By Frederick Mordi
It was a pleasant surprise for Nigerians on August 30, when news filtered in that Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook and one of the richest men in the world, was in the country. Understandably, this generated a lot of excitement in Nigeria that reportedly has the largest community of Facebook users in Africa. According to reports, there are 16 million Nigerians on Facebook. This figure is more than the population of Sweden and Denmark put together.
Although the organisers kept the high profile Zuckerberg’s visit secret, social media users in the country were not quiet when it became public knowledge. The news went viral at once on various social media platforms.
The 32-year old American billionaire was in Nigeria to attend a workshop on ‘Facebook for Developers,’ for local engineers, corporate executives and partners. The objective of the event was to explore ways of empowering Nigerian techies.
Zuckerberg had earlier visited the Co-Creation Hub in Yaba, Lagos, which is often regarded as Nigeria’s ‘Silicon Valley,’ where he talked to youngsters at a summer coding camp. “The energy here is amazing,” he was quoted as saying.
He also met with Nollywood celebrities and local software developers, and later jogged with some tech entrepreneurs in Lagos, where he savored the splendour of the nation’s commercial capital.
Apparently impressed with the prodigious talents that abound in the country, Zuckerberg has promised to use more Nigerian languages such as Igbo and Yoruba, in offering services on Facebook, which currently accommodates only Hausa language. He left for Kenya, an East African country, which has one of the best mobile money transfer services on the continent, the following day.
No doubt, Zuckerberg’s brief visit to Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, and Kenya, would have gone a long way in correcting misconceptions about Africa. The handful of Nigerians who managed to have audience with the billionaire, would have discovered, as others have, that Zuckerberg is quite simple and down-to-earth.
He proves the truth in the saying attributed to John Ruskin: “I believe that the first test of a truly great man is his humility.”
By Frederick Mordi
Dr. (Mrs.) Hope Sadza, the vice chancellor of Women’s University in Africa, which is located in Harare, Zimbabwe, is described as an ‘iron lady.’ Sadza’s antecedents speak volumes for the appellation, which is usually reserved for women of indomitable character.
For instance, there was a personal incident that made her seek audience with the President of Zimbabwe, according to her, to ‘put the record straight.’ And so, she stormed the presidential villa with her letter. She refused to give the letter to the guards. She refused to give it to the receptionist. She refused to give it to the President’s Personal Assistant. She insisted on giving the letter to only one person, and that is the President himself! She threatened to make a scene if her request was not treated with dispatch.
When word about a “woman who wanted to hand over a personal letter,” filtered into the President’s ears, he felt so curious that he personally came out of a meeting and took the letter from her. It was only then that she simmered down. She got an appointment to see the President in two days!
When she was about to open the Women’s University in Africa, she met another brick wall. The minister responsible for Higher Education in that country, who knew her only too well, alerted the Chief of Police to “arrest that tenacious and hot headed women,” for attempting to set up a university without a charter.
Apparently she knew the charter had been signed but not gazetted. Not one to be intimidated by a minister, Sadza charged into the Home Affairs Minister’s office and complained about how “opening a university was now a crime” and loitering and being on the streets for women “had become a noble cause.” The matter was swept under the carpet, where it has remained ever since.
Sadza also recalled being called to the Public Service Commission to be reprimanded for owning a hairdressing salon without declaring her interests to the commission. She retorted “since when has hair dressing as a business been part of government.” She was left to carry on her duties in peace. She has been a thorn in the flesh of those who are comfortable with the status quo.
Born on 26 November, 1944, of a school teacher mother and a businessman father, who ran a fleet of taxis in Harare, Sadza is indeed any enigma to many. Her father was one of the first Africans in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) who owned taxis in Harare, the capital city. This must have made him a rich man by all standards then.
