Friday, September 4, 2009

Corporate Social Responsibility the MTN and Zain Ways

There are a few telecommunication companies operating in Nigeria. These include GLO, MTN, Zain, Multilinks/Telcom, Starcomm, Visafone, ZOOM and the latest entrant, Etisalat. All these companies are in business to make profit, no doubt; however, I find the corporate social responsibility of a couple of them commendable. They are MTN and Zain. These two communication giants support many noble causes. Two of such are: Who deserves to be a Millionaire? and Zain African Challenge: Battle of Brains. My bias and admiration for these two programmes are because they are quiz competitions which serve to enlighten, sensitize and educate the viewing public. The programmes were reminiscent of the popular quiz “Fastest and Best” sponsored by British Caledonian Airways on NTV Ibadan in the 70s and 80s.

The third edition of Zain African Challenge International Inter University Battle of Brains anchored by veteran John Sibi-Okumu has just ended. It was won by the trio of young lads from the University of Ibadan. The boys who did Nigeria proud are Olatunji Olaleye, Tolulope Oloruntoba and Nnaemeka Nwachukwu. They beat their colleagues from Kenyatta University, Kenya to the first position thereby winning $5,000 each for themselves and $50,000 institutional grants for their university. A total of 32 Universities all over Africa participated in the quiz competition. Another Nigerian university, University of Lagos also made it to the Semi-Final and was actually edged out by the University of Ibadan boys. UNILAG representatives came third and won $2,500 each. The final was aired from 7:30pm - 8:00pm on September 1, 2009, same day presentation of gifts to the winners was broadcast live on NTA Network. Even though the competition is in its third year, this is the first time Nigerian universities will be participating. Incidentally, I am an alumnus of both Universities of Lagos and Ibadan and was very happy that in spite of the rot in our decadent educational system in Nigeria, something good was still able to come forth from our Nazareth. Ironically, the Nigerian representatives in the competition were able to post this sterling performance at a time when public universities in Nigeria were marking the tenth week of being under lock and key as a result of the perennial industrial action by the academic unions.

Now to the MTN programme. I am an ardent fan of the Frank Edoho’s quiz programme ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ The ace presenter’s fluency, dramatization, humour and jibes get audience glued to the television from 8 – 9pm every Friday and Sunday. Information available on the website has it that the programme is a general knowledge television quiz programme that debuted on ITV in United Kingdom in 1998. Its UK host is Chris Tarrant. The show is said to be licenced in 100 countries making it the biggest hit TV quiz in the world!

There is no gainsaying the fact that the producer of the programme -General Entertainment Television Production (GET TV) and the sponsor, MTN make a lot of money off Nigerians who have to call or send SMS at N200 and N100 respectively to get a chance to be on the quiz or win some monetary reward on the Home Play segment. Be that as it may, the interesting thing the producer and the sponsor of the programme have done is the innovation and deep commitment to corporate social responsibility. From time to time, they bring couples, children and celebrities to play on the programme either to win money for themselves or for charity.

It was in line with this corporate social responsibility that MTN and GET TV have introduced ‘Who deserves to be a Millionaire?’ On the quiz, celebrities are brought to win money for some of Nigerian’s long forgotten or unsung heroes. Beneficiaries of this kind and financial gestures include Peter Fregenne- Nigeria’s former national goaltender who is sick and need financial lifeline. Julius ‘the genius’ Agwu, a comedian was brought to play the game with him. Next was Mr. Taiwo Akinkunmi who designed the Nigerian flag. Akinkunmi is also sick and lives in abject poverty in Ibadan. Brought to play with him was the duo of Kate Henshaw- Nuttal, Nollywood actress and Tee Mac, a Musician.

Also featured on the programme was Georginta, a Traffic Warden in Lagos whom Funmi Iyanda, presenter of New Dawn on NTA and Stella Damascus Aboderin, an actress, assisted to win some money. Others who have been on the quiz are Mr. Samuel Harzan, an honest Nigerian who returned a sum of N93 million he found to its owner only to be given a paltry N8, 800! Brought to play with him on the programme was Prince Jide Kosoko, an actor. Also brought on the programme was Davies Offor better known as Clarus in the rested soap opera, New Masquerade as well as Usman Baba Pategi popularly known as Samaja who the duo of Kunle Bamtefa and Uche Nwosu both of the popular soap opera, Fuji House of Commotion assisted to win some money for his eye operation.

The striking thing about these episodes was that those who won N250, 000 had their winnings doubled for them while Bank accounts were also opened for each of them for the general public to chip in their financial support towards these unsung and forgotten heroes of our country. For me, it is a challenge to Federal, State and Local Government to make sure -like a verse of our National Anthem read – that ‘the labor of our heroes past shall never be in vain’. It is not too much for government to take adequate care of our ailing heroes and give a befitting National and State honours to those who made Nigeria proud in their prime. These heroes and heroines need to be celebrated and honoured. To the management and staff of Zain and MTN, producers, presenters and all those connected with these two didactic programmes, I say keep up the good work!