The President,Â National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria,Â Mr.Â Tony Agenmonmen, spoke with Raheem Akingbolu on how the institute has fared under his leadership. Excerpts:
It is well over one and a half years that you assumed office as the President of NIMN, how has it been managing the affairs of the institute?
If I were to summarise it, I would say it has been tough and challenging,
but also very exciting. Of course, I donâ€™t need to repeat where we are coming from, I think stakeholders and friends of the institute know about that. Right from the start, the council and I tried to do a few things to reposition the institute, putting it in the directionÂ it should be. Itâ€™s quite challenging, but we have achieved quite a lot also in the process.
Can we have the specifics of those things you have achieved as president?
If you want me to be specific about things that had happened,Â I think fundamentally the number one thing thatÂ we are very proud of is that we finally got our proclamation, and which was done during my investiture by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment.
Another thing we have achieved is that we have relocated to a brand new office. Yes, it still needs to be furnished, but I think the environment is far much better than where we were before. It was one of the cardinal promises that we made to our members. In terms of our membership database, we are working on that. You can see that we now have the register of our members that are financially compliant to the institute.
Earlier this year, we also had a great annual conference where we had the best of marketing professionals, the minister, Mr. Okechukwu Enelamah and the Special Adviser to President on Media, Femi Adesina, among others.Â We focused on a theme that revolved round marketing Nigeria, which is part of our contribution in achieving the branding and overall image overhauling for our country.
Â I think what excites me most is that within the past one year, our members are beginning to bring the confidence back to the institute.Â People who had â€˜retiredâ€™ from the institute are coming back in droves and not just in terms of quantity alone, but in terms of quality of membership. So if you ask me,Â whether Iâ€™mÂ happy with the journey that we have made in the past one year, I would say yes. Has it been tough and challenging? I would say yes.
You talked so excitedly about the proclamation the institute got, where does that put the institute and the profession?
Where it puts the institute is that we are now formally bound to follow the Act which established the institute. You know the Act that set up the institute is an Act of parliament, it means now that we must keep strictly to the provisions of the Act, in terms of running the institute and ensuring that marketing practitioners all over the country, become members. So we are bound now fully by the law, as enacted by the Act.
Â How much of the promises made, prior toÂ your assumption of office have you achieved now?
When you are talking of developments and building a structure, itâ€™s continuous. There are certain things that we can say this and this
have been done but there are others that would always be work in
progress.Â For instance, that we have moved into a new secretariat, itâ€™s physical, itâ€™s something that we can see. You can even see that itâ€™s work in progress in terms of furnishing it to taste. In terms of building the equity of the NIMN brand, that obviouslyÂ is work in progress too.
But significantly, you can see a shift that members of the institute who had gone away from the institute are coming back because they now believe in the institute. When we wereÂ talking of getting this secretariat, one of our members, from his personal resources, because of what he sees in terms of the direction the institute istaking, gave a personal cheque of one million naira.
Weâ€™ve had membersÂ who had also given various sums of money. Some had donated laptops and the rest of them. That shows the direction we are going. People are beginning to believe in the institute again. A few things
are work in progress, a few things, obviously, have been achieved. And donâ€™t forget, we are just mid-term any way. Weâ€™ve just done slightly over a year out of our two-year term. We still have a little while to do more things.
During one of your chats with the media,Â last year, you stated that the number of registered members of the institute was less than one thousand.Â From then till now, has that improved?
When I say active, our definition of active is actually those who have paid their dues to date, not those who attend our meetings, or those who still parade themselves as members of the institute. But in terms
of thoseÂ who have paid their dues up to date, I think we are moving
in the direction of two thousand, and the number is growing every day.
Â Recently too, you threatened to wield the big stick on those practicing illegally if they failed to utilise the window of opportunity provided by the institute to â€˜regulariseâ€™ their papers. How have they responded to this?
I wouldn’t want to use the word â€˜big stickâ€™, those are confrontational words, which for us, is not really the way to go. What we will continue to repeat is that: for true marketing practitioners, it is in our collective interest that we come together and enjoy what marketing profession offers; in terms of interactions, in terms of opportunity for learning, in terms of peer reviews and the rest of it. Yes, we did say that as part of our efforts we are going to drive compliance but we are not talking of big stick. What we keep saying is that enforcement would be a last resort.
