| 11 December 2016
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SERIES: BUHARISM AND THE FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW
Treatise on Customer-centrism...how to start putting customers first in Nigerian offices, both in the public and the private sectors.
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
- Bill Gates
The Nigeria High Commission in London...an office where it seems a taboo for staff to answer phone calls. Planning to do any business on the phone with this whitewashed sepulchre? You better think twice as it's always as silent as...
Geoffrey Jideofor Kwusike Onyeama, Nigeria's Foreign Affairs Minister...How much control does he have over the nation's missions abroad and who keeps an eye on what goes on therein?
Acting High Commissioner Adah Simon Ogah...is he fit for the job? He looks thoroughly dazed, out of touch and not in charge at the Nigeria High Commission in London - in this case, a sort of greenhorn in the saddle or he is just outrightly nonchalant and grossly incompetent? But how can Ogah explain to the world that even in his own very exalted office, calls are usually not answered during office hours (?)...a diplomatic service, not a secret cult!
My last contact with the Nigeria High Commission in London either on the phone or by making personal appearance was in 2011 when I went there to renew my passport.
In September of this year, I had tried to no avail on a particular day, now forgotten, to raise some queries regarding the renewal of my passport preparatory to its due date on November 23, 2016, but every section I had rung, there was not anyone to answer my calls.
And for someone who has been very used to how things work generally in the United Kingdom, all Europe and by extension, the Western world, it was not just a very sad day for me, but a most depressing one!
Except amongst Nigerians, and in our country particularly, there is hardly any nation in modern times, where during office hours and not on a public holiday, that you would encounter such a strange behavior as if one was at a cemetry calling the dead, to experience such a dead silence in all their telephone options, 0-7!
At the time I phoned in September, I pressed the number for the office I actually had business with, following the recorded voice, but all efforts were unsuccessful. I tried all the telephone numbers as displayed on the Nigeria High Commission's website, but without success. Then out of frustration, I began to press every number as I heard on the recorded voice, including the the number "0", which the recorded voice says it's for the operator. I was returning to press the number "0" again and again, having pressed one number after another, and even the so-called "operator", who by Western workplace practice is a frontline officer, I could only hazard a guess was as we say in Naija NOT ON SEAT!
Determined not to give up as I needed all the information handy before the actual renewal day of my passport, I got in touch with one of the High Commission's agents on the phone - OIS (Online Integrated Solutions at 56-57 Fleet Street on Chancery Lane in London and luckily for me, I was able to get someone to whom after I had spoken, told me they only dealt with visa matters and referred me back to the Head Office of the Commission on 9 Northumberland Avenue and I quickly made it known to him that I had tried them many times without number before deciding to call their office. In the course of our discussion I asked for the sake of asking, even though I knew it was not a public holiday in Nigeria and in the United Kingdom too, if that day was a public holiday back home, to which he replied in the negative.
But who owns OIS? Just who are behind this agency?
Wondering, my compatriot on the other side of the phone reasoned they could be busy, but I told him I could not imagine how all sections in a High Commission of a nation like Nigeria, representing the country, all Nigerians and meant to be ready for calls from all over the nations of the world for people who might have one thing or another to do with our country be too busy to answer calls.
In a lamentation mood and heaving a sigh, I did say to my interlocutor that in all offices in Western hemisphere, there are usually recorded messages to let callers know if the workers in that office/department are busy and such would be assured: "Your call is in the queue and it will be answered shortly", and this is followed by giving the caller the option to call back or they will reach out to them as a reply to their call in about 7, 9 minutes, if the caller chooses to drop - but if they choose to be in the queue, they will be told they are number so and so in the queue..."Sorry we are currently very busy...we are currently experiencing a high volume of calls...we are sorry for the delay and we apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused...your call is important to us...sorry your call is not being answered...a member of our team will be available soon", in addition to a background soothing music. I then thanked and bade him "Good bye."
But after my discussion with my compatriot had ended, I was plunged into an unprecedented sadness mixed with anger and frustration. I marvelled that our compatriots at the Nigeria High Commission have not learnt anything and have shown utter lack of the principles of eccleticism whilst here in the United Kingdom - a multilingual, multi-cultural society, nor do they often exhibit any knowledge of customer service and care.
But just what training have the Nigerian civil servants got - or we just assume, whilst being recruited and in service, the highly archaic colonial and tie-orientated education passed onto them by teachers and lecturers, who themselves are products of this binnable education is enough and will make Nigerians compete with the rest of the world in the 21st century and in the coming years?
