The Honest Businessman [Featured Artiste: Tolazee]

Picture from HERE
I have struggled with this idea for a very long time, i.e. whether or not it is possible to be an honest Nigerian businessman/woman. The Nigerian economy still needs a lot of work, but right now it is essentially made up of many types of businesses. I am of course referring to the private sector. It seems that there are very few honest businessmen in Nigeria and this has nothing to do with the size of the business. This cuts across the various social classes and dishonesty seems to be the order of the day from the market women selling groundnuts to the CEOs of banks. In the light of all the financial/ethical scandals that have rocked the financial sector, I have really asked myself this question: Can one really be an honest, God-fearing, “drama-free” businessperson in Nigeria? How does one stay on course in a rotten system? You can say that this is the same thing anywhere in the world. I get that, but in Nigeria the problem seems to be a lot more acute. I mean, if the folks at the top of the private sector are “hammering” with unclean hands, then what message does that send to those hoping to hammer one day?

I completely disagree that there is something in the DNA of the black man, or more specifically, in the DNA of the Nigerian that makes him pre-disposed to being dishonest / fraudulent. All I need to do is mention “Bernie Madoff” to silence the proponents of such a ridiculous theory. His own wuru-wuru made all the yahoo-yahoo boys look like babbling infants! And to think that somewhere in the world, as I am typing, someone might be orchestrating a scam of even more epic proportions …. *smh* But back to the Nigerian businessman. You may or may not have experienced this before: you discover that someone you are doing business (contracts, etc …. Everyone can claim to be a “contractor” nowadays) with has not been entirely truthful (I am grossly understating it o) in their dealings with you and when you confront him/her, the response you get (along with the mandatory sly, crooked and “all-too-familiar” smile) is “Madam, na business be dat o!” My reaction: “Business my foot!” Stop grouping dishonest practices under the bracket of “BUSINESS” and call it what it is, i.e. fraud, wuru-wuru, jibiti. If contracts, for example, are really being executed properly, then why should a road that was tarred be riddled with pot-holes less than one month after supposedly tarring it? Clearly someone pocketed the money and used sub-standard materials to cut corners.

Look, if these “big boys” are not being reprimanded and getting their wings clipped, the message to the average Nigerian is that “wuru-wuru pays” and in fact the honest businessman is a big-time slacker. A real-life, original, 21st century MUMU! Or that the only way to operate a successful business in all honesty is to leave the country and go to a “sane” economic system. Hiss! If you can’t beat them, join them right? WRONG! The sad part is that the same dishonest businessmen and women (not just the yahoo-yahoo boys) go to church and lift up unholy hands. No wonder people are wary of doing business with church people. I can’t tell you how many people I know who have said they will never ever do business with church folks. What a wonderful reputation!

So ask yourself these questions: What legacy are you leaving for your children? Do you want people to curse you (and your descendants) forever because you’ve duped them? Or do you believe that by double-dipping, i.e. going to church AND visiting a powerful babalawo or onisegun you’re covered? One thing I know is that although the justice of man is very very limited, the justice of God is unlimited. You should not live your life without thinking of the consequences for tomorrow. Of course here in the US, artisans (e.g. electricians, plumbers, mechanics, etc) are notorious for being dishonest as well. Have you ever met an honest mechanic? I have NOT o, neither in Nigeria nor in America. *sigh* I will have to stop here for now. I am done venting for today.

Featured Artiste: Tolazee

Tolazee / ReverbNation 
What better way to calm the nerves than music, right? LOL! Today’s featured song “Bintin laye” by Tolazee perfectly sums up my philosophy on everything I just discussed above. You can find the audio of the song along with my rudimentary translation below. Feel free to correct me if you have a better translation … I won’t be offended at all :-)
Here is some brief information on Tolazee:

Artiste’s Stage Name: Tolazee
Artiste’s Real Name: Akintola Omotolase Oladayo


Lyrics of Chorus ONLY (Plus brief translation)

Bintin l’aye / Life is short / small
Emi re l’oju o / Your soul is more important
Bintin l’owo o / Money is small / negligible
Emi re l’oju o / Your soul is more important
Ile aye, Ile asan / Life is full of vanity upon vanity
It’s gonna pass away / It will all pass away
Bintin l’owo o / Money is small / negligible
Emi re l’oju / Your soul is more important

Likes:  I must admit that I love the soft rock aspect to this song, especially with the way it sounds when he hits those high notes.  It’s a delicious mix! The fact that the background vocals are kept to a minimum accentuates the seriousness of the message of the song (i.e. your soul is more important than anything else in life).  Interweaving English and Yoruba is always appealing to me, and Tolazee does this tastefully in the song.  I like the fact that he keeps the Yoruba to a minimum though (for the sake of those of us who are still learning *ahem* LOL)  and that I got to add some new words to my sparse Yoruba vocabulary (I had never heard the word “Bintin” before Tolazee’s song).  So the opportunity to learn some more words is always a plus.  The instrumentation (especially the guitar chords and drums) is soft and cohesive.  The use of the flute (or similar instrument) to carry over to the last part of the song is pretty cool.  In other words, the song is well-arranged.

