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2021 Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Week: FirstBank Call for All to  Adopt Kindness as a Way of Life 

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Dr. Adesola Adeduntan - FirstBank CEO

 

 

The best definition of kindness is not one provided by any of the world’s best dictionaries but one demonstrated by how we treat others on a daily basis. Kindness is a universal language that does not require any special knowledge, exposure, skills, training or background to understand and appreciate it as a beneficiary or observer of a kind act. Neither is any special knowledge or training required to show and extend it to others. Just as anyone and everyone can be shown acts of kindness, all persons without exception can and ought to show and extend acts of kindness to others. Kindness flows from deep within us, from the better angels of our nature. Hence, the common idiom “the milk of human kindness”.

 

This is probably the backdrop to the theme “Kindness…a Way of Life”, which FirstBank has chosen for the commemoration of its 2021 Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Week (CR&S Week). This year’s CR&S Week, scheduled to hold from 26th – 30th July 2021, will feature Kind Comments Days, visits to orphanages/less privileged homes, webinars focused on the kindness theme, SPARK school engagement among other activities – lined up for each of the days. The yearly CR&S Week is a dedicated week designed to offer FirstBank staff, customers and the public opportunities to demonstrate the milk of human kindness that flows in them and give their time and resources to defined causes. It seeks to amplify FirstBank’s innate culture of giving and volunteering as embodied in its Employee Giving and Volunteering programme. 

 

The Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Week was introduced in 2017 as part of the bank’s longstanding Employee Giving and Volunteering programme created to enable and encourage staff to give back to society through donations and volunteering. Specially designed to reignite acts of random kindness in the society with events that are tailored to reorient people towards the right values, it provides a veritable platform for encouraging the citizenry to intentionally create a positive impact in their immediate environment. One of the main highlights of the first CR&S Week was the SPARK Initiative. S.P.A.R.K stands for Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness. But originally the “S” stood for “Staff”. It was changed to “Start” to broaden the initiative beyond just staff and encourage everyone else to be part of the kindness brigade. Also, “P” originally stood for “Promoting” but was changed to “Performing” to convey the sense that participants are equally involved in actually doing kind acts and not only promoting kindness. 

 

Held between 25 – 29 September 2017 with “Promoting Kindness: Putting You First” as the theme, the maiden CR&S Week was the first of its kind in Nigeria’s financial services industry. It highlighted the role FirstBank’s corporate citizenship interventions was playing in driving positive impact across various communities – all within one compact week. It was aimed at encouraging people everywhere to step out of their comfort zones, shift attention from themselves and their personal needs to others in society who have not been as fortunate as they have and perform a random act of kindness towards them. The first edition of the CR&S Week provided an opportunity for FirstBank staff to give their time and resources to promote acts of random kindness within their communities and contribute to the welfare and well-being of others through giving and visits to orphanages/homes of the less fortunate and internally displaced people (IDPs). Within the same week, the bank held career counseling sessions with secondary school students across the six geo-political regions in Nigeria with FirstBank staff coordinating the impactful sessions that inculcated the values of financial literacy and inclusion in young students. Also, staff had the opportunity to nominate beneficiaries they believe are deserving of random acts of kindness. Through this activity, Baby Ijeoma was nominated as one of the beneficiaries that received corrective heart surgery in India which was in partnership with Vama Wave Foundation. The impact of the first edition went beyond Nigeria as FirstBank’s subsidiaries in sub-Saharan Africa and the UK also participated, benefitting people and at least 22 charities in six countries. 

 

The second edition of the CR&S Week held from 19 – 23 June 2018. Themed “Touching Lives: You First”, the 2018 Week was intended to demonstrate FirstBank brand promise to always put stakeholders first. It focused mainly on five key initiatives/activities. First was the launch of a partnership with VisionSpring to advance social impact by providing vision screening and affordable eyeglasses for 10,000 low-income earners. This aligned with the bank’s financial inclusion and financial literacy approach of promoting accessible and affordable financial products and services to disadvantaged groups with the goal of bringing these marginalized populations into the mainstream economy, improving their chances for resilient livelihoods and financial stability. Second were giving and visits to orphanages/less privileged homes. This was the biggest platform for employee engagement during the week. It followed a needs assessment of the orphanages to be visited to enable employees donate appropriate items, and employees responded generously, donating at a scale that had never been done before.  In all, eight countries witnessed this initiative while more than 26 charities participated. 