Once Nigerians who work with the Foregn Affairs in Abuja are posted here and they succeed in bringing down members of their immediate families including other relatives of theirs that they can, they see it as their greatest feat and success, then the usual Nigerian arrogance sets in and in leaving Nigeria, instead of leaving behind the trademark mindset as is common amongst Nigerians of all walks of life, they export it down here such that it becomes as usual, the air they breathe and the water they drink.
Soliloquising, I asked rhetorically: "When shall we catch up with the rest of the world? When will Nigeria catch up with the world? Just when will my Nigeria, your Nigeria and our Nigeria catch up with the rest of the world?"
My first contact with the Nigeria High Commission in London was in 2004 when I was making preparations to deliver a public lecture then under Dr Christopher Kolade and the contact person was one Mrs A.A. Obileye, who was and is still an absolute disgrace I dare say, to the nation and all persons of African ancestry.
Because I had already written copiously about this and reported it to our President at the time, General Olusegun Obasanjo, I would not like to bring back such a very bad memory any more, nevertheless, I would like to inform my readers that the title of the public lecture I delivered at the High Commission at the time on the 31st of August 2004 was: "Hello, how is your little Corner?"
And after 12 years I'm again asking every Nigerian to re-examine their ways and their doings, first in their vertical relationship with their Creator; in their horizontal relationship with their neighbours, their compatriots, their country and all of humanity, even as I ask here too: "Hello, how is your little Corner?"
At the leadership level, I'm right now in tears, weeping very profusesly and moved to ask the current leadership of the Nigeria High Commission starting from His Excellency Mr Adah Simon Ogah; the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Mallam Muhammadu Buhari; our Vice President, Professor Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo; the Senate President, Olubukola Abubakar Saraki; the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu; the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; his Deputy, Yusuf Lasun; Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, W.S. Nkanu Onnoghen; all the 36 Governors and their deputies; all our Service Chiefs and the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris; all professionals, especially my colleagues in the pen pushing profession; trades men and women and every Nigerian, severally: "Hello, how is your little Corner?
To all the staff of the Nigeria High Commission, who of course, are the subject matter of this my call to self-examination, I'd like to ask each and everyone of you at Northumberland and Chancery Lane and I do so with a great sorrow in my heart and a profuse tears in my eyes, just HOW IS YOUR LITTLE CORNER?
Since my sojourning here in the United Kingdom, the thing I dread the most is to have anything to do with the Nigeria High Commission in London, for some of them, I would like President Muhammadu Buhari to comb every nook and cranny of Isale Eko for Area Boys and Girls, perhaps, with the help of Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Babatunde Fashola and put them in the next available flight from our airports heading to the United Kingdom to replace them immediately with some officials of the Commission who have Agberos (touts) and drunkards mentality, so when next their compatriots and the numerous customers (visitors) to the High Commission are dealing with them we know for sure who they are, and whatever time Nigerians and the world can no longer put up with them, we can hold a somewhat family meeting here in the UK, a sort of putting our heads together, for the purpose of sending them back to Kabiyesi who will help the nation march them to the Lagoon and order them on our behalf to jump into the Lagoon.
Truth is, since living here in the United Kingdom, I'm yet to see any Nigerian and all other customers (visitors) who had visited the Nigeria High Commission and would return full of praise for the great service/s - I mean here, excellent customer service and care they had received therefrom. A few examples will surfice:
A few years ago, my pastor, a Briton who got an invite to visit Nigeria had what he described to us - his congregation as the worst experience of his life. Weeks the Baptist Minister was preaching about the high level of corruption he was confronted with there, which to him stank to high heavens!
He complained about the disorderliness and the very unruly behaviours of Nigerians, both officials and other Nigerians he had met there; he complained about not keeping to time by the officials of the Commission - he complained about the time on the screen which was not kept to, which turned out to be a whole day, worst, about his being asked to come back again and again; others too had complained to me about bribery and corruption that go on there; others some years back had told me they had been asked to pay for photo copies of documents; others like my pastor complained about delay upon delay; some friends from other nations of the world had in time past groused loud to me the shabby ways Nigerians resident here in Britain are treated by their compatriots at the Nigeria Low Commission in London, making them to queue hours on end outside in the cold!
Also, five years ago when I was there, both males and females toilets were in the same place and I must confess, I together with others were disgusted at this. I tried to bring this to the attention of senior officials there, but was thorougly dressed down in a characteristic Nigerian manner: "Are you here for toilet or for your passport?" An elderly senior official, who to me was a mere kidult snapped. "Can't you mind your busisness?"