As can be expected, she had a very strict upbringing from her mother who thought girls must be married to “certificates” and not to rich men without degrees! Thus she ensured that Sadza had proper education. One of the first things that she did after she started primary school was to change one of her names which in the Shona language means “sleep.” Every little girl had laughed at that name…
She proceeded to secondary school, finished her ‘O’ level and went on to do teacher training for primary schools. After teaching for two years, she became restless because the job did not give her satisfaction. She took off to Zambia to do book-keeping and accountancy. She created a record in her school when she got a distinction in bookkeeping—the only one in the entire nation for that year.
A woman with a voracious appetite for learning, Sadza left after a stint at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Zambia, to study Political Science at the University of Missouri, in the United States, in 1975. However, she changed her course mid-stream to do a Public Administration degree which she felt would stand her in good stead at independence in free Zimbabwe, following that up with a Master degree. After picking all the degrees abroad, she returned to her home country, which was by then no longer under colonial rule.
Her first job in the new Zimbabwe in 1980 was assistant secretary in the Ministry of Manpower Planning and Development. She later moved to the Public Service Commission, which had years earlier tried to persecute her, to take up a job as a management trainer for senior civil servants.
When she introduced a separate class for management training for women, she was criticised for separating men and women who would later do the same job. But she had her reasons. She had noticed how women felt inferior and intimidated in the presence of their male counterparts. She had also observed that men and women have totally different styles of management. She felt women are more understanding than men.
This apparently inspired her to establish Women’s University in Africa, the first of its kind on the continent. Before then, she had founded the Women in Management and Development Association, winning an award as the founder of a now thriving association.
In the area of corporate social responsibility, she is quite outstanding. She has given trophies which bear her name, to top girls or women in various sections of society. A woman, who cannot suffer poverty, she once addressed a government primary school in her university grounds and noticed 10 girls in threadbare uniforms. She bought them all uniforms and “adopted” one who was HIV positive, and had lost both parents, promising to see the girl through university.
Sadza’s passion is to see mature women who failed to access tertiary education when they were young, obtain the much needed degree certificate and be self-sufficient in life. She remains doggedly committed to this cause because she believes that self-sufficiency and independence in decision-making are the hallmarks of a free woman. She also strongly believes that the world will be a better place if educated women start to take up political posts. Sadza has won many awards for education and is in high demand from colleges and organisations, to deliver speeches.
Sadza’s employment records shows that she has held a number of positions in government. Beyond the government, she has also served as part-time lecturer, Political Science and Public Administration Department, University of Zimbabwe. She has attended major seminars, both local and international, where she presented a number of papers. She is also a consultant to a number of leading organisations on management-related issues. She is member of several professional women development bodies both within and outside the continent. She is also on the board of several companies.
It was in recognition of these sterling qualities that Nigeria’s Financial Standard Newspaper in collaboration with the Pan-African Organisation for Women Recognition (POWR), the organisers of Women Entrepreneurs Achievers Network (WEAN) Award in March 2007, in Lagos, gave Sadza the trophy for being the ‘Most Outstanding Female in the Education Sector of the Year.’ It is perhaps due to her tenacity of purpose that she has been able to come this far, considering that she hails from a country that has the highest inflation rate in the world.
Sadza, who has traveled extensively around the world on government and university duties, is married to a medical doctor and has two children. Her exciting story shows that given every opportunity, women can achieve a lot.
This article was first published in Nigeria’s Financial Standard Newspaper in 2007.
The Guardian Newspapers, the flagship of journalism in Nigeria, reviewed my book: The Familiar Stranger & Other Stories, recently.
Kindly click on the link below to read the review:
Messi: Too young to quit
By Frederick Mordi
“The national team is over for me. It’s been four finals. It’s not meant for me. I tried. It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn’t get it, so I think it’s over.”
With these words, Lionel Messi, the legendary Argentine striker, announced his early retirement from international football, last Monday. This announcement, which was totally unexpected, shocked his fans around the world. Since then, there have been calls for Messi to rescind his decision. The ‘Don’t go Lio’ campaign has gone viral on the social media.