As much as possible, we want to let our members and their companiesÂ understand the reasons the institute was established in the first place, the benefits that marketing professionals stand to gain for being a part of the
institute. I think thatÂ is what we have been doing, I can assure you that a number of companies have been responding very well. We are also in consultation with NECA -theÂ Nigerian Employers Consultative Association, discussing how we can jointly work on this.Â We are also discussing with the Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN). What we believe is that once people understand fully, the benefits of the institute to marketing professionals, you probably, don’t need to wield the big stick as you want to call it. So consultation is going on, contact is going on. Within the past few weeks, Iâ€™ve had to meet those two bodies in terms of trying to get this compliance.
Â But when will you be tired of dangling the â€˜carrotâ€™?
Once again, it seems not defined the way you would want it defined.
Compliance is something that continues. The truth is that your membership is time limited. This list of registered members that we have published now is for one year only. So that is when you have paid your subscription for the year, that gives you licence to practice for
one year. If today we have all the marketing people registered, having met the requirements, at the end of twelve months, they still need to come back, pay their subscriptions and renew their licences to practise. So going back to the specifics of your question, we are not going to get tired of talking, but the truth is that talking is not going to be endless.Â I can’t tell you now that ‘oh, next week, next month, Iâ€™m going to wield the big stick. I think part of our responsibilities also is to understand that some people went away because of the poor rating of the institute years back. And the way we are going now, going by some things that we have done in the past few months, evenÂ without wielding any big stick, just by the sheer fact of what we’ve been doing, some people on their own have been coming back. On our part as an institute, we continue to provide value for our members, so that they themselves would see that there is value in being a part of the institute.
Â At the same time, of course,Â we would continue to discuss with them, discuss with their organisations.Â Iâ€™ m quiet confident that we may not get to that extent of using the big stick. But at the
end of the day, we are talking of the laws of the federation of Nigeria here, if some still remain stubborn and say they do not want
to comply, then we would be left with no option to say, ‘This is our law, and we are all bound to obey them. I know you want to push me to a specific time frame. I want to leave it a little bit open.Â I know a
lot of things are happening and people are understanding us better. So I don’t want to say that if you don’t do it by next week, we are going to act, because there is a lot of discussions going on, and Iâ€™m sure those discussions are going to be very positive. In the end, you know there is also this peer pressure, the moment some of these people still sitting on the fence, now see serious members coming in on their own, they will be left with nothing than to join. We want to adopt that approach first before the big stick.
Between February when you released the register of members and now, how are members taking it, especially those whose names are not there?
Between then and now, many people have joined the institute, many have regularised their membership and of course, we cannot be publishing
this every day in the papers, or in the register, but if you go to our website as at today, you will have the most updated -list of members.
So if you paid yesterday, and you are now fully compliant, if you go to the website, your name will be there.
But how often do you intend to be publishing this register?
Every year, the Act mandates the Registrar to update the register every year.
One of the wishes of many is that time when members would be accorded some recognitions in the public and private sectors of the
economy. WhatÂ is the situation now?
The situation now is that we recognised and agreed from the onset that equity of NIMNÂ brand was weak, and thatâ€™s what we are working on. In terms of our members in the private sector, I think sufficiently,Â they are proud of their membership, from associates to fellows. I can tell you quite confidently because when I go out now, I actually feel proud.Â Â People now actually come out and introduce themselves as members of NIMN. Every function I go now, when people read their profiles, they actually boldly come out to say they are fellows of the NIMN.Â So at that level, we are not having so muchÂ problem, but where the problem is the people who come through the Diploma route and the rest of it, that are still not in the scheme of things in the federal civil service.
That is a challenge that we are facing. Itâ€™s not only our institute alone, there are still so many other sister institutes that are experiencing the same. To get into scheme of things, itâ€™s not one even ministry that handles it, itâ€™s the whole national council of establishment. We are working on that, we have a full committee, headed by the first vice president. Itâ€™s working hard to ensure that our certificates attain that level of recognition in the federal civil service.
Over the years, NIMN has been in the news for the wrong reasons, no thanks to the protracted crisis that almost crippled the institute, how far with reconciliation now and can you boast of one institute now?
To the best of my knowledge, we have one unified National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria. There would always be people who are happy or not happy in every situation, but Iâ€™m not aware there is any faction for now.