 

Celebration of the UN International Widows’ Day on 23rd June 2018, which coincided with the last day of the CR&S Week, was the third activity. Driven by the International Women’s Society (IWS) in Lagos with whom the bank partnered to organise an empowerment outreach for 500 widows in Lagos, it provided start-up capital and capacity building required to successfully run start-ups and small businesses, to the widows. Fourth was a Career Counselling Day for over 10,000 senior secondary school students, as part of the broader FutureFirst programme of the bank aimed at ensuring the youth are empowered to be financially independent through fulfilling careers and the right financial knowledge. Fifth and final was the SPARK (Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness) initiative, which included a SPARK Day set aside in the bank for people to act within their individual spheres of influence to promote kindness. The initiative also saw the bank receiving about 200 internal and external nominations of people deserving of kindness, out of which 24 beneficiaries were to emerge. The 2018 Week was marked across Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones with two states from each zone, totaling 12 states in all. It was also commemorated in the six countries/markets outside Nigeria where FirstBank already had subsidiaries – UK, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Guinea, Sierra Leone and Senegal.

 

In 2019, the CR&S Week held from 1 – 6 July 2019 with the theme “Ripples of Kindness: Putting You First”. The theme was informed by the bank’s belief that every act of kindness (regardless of how little or in whatever form) ignites a ripple effect that goes on without end. The year’s CR&S Week focused mainly on the SPARK initiative, which had gained so much traction since its humble beginnings in 2017. A Kindness Manifesto for both internal stakeholders and external stakeholders was introduced. There were other new activities or initiatives. A Nice Comments Day was introduced for the first time and scheduled to hold on the first day of the CR&S Week. The basis for it, according to the bank’s committee that oversaw the planning and implementation of the 2019 CRS Week, is the important place of words in the “kindness ecosystem”. The committee underlined this point when it noted as follows: “One of the truest reflections of how kind we are is our choice of words. That’s why we have created Nice Comments Day to help build a kinder world [through kind words].”

Another new initiative introduced in 2019 was the SPARK School Engagement, which involved launching the SPARK initiative in schools to promote the 3Cs projected as the pillars of kindness – Compassion, Civility and Charity. The schools – secondary schools across Nigeria – were to be visited to educate students on acts of kindness, encouraging them to make kindness a lifestyle. A crowd-funding initiative was also added in 2019 to enable both employees and external stakeholders to donate to defined humanitarian causes, such as supporting widows, sending children (from indigent homes) to school and providing health care for the physically challenged and the old. As at August 2019, nearly N7 million had been raised through the crowd-funding initiative. 

 

The regular initiatives/activities were also retained in 2019. There were visits to orphanages/less privileged homes. Widows’ empowerment was organized in collaboration with the International Women’s Society (IWS), Nigeria to empower a select number of widows across Nigeria. The implementation in Nigeria covered the six geopolitical zones with activities held in four states per zone, amounting to 24 states in all. Six subsidiaries of FirstBank also implemented the program in their markets/countries – UK, Ghana, DRC, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Senegal. In all, 25 schools benefitted with 6,000 students participating in terms of the School Engagement; 50 charities and NGOs, including Leap Africa and IWS, were partnered. Over 20,000 orphans/less privileged people including widows were reached and impacted.

 

No CR&S Week could take place in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions on public gatherings and visits. But FirstBank did not just fold its hand and sit idly. The bank did something absolutely amazing, demonstrating uncommon solidarity with a vulnerable segment of society – children. Realizing that the harsh effects of the COVID-19 crisis were borne disproportionally by children, whose education and thus future was being endangered due to the lockdown and prolonged closure of schools, FirstBank embarked on a mission to do something about it. Working with partners, such as IBM, UNESCO, Robert & John, Curious Learning and the Lagos State Government, it launched the bold and ambitious e-Learning Initiative designed to move one million children onto safe online learning platforms. The Initiative was to minimize the disruption to children’s education, ensuring that they remained fully engaged during the difficult period and are not left behind by their peers across the (developed) world. There are already over 150,000 students benefitting from the e-Learning initiative in the height of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition, the Bank deployed communication material to create more awareness of the SPARK Initiative and to sensitize staff, customers and the public during unprecedented times.