Leading the campaign is the President of Argentina himself, Mauricio Macri, who is reportedly planning to meet Messi next week to persuade him to change his mind. “The truth is that it’s good fortune, a joy, a gift from God to have the best player in the world in a country like ours that is so football-crazy,” Macri was quoted as saying.
Similarly, charismatic Argentine footballer, Diego Maradona, has also added his voice. Maradona said: “Messi has to stay because he will reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia in conditions to become world champion.”
Messi’s decision to quit playing football for Argentina followed the humiliating loss his team suffered the previous day, at the hands of, or to be more precise, legs of the Chileans, at the final of the 2016 edition of Copa America. The Argentines lost 4-2 to Chile in a penalty shoot-out, after the match ended 0-0 at the end of 120 minutes. Messi missed a crucial penalty kick in the match.
Having earlier lost to Chile also at the final match last year; having failed to beat the Germans in the final of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil; and having been defeated by Brazil at the final of the 2007 edition of Copa, Messi must have felt that that was the last straw. It was Argentina’s fourth major final loss in nine years.
It is too early for Messi to quit. He has age on his side. He is just 29 years old. He is still in top form and has only recently, become Argentina’s all-time leading goal scorer with 55 goals. He has the capability of playing in at least two more World Cup tournaments. Of course, his records at the club level are simply amazing. He has won eight La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues with Barcelona, his club. He has also won the Ballon d’Or five times and the Olympic gold at the 2008 Games. He is unarguably one of the best players in the world today.
Perhaps, this quote attributed to one of the greatest basketball players in the world, Michael Jordan, may cheer up Messi a bit, as he ponders whether to return to the national team:
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
Messi should keep trying. Champions do not quit.
By Frederick Mordi
One of the greatest heroes of the Second World War was an unprepossessing British general named Bernard Montgomery. He was of average height and slender stature. But when he spoke, his voice was like thunder. He was a maverick and a no-nonsense man, who commanded the respect of both his superiors and his subordinates.
Due to his charismatic nature, his superiors entrusted him with the task of halting the German offensive at the North African theatre of war, even though he was not the most senior military officer at the time. He eventually managed to turn the tables against the famous German general Erwin Rommel and his Afrika Korps, against all odds. Had Montgomery failed in this important assignment, historians say Great Britain would have probably lost the war.
The first thing he did when he took charge of affairs of the Eighth Army was to change the mentality of his men, whose morale was at the lowest ebb. He understood that only a ‘culture change’ could produce the kind of results that he envisioned. He gave a powerful speech full of imagery that galvanised his disillusioned soldiers into action. The speech is regarded as one of the most inspiring in history. Every aspiring leader in an organisation should learn from the speech, whose slightly edited version is reproduced below:
“I want first of all to introduce myself to you. You do not know me. I do not know you. But we have got to work together. Therefore we must understand each other and we must have confidence in each other. I have only been here a few hours. But from what I have seen and heard since I arrived I am prepared to say, here and now, that I have confidence in you. We will then work together as a team. And together we will gain the confidence of this great Army and go forward to final victory in Africa.
“I believe that one of the first duties of a commander is to create what I call “atmosphere,” and in that atmosphere his staff, subordinate commanders, and troops will live and work and fight. I do not like the general atmosphere I find here. It is an atmosphere of doubt. All that must cease. Let us have a new atmosphere. . . Here, we will stand and fight; there will be no further withdrawal. I have ordered that all plans and instructions dealing with further withdrawal are to be burned, and at once. We will stand and fight here. If we can’t stay here alive, then let us stay here dead.
“Our mandate from the Prime Minister is to destroy the Axis forces in North Africa. And it will be done. If anyone here thinks it can’t be done, let him go at once. I don’t want any doubters in this party. It can be done, and it will be done, beyond any possibility of doubt.
“I have no intention of launching our great attack until we are completely ready. There will be pressure from many quarters to attack soon. I will not attack until we are ready and you can rest assured on that point . . . I understand there has been a great deal of “belly-aching” out here. By “bellyaching” I mean inventing poor reasons for not doing what one has been told to do. All this will stop at once. If anyone objects to doing what he is told then he can get out and at once. I want that made very clear right down through the Eighth Army.
