A distinguished collective gathered at the Terra Kulture, Lagos recently as the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka gave an incisive review of Keith Richard’s “Never Quite The Insider: A Nigerian memoir.” Yinka Olatunbosun reports
Published by Book Craft Ltd, “Never Quite The Insider” is a book that demands to be read on arrival. Even the publisher, Bankole Olayebi couldn’t resist it, in spite of its rather intimidating volume. Moving fast from being just on the reading list, Prof. Soyinka read it and delivered his review of the book with the sub-theme, “Memoirs of a Ghetto-blaster” at Terra Kulture recently after the author had read a few pages off the book to the listening audience. Richard’s pick was the episode of his Aba experience as an expatriate in the corporate world. Through the book, he demonstrated how his experience in Nigeria taught him courage in the face of insecurity; his test of integrity and strength of character.
Soyinka began by commending Richards’ reading and his will to document Nigeria based on his personal experience. Richards’ career has spanned over thirty years of involvement in developing markets, especially Africa serving as Managing Director of Promasidor Nigeria Limited; Managing Director of Guinness Nigeria Plc and International Equitable Association, IEA.
From 2005 to 2007, Richards wrote a humourous and insightful weekly column for the Nigerian BusinessDay newspaper called “Outsider Inside”. A member of the Order of British Empire, OBE, Richards had served on the Boards of several industry groups including The Nigerian Economic Summit Group, The Advisory Panel of the BusinessDay Newspaper where he has been a columnist and the Development Board of Pan African University/ Lagos Business School.
In his review, Soyinka examines Richards’ expatriate persona in this no-holds barred piece and how it is relatable for the Nigerian reader.
“In any nation that is plagued by bloated collective ego, it is essential that the balloon of self-regarding periodically collapse at the scalpel of an outsider.
“When I began reading Keith Richards’ book, I found each episode virtually paralleled by my own experience in the jungle of corruption which has fastened on every single facet of Nigerian life,” he said.
Describing the book as the “grandfather of all whistle-blowers”, Soyinka remarked that the book clarified the misconception that expatriates are more honest than Nigerians.
“The book opens up corporate insight psychology of which I wished I have been properly tutored,” said Soyinka. He commended Richard for courageously indicting his expatriate colleagues and how many of them have exploited the corrupt Nigerian system.
Kadaria Ahmed, Nigerian journalist, media entrepreneur, and television host who anchored the programme, added that the book is a thriller as the author gave a frank, unprecedented, look into corporate Nigeria and the world of expatriates.
In his remarks, the author affirmed that the 287-page book “explains a little of my coming here, my love affairs with Nigeria”, and management practice in corporate Nigeria.
“So many people have told me over a glass of something that I should document some of the ‘strange but true’ stories that have become my familiarity and the uniqueness of my experience with Nigeria. Gradually, these have morphed into the hybrid that is “Never Quite The Insider” he said.
His 20 years of running multiple businesses in Nigeria equipped him to write an instructive memoir-cum-travelogue with valuable insights.
“To some extent, this book then is a hybrid. It is part a ‘business’ book in that it describes how I ran three specific businesses and encountered a set of managerial and commercial challenges.
“Many of these would be recognisable to managers anywhere in the world but others would only be familiar to those operating in places usually described as ‘the developing world’, including Nigeria,” he said.