 

What greater demonstration of kindness could there have been in 2020 given the circumstances the whole world found itself, especially vulnerable children? So there may not have been a CR&S Week in 2020 but the same kindness narrative that has characterized all activities of the various CR&S Week since 2017 clearly shone through FirstBank’s COVID-19 response, especially its e-Learning Initiative. In the future, people would probably easily be forgiven if they assumed the e-Learning Initiative represented FirstBank’s CR&S Week in 2020. FirstBank has demonstrated uncommon consistency over the years to its Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Week and the ideals it seeks to project through the platform. This has earned the bank the right to make the bold call that is the theme of this year’s CR&S Week. 

 

The question is whether we will heed the clarion call to adopt kindness as a way of life. Will we go out there and extend kindness to others in ways that will make them realize that kindness is not just a word taken from the dictionary but an act that should always be expressed to others? Will we embrace kindness as our new way of life? Will we commit to making our every day a Kind Comments Day, thus giving others permission and the strength to do the same? Will we Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness towards all and make them feel obligated to start acting kindly towards other people as their new lifestyle?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Culled from Nigerian Tribune

 

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Obi Iyiegbu: Hospitality Maestro Driven by Consistency, Hard work and Resilient  

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By: Oladapo Sofowora

 

Born and raised under the roof of modest civil servant parents, Obi Iyiegbu’s parents were core disciplinarians both teachers. Growing under such conditions has helped shape his perception of life most especially enhancing his ability to bring fortune out of every misfortune. Like the Biblical Joseph the Dreamer, the dark husky-voiced cosmopolitan super dandy is typically a man who sees tomorrow and believes in his lofty dreams and aspirations.

After serving as a youth corp member when Nigeria returned back to democratic rule in 1999, Obi envisaged he and many others were going to be absorbed as full-time staff of the National Assembly being the first set of corp members to serve there. Alas, his heart was broken as they were released after their compulsory service to their motherland. His dreams of being a civil servant like his parents did not see the light of the day. He would have fit the job at the National Assembly perfectly having graduated with a second class upper division in Political science from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Super Dandy Obi Iyiebu

He was at a crossroads but going back to his parent’s house in Anambra was never the option. He opted to stay back in Abuja to make ends meet. He started off as a house agent in Abuja and also ran a boutique. With hard work, consistency and resilience he was soon popular as a top choice for those who need to secure a stress-free apartment in Abuja. He secured houses for people and got a commission in return. His breakthrough came when a client he got an apartment for told him to furnish the house to high taste. After caring out that project, the proceeds he made from the contract he used to rent an open space where he and his friends sold beer, palm wine, bush meat and other delicacies. His idea was quite unique as he infused continental and local bar standards together. He enjoyed massive patronage as his joint was a mecca of sort for fun-seekers. He racked in enough funds not until then Minister for FCT Malam Nasir El-Rufai demolished their joint claiming it was not part of the Abuja master plan. It was painful but he needed to move ahead for challenges ahead. As a skilled sailor despite the turbulence and typhoon direct to sink him, he was able to navigate through the heavy tides. He alongside his friend opened another bar called Ibiza. The business boomed as they got triple the amount of patronage they used to get. They redefined the open business with uncommon ideas infusing their knowledge as graduates. He was never ashamed to serve beer to customers where there are plenty of orders. He enjoyed what he was doing with sheer passion.

 

In one of his numerous trips to South Africa, He went to chill with his friends at a spot called Cubana in South Africa. On getting there, he was fascinated by the sartorial elegance and sheer luck that comes with the name Cubana. He decided to adopt the name immediately. He phoned a friend and asked for a name search at the Corporate Affairs Commission. He was told no one has ever registered the name. He immediately registered the name and that was how Cubana came to life.

Man of the Moment Obi Iyiegbu

To flourish in the Nigerian business terrain, you must have the heart of Hercules, the fearlessness of Achilles, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of Macaulay, and the hide of a rhinoceros. The Society Big boy definitely possesses all the above qualities as he made up his mind to go all out and chase his dreams taking all necessary risk. All his life, he has never delved into any business without seeking partnership. He believes partnership helps business grow quickly so he adopted the partnership model. He called friends and associates who saw his dreams for Cubana. While some faulted his dreams those who believed in him invested their funds. After sowing with tears, God rewarded his hard work with the success story of Cubana Groups as a business conglomerate with an interest in Oil and Gas, Real Estate, Hospitality, Liquor Production, Events and Branding. He is reaping bountifully with a smile on his face.

