They call him ‘Baba Go-Slow’.
He had just been appointed the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the company and this was his first annual general meeting.
The company was in trouble. Backstabbing and infighting was rampant amongst the managerial staff. Ineffective accounting techniques had led to accusations of alleged fraud, embezzlement and corruption. Labour was underutilized, raw stock was unobtainable and production was dismal. Dividends were non-existent and it would take a miracle to turn things around.
He had been head-hunted, by the people, to come back and run the mining conglomeration. He had run it previously before and had held various managerial positions, but that was a long time ago.
Management was the real problem. His predecessor had just simply whitewashed over the problems, pretending they were non-existent, and so also had his predecessors before him.
He had been brought back in to do the impossible and opposite – fix the problems and don’t white wash over anything! The shareholders were fed up of putting in so much effort and seeing so little returns.
They wanted change.
He stood at the lectern facing the millions and millions of shareholders before him and cleared his throat.
“ Let me tell you a story…”, he began, taking a sip from his glass of water.
At three score and a dozen he wasn’t young anymore. The years had taken their toll on his senses, and his body, but he could still hear the sniggering and murmurs of discontent coming from the back.
“ E too old!”
“ Go-slow on Ikorodu Road go faster pass dis one!”
“ This is what you get when you appoint a geriatric to run a company”
“ So no dividends from this one then?”
He smiled. Unperturbed he carried on,”….in Yoruba folklore Ijapa, the tortoise, is the cleverest and most cunning of all.
“ In the same village as Ijapa was a hare. Now Hare was fond of showing off to villagers how fast he was. He would often thrill them with demonstrations of his prowess – running around the village in record time.
“ One day, Ijapa fed up of his boasts challenged him to a race.
“It was a simple race – once around the village and back.
“ On the day of the race Hare was boasting to everyone how he could run along the race track a hundred times before Ijapa even made it half way. Everyone knew there could only be one clear winner – Hare!
“ So they ran. Hare sprinted off into the distance with Ijapa following in his wake.
“ Halfway through the race and Hare saw a clump of virgin grass and decided to eat and rest a bit. He couldn’t see Ijapa anywhere in the near distance and knew he was very far away”. He could lie down, sleep a bit and still run on and finish the race before Ijapa made it halfway”.
“ As he slept, and he slept for a long time, Ijapa overtook him and went on to win the race.
“….and the moral of this story is…”, he paused to gauge the his audiences reaction.
The mumblings, murmurs and sniggering had died away and they were all quiet.
“….slow and steady wins the race. If you want this mining conglomeration to be great again you need to be patient. If I run fast like the Hare, like my predecessors, the company will crash again. There will be no dividends to pay and all our hard work and sacrifice would have been in vain.
“ But if we go slow like Ijapa we can be thorough and methodical in how we fix things. Patience. One small problem at a time – we will pay the workers on time. We will pay the suppliers on time. We will cull our managers, keeping only the hardworking conscientious ones. We will curb the ostentatious excesses previously enjoyed by executives of this company and there will be full accountability across the board. We will pay dividends on time and before long you will hail me as the best chairman this company has ever had…”,he finished his speech, adjusted his glasses, carefully folded his guide sheet and put it in his pocket.
He looked up, confidently, from behind the sanctuary of the lectern.
They were cheering. The shareholders were actually cheering.
In the background, at the very rear of the hall, he could hear one of his hecklers change his tune.
”Dis one no go be Baba Go-Slow at all!”.