Alade beamed with smiles as the dark liquid on the tall glass cup before him fizzled with an unusual intensity.
‘That’s a good omen coming your way,’ Emeka observed with a tinge of superstition.
‘You never told me that you have joined the league of the ‘Babalawos’ in Lagos.’ His companion gulped down almost half the content of the liquid.
The duo laughed heartily like jolly good friends. Although their acquaintance was borne out of their chance meeting on few occasions at the bar, yet the two men related so well as though they had known each other for long.
‘Anyway,’ Alade continued, ‘I have just been promoted in my office as the group Accountant. You can now see why I made that comment.’
‘Congratulations, man!’Emeka shot his ally a look of admiration. And as he offered a toast on his behalf, his gaze roamed casually in the direction of a handful of young boys watching them.
‘I don’t feel comfortable with those guys over there,’ he nudged his friend, ‘their roving eyes are suspicious.’
‘Please ignore them,’ he shrugged his shoulders as he ordered for more drinks. ‘Anybody has the right to commit lookery; it’s a free world.’
The day wore on and more and more customers thronged into the bar which by now had already begun its Friday night show. Unlike other bars within the neighbourhood, the management of SAYO BAR has a steady twenty four-hour security plan backed up with compensation for their customers should there be any eventualities. That singular feat alone, had given them an edge over their other competitors.
As Alade and his ally stood to leave, the gang of boys who had been watching them from afar accosted them at the door.
‘una no try at all,’ a member of the gang addressed Alade in pidgin English..
Emeka tried to shield his friend away but the disrespectful boy shoved him out of the way.
‘Bobo, comot for road,’ he frowned, ‘make I talk to my main man.’
‘Alright,’ Alade resigned to their request. ‘How may I help you?’
The gang leader beckoned to his ally to stay quiet while he took the centre stage.
‘You may not know us,’ he began eloquently, ‘but we see you almost every day as you both resume and close from work. We are your neighbours and I must confess that your establishment has not been friendly to us all. Please advise your management that it is not all about profit making; the boys are hungry. Tell them to act fast or else…’
He signalled to his group and they stormed out of the place.
‘I don’t know where we are headed in this country,’ Mr Robinson Coker, the MD of REFINED OIL & GAS sighed, the moment he ended his call.
‘But who could have done this to us?’ he turned to his subordinates with a furrowed brow deep enough to hold a litre of water.
‘Our detractors are at work again,’ his Personal Assistant remarked.’
‘I am really at my wits end…’ he stopped midway to receive a phone call.
‘Hello?’ Oh my God!’ he banged his clenched fist on the table.
‘Otunba, please tell your boys to follow the alternative route…’
‘Blocked?’ he swung his arm in the air as though to gain some strength of some sort.
‘I will tackle it sir,’ he continued. ‘I would make sure I get those evil perpetrators arrested. Please, just be patient with us. I am so sorry.’
He ended the call with a note of fury. In no short time, the mobile Policemen were at work and the offenders who once obstructed the free flow of business operations were apprehended.
Amidst the calmness, all was never the same that very day at REFINED OIL & GAS. The degree of loss that day was unimaginable.
Business however rebounded few days later and the erstwhile unpleasant episode became a thing of the past.
The renowned oil and gas company was offered to bid for a very lucrative project with the NNPC. All the groundwork had been completed. The Finance department suspended all other lesser projects in anticipation of the big fish about to jump into the financial net of the organization. From every indication, it was evident that the company would be favoured in the end. This was because the Permanent Secretary of the Government Corporation, Otunba Bakare, was a bosom friend of the MD and had also promised to facilitate the success of the bid.
The selection process was tough as all ten contractors were not just renowned but up to the task. Aside from that, there were slim variations in each of their respective quotes.
However at the peak of the process, when it appears that the lot was about to fall on REFINED OIL & GAS, the MD got the shocker of his life.
The Director General of NNPC addressed him straightforwardly, ‘I’m afraid, Mr Coker, that your organization is not socially responsible.’
‘How do you mean?’ The Caucasian middle aged man shot him a puzzled look.
‘Let me take you down to memory lane,’ he explained. ‘I want you to recall the celebrated case of the young school girl who died as a result of the chemical waste your company generated in the course of your business activities. Although heart-breaking as it seemed then, the matter was however swept under the carpet. You escaped from the arm of the law then, but now, it is payback time.’
The Oil Company’s boss was anything but remorseful. The bitter pill notwithstanding, he left with an air of indifference. The news however had a different impact on Alade, the Group Accountant; the encounter he had with the gang at the bar flooded his mind like the running waters:
‘I must confess that your establishment has not been friendly to us all. Please advise your management that it is not all about profit making; the boys are hungry. Tell them to act fast or else…’
‘Sir,’ he pleaded with his boss, ‘our loss to the bid is just an eye opener. Our corporate existence goes beyond profit making. It’s high time we become more sensitive and responsible to our numerous publics fast before we go into extinction.’
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) refers to a business practice that involves participating in initiatives that benefit society.
• The A to Z of Corporate Social Responsibility by Wayne Visser, Dirk Matten, Manfred Pohl, Nick Tolhurst
• The ICCA Handbook of Corporate Social Responsibility by Judith Hennigfeld (Editor), Manfred Pohl (Editor), Nick Tolhurst (Editor)