 

Many of those who questioned the source of his wealth never knew the pain and failure he faced to get to the current position he is today. He loathes media attention no doubt, but his type of business keeps throwing him into the public domain. He is a silent achiever and rather than talk, he prefers his good works and achievement speak volumes of him. As of today, his Cubana Night Club chain is currently the most talked-about fun place for fun-seekers. With its edifice pattern and architectural wonderment; the club resonates the popular city of Las Vegas in the United States of America known for its bright light and other spectacles.

 

When it comes to the Hospitality business, the father of four knows it like the back of his hand. For those students looking to write a thesis in any hospitality-related courses; citing the Night Life generalissimo’s approach to business; gives you an edge. Apart from being the cynosure of all eyes, the witty and highly cerebral businessman is not carried away by appraisals from praise singers. He is a focused man who believes in God’s time for everything. He is not pressured to do anything. He does things within his capacity at any time he wishes to do it.

 

Many wonder how despite his tight business schedules and travel itinerary, he still carves out time for his wife and kids; he is of the opinion that; family time should be held in high esteem. He believes when his home is at peace business will flourish. That’s why he makes every free time with his wife and kids worthwhile. Those close to Okpapaozuora 1 of Oba will agree that he is a generous giver who gives without blinking an eye. He gives like money is running out of fashion. There are several people for who he has built houses, settled for business, given scholarships and lots more but he has never made noise about it. He believes in humanity that he loathes the sight of another human in distress. He is readily available to do everything humanly possible to help. More reason he partnered with his wife Barr. Ebele Iyiegbu on her Kiek Foundation to reach out to the needy; most especially vulnerable children.

Obi Cubana

Those who just heard about him, during his mother’s burial think he just shot into limelight with no deep root or history. Taking a glimpse at his story shows that; he has been around for a while silently doing his thing before his mother’s burial gave him the highest media attention he has ever received all his life. When he was nominated as The Sun Newspaper Hospitality Icon of the year 2020, some raised eyebrows by making disparaging comments. His detractors are quick to forget that with his track record in the hospitality sector with clubs, lounges and hotels littered across the country; he is more than deserving the award. As of today, he is one of the biggest employers of labour in the hospitality sector with over one thousand direct staff and two thousand indirect staff working for him. His business is currently doing well competing with Night clubs across the world. To further extend his business tentacles; he is set to commission his Cubana Hustle & Bustle in the heart of London in 2022.

 

Obi Iyiegbu Receiving Sun Hospitality of the year 2020

A day to the award presentation; The shrewd businessman was hosted and celebrated and awarded by popular Liquor brand Remy Martins alongside his friends. On the day of the Sun award presentation, Obi was glittering like a diamond in the company of his wife, friends, business associate and family members. His table was the center of attraction as many thronged there to pay homage to the gentleman extraordinary. With a warm and welcoming smile on his face, he greeted everyone with an open heart. When it was time for his award; half of the crowd in the hall stood up and escorted him to the stage. This singular gesture opines that; he is indeed a man of the year. It also connotes that; he is loved by many and his giant stride as a cosmopolitan businessman is being appreciated and recognized.

 

For him, the award is a clarion call to do more and also make sure he continues to impact his immediate society positively. With the launch of his wine brand Sageitude and his under construction CASA by Cubana Homes in Lagos and Abuja, it’s a clear indication that Obi is going into the year 2022 with much firepower. For naysayers, Obi remains a moving train that can’t be stopped. He remains God’s project still under construction.

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Opinion

How FirstBank Employees are Making a Difference in their Immediate Environments Through the SPARK Initiative

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firstbank

 

 

Every other day, social media brings us a picture or video of a dilapidated school somewhere in Nigeria or shares images of a distraught widow, a struggling roadside trader or street hawker, or some other hapless victims of the extremely harsh realities of living in Nigeria. Immediately, as if on cue or automated, viewers launch into stinging attacks of government, public officials, the privileged class and even Nigeria itself. The attacking mob wastes no time in calling for the government’s head or the heads of public officials with responsibilities in the jurisdiction or sector where the unfortunate sights surfaced from.

