From across the country, well over a hundred and fifty undergraduates came from universities based in Owerri, Ilorin, Ile-Ife and Lagos to root for their peers at the national finals of the Global Business Challenge, organised by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). The prizes on offer included cash rewards and a trip to Warsaw, Poland as Nigeria’s champions.
Nigeria’s future business leaders converged on the International Centre for Arbitration, a tastefully built multipurpose facility sitting just a few metres from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Lekki, Lagos. Out of 95 teams from seventeen institutions of higher learning, four teams of four members each made the finals. The contestants were mostly final year students of sciences (six of the sixteen finalists, or 38%), engineering (five finalists, or 31%), economics (four finalists, or 25%) and accounting (one finalist, or 6%).
Being a business competition, the partisan audience of largely business and social science undergraduates was stunned that its constituencies could only muster a minority thirty-one per cent of the finalists. Perhaps it did not come as a surprise that management acumen is not the exclusive preserve of traditional business courses, proof of which is that two of the judges, Sir Demola Aladekomo and Seni Adetu earned their first degrees in Computer Engineering and Chemical Engineering, respectively.
Nevertheless, the young gladiators gave a good account of themselves, as they displayed a good grasp of the case study and presented their analysis and recommendations with great composure to the panel of judges- with combined management experience of over a hundred years- that included the aforementioned duo of Demola Aladekomo of Chams plc and Seni Adetu, immediate past managing director of Guinness Nigeria plc, as well as Laoye Jaiyeola, Director-general of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group, Megha Joshi of Lagos Court of Arbitration and Anita Dele-Dickson of Stanbic IBTC Pension Managers Limited.
All the teams made a strong case for their positions, but the eventual champions, Team Galactic, held the audience spellbound with their confident presentation and intelligent use of the management tools. One after the other, in a manner reminiscent of a tennis grand slam serve-and-volley, they brilliantly “returned” the judges’ queries and observations with aplomb. An extremely proud panel of judges lauded the performance of the four teams and noted that the winning team had all it takes to do very well at the global finals in August. Indeed, an observer remarked that the judges must have thought momentarily that they were in the boardrooms of their famed organisations.
The few hours spent with these budding corporate titans actually served as a pointer to the great future that awaits not only the students but the country as a whole. Following another cycle of successful elections, it is hoped that Nigeria will ride this democratic surge to create an enabling environment for its demographic bulge of hard-working youth, who are willing to roll their sleeves to achieve greatness. As a matter of fact, it was heart-warming to see today’s corporate gurus acknowledge their efforts, as it was said that Seni Adetu drove hundreds of kilometres from an event in another state to take his seat at this ‘boardroom’ to listen to and inspire tomorrow’s business leaders.