The Newspaper Ad that gave MKO his Breakthrough

MKO Abiola; The Star Child

Moshood wanted to be
his own boss. Owning an accounting firm would give him the income and prestige
that he felt he deserved. This dream reminded him of how he had set up his band
and made it successful without being a professional musician. But now he was a
professional accountant, which made him confident that his new business would
His first major
challenge was to find an office. Rent was high everywhere, which discouraged
him at first, but one day he got a good lead on a house in a decent location.
On his way there he bought a newspaper in which he saw an advertisement that
would change his life forever. He noticed at first glance that the ad revealed as little detail as possible
about the employer. It was the employee that was the center of attraction.

“The best African accountant, the very best, is who
we want because that is who we need. Are you the best? If the answer is yes,
what are you waiting for?”
He scrutinized
the text carefully. But when he saw the address of the agency, he was
disappointed. Why would a company big enough to want the best African
accountant deal with an agency located in such a modest area? A district that
was not even as nice as where he was heading that afternoon. Moshood
dismissed the ad but did not throw it away.
He finally got
to his destination. Once again, he was unimpressed. The place was an apartment,
not a house, and the landlord had some terms that dashed his hopes. “You have to pay for two years in advance.
But if you pay for an additional year, making it a total of three years, you
will get a discount”

Author, The President Who Never Ruled, Abdul-Jamiu Abiodun Abiola

Moshood frowned. He
only had enough money to pay for six months. The man, who had been strolling
ahead of him, suddenly turned around and declared sternly. “By the way, it is important that you know that this apartment is only
for residential purposes”
The visit was
over. Moshood was on his way home. He was furious. He pulled out the
same ad once again. This time his
thoughts went in another direction. Why did the company not disclose its
identity? He wondered if it might be involved in sensitive operations like the
sale of arms. He was curious for answers, which was why he was on his way to
the agency by 8 a.m. the following day.

“Well I am glad you know that Nigeria needs our
services. But I am sad to say that we are not doing well at all in Nigeria. To
be blunt, we are failing woefully.” The man glanced at Moshood, who looked worried all of a sudden. “That is where someone
like you comes in. We hope that you can help turn things around. Can you?”

He wore his best
suit, a gray one with a red tie, and felt out of place when he arrived and
noticed that other candidates had dressed casually. A short and chubby man,
with a low haircut and a tiny mustache, stood proudly in the center of a hall.
The other candidates surrounded him. He was the man in charge.
Moshood watched
closely, keeping his distance from him for some time, and then walked toward
him. He shook his hand, greeted him and was about to hand over his credentials
to him, but the man refused to take them. “No,
no, no. Not until after the tests. You should have come earlier. Now I have to
repeat myself”.
 His sarcastic tone triggered general laughter.
managed to force a smile. The next step was the series of tests. All the
candidates took them, some on the floor and others on chairs. At the end they
were told to return for the results in three days. Moshood came back and was
thrilled to be informed that he had scored the highest. He, and other
successful candidates, were finally permitted to drop their credentials with
the officer and were told to attend another meeting scheduled in two weeks-this
time in a more elegant part of town.
Moshood got to the
appointment early and refreshed. But by the time he left, five hours later, he
was exhausted. He had been drilled extensively on accounting and financial
matters in an interview conducted by an elderly and stiff Nigerian man with a British accent. This was the first time
that Moshood
was uncertain about his performance in an interview.
After a week he
received a letter. He opened it nervously and was delighted to learn that he
had been invited to another interview—the last one, he hoped—and that it was to
be held in the United Kingdom. The agency had also stated in the letter that
it would sponsor the trip. For the first time Moshood had a strong
feeling that his life was about to take a big leap forward. He needed to inform
his father immediately, so he took off to Ogun state.

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In less than
three hours, he was in front of his father in his house. He told him of the
interview that he was going to attend in London. His father smiled when he
heard the word London. He told Moshood that he was happy to have
lived long enough to see him make so much progress. He prayed for him
extensively and did not allow him to return to Lagos until the following day.
A few days later
traveled to London. As he arrived at the site of the interview, he knew
that the competition would be fierce. All the candidates looked competent and
confident. They came from almost every country in Africa. They were all
subjected to another series of tests. The results came out the following day
and once more Moshood had performed exceptionally well. A jovial interview
came next. Moshood and the interviewer got along so well that it felt more
like a chat than an interview. That was why he was disappointed when the
interviewer told him, “I hope you perform
equally as well in the final round in New York”
New York! Moshood almost screamed. He thought
the job was already his. He did not have a visa so he could not go to New
, he explained, but the interviewer assured him that the agency
would sort out his visa. The agency did get him a visa and sponsored his trip.
He left for New York immediately. But even then, all he had managed to find
out about the company was that it was a telecommunications corporation.
The following
day after his arrival in New York, he did some tests and
interviews and because he did not get any feedback for a few days, he had a
chance to take a long rest. He was finally invited to the agency by a Caucasian in his early fifties—a stout
man with black hair and bushy eyebrows. The man led Moshood to a big and
expansive office with very little furniture but a magnificent view of Manhattan.
He greeted Moshood warmly but paused when he had difficulty pronouncing
his name. “Can you pronounce it? I don’t
want to offend you”