 

 

The online mob seems unconcerned that while its eyes and ears, aided and locked in by the binoculars and headsets of social media, are completely focused on distressing situations it may not be able to help other than rant about, countless situations that it can help are calling for attention in its immediate neighbourhood every single day. Focusing on things so far away while ignoring or pretending not to see the things in one’s immediate vicinity is a human tendency which is well recognised. Journalists even have a term for a similar or related behaviour among their own. “Afghanistanism” is the tendency of the media to focus on news and happenings in remote places and other parts of the world to the exclusion or neglect of covering happenings and problems in the local environment of the media. It is like the psychological or emotional equivalent of the eye defect medical practitioners refer to as hyperopia or farsightedness. Sufferers can see objects that are far away but have difficulty focusing on objects that are up close.

 

 

By focusing on faraway objects people do not have to offer to give a helping hand but can offer their finger to point at others and their tongue to criticise and pontificate. Everyone can criticise and pontificate online or become an “e-warrior”, like Nigerians like to call it, fighting government and whoever and whatever in society they are unhappy with from the comfort and safety of their bedroom and behind their keyboard. It is the easiest of things to do but not the noblest or kindest. It is the well-trodden path but should never be confused with taking the high road in reaching out with compassion to people around whose lives and circumstances could do with some kindness.

 

 

Taking the high road rather than practising Afghanistanism or psychological hyperopia is the approach adopted by First Bank of Nigeria Limited, the premier bank in West Africa with its impact woven into the fabric of society. This approach has played an important role in sustaining FirstBank’s development-oriented services for over 127 years as the region’s foremost financial inclusion services provider. It has been a driving motivation for how the bank operates. FirstBank always considers the impact of all its operations and actions on customers and other stakeholders, including the environment, to ensure it is making a net positive difference in the end. And this orientation has attracted to the bank people who share a similar outlook – whether as employees, partners or other stakeholders. They look forward every year to an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the bank and make a net positive difference in their own immediate environments. These men and women do not pretend that they can solve or intervene in all the challenging situations confronting people in their immediate environments but they do not refrain whenever they can lend a helping hand and make a difference.

 

 

Through an Employee Giving and Volunteering programme employees of FirstBank find a ready platform to fully identify with the compassionate disposition of the bank, which further has a number of initiatives that enable employees to give expression to this identification. The Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness (SPARK) Initiative is but one such initiative. Aimed at expanding and deepening FirstBank’s involvement within the communities of its various stakeholders, SPARK seeks to do so by integrating and institutionalising random acts of kindness in society. Among employees SPARK has inspired and encouraged kindness and empathy as well as consideration for others. It has also contributed to employee bonding and teamwork, which have been critical to enhancing work performance.

 

 

This year’s implementation of the SPARK Initiative has seen employees under the banner of their various departments make choices regarding the specific nature of intervention they would want to undertake and the specific group of people or institutions within their immediate communities that they would want to extend the milk of human kindness to. Employees and their departments could choose any one of the four areas that constitute FirstBank’s corporate responsibility and sustainability (CR&S) pillars: Education, entrepreneurship, health and welfare, and environment. Under education, they have had a choice to make between support for infrastructural facilities in schools, such as renovation of dilapidated buildings, painting of school buildings, and provision of laptops and desktops; or donation of items such as classroom chairs and tables, books and stationaries; or provision of scholarships for best students, feeding of school students per day or week, funding of a school initiative such as JETS club, bootcamp, space club, etc. If employees and their departments were interested in supporting entrepreneurship, then they had the chance to empower through entrepreneurship programmes of their choosing such as sponsoring youth and women to acquire skills like fashion designing, baking, hairstyling, make-up artistry, electrical repairs, event decoration and planning, catering, etc., or enabling entrepreneurs with tools and equipment to work or supporting SMEs and start-ups.

 

 

Where the health and welfare area was their preferred area of intervention, employees and their departments could choose from: donations to orphanages (selected from an approved list of orphanages); support to a good cause, for example lending a helping hand to the Down Syndrome Foundation; support to widows; support to people with health-related issues; and off-setting medical bills. And if employees and their departments were to decide to go for the environment, then they could choose from: support to environmental issues, such as support to Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) initiatives; donation of garbage cans to a community; partnership with a recycling firm to recycle waste; support to LAWMA such as donating cleaning tools (brooms, dustbin parkers), etc.