Dislikes: The songwriting for the verses is not as smooth or collated as I would have wanted.  I get the theme / central idea and like the songwriting for the chorus and bridge, but for the verses/stanzas, it could be better.  Also, inasmuch as the background vocals are minimal, their voices do not blend very well in some places, especially at the “bridge” part. 

All in all though, I really like this song.  That’s all folks! Have a blessed weekend!

Nice one, and your translation is good nothing to add :)

My love excellent write up. I believe if we can take a step back to reflect on our actions, we might be a little more honest in our daily dealings.


Aww! Thanks. Coming from you, that's a compliment :-)

Thanks o jare.  Honesty should not only be the best policy; in some cases, it should be the only policy. It really matters.

Human beings by nature have the tendency to be dishonest regardless of race. However, deterrents which are put in place by the rule of law are what ensures these tendencies are kept in check.

The trouble with dishonesty in Nigerian life is that there are no deterrents and so people can do whatever they like and get away with it. Unless there is rule of law which citizens adhere to and if they don't, face the consequences then I'm afraid it will continue be a case of dejavu.

Sad part of it is that it's getting worse by the day.
Everyone wants to be rich and famous these days without any smartwork, forgetting that there are some natural laws that just can't be broken.

It's left to you and I o finally. Hm!

Sometimes I just vent in my mind at the decline in morals in the private sector too.
By the way your translation is very correct. Please I urge you to speak more o jare. ;-)


Yes, I agree with you.  Dishonesty is not a trait that is limited to a particular race of people.  But, I have observed that Nigerians would rather do business with other non-Nigerians (who by the way are also prone to dishonest practices) than with Nigerians and dishonesty is often cited as the reason for this decision.  

The Rule of Law? Whoa! I haven't heard that principle discussed in years, but you are right and you make a very good point.  However, citing the Rule of Law puts this problem in the hands of the government (which is what the average Nigerian does, i.e. blames the government for just about everything).  And like I mentioned, dishonesty starts at the grassroots level, so I am not sure the Rule of Law, by itself, can quash this problem.  

Decay is a process, and if the conditions are right and nothing is done to stop it, it continues.  So you're right, it is getting worse by the day.  Smartwork? Now, you've hit on an important topic: working smart v. working hard.  But you see, some of these dishonest practices would be termed "working smart," especially for those gray areas.  However, the natural laws you referred to are true.  They apply to anyone anywhere.

Thanks for the compliments on my translation :-) I shall definitely speak more.

Wow those are some broad strokes my brother, to label all one and the same. Now while there may be a prevalence of back handed dealings within the businesses of Nigeria dare i say its the same in North America/western society, they are simply slicker and ever so more eloquent with it. I cannot tell you the amount of times i got ripped off in this country when i first came here, Lordy lord I was so naive i didn't see it coming till they were gone or in one case when the police contacted me to inform me of the going ons of the "business man" because i was one of many, though at the time it was a difficult time for me because i was a single mother raising 2 children, he took others for far more. This thieving affliction is not about Nigeria or black men rather its about the lust and love of money and the lengths some will go to get it. You will find that in every creed, class and ethnicity unfortunately. There are good honest business men/women out there, but the other is so insidiously prevalent that one is apt to believe that they are all thieves.

I agree the rule of law alone won't put a stop to dishonest pratice but it's a starting point. Human attitudes are not changed by expecting people to do the right thing otherwise we'll be waiting forever. If people know and understand there are consequences for their actions, they'll think twice before they decide to engage in mischief.

Yes, citizens need to take some responsibility but ultimately government is responsible for setting the tone on how society operates, by their policies and actions. Where I hold the Nigerian people responsible is because for far long we've failed to hold our govts and leaders accountable.

First off, thanks for sharing your experience here.  I am really sorry to hear that. It must have been quite painful to have to go through such an experience.  

The love of money is truly the root of all evil.  And of course that is not limited to a specific race or nationality. The point of the post was not to castigate Nigerians or make them look like the most dishonest people on earth, but to point out that Nigerians are very WARY of doing business with fellow Nigerians and they often cite dishonesty amongst Nigerians as their reason.  But, like you rightly pointed out and even so clearly illustrated, a person can be defrauded by just about anybody regardless of race or nationality. The good, honest businessmen are outnumbered by the dishonest ones.  And like you said the dishonest ones are the ones people meet more often than the honest ones.  But the honest ones exist all the same.  

P.S.  I am a woman o! *need to change this picture sef*

So how do you propose that we hold our leaders accountable? I think you can talk about accountability with people who are responsible or at least understand responsibility and our leaders lack that.  Furthermore, accountability would make sense to a rational person.  I can't tell you that our government is rational.  Or maybe I am being tool heavy-handed here ...

I agree that if people know there are consequences for their actions, they will be more careful to do the right thing.  But that pre-supposes that you have a STRONG EXECUTIVE presence to actually enforce the rules.  That would of course include a dependable Police Force.  As we all know, the Nigerian Police Force needs a lot of work.


I would love to hear your thoughts. Please Share.

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