When I showed him foreigners who were going in there and had complained to my hearing, making him to know the arrangement was not good for the image of the country, rather than reflecting on my question: "Is oil-rich Nigeria, the sixth/8th in the world so poor that it cannot afford separate toilets for both sexes?", he threathened he would call the security officers to remove me out of the premises and actually tried to - only then did I reveal my identity to him. This was the only thing that cured him of his crass arrogance and gross irresponsibility. Even after he had become conciliatory asking me to come back and speak to the High Commissioner about it, as at the time he said the High Commissioner was not in town, I still expressed my displeasure to him, telling him off he was not fit to work at the Commission.
On leaving the High Commission, the security officers whom he had wanted them to remove me from the premises of the High Commission and other fellow Nigerians milled around me saying: "Oga, na you fit them. We no know say na person like this you be. We want you to dey come here always to shake them. Everything is not alright here, Oga."
During this same visit a fellow Nigerian followed me off the premises and gave me a load down of the level of corruption at the High Commission.
Also, some years back when I had phoned to chide them about their general unethusiastic attention to duty and lacklustre attitude generally due to complaints from Nigerians and other customers (visitors) to the High Comssion, a fellow had said to me on the phone: "Oga, many things no dey alright here."
At another time I was told it would take long for my passport to come back from Abuja and on their instruction, I got in touch with Abuja and they told me the same thing, but after they had my name and heard about me, I received a call the following day to go to the High Comission in London to collect my passport.
But I chided them and advised them afterwards that in our collective duty to the nation, we must not be selective, not look at faces and names, but every person/every Nigerian must be treated equally, asking them to bear in mind that all who daily throng the Immigration Office in Abuja and the High Commission in London, must first and foremost be seen and treated as CUSTOMERS - and in cleaning up our various little corners, we must all discharge our duties to our country in such little corners in a business-like manner and see all and regard all as customers.
What prompted this article this time round was the shabby treatment I had again received, five years later on the phone from my compatriots at the High Commission, whilst about seeking information regarding the renewal of my passport due for the exercise very soon - on November 23rd, 2016 to be precise. As usual, I rang all the lines they had on their website, but nobody deigned to pick the phone, even when I kept going back to press the number "0" meant for the so-called operator!
But where on earth could everybody in all of the offices that there are in the Commission be during office hours, such that not a soul offered to answer my many, many calls - all too busy or the offices at the Nigeria High Commission have all been converted to a cemetry, such that no soul was available to pick the phone as usual?
I pressed every number as in the recorded message from 0-7 and then "0" again and again, but not a single soul was on hand, not even in the so-called Acting High Commissioner's office!
Does not the Acting High Commissioner have personnel working in his office, at least his private secretary - or there's now austerity in place in Nigeria, where a high level Government/International official and citizen has been outlawed by the Buhari Government, not to have at least administrative hands working with His Excellency here in the United Kingdom?
Could the Presidency give the nation and the world just a simple answer to this our question on their behalf? But just where was Ogah himself? And where exactly is he normally when calls to the High Commission don't get answered?
What time was it exactly that I began my phone call to the High Commission? To be honest, I did not at first look at the time before making the calls, but for the purpose of anyone wanting to refer to the call log and my conversation with the three officials to whom I had spoken, should start from 15:00-16:00, UK TIME, Date: November 8, 2016.
After much persistence as I refused to give up, should I say I was lucky or unlucky to get them at last. Between me and my readers I'd rather say I was unlucky - very, very unfortunate that I eventually got the three one after the other and it was as if hell was let loose as evidenced by their very uncouth, very primitive and very uncivil behaviour as exhibited by my three compatriots. To be honest, a spy in an enemy country would not have received such mistreatment, but I did receive very unpleasant and very shameful maltreatments from the trio.
In fact, it was as if hell was let open and ABATI DEMONS were unleashed on me. More, I should sooner prefer being caught up in a den of lions with one thousand of them, all competing for my flesh.
At last, it was the so-called operator I got first, I want to imagine, this our operator has been keeping company with Donald Trump, since he appeared on our planet earth, especially at a place some of my readers would regard as the wild and he was constantly barking like a fiend sent from hell to torment all of humanity!