 

 

While several departments in FirstBank did things worth showcasing so the good citizens of Nigeria (individual and corporate) can emulate, this piece has just enough space to accommodate the activities of only three departments: Human Capital Management and Development (HCMD), Compliance, and Marketing and Corporate Communications (M&CC) departments. The employees in these departments seemed involved in efforts to outdo each other in acts of kindness, which made more sense and would leave a real difference on the ground as against criticising and pontificating online on faraway issues.

 

 

The Human Capital Management and Development department decided that reaching out to one of the most vulnerable groups in Nigeria – underprivileged widows and their underfed children – was the best way they could stay true to the “Human” in their name. And employees in the department moved beyond their Marina location to the nearest environment where some of the most vulnerable widows are to be found to go show kindness. The Makoko community situated in Lagos Mainland and which CNN once described in a report as “Nigeria’s floating slum” was overwhelmed to receive the august visitors from HCMD bearing so much food stuff to benefit their widows and children. What they did not realise was the overwhelming sense of gratitude felt by their benefactors for the opportunity to be able to give back.

 

 

Tagged “Feed a Widow Initiative”, the undertaking was HCMD employees’ way of putting a smile back on the faces of widows in impoverished communities and they got more than they could ever have imagined. Their hosts received them with the broadest of smiles and said goodbye to them with the grandest of gratitude; and they left with very broad smiles on their own faces. The jury is still out on who between the hosts and their guests ended up with the broadest of smiles on the day. And given the “fierce contest” to outdo the other in smiling, one is again forced to wonder why people labelled e-warriors would choose to forfeit this kind of real joy for the joyless world they have locked themselves in by clinging on to Afghanistanism and psychological hyperopia.

 

 

Not so for employees in the Compliance department. Not to be outdone and, in fact, as though going up the hierarchy of human needs, Compliance employees decided that they would focus on the education need of their beneficiary community. HCMD had done an excellent job of providing the basic “stomach infrastructure” without which it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get any of the beneficiaries interested in any talk about more sublime matters like education and mental development. So, employees of Compliance department, in order to encourage pupils to continue their pursuit of education, procured Mathematics and English Language textbooks for 617 pupils who would be in senior secondary (SS) 1 and 2 classes of Gbara Community Secondary School in Jakande, Ajah in the next academic session. The visit to the school and book donation were undertaken when the pupils were in the third term preceding the new academic session.

 

 

The gesture was Compliance employees’ own way of giving back in such a manner as to relieve the pupils of this public school, particularly those from indigent homes, and their parents or guardians of the financial burden involved in providing textbooks for the two core subjects. It was also, in an uncanny way, an attempt by the employees to ensure the pupils were in full compliance with the requirements for taking on the two most important subjects in the secondary school curriculum, putting the pupils at a vantage position to excel in these two essential subjects. There were other benefits of the engagement that the employees noted. They observed that their presence in the school inspired the children, giving them “hope that a better life was within reach and could be achieved.” The employees thus expressed optimism that the engagement boosted the children’s interest in succeeding in life through the pursuit of education.

 

 

For employees of the Marketing and Corporate Communications department (M&CC), entrepreneurship was the area they decided to focus on, to make a difference in their own immediate environment. Every day they came to their office on Broad Street or the bank’s head office in Marina, they passed by a number of roadside traders around the various office buildings in the locations. They observed that some of these traders were exposed to the elements or having difficulties in their business and struggling to make ends meet, and decided that they would do something about it. And true to their word, they did something about it that made so much difference in the businesses and circumstances of the traders. They provided the traders the following: branded umbrella to offer shade from both sun and rain, improving the conditions under which they operated and their quality of life; branded chairs and tables to accommodate more customers in their corner as well as grants to boost their business capital.

 

 

Anyone who has met with employees in the corporate communications department of any major bank in Nigeria would readily admit that these professionals have among them some of the most skilful digital marketers around. So, it is not for lack of skills to be e-warriors that M&CC employees chose to extend the milk of human kindness flowing in them to roadside traders around their office rather than practise Afghanistanism. They could have chosen to concentrate all their time and resources on attacking the government online and blaming public officials for all the challenges in the economy and the spate of insecurity all over the nation and whatever else would make M&CC employees true champions of Afghanistanism and psychological hyperopia. But would that make any difference to the lot of the roadside traders around them and lessen their burden? So, M&CC employees chose the road less travelled but one that could deliver the desired impact, and it did.

