is prudent to wait and see what happens after 2015. We understand it’s an election year in your country sir. Forgive me but we did our homework. We understand that every new government cancels contracts and agreements entered into by their predecessors.”

“That’s correct, Mr Schreiber. I will not lie to you. But that means you should look at working with us till 2019. We have another four years starting from 2015.”

“You know the results of the 2015 elections already sir?”

(The Nigerians burst out laughing.)

“Orontus!”

“Yes, Mr President sir.”

“Where is INEC? Go and call INEC. Tell him to come and see our foreign partners and reassure them.”

(Orontus rushes out and returns with INEC. INEC gives the CEOs the desired reassurances.)

“Mr Schreiber.”

“Yes, Mr. President.”

“You just heard directly from my INEC. I travel everywhere with him because of people like you. Now that you know that I will be in office after 2015, can we get back to business?”

“Yes, Mr President. We need a lot of concessions. We want a tax holiday for the entire duration of our operations in Nigeria. We want a 100% expatriate quota. We will need only Nigerian drivers, messengers, and domestic staff for our expatriates. There are local Nigerian companies into our line of business. We expect you to do something about that as we do not tolerate competition. We have prepared a blueprint of our investment plan for your delegation to look at sir. If you meet our demands and conditions, we shall take care of our own special obligations to you and your designated political associates sir. We have done our homework sir. We know that Siemens, Halliburton, and Malabu messed up while taking care of special obligations. Our approach to special obligations is Wikileaks-proof.”

“Now you are talking, Mr Schreiber. Since you understand the language of special obligations, we don’t even need to see the blueprint you have prepared. When do you plan to come and start business in Nigeria?”

“Are you sure that you don’t need to see the blueprint, Mr. President? We are asking for many concessions. Will your National Assembly not at least need to debate the concessions we are asking for?”

(The Nigerians burst out laughing again.)

“Renoks!”

“Yes, Mr President sir.”

“I think we have some Senators in our entourage? Go and call them for me.”

(Renoks dashes off and returns with two Senators.)

“My brother Senators.”

“Yes your Excellency sir.”

“Our friends here are worried that you and your boys will cause problems for us. Can you please reassure them? Mr Schreiber, these are serving Senators from my country. Please listen to them.”

“Ehem, Mr Schreiber, you people should not worry. You can do business with Mr. President. We will do oversight but what we see and oversee depends on what you want us to see and how Mr. President wants us to see it.”

“Ok sirs. I understand. We don’t want you to see anything. I have assured Mr. President that we know how to make you not want to see anything.We will take care of our special obligations to you. We are more careful than Halliburton, Siemens, and Malabu. We are Wikileaks-proof. Name where you want your special obligations deposited. Switzerland? London? Washington? Dubai? ”

“In that case, welcome to Nigeria. We’ll get back to you about location. Those places you mention are no longer safe havens for special obligations. Especially London. Mr President, these are wonderful foreign investors o. They speak our language.”

“Mr Schreiber, now that you have been reassured by my Senators, I think you understand that you people can come and start as soon as possible. Now let us go to the second item on the agenda. Protocols of ratification and publicity of this deal in our respective countries. I think…”

(The President is interrupted by a commotion outside the conference room. The Nigerian First Lady, accompanied by two trailer loads of aides, approaches the venue of the meeting. Orontus, Renoks, and Ruby rush out to meet her.)

“Useless people. Nonsense people. Do you know who I am? I will no longer take it from you people. The Office of the First Lady is also very important. What is he still doing at that business meeting? You people are preventing him from attending my own event. Ah, Orontus, Ruby, and Renoks, you people are here too? You are part of the conspiracy?”

“No ma.”

“My friends, don’t no ma me. You people know that Miss Brazil 2012 invited me to cut the tape and declare open her new fashion boutique today and I warned you that my husband should be by my side at the ceremony. You assured me you won’t keep him long. Now, I am two hours late for my event and he is still there with those oyibo business men. Abeg, what kind of meeting are you people having? I won’t leave this place until you call Ebele out for me o. Just imagine. NTA crew has already gone to the venue.”

“But, ma…”

“Orontus, nor vex me today o. I don’t want to hear any ma from any of you. Just go and call Ebele for me now now or me and you will enter the same trouser today.”

(Orontus rushes back to the meeting room and whispers to the President who abandons the meeting, leaving his aides to explain things to the flabbergasted foreign investors. The investors leave after being reassured that the deal is sealed. Later, over beer at the hotel lobby.)

“Ruby boy.”

“Yes, Orontus.”

“How did oga end today’s meeting?”

“He negotiated very hard and signed memoranda of understanding with the foreign investors on terms that are very favorable to Nigeria.”

“Good. And did you see the First Lady and her aides anywhere near the venue of the meeting?”

“Which First Lady? I didn’t see any First Lady anywhere near the meeting o. And which aides? The First Lady is here in Rio with her own aides?”

“Good. Very good, Ruby. Great answers. This is what I’m talking about. You are beginning to understand how we do it. If you don’t acquire the instinct of straight-faced automatic denial, you don’t belong in the Villa. You can only get better going forward.”

“You think so, Orontus? It’s not easy o, especially the part where I have to keep a straight face when saying these things.”

“Trust me, Ruby, you can only get better.”

“I trust you, Orontus.”