A Review by Titi Omo-Ettu
Protocols & Preambles.
The book we are about to review looks like a novel but it is very far from being one.
We are talking about a 197 page Compendium of the thoughts of an intellectual, engineer, manager and businessman whose passion, using this Collage of Essays as observatory, focuses on issues relating to Africa, Nigeria, engineering and humanity.
The line that can be drawn across the 6 Essays and dissertations which are captured in DUE SEASON – To Whom It May Concern – is that every one of us merits being ‘the concerned’. To Whom It May Concern indeed is a message to all of us who care about development, the professions, international business, the problems of Africa and, for that matter, specifically those of Nigeria and the thoughts of a man who is passionate about these matters is what is available in a book form.
We are saying in other words that DUE SEASON is a selection of conference papers, technical presentations, dissertations and discussions. These expressions of ideas were created and presented to different audiences in 1986, 1993, 1998, 2009, 2012, and 2013.
Each essay constitutes a Chapter and the thoroughness by which the subjects are discussed tells a volume about the author. Deep, insightful, rich, far reaching and intellectually stimulating.
The first essay, International Partnerships – Not for The Coward or the Naïve– was written for and presented at the Annual Conference of the Nigerian Society of Engineers in 2012 and its purpose was clearly to arm the author’s professional colleagues who might be considering international partnerships on what it takes to be a global professional, entrepreneur and business man. And indeed he made an expose of daring requirements which are essentially homework, organisation, transparency, the role of governments, and a rich revelation of attractions and opportunities which beg to be tapped in Africa. Because this was done in a little over one year ago, it is very relevant and useful for young aspiring professionals especially those in engineering and production to read this stuff.
The dissertation published as Chapter 2 is one of those works which show that Engr Fola Soboyejo has been in the business of caring for a long time. Titled Practical Solutions to the Problems of Security and Safety in the Petroleum and Allied Industries, it was presented to the Cabinet Office in Tafawa Balewa Square Lagos in July 1986 and it is the oldest work that appears in this Collage.
Here, the technological, sociological, economic and threat aspects of security are very well discussed and matters of safety especially from fire, oil spillages and the health hazards therefrom are treated in a manner that shows that the objective was to leave nothing out.
The author said it as early as that time, 1986, that the diversification of the marketing companies and indeed of the nation’s earning resources to other areas and especially to agriculture was necessary and he specifically recommended the establishment of an Oil Industry Joint Safety Action Committee and also of an Oil Consumer Protection Association under the aegis of the Public Complaints Commission for the protection of oil product users of all classes against contaminated products.
Chapter 3 stuns me. It is a training course material in accounting and I wished I had been exposed to a material like this very early in my life, I probably would have ended up an Accountant and not an engineer. It treats Management Accounting by discussing accounting from the fundamental principles of essence through concepts, controls and management information systems. The paper titled Management Accounting – A Planning and Decision-Making Toolkit for small and medium-scale businesses is classical, detailed and educating.
That could only have been written by an engineer who is thorough and versed in accounting processes. I recommend this to all undergraduates of engineering who aspire to be entrepreneurs in future and also to accounting students who wish to apply their skill to solving practical and real business enterprise problems.
It is in Engineering and Technology for Non-Oil Export: Challenges, Strategies and Expectations, Chapter 4, that the author presents his best in depth, research, eye-opening, discussion of underdevelopment and inequalities in developing economies.
Skills and expertise are some of the national interest ‘products’ which Engr Fola Soboyejo said Nigeria could export. He argued that there was a steady growth in the non oil export from 1987 to 1988 a figure which rose from 5% to12.9% within the period. Fola gave this speech to the Nigerian Society of Engineers Annual Conference in 1989 and argued further that ‘Out of the N1,501m non-oil export revenue in 1987, the share of N105.1m i.e. 7% only claimed by engineering technology and miscellaneous goods/services is uncomfortably low.’ and quickly added that ‘This is the great Challenge before us all.’
That particular presentation also did an extensive analysis of the contending issues and recommended that a Professional Overseas Services Bureau, with sponsorship by private concerns, the Nigerian Society of Engineers and the Chambers of Commerce be established. This, he suggested, should market expertise in education, engineering, design, project management, plant development etc. That apparently did not happen but an unstoppable brain drain from Nigeria to overseas continued.
Very early in the presentation he had recognised that automobile and allied industry was one of the key non-oil export potentials. He noted in particular that ‘there are big vehicle assembly plants in Nigeria whose production capacity can cater for the entire West African market and beyond’. And he listed PAN, VWON, ANAMCO, Leyland and SCOA. That time 1989, Fola was full of hopes and aspiration if only he got a listening of those that mattered. Today, 25 years after, those plants in the cases where they still exist are merely struggling.
Long after, in 2001 Fola migrated to Canada in what I can read as a submission to the frustration of a society that fails to listen. As we can see, he acquired tremendous addition to his skills in North America as shown in the subject and content of his 2012 paper to the same Nigerian Society of Engineers Conference on International Partnerships.
Chapter 5 – It’s Now or Never – Connecting Diaspora and Home Professionals for 21st Century Development – is a breezy documentation of the author’s overview of the causes, consequences, effects and appreciation of the migration of Nigerian professionals to overseas. The author, as usual, presents a very well researched overview of the transformation of Nigeria in those areas that are worth mentioning, especially the Babatunde Raji Fashola Exceptions and uses this to prove that indeed, things can be done. This chapter is particularly inspiring. He also shared his experiences on health matters such as prostate enlargement and its management.
The 6th and final chapter deals on Integrity – What matters, what doesn’t and its presentation in professional, ecumenical, and socio-cultural terms. The author gives all the various synonyms that explain integrity, synonyms like candour, faith, goodness, honesty, honour, justice, modesty, morality, obedience, purity, sincerity, temperance, uprightness all of which sum up to doing the right thing.
So much for the content of the book. Let’s now discuss issues immediately outside of but about the book.
Why did Fola make this compilation? Who are his target readers? What impact will the book make? How good or badly has the book been produced?
Most of these questions can actually be best answered by the author himself. However, since my brief was to review the book I chose not to put the questions to Engr Fola Soboyejo but to hazard answers to the questions.
Fola is an engineer of immense repute who is familiar not only with subjects within engineering but also of the wider world of business and industry. He is also an accomplished engineer whose literary work can only be compared to the best of contemporary writers. Besides, he is known to be one who likes to share and who wants goodwill to spread. Sharing, I conclude, may just be his motive for putting these essays into a compendium that he has chosen to call DUE SEASON – To Whom It May Concern. I am also aware that he loves charity. Little wonder he intends to put the proceeds of the work into charity.
Who should read this book? I can say straightaway that anyone who aspires to grow in the professions and as industrialists must find time to read all the essays that make DUE SEASON. It is also a very rich material for students, researchers, and entrepreneurs. You and I must be concerned and that explains why we are those ‘to whom it may concern’ that the author refers to in the extension to the title since the book captures the ups and down of a developing economy which Nigeria is.
Here is a book that is very well written and also very well published.
I did not spot many of the printers’ devils that we usually come across in many publications. Aside on Page 152, item 2 line 7 where ‘garl-making’ must have meant to be ‘gari-making’ there is no errors that I spotted while reading the book. A remarkable thing indeed.
Here is a book you must buy. Here is a book you must read.