After I had politely told him about the reason for the call, thinking I was discussing with a sensible, civilized person with a modicum of native wisdom, I decided first, to let him know how frustrated I was having tried all sections in the High Commission without anyone picking up the phone, but this CIVIL SERVANT FROM HELL - the capricious Sasabosa, the wicked god in Sierra Leone, nay, a DIPLOMATIC AGBERO (a diplomatic tout) from hell would never let me land as we say in Naija. The operator was thorougly mannerless and gave me the impression he was a primitive man from the pre-historic Age whom nepotism had thrust on the international and civilized audience. A tout at Ojota Motor Park is refiner than him. He did not even know he too like His Excellency, the Acting High Commissioner Ogah is a POLITICAL, BUSINESS, CULTURAL AND MORAL AMBASSADOR OF NIGERIA to the United Kingdom.
"He lapsed into a very lengthy and authoritarian tirade/argument as if he had an earphone plugged onto his ears permanently listening to Abami eda's Argue....Argument-Argument!
This Our 'Governor' in the Nigeria High Commission interrupted me again and again very wildly and kept on with his uncouth and very aggressive mannerism: "You called, I answer...you called, I answered...you called I picked the phone."
It's only in Nigeria that we put people in the frontline to attend to the public, in this case, international audience without the needed basic training in good behaviour/manners, customer service and public relations! He was thoroughly discourteous, very crude, rude, very disrespectful and the high level of aggression he had displayed made him unfit to be brought out of the cave, which I surmised was his original abode before hereditary privilege catapaulted him to a civilised and a very enlightened and sophisticated environment like London!
He would not want to listen to my explanation, at all, at all! But if the 'Super Ambassador' was not so imperious; if he was not so tyrannical; if he was not so dictatorial, domineering, yes even; if he did not so behave like a capricious god who killed a man when his life was sweetest to him, how could his ego be properly massaged? Even when I told him I was in a position to draw the attention of the Government back home to what is going on at the Commission, he seemed to say, although not spoken: "Who are you?"
Hence, this medieval official retorted: "Please do!"
But how did the 'Ambassador-in-Chief' dismiss a fellow compatriot of his and a 'social pariah'? I'm told one of the reasons officials at the Nigeria Low Commission are so disdainful of their compatriots that do throng the Commission on daily basis is that they assume, virtually all Nigerians in the United Kingdom do common labour. And did not Fani Power's toddler too who needs to grow up very fast proudly and arrogantly tell Jimoh Ibrahim, MR. MONEY MISS ROAD, thus: "Pl tell Jimoh that my father was not a bricklayer,my mother was not a fish seller,I do not owe banks and salaries and I never marrird a dog."
"My friend, drop your phone!" This was how this 'King of London' and of the Universe put together, dropped the phone on me, whom he had conjectured a common-ordinary Nigerian citizen. Do not my readers think a man with such imcomparable delusion of grandeur, would one day embarrass the Government and people of Nigeria, by proclaiming himself the King of England, the whole Britain and of the realms?
Enter Number two offficial of the Nigeria High Commission, a 'supra Ambassador', owner of all the known and unknown planets put together:
He announce himself as THE SUPERVISOR when he appeared on the tele-scene and he was not out to comtemplate my intention to complain against his magisterial colleague, after I had tried to explain to him the mistreatment I had received from him and our SUPERVISOR-GENERAL charged at me like a bulldog: " You are calling to make trouble?", he queried me in the manner of Boss Trump. "You are calling to make trouble, eh? It's only in Nigeria that people just sit in their offices and want to apply for passport instead of going to the passport office or go to agents of the High Commission. I will drop on you."
This 'High Chief-General/Supervisor-Field Marshall' works at the High Commission, yet he does not know about the policy/rules regarding the daily operations of the High Commission, so what shall he tell all the customers that would phone from all over the world? Please let the reader read for themselves how the High Commission here in the UK operates as displayed on their website:
Online Visa Processing
Click here for details
Opening Hours: Mondays - Fridays
(Except Nigerian and UK Public/Bank Holidays)
A) OFFICIAL OPENING HOURS: 9.30am - 5.30pm
B) IMMIGRATION AND CONSULAR SECTIONS:
i) Submission of all Applications: 9.30 - 1.00pm
ii) iii) Collection of Passports: 10.00am - 1.00pm
C) OTHER VISITS TO THE HIGH COMMISSION IS STRICTLY BY APPOINTMENTS.
High Commission News!!
COMING SOON: HOW TO APPLY FOR NIGERIA PASSPORT(VIDEO DEMONSTRATION), but when, for this announcement has been on the website of the Commission for Ages?
