| I have watched with dismay over the years the activities of corporate organizations in the country regarding the issue of corporate social responsibility (CSR). With no clear intention of what corporate social responsibility entails, we might be leading this critical discussion to a dead end; so to speak. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a necessary obligation of corporate organizations and industries to the environment in which they are situated or established. It is a way of given back to the societies which have hosted and patronized them.
In various countries of the world, legislation is put in place to ensure that these corporate responsibilities are carried out. In Nigeria, legislations is in place to ensure that these corporate responsibilities are carried out. However, it is one thing to have this legislation, it is another to enforce the legislation as a means of holding corporate organizations accountable to the citizens.
Corporate organizations in Nigeria today have designed a near-perfect method to evade these social responsibilities. While many organizations in the world are committed to ensuring that they visibly contribute their quota to development in their society using various tested approaches, many corporate organizations in Nigeria have instead bamboozled the Nigerian public into believing that they are indeed observing these social responsibilities despite reaping huge gains from such exercises at the expense of the public.
I have seen billboard adverts tailored towards eradicating certain ills in the society but ironically this approach has not yielded any visible result. Take, for instance, a billboard placed along a deserted expressway with the inscription of campaigns to eradicate HIV/AIDS. How many individuals do such gesture intend to reach? Was any research done before the conclusion as to the location of the billboard or the medium of propagation of such a campaign? I doubt if there was any.
Many corporate organizations have basically devised tactics to evade their social responsibilities while some have devised plans to hide under the "media glare" to escape observing social responsibilities that effectively match their earnings. Others engage themselves in bonanzas that give out what looks generous in the eye of the public, but accrues great dividends from the public. The gimmick is simple! Imagine a bonanza that tells you to buy and look under the crown cock and "if" you find it, you will get a raffle ticket (not an instant price). Then, your fate is placed in a raffle draw where you "may" emerge. This is an example of our bonanza; an exercise that reaps profits for producers while motivating consumers to try their luck and win when the numbers of winners have already been predetermined.
Some corporate organizations engage themselves in giving donations to the public in the full glare of the media. Note that most gifts given in the name of observing organizations’ corporate social responsibility fall short of the legislated expectation and sometimes do not result in visible contributions to the development desired in the society.
While most corporate organizations opt for civil society organizations’ support as a means of contributing to social development, some corporate organizations in Nigeria prefer to be the "jack of all trades" by executing community projects themselves. Rather, they dole out huge sums of funds to incredibly corrupt government officials to carry out those projects. How many of such projects in the country have actually yielded the much needed results in comparison to the total number that have been carried out in this manner?
Most civil society organizations (CSO) are dedicated to community development through well researched programmes and projects. These numerous projects have indeed yielded brilliant results over the years. These results, in turn, are ubiquitous in our society today. In comparison to the actions taken by their counterparts in the corporate world, they have had tremendous benefits.
If only the synergy between these two can be rendered visible, corporate social responsibility will yield a huge result. However, a huge number of these CSOs have either been led into designing programmes tailored to best reap huge gains for corporate sponsors to the detriment of the public, or have turned down brilliant proposals for development which may not have been well articulated but possess great prospects: "We are also involved in a similar course of action and thus cannot be able to contribute to this course," amongst other diplomatic statements, is a well-designed excuse for turning down most developmental proposals.
One scenario caught my attention the other day. I was travelling from Ago-Iwoye to Shagamu some years back. We had to take an alternative route to the regular expressway. This route involved us travelling through an untarmacked road which usually had huge chunk of dirt flying in the air as cars passed by. As we passed through this dusty and yet, worsening road, I saw a cement-producing industry. From its entrance, which was visible, the road into the organization was well-laid and tarmacked. It is worth stating that the presence of this industry contributes immensely to the continuously deteriorating state of the road, owing to the huge number of trailers which ply the road to deliver granite to the organization or to purchase cement. I therefore wonder if the public has benefitted from the establishment of that industry in their vicinity or is, rather, counting its losses.
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Olukayode Ajayi-Smith is an alumnus of the prestigious LEAP Africa Youth Leadership programme. A graduate of the Olabisi Onabanjo University, he read Computer Science with Economics. Kayode is a core Humanitarian. Whilst a student, he was Editor-in-Chief of an inter-campus magazine entitled Campus-Icon Magazine for three years.
He also helped in championing the first ever Students’ Union Magazine at the Olabisi Onabanjo University where he served as the Deputy Editor-in-Chief. He was the only Nigerian youth delegate to the first ever Civicus youth assembly in Glasgow, Scotland, May 2007.
Kayode has also contributed to the work of various civil societies through his volunteering work. He was a volunteer at LEAP Africa (Lekki, Lagos), African Youth for Transparency (Ikeja, Lagos), Oxfam Charity Shop (Slough, London) and was an intern at the National Assembly as a researcher with the Women’s Right to Education Programme, Abuja. He also had a stint with Transparency and Anti-Corruption Campaign in Africa. This is a Non-Governmental-Organisation based in Abuja. Kayode served as the Head of Logistics and Operation on the Faith in Nigeria project.
Kayode specialises in developing youth development programmes and assisting civil society organisations with logistics and planning of programmes. His ‘Youth Volunteer Card Scheme’ recently received endorsement from UNESCO Nigerian office in Abuja and is currently being explored by the African Citizens Development Foundation for execution. He is currently putting finishing touches to his book titled “MDG Success: Our Role as Young People”. The book is expected to be a guide to youth participation in the success of the Millennium Development Goals.
Kayode is currently a member of the Editorial team at Development Report Magazine, an online magazine. He is also assisting the Nigerian Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organization to realise its goal of kick-starting the activities of the body fully in Nigeria. ‘Kayode is looking forward to a successful career with the United Nations; a dream he has been nursing for a very long time.
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