Monday, 27 June 2016

Day MKO and Muritala Mohammed exchanged blows


By on 11:06
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MKO Abiola; The Man who Harassed Lt. Col Mohammed Muritala to get ITT's money paid after 3 years gbese
Moshood returned to Lagos ten days after he had signed his employment contract. Only four days remained before he would resume work on the first of April 1969. One thing he found strange when he saw his office address on his employment letter was why ITT did not have an office in one of the better districts in Lagos. Nevertheless he still expected that the office building itself would make up for the humble area in which it was located. He told himself that it would not only be a multi- story building, but it will also be equipped with fanciful gadgets and all the proper fittings worthy of the premises of the world’s biggest telecommunications company.
But on the day he resumed work; he realized that he had been wrong to expect so much. Management had informed him of its determination to cut down its expenses in Nigeria but it had never crossed Moshood’s mind that such cost-cutting measures could mean that the company would allow its Lagos office to wear such a shabby look. Did management not know that by so doing, it was denying its Nigeria office of a befitting working environment that would enable people to take the company seriously?

Late Muritala Mohammed
At first he thought he might be in the wrong place. He was confused because he was at the right address but there were no signs with the company’s name. Even the security guard was not wearing a proper uniform. Moshood asked him if he was at ITT and after the security guard confirmed that he was, he introduced himself and was ushered inside. Once he was in, Moshood made some more troubling discoveries. The walls needed painting, the floors were cracking, and the office itself was too small. He wondered how the company was going to pay his salary. The carpet and furniture were very ordinary and there were only seventeen employees in the whole company.

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Once he had settled down, he met his boss. The general manager, a Caucasian man, whom Moshood did not like from the moment he laid eyes on him, wasted no time in displaying his authority. “You will report to me. Then I will report to them. Do you understand me?”
Moshood nodded in approval. He knew that “them”, even though in plural form, referred to their overall bosses in London. He was not pleased to hear such instructions because he had received contrary directives from one of the men who had interviewed him. The man had made it clear to him that a controller in ITT has the power to report to management directly in order to avoid a deliberate, or accidental, misrepresentation of facts by any third party.
From then on, Moshood knew he would not get along with his boss. After a brief meeting with him, Moshood met with two of the accountants under his supervision. That was when he found out that, contrary to his earlier belief, ITT had already established a relationship with the Nigerian army and that the army had refused to pay the company for a contract it had long executed. This debt, which had lingered for three and a half years, was a big part of the reason behind ITT’s woes in Nigeria.

 “You were told from the beginning that things were not going well in Nigeria, so what is this bickering about? By now I’m sure you are aware of the fact that the army owes us three- point-five million pounds for equipment we supplied years ago.Go and get that money and we will get you a better office and all the other things lacking at your end”

MKO Abiola & his Father
Moshood made a request to see the original contract agreement. After reading it thoroughly, he was happy to see that there was no clause, or inconspicuous term, that permitted the Nigerian government to delay payment for that long. He decided to visit the ministry of defense the following day to demand payment. He suddenly realized that it was almost time for him to close for the day but he had one more important thing to do.
He placed a call to his overall boss in the London office. After greetings, Moshood dove into the matter that was bothering him. “With all due respect, sir, what we have here in Nigeria is not an office. It is more like a rundown warehouse. Besides that, we are understaffed” There was a long silence. Then suddenly the man shouted, “You were told from the beginning that things were not going well in Nigeria, so what is this bickering about? By now I’m sure you are aware of the fact that the army owes us three- point-five million pounds for equipment we supplied years ago.
Go and get that money and we will get you a better office and all the other things lacking at your end”
Moshood panicked. He could tell the man was furious. “I am very sorry for my outburst, sir. As a matter of fact I already have plans to go to the ministry of….”
The man had hung up. Moshood went home that day wondering whether he had been fired on his first day at work.

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The following day, he was at the office of Mr. Yusuf Gobir, the permanent secretary of the ministry of defense. It was there that he learned that the voucher for ITT’s payment had been prepared over three years ago and that a certain Lt. Col. Murtala Muhammed, the army signals inspector, had refused to sign it. Moshood proceeded to the colonel’s office where he waited the whole day without seeing him.
By 3:30 p.m., an official told him that the army signals inspector had left for the day. Moshood angrily stormed out. He went back to his office that day and got permission from his boss to keep returning to the ministry of defense till the matter was resolved. His boss had a smirk on his face when he granted the request, which gave Moshood the impression that the man felt he was just trying to avoid coming to work. Moshood was angry about that and vowed to double his efforts.
He went to the ministry of defense repeatedly in vain. His anger increased with each visit because he was becoming more aware of the fact that the colonel was deliberately avoiding him.

At long last they finally met one day. Moshood forced a smile and greeted the colonel warmly. But the colonel, who knew the purpose of his visit, snubbed him and walked right past him. The time was 7:29 a.m. Moshood lost his temper. He moved faster than the colonel and overtook him. He stood in front of the colonel’s office and blocked him from entering. It was a senseless display of courage by a civilian in front of a military officer. The colonel screamed at him. “Who the hell do you think you are? Have you lost your mind?”
Moshood was scared. But he shouted back so that the colonel would not know. “I think that you should direct those questions to yourself”

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Their voices were loud and they drew the attention of Brigadier Usman Katsina, the chief of staff of the army and a very powerful man who was known for his toughness and discipline. He came to the colonel’s office and ordered both men to follow him to his office immediately. Once they had gotten there Brigadier Katsina scolded Moshood for what he had done. Referring to Col. Murtala Muhammed, he asked Moshood, “Do you know who this man is?”
Moshood was intimidated. But he replied boldly. “With all due respect sir, does he know who I am?” Another brawl broke out. It was in the middle of this that a senior staff member at the ministry, who was aware of the debt that ITT was owed, called Brigadier Katsina aside and told him everything. The brigadier was shocked that the ministry could owe so much for that long. He raised the issue with Col. Murtala Muhammed and even slightly rebuked him. But the colonel defended himself. “I did that because the company is making a profit of twenty percent. That is not fair, sir”
 Moshood fired back. “With all due respect, you are not in a position to know how much profit we make. You don’t even know the cost of transporting this equipment to Nigeria; talk less of the cost of the equipment itself”
The colonel shouted. “Is it only ITT that supplies such equipment? I asked other companies about prices”.
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Moshood, breathing heavily, calmed down before responding. “The truth of the matter is that our competitors would always mention unrealistic prices to run us down”.  Sounding more resolute, he continued. “Aside from that what about the cost of the interest?; we borrow money from banks to execute contracts, and when we are not paid for years, we end up with nothing, which is what has happened to us in this transaction. The brigadier immediately sympathized with ITT. He prevailed on the colonel to sign the vouchers. The colonel finally agreed to sign them. That same day the check was released. Moshood returned to the office with it in his hand. He was very excited and decided to use his achievement as a bargaining tool. He wanted to negotiate a better deal for himself with ITT. He knew that he had only worked there for a short
Period of time and might run the risk of appearing overly ambitious. But since he had been able to solve a problem that had lasted for years within weeks, there was no going back. He had earned the right to be overly ambitious. 

(Excerpts from the book, The President Who Never Ruled by Jamiu Abiola; get copies in any book shop across the world or write Jamiu Abiola through jamiulinguist@yahoo.com. Read How MKO became MD of ITT after the Battle of London in our next post on this blog)

Gbenga Dan Asabe

Africa's Number One Celebrity Encounter Blog

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