Like a drunk staggering out of the Mammy market, he charged at me again on the phone: "Your number is showing here. If you are calling to make trouble I will register this number and blacklist it, so that when you call next time, nobody will answer you."
But how did this our 'Chairman-General of the Federation' know I was the sole user of the number in question?
When this our 'Ambassador Extraordinaire' wanted me to come to the Commission against the policy of the Commission as implied in his 'decree', was he expecting me to go to the High Commission to give him and his colleagues EGUNJE ABATI or OYIN ABATI?
At a point in our discussion, he abandoned me abruptly and unannounced to be in a conversation with a colleague of his in their office without applying any iota of decorum by taking excuse from me - andover hearing him suddenly speaking Hausa, I had asked him: "Are you speaking Hausa to me?" To which he then had the simple courtesy to tell me he was speaking to somebody in the office!
Out of curiosity, I'd like to ask: what really is Nigeria's official language of communication in all the constitutionally recognised public spaces in that country - in the military/para, in the Presidency, at the so-called National Assembly, which I for one, does not think exist, the police and at diplomatic missions abroad as it looks to me Hausa is taking over from English we had been deceived to believe over the years as the nation's official language of communication?
Maybe I am too idealistic and over-dreaming for Nigeria: I did as is the manner here in Britain and in all advanced administrative environments wanted to complain to a senior person, which to me was the right thing to do, but I was wrong.
From the third official I got the impression that there is no such thing as COMPLAINING TO THE HIGH COMMISSION - procedures for such and an actual COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT or a CUSTOMER SERVICES DESK at the Nigeria High Commission to handle all complaints, allied matters and all issues regarding customer service, queries from first, members of the Nigerian community resident in Britain and other people from in and around the world as he refused to pass me onto the Department in order for me to make a complaint, NOT even when I told him the object of complaint primarily is not about reporting an official of an organization/establishment, but existed for purposes of improving in services provided.
And to my chargrin, the three officials refused to give me their names, even though it is the norm in all Britain and in the advanced world that once an official of an organization picks a call, the first thing is to greet the caller, followed immediately with the announcement of at least their first name, and thereafter, HOW CAN I HELP YOU TODAY?
*To be continued.
God bless our Nigeria,
The Voice of One Crying from the Diaspora...
Proudly leading the NATIONALISTS UNITY MOVEMENT OF NIGERIA (NUMON).
***John Odey Aduma was formely Executive Secretary, Foundry Association of Nigeria; Southern Coordinator of President Muhammadu Buhari's pastoralists NGO - THE PASTORAL RESOLVE; Chairman, Editorial Board of the Daily Times of Nigeria Plc; member, Committee for the National Youth Festival, 1993; member, core Committee of the National Tecnology Summit and was the Summit's chairman for two of its sub-committees - Publicity and Exhibition, 1998; member of the Administrative Panel of Inquiry set up by President Olusegun Obasanjo to investigate the illegal trade in and smuggling of endagered species of wild fauna and flora into and out of Nigeria, 2003.
He was the Chairman, Planning Committee of the General Murtala Muhammed Memorial Lecture for two consecutive years, 2001 and 2002 before it attained a Foundation status in 2002, having first been upgraded to that status in 2001. General Murtala Muhammed was one of Nigeria's former Heads of State killed in the abortive coup led by the then Colonel Buka Suka Dimka on February 13, 1976.
That same capacity saw Mr Aduma delivering huge succcesses during the Daily Times of Nigeria's 75th Anniversary (in which he raked in N6, 000, 000 into the coffers of the Daily Times of Nigeria Plc) and also, playing a similar role in a similar capacity during Dr Isma'il Babatunde Jose's 75th Birth Day. Dr Jose, doyen of Nigerian journalism was Mr Aduma's personal mentor. That relationship was so close and solid such that whilst Aduma was leaving the shores of Nigeria for Britain in 2003, Dr Jose gave him N10, 000.00.
In 1992, Mr Aduma's contributions to journalism was recognised with the awards of the Nigeria Media Merit Award as the Investigative Reporter of the Year and the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence as the Reporter of the Year, and the British Chevening Scholarship, which saw him studying International Journalism at City University of London in 2003-2004, with specialism in Environment.
He is the founder of Vigilance, the World's Leading Security Magazine and Scorpion News Corp, in addition to founding the Nationalists Unity Movement of Nigeria (NUMON).