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‘After government, Indians hire more Nigerians’

‘After government, Indians hire more Nigerians’

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Sanjeev Tandon is the immediate past president of the Rotary Club of Lagos Island, Vice President – Projects at Kewalram Chanrai Group Nigeria, General Secretary, Indian Cultural Association as well as Founder, Tandon Foundation. In this interview with Ibrahim Apekahde Yusuf he speaks on the exploits of the club, prospects and new vistas of opportunities open to Nigerians. Excerpts:

Milestones achieved as president of Rotary club

At the risk of sounding immodest, I can tell you matter-of-factly that we have achieved some modest successes thus far. Our vision aligns with that of Rotary International, an international service organisation whose purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian services. We believe in Nigeria and we’re Nigerians as well. It’s part of our modest contributions towards the delivering services to the less privileged in the society. Right from when we came on board, we already had our year plan and we set up committees in place to pursue these goals and we encouraged a lot of our female members to be a part of it.

At the end of our service year last month, the Rotary Club of Lagos Island emerged the first Mega Rotary Club in District 9110 (first club with more than 100 members in the district comprising over 100 clubs in Lagos and Ogun states), became the largest Rotary Club in Africa as well as achieved the lofty height of being the largest Rotary Club with female members in the world. We also emerged as a Mega club.  There are only four Mega Clubs in Nigeria. One is in Lagos District, another is in Abuja, one is in Port Harcourt and ours. Many years ago, ladies were not allowed to be Rotarians. But 10years ago, it was reversed.  And gradually in each clubs the enrollment of ladies began around the world.  We achieved that target and milestone in Nigeria. We used to have the Inner Wheel but since 1987 when the bar was lifted, we have had 56 lady Rotarians, which is the largest female members of any club in the world. We have been very successful because of our female participation. Many of them are not in full-time paid employment but they possess all the leadership qualities you can think of. So, I made them to be in charge of all our committees. They present their programmes and budgets, which they implement satisfactorily that has won us all the laurels. One of such recognition came recently at the concluded district conference in Abeokuta, Ogun State, where the club was adjudged the best performing club in the district after bagging 11 awards out of 13 categories.

We have several programmes dedicated to the less privileged. I have seen that a lot of Nigerians can’t come to access healthcare. We’re trying to give back to the society. The artificial limbs we are giving people who lost limbs were brought from India, where it was invented. People can come to Surulere, Eric Moore to access such services all for free.

One legacy I wish to be remembered for is revolutionalising the culture of blood donation and volunteerism, giving back to the society that made you. We did seven blood donation camps this year as against the once a year event and we had more Nigerian donors than the expatriates unlike in previous years.

Also last May, we had a district conference. District conferences are organised for clubs.  We have 106 clubs across the country. Every club has one blood donation camp in a year. But we had seven successful blood donation camps during the period. And this blood donation camps was made possible because of the support we got from different corporate bodies such as the Kewalram Group, UAC Foods, African Industries. In the past, the blood donations were dominated by mostly expatriates. But this year, we had more Nigerians getting involved and this is due largely to the public awareness we created.

Recently the club paid for the services of medical experts from abroad that treated patients with different ailment at Shagamu with most of the expensive medical facilities anybody can boost of and at the end of that exercise those facilities were left behind for further treatment.

Expectations from successor

As I said, at Rotary Club we already have a strategic plan on what we want to do in the next five years. My successor will continue from where I stopped even if he has his own projects he wants to execute.

How long have you been in Nigeria?

I have been here in Nigeria in the last 20 years. I’m also the General Secretary of Indian Association in Nigeria, which is like a socio-cultural body for Indian nationals. All my kids are more Nigerian than you can imagine. They were not happy with the way the Super Eagles lost out at the World Cup. The kids felt really bad. It was so upsetting for them really. Not only that we sent some of our staff including Indians and Nigerians to watch the match live in Russia. Even my kids schooling abroad claim Nigerian citizenships. My wife is also the president of Indian Women Association in Nigeria, where they encourage mutual cooperation amongst Indians and Nigerians alike and they’re doing great. They have been doing a lot, giving back to the society and all.

Having lived in the country for over two decades, what’s your view about Nigeria generally?

As long as I can remember, I can tell you with all certainty that there’s been a tremendous change in Nigeria over the last 20 years. From my observation, I have seen that the middle class is gradually coming. There was a time when I saw a distinguished gap between the rich and the poor. But not anymore because of the emergence of the middle class which is quite encouraging indeed. The middle class is very important and strategic for the progress of any country. Why India is so successful is because we have a strong middle class. It’s the middle class that spend money in the country unlike the rich who may choose to go abroad and spend. The middle class group spends their money at home thereby helping to further develop the economy of the country. One way to understand this is to take a walk to any of the shopping centres, especially at the weekends.  You see a lot of people with their families trouping in and out of those places buying stuffs. All these weren’t there before.  Yes it was unfortunate that the local currency value depreciated but things are gradually taking shape again. I was in Kaduna recently for a summit and you could see a lot of enthusiasm on the part of the government to see businesses flourish. It’s the same thing across other states of the federation. We have seen Nigeria as one of the top 10 countries and by the way it is moving; it’s making progress.

Of course, I need to also add here that from the experience of India, the media has a big role to play in ensuring that things move in the right direction. In India, you’ve had instances where the media has helped to name and shame corrupt politicians so everyone is practically on his or her toes.  There’s no room for complacency of any kind. The media is considered very strong and powerful in India and as such nobody wants to mess with them. It should be the same thing here. Most times,  if you pick up the newspapers, you read stories about who’s marrying who and stuffs like that.  It’s good but the media should be able to do more than that I think.

Of course, the media in Nigeria is also very strong and powerful. The media practitioners around here are trying their best within the limits of the law.

You said in passing that you’re a Nigerian. In a manner of speaking can you show proof of your ‘Nigerianness?’

Yeah I love Nigerian food like the jollof rice, chicken pepper soup, pounded yam and amala (the yam flour).  I also enjoy boli (roasted plantain).

Having the best of both worlds, Nigeria and India, do you see any connection between the two countries in terms of shared affinities of culture, religion and all?

Sure I can also say without any iota of doubt that Nigerians and Nigerians share a verisimilitude in terms of culture especially in the way the two countries show respect to the elderly people in the society, belief in the family system and ties and lots more.

The other thing I have learnt from Nigeria is that they’re always happy regardless of whether they are poor or rich and they tend to show appreciation a lot too.   That’s one thing I have told my kids that they must emulate that aspect of culture and lifestyle of Nigerians in learning to show appreciation for small things and being thankful all the time.  That way they can never be down with depression. I have travelled far and wide in the course of my career across the world and I have discovered that Nigeria is probably the only country where people greet and tell you sorry if you sneeze.  In my country, you’ll be the one to say sorry if you sneeze.  It’s also one place where people will thank you over and over again for a small act of kindness extended to them. I find that very charming and I think it’s worth emulating by the rest of the world because if we learn to appreciate ourselves more, there will be peace and harmony in the rest of the world.

One thing I also need to stress that Nigeria has a lot of man power and if trained and channelled into agriculture the economy would grow through food export and the country would have enough food for its citizens while many youths roaming around the streets will be engaged into agriculture.

How Indian expats contribute to Nigeria’s economy?

Having worked in Nigeria for over 20 years, I can tell you that Indian-owned companies are also contributing immensely to the development of the economy. Besides the government, I can tell you with every sense of responsibility that a lot of Nigerians are gainfully employed by Indians. I can tell that much.


The post ‘After government, Indians hire more Nigerians’ appeared first on The Nation Nigeria.

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