Olaniyan: Marketing Can Contribute Significantly to the Economy

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A former Vice President of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria, Dr. Rotimi Olaniyan, in this interview with Raheem Akingbolu, spoke on the importance of marketing to the Nigeria economy and his plans for the institute if elected president. Excerpts:

In recent time, the leadership of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria has consistently advocated the need for federal government to turn to marketing profession to reposition the economy. Do you share this perspective?

I don’t only share the viewpoint; I strongly believe that the country’s inability to revamp the economy is as a result of the failure to recognise the importance of marketing in economic development. As a nation, Nigeria sure has a lot of potentials and resources that are begging for effective marketing. We need serious repositioning and effective marketing, driven by core professionals but unfortunately marketing appears not to be seen as a major profession in Nigeria.

Until we accord the profession its rightful respect, we will be dancing on a spot. If we look around, we will discover that leading economy in the world are doing well because of the way their resources; both human and natural are being marketed to the rest of the world. In Nigeria, we have a lot to market; from tourism, to natural resources and even manpower but we are not keen about them. Today, if marketing is seeing as a solution to our problem. I’m sure, a lot will be achieved and Nigeria will be the toast of the rest of the world.

You are contender for the position of the President of NIMN, what informed the decision?

Succinctly speaking, two reasons informed my aspiration. One, my understanding about leadership is that leadership needs to be driven by certain concepts. I believe in servant leadership. A servant leader is not imperialist. So, for anybody who want to lead a group, the person must first see himself or herself as a servant leader that must understand the problems of the people he or she want to serve.

As a first vice president, I spent the one year to learn about how to manage a trained body, understanding issues in various aspect of marketing profession and understand members. More importantly, I tried to make research about various peer institutes. Asides, I got involved in the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria where I teach leadership and strategy. I have also understood NIMN and how they operate and I think I should be able to put all these into practice, should the members accept that I be their leader.

Having stayed close to the seat of the leader I know all the issues and I have also come out and looked at them from afar. I’m going to serve because I want the institute to grow. We have to grow the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria, so that we can be more relevant. And the only way to be relevant is to effect certain internal rearrangement.

Considering the fact that you are still in active business with lots of responsibilities, don’t you think your business would suffer if you become president?

So what do we say about the person who becomes the president of Nigeria at over 70 and still running the country. What about other head of governments in various countries who have businesses and not as young as I am? Except we are being mischievous, I don’t think that’s the issue. We need to understand what the president of an institution do. He presides over the affairs of the institute: not a CEO, the CEO is the registrar.

What the president does is that he sits down in council which meets four times in a year. While in council, the president will work with the CEO to formulate the policy and direction which the institute should take. After this, he hands over to an effective secretariat and then monitors the work of the management. I think I’m matured enough to know what I can handle.

I’m in active service which is what the institute needs because it’s better for the president of the institute to be in active service. Your compensation should come from your work not from the institute. Part of the things our members have been complaining about is lack of fund to run the institute. For instance, salaries have not been paid in the institute for four months.

As an entrepreneur, I should be able to work out modalities that would help the institute generate funds. In the last 20 years, I’ve been in charge of people’s salaries. Sometime the reality is I forego my salaries to pay staff. The other issue is that president sets the agenda and has clear vision of where the institute should go.

It is believed in many quitters that NIMN should be a strong regulator. What would you do in this direction if elected as president?

My vision for the institute is broken into three key areas. The first is we must keep the peace. The reason why there hasn’t been growth and why the equity of the body has eroded is that large portion of the time that should have ordinarily been used to grow the institute had been devoted to in-fighting.

I was part of the council that won the peace and constituted the fractions into council. The person that is going to be the next president must know what the issue are and who the principal actors are. The second thing required is that we need to make money for the institute. The reason salaries are not paid is that the institute is not generating money. The solution is not donations from multinationals or advertising companies.

The solution is to go back to the core value of the institute. An educational institute is educational content developer, examiner, educational services, training and skills development. It is when we are good at that and start to churn out best quality market people, that the industry starts to attract recognition and the certificates we give command the required respect.

I am privileged to have known both the practice and theory. I have studied marketing at the highest level and currently teach at the master’s level. I am confident I have what it takes to reformulate the institute’s proposition. The funny thing is that if we are able to do that, we would solve the problem of liquidity.

Could you please highlight your plan for revenue generation?

Every year, two million Nigerians look for admission in Nigerian universities. Out of this figure, only about 250,000 are taken. The rest have to retake and for one year they are doing nothing. So my vision for the institute is to teach those young people at a vocational level on how to create value. Marketing is about how to create brand and manage it.

If we take just 10% of those people who couldn’t make it to universities and polytechnics through JAMB and give them a vocational study of excellence which we initiate via study centres across the nation, and they pay N10, 000 each, that would solve the problem of liquidity we have in the institute. The third is relevance. Meaning; we must be able to advocate at the highest level of government. I have relationship with the committee in charge of commerce and industry.

Part of this is what I have spent the last one year doing and building the necessary platforms to be able to serve the institute. I’m a child of the institute. This is the only profession I have. I have researched it as a student and I also teach it. It is my life. I want to use it as my contribution to my generational story.

Maybe we should also look at your current position as the President of the Experiential Marketers Association of Nigeria (EXMAN). Don’t you think there could be clash of interest?

There is sharp difference between EXMAN and NIMN because the former is just a trade union of a few practitioners while the other one is a national institute. At our EXMAN trustee night, I invited the president of the NIMN to come and seat as a special guest. We also had the former chairman of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), and the President of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN). I pledged the loyalty of EXMAN’s 25,000 children to the umbrella body.

EXMAN as a body is contributing its quota to national development because it is taking care of the largest number of young people looking for work. We are the largest employer of labour in the marketing industry. Those involved in our ad-hoc jobs use their activation work as part-time workers to pay their school fees.

We have a responsibility to create a future for those children. That is why I am also vying for the presidency of the institute to take such responsibility further by creating vocational marketing programme for youths to be able to build a career in marketing. I don’t see a conflict, I see a complement. Like I pointed out earlier, EXMAN is a trade body of just 25 agencies.

What would you do to make NIMN attractive to members?

The institute should be a movement, a fellowship of brothers and sisters who love the profession. It has an important responsibility to affect the community for social good. What we do is create value. Once we become positive vehicle of progress in the society, that’s how we would become attractive to everyone. We have to be part of what is good. If you go back to my manifestos, the last part talks about marketing for Nigeria good.

It talks about turning the institute into a social force for good. Such as making sure we are setting up marketing club in secondary schools, have TV content programme, and helping people to understand the place of marketing in national development. The marketing people must have courage to step forward and lead. Marketing is a delicate job, so most times; practitioners are cautious of stepping forward and step into controversies because their careers might be at risk. In the past, I put together the strategic plans that rebranded the institute and the job is not yet finished. Those are part of the things I’m hoping to achieve.