The 2nd installment of the annual Christopher Kolade lecture series held yesterday, September 11, 2014 and it was well attended by industry leaders, regulators, academia and members of the press.
The evening started with a welcome address by Soji Apampa, Executive director of the Convention on Business integrity who mentioned that the reason why the lecture series was named after Christopher Kolade was because he exemplified business integrity as practiced throughout his distinguished career in the private and public sectors.
Christopher Kolade’s welcome remarks followed that of Mr. Apampa and he said that naming the lecture series after him was the singular greatest honor given to him. He then went on to enunciate what integrity meant to him. He said it meant always trying to do what is right and when in doubt about what the right thing is, it is avoidance of that which is wrong. Finally, to him integrity also meant resisting what was wrong, and he said this was the part most lacking among Nigerians as many of us are wont to keep quiet in the face of wrongdoing.
The Keynote speaker, Ms. Arunma Oteh kicked up the ante in the room by delivering a speech on the night’s theme, which was “ The Business case for Business Integrity”. She cited some studies that showed that on average, integrity was associated with superior business performance. She also cited examples of firms and individuals that experience the converse when they engaged in shoddy business practices. Also, she mentioned that adopting integrity was a sure way of improving Nigeria’s global competitiveness given our poor ranking in the just released World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report.
To discuss the ramifications of the theme further, the distinguished panel moderated my Mr. Opeyemi Agbaje gave their take on how their various Nigerian businesses practiced business integrity and what Nigerian businesses in general should be prepared to do. Interestingly, the participants differed in their philosophy on how to advance business integrity. For example, whilst Ms. Ayotola Jagun of Oando opined that Nigerian businesses that performed well should be rewarded and given incentives like preferred supplier status, Professor Juan Elegido said that such approach only reinforces the love for incentives and not necessarily a love for integrity. The Managing Director of Siemens Nigeria showed that organizations are able to reinvent themselves after a murky past by affirming Siemens corporation-wide change in adopting sound corporate governance practices that has been recognized as Siemens comes first for the 4th year running on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.
Overall, it was an interesting night with a very lovely ambience and delicious food. The key challenge is whether the various guests will be able to turn this knowledge that “Integrity pays” into practice.