“What I have done is to get over to you the atmosphere in which we will now work and fight. You must see that that atmosphere permeates right down through the Eighth Army to the most junior private soldier. All the soldiers must know what is wanted. When they see it coming to pass there will be a surge of confidence throughout the Army.
“I ask you to give me your confidence and to have faith that what I have said will come to pass. . . I am always available to be consulted by the senior officers of the staff. The great point to remember is that we are going to finish with this chap Rommel once and for all. It will be quite easy. There is no doubt about it.”
This simple speech full of candour and devoid of pretentious phrases, replaced fear with courage, doubt with conviction, and hopelessness with confidence. Thus, he won his first victory without firing a single shot! He understood ‘atmosphere’ a term for morale, mattered a lot and he took immediate steps to create a favourable condition for the soldiers to operate in. He was methodical in his approach and he paid attention to the minutest details. This yielded dividends.
Montgomery also pioneered what is today known as ‘management by walking about’ in organisational parlance, by mixing freely with his soldiers, getting to know their problems first-hand, and offering solutions. This greatly boosted the morale of the Army. He allowed them to use their initiative unlike the rigid regime that his predecessors had put in place.
In addition, he called his commanders by name, creating a sense of belonging in them. He further chose to wear his simple trademark beret to identify with the rank and file. All these simple tactics contributed in no small measure to the decisive victory he recorded against the Germans.
In an organisation, leaders that inspire confidence in their subordinates are more likely to succeed than those who instil fear in them.
By Frederick Mordi
On February 26, 2016, 45-year old Swiss-Italian football administrator, Gianni Infantino, emerged new FIFA President, after a keenly contested election held at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich. He beat four other contestants to replace the embattled Sepp Blatter, his 79-year old compatriot.
Infantino, who is a lawyer by profession, was educated at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. He is a polyglot. He speaks Italian, French, Swiss, German, English, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic, quite fluently. This, no doubt, would be an invaluable asset as he would be dealing with 209 football federations across the world. Before his new position, Infantino was the UEFA General Secretary.
While he was the boss of UEFA, he pushed for reforms to promote the integrity of football in Europe. Apparently taking note of his sterling achievements, FIFA appointed him to join its Reform Committee in August 2015, following the embarrassing revelations about the pecuniary peccadilloes of Blatter and former UEFA helmsman, Michel Platini, who incidentally happen to be his friends. He later threw his hat into the ring, apparently bent on personally spearheading the reform process in FIFA.
The new FIFA President has expressed his desire to increase the number of participating countries for the FIFA World Cup from the current 32 teams to 40 teams. This is a brilliant idea as it will give more countries the opportunity of qualifying for the Mundial.
But he will have to contend with high-level ‘politics’ that has come to characterise the beautiful game of football. For instance, while Russia’s place as the next host of the 2018 FIFA World Cup may been secured, that of Qatar scheduled for 2022, is still in contention, over an alleged bribery scandal. However, his immediate task will be to clean up the rot that has tainted the image of FIFA, the world football governing body. Blatter has described him as a worthy successor.
Infantino, who is said to be a diehard fan of Italian Serie A club Inter Milan, is married with four children.
By Frederick Mordi
When Fidelis got a Federal Government of Nigeria scholarship to pursue his master’s degree in one of the top universities in the United Kingdom a few years ago, he thought it was a dream come true. Although he had acquired an MBA while working, he believed a foreign master’s degree would make him more marketable.
But when Fidelis requested for study leave from his employers then, HR said he was not eligible as he had spent less than three years with the company. To qualify for study leave, Fidelis was told, he should have put in at least five years. He was faced with the dilemma of either resigning from the organisation or forfeiting the scholarship. It was a tradeoff, he knew. In the end, he chose the former option, confident he would secure a better deal when he concludes his study abroad. And so Fidelis tendered…
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