At least, for the past five years, there has been relative peace. Has everyone been happy with everything that we done? The answer is no, and the day you have everybody being happy in any situation, it means nothing is happening.
So if it is about whether 100 per cent of the people have been happy with what we have been doing in the past one year that we have been in the leadership, yes, everybody cannot be happy.Â But to the best of my knowledge, we have one unified, national institute of marketing of Nigeria. If you were in Abuja during our last event and see the quality of attendance, you will know that we are now a strong one house. For instance,Â Â the minister and Femi Adesina wouldnâ€™t have come if we were in factions.
Two weeks ago, we got new representative from Ministry of Trade and Investment on the board. I think the former one retired and left. For us, I think we are moving in the right direction. We are committed to maintain the peace in the institute. We are definitely not going to take anything for granted. We will not say because we are where we are, and then we rest on our oars. We will continue to give reason for all our members to know that it is better for us to be together and strong, better for us to come together in large numbers, because I tell you if all the marketing professionals in the country come together and be a member of the institute, there are many more things that we can do. The institute as it is, anything less than 50,000 is definitely not it because if you look at the number of marketing professionals in the country, if all of them can come together, in terms of strength alone, not just the strength of finance, the strength of ideas is boundless. So we are together, we are one.
What is theÂ feedback from your campus initiative like? Does that say anything about the future of the marketing practice?
Let me give you an example. When we went to Yabatech, one of the students asked me a very interesting question. He said they had been having this debate among themselves, those of them doing marketing, those of them reading Biology, others reading different subjects. They wanted to know which subject was the most important. The answer I gave them was simple. Yes, out of self-pride, you might beat your chest and say my own is the best, but at the end of the day, society needs the different professions. While interacting with these students, I found out that the fact that they had seen people who are marketing practitioners, and who can actually give their life exampleÂ of what they have done in terms of marketing, it reinforces their choice of the marketing profession. They are even more excited about the marketing profession after we had talked to them. So itâ€™s generally positive wherever we have gone to.
What are the measures put in place to ensure that the country maximise or harness the opportunities we have in marketing?
The whole theme of our conference this year was marketing Nigeria.Â We broughtÂ marketing experts to talk about what this country can do. We keep saying Nigeria is a brand, and the way brands are handled,
Nigeria can be handled that way too. So thereÂ were lots of discussions on what can be done. We actually haveÂ our communiquÃ© ready, because we didnâ€™t want it to be a talkshop because the norm is usually for people to go there, make noise, go away, and the next year, gather again. We said itâ€™s going to come with a specific, actionable recommendation that both the government and the private sector can work on in terms of moving Nigeria forward. CommuniquÃ© is actually ready, we are just seeking audience to formally present it to the government. So, thatâ€™s to tell you thatÂ we take the concept ofmarketing Nigeria very seriously. The communiquÃ© has a profound recommendation, in terms of how we can manage Nigeria. We donâ€™t need external people to tell us that Nigeria is beautiful, we haveÂ a lot of resources and we have the energy. Though we have our challenges, but that does not remove from the countryâ€™s beauty.Â And I believe if we do the right thing to project the image of our country,Â it will be
a different view.
What was the magic wand employed to attract stakeholders to the last Marketing Conference in Abuja?
No magic wand. First, we have a great teamÂ in the council and the secretariat. We worked together. I think itâ€™s due to the fact that people are beginning to believe in the institute. People are beginning
to understand that there is a direction we are heading to, but they can see that movement. The turn-out in Abuja actually exceeded my expectations.Â It wasnâ€™t free. Members paid to attend. The people you sawÂ there, apart from the minister and a few VIPs, others paid to attend. At least 99.9 percentÂ of the attendees paid to attend and the hall was full to its brim. Of course, you are not going to put your money down for something that you do not believe in. besides, I donâ€™t even like to talk about quantity, I also like to talk about quality. If you saw a number of people in terms of quality that were there, you will be shocked. Look at the speakers that were there. Apart from the Minister and Femi Adesina, we had Lolu Akinwunmi as guest speaker, who spoke for over one hour, standing and was not tired, and we had Ali Baba as a discussant, we had Aisha Falode, talking about marketing Nigeria from Sports angle, we had Lampe Omoyele, from the marketing perspective, we had IdorenyenÂ Enang moderating. And in the audience, we had professors of marketing, marketing directors and others, it was just awesome.