 

 

There are so many lessons to draw and feelings to take away from the examples demonstrated by employees of these three departments in Nigeria’s foremost lender. Besides committing their time and resources to their chosen humanitarian initiatives using the platform of the SPARK Initiative that places FirstBank at the forefront of the social impact space through employee advocacy, the employees have shown that they have the milk of human kindness flowing through their veins. They have demonstrated that they would rather consider how they could extend kindness to people around them and make a difference than pretend not to see the situations affecting those around them while playing Afghanistanism and psychological hyperopia online.

 

 

For the rest of us who are not FirstBank employees, the message could not be clearer: The next time we feel like we must share on social media distressing images to provoke government-bashing or we feel constrained to make stinging comments on such images that are shared to criticise Nigeria, we should first pause and look around us. We should look to see if we can identify situations where we, not government or Nigeria, can make a difference. Then we should take our fingers off the keyboard and go out there or make that call that will make a difference in some other person’s life and circumstances. We should be like FirstBank and its employees. We should follow their example of trying to outdo themselves in showing kindness to others. We should start where we are with what we have, to make a difference right now – yes, this very minute and not some future time.

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Opinion

Social Media, Best Tool for Political Liberation – Yinka Rahman

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The advent of social media has in recent years redefined human communication and public engagements in different ways. Before its advent, in existence were the traditional media; Print, Radio and Television. These traditional media served as major tools for political mobilisation and engagement, such that without them, it was relatively difficult for citizens to access their Nation’s political affairs.

Delving into the import of political communication, one would realize that it is difficult for a Nation to grow if there is no medium of engagement between the Government and the governed due to the fact that communication between the duo has a robust role to play on carrying the citizens along about the political affairs of their country and especially, their political participation.

Consequent upon the above, it is important to note that participation of citizens in political matters will amount to productivity, transparency, accountability and checks and balances.

This was what prompted me to tweet that “to achieve a just and egalitarian society is to achieve a just and egalitarian political system.”

To achieve a just and egalitarian society cum political system, citizens must be allowed to play a participatory role in the governance of their country.
This participation can be achieved when the media is effective and given freewill to operate within the ambit of the law.
This is because, media bridge the gap of communication between the Government and the citizens.

However, as exceptional as the traditional media may seem, one of their limitations is that they can easily be compromised.
Unlike the New Media, the traditional media could be threatened by any incumbent administration so as not to criticise their policies or publish any negative story about it.

Social Media on the other hand has globally bridged the long gap between the Government and its citizens. Social media also promotes citizen journalism.

Even though every medium of communication has its own disadvantages, there are numerous advantages of Social Media in political liberation and participation.

Some of these importance are that; People can now demand for their rights by conducting protests online, they can project the candidate of their choice for others to follow, and of course, the fact that the achievements of Government, be it Local or National can easily be accessed and analysed through social media cannot be overlooked.

The Liberation of every political system lies with the relationship between the government and the citizens which can only be achieved through effective communication and mutual understanding.

Interestingly, Social Media is a right tool for effective communication and at that; it should be treated with utmost importance.

As noted earlier, Social Media has made virtually everybody a journalist. Citizens now have access to platforms to publish socio-political issues as they unfold and also express their pleasure and displeasures about a particular administration and/or its policies.

Alas, as robust as the advantages of social Media are, so are the disadvantages.
Hate speech and fake news are great limitations mitigating against the growth of social media. These two are capable of causing turmoil in a Nation as already experienced in some countries across the globe.
They have also proven to be instrumental to causing an abrupt end or suspension of social media.

Taking a trip down memory lane, virtually all wars that happened in history emanated from misinformation and hate speech. A good example was the civil war that occurred in Libya as a result of hate speech and fake news, the Rwanda Genocide of 1994 and most revently, the EndSars protest of 2020 that was staged across major Southern States of Nigeria and the FCT.

This is why social media users are enjoined to desist from spreading hate speech and the fake news. Instead, their energy should be channeled towards an effective usage of social media for correction of social vices and for the development of their Nation’s political system.

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