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Moshood almost said
that he was too nervous to be offended. “My
name is Moshood Abiola”.
He had said his name very slowly. The man shook
his hand once again then continued. “Now
that is quite a name. What does it mean, if you don’t mind my asking?”
Moshood was flattered. Moshood,
my first name, is an Arabic word. It means something that was witnessed. Abiola, my family name, is a Yoruba
word, the language of my tribe. It means somebody who was born into wealth”

The man raised
his eyebrows. “Why do you have an Arabic
Moshood said that
almost all Nigerian Muslims have Arabic names. The man was quiet as a pensive
look crept across his face. “What a pair
of interesting names! Referring to your family name, I don’t know whether you
were born into wealth, but I do know that if you help this company grow in
Nigeria, you might become very wealthy indeed”
He pulled out a paper from
the file on the table. “Our human
resources consultants have selected you. They say that you are the man we
should work with in Nigeria”.
 He put
on a pair of glasses and looked at the paper attentively. “Another evaluation team, an external one, has agreed with their
Moshood wanted to scream
out of joy. He spoke in a very excited tone. “All I have been told is that your company is in the telecommunications
industry. Is that true? What is the company’s name and why is there so much
mystery surrounding this process?”
Moshood had wanted to say
secrecy but feared that the man might be offended. The man laughed. He stood
up. “I admit that we are being
mysterious. But we have a good reason to be. We are facing stiff competition in
Africa. The last thing we want is for our rivals to know our plans. The less
they know the better for us”
He walked closer to Moshood. “We are the ITT group, the largest company in our field. We are about to
revolutionize our operations in Africa and, if you accept our terms,
conditions, and package, I assure you that you will be playing a key role in
our plans in Nigeria”.

The Author of the book ‘The President Who Never Ruled, Jamiu Abiola & The GDA duringan interview session

Moshood was startled.
He knew of ITT. He had heard of the company even before returning to Nigeria from his studies abroad. It was,
as the man had stated, the largest telephone company in the world. “I am glad that a great company like ITT is considering the possibility of
giving me a role in its plans in Nigeria. Nigeria needs as many telephone lines
as possible”
The man smiled
broadly. He returned to his chair before adding. “Well I am glad you know that Nigeria needs our services. But I am sad
to say that we are not doing well at all in Nigeria. To be blunt, we are
failing woefully.”
The man glanced at Moshood, who looked worried all of a
sudden. “That is where someone like you
comes in. We hope that you can help turn things around. Can you?”
Moshood pondered for a
while. The man’s question was completely unexpected. “The job ad was for an accountant. But from your question, it is
obvious that my responsibilities will go beyond accounting. Am I right in
assuming that?”
The man smiled. “You are right. It would certainly go beyond
accounting. The ideal thing would have been for us to set up a bigger team,
where many different officials will have distinct roles,
but management is no longer optimistic about our
prospects in Nigeria. It is even contemplating pulling out of that
country”.  He paused when he noticed
that Moshood
had panicked. “Your work will go beyond
accounting, which is why
will be given the rare privilege of suggesting what you think that you should
Moshood could not
believe his ears. He smiled but the man frowned and continued talking. “Don’t get too excited. We have more of a
say on what the final figure would be. Besides, such privileges in the
corporate world are tied to high and stringent performance benchmarks. After
all, to whom much is given, much is expected”.
Moshood’s smile vanished.
He nodded his head then inquired about details of the company’s current
strategy in Nigeria. But the man excused himself without responding. He went to
make a phone call on the other side of the room then returned. “Your negotiations were meant to start the
day after tomorrow but I have had them shifted to tomorrow. Some of your
questions will be answered there and, if an agreement is reached, you will be
directed to the manager of the London office for a proper briefing”
Moshood was confused. “Why the London office?” Is the
company’s headquarters not here in New York?”

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The man sighed. “The London office coordinates operations in
Africa and the Middle East”
He stood up and gave Moshood his card and a
copy of the company’s profile. “Please
come at nine a.m. tomorrow to the tenth floor of the address on this card. It
is our main office”
Moshood shook his hand.
He knew the meeting was over when the man put on his jacket and moved away from
the chair. He returned to his hotel and even though he was tired, he could not
sleep. Too many things were on his mind. What if the company expected much more
from him than he was capable of doing? That was not all that bothered him. He
was uncertain about the right salary that he should demand from a rich company
that was doing poorly in his country. He wished the man had told him something
about the company’s strategy in Nigeria. That would have guided him in making
his demands and reacting to theirs.
He decided to
suspend all thoughts on the salary and focused his mind on the company profile
that he had been given. He was surprised to discover that ITT was not only a leader
in providing telephone lines and equipment, but also a key player in the field
of military communications systems. That was when it crossed his mind that the
Nigerian army was the quickest way that ITT could improve its fortunes in
Nigeria. Penetrating the circle of the most influential men in the Nigerian
army would be his goal, and if he were to succeed, he would kill three birds
with one stone: provide the Nigerian government with the best product, save ITT
in Nigeria, and rise to the top of the company within a very short period. By
the time he went to sleep that night, he had a good idea of what his salary
ought to be.
(Excerpts from
the book, The President Who Never Ruled by Jamiu Abiola; get copies
in any book shop across the world or write Jamiu Abiola through Read How MKO became Controller of ITT in Nigeria in our next post on this blog)