My one-year stint on a local Nigerian association

I was on the Board of Directors of a local Nigerian association (one of several in the city) for a year and two months and many of my fears about joining the Board came to pass: things were disorganized and every meeting started late. It got to a point where I would get a headache and be anxious before each Board meeting, so I resigned before completing my three-year term.

Some of the red flags for me during my one year plus term: at one Board meeting, a couple of the Board members came to blows, every Board meeting involved members yelling at the top of their lungs (I did too: it got to the point where you had to yell to be heard and that is not good), it wasn’t unusual for someone to storm off in anger during a meeting, a third of the Board members resigned within six months on the Board, and we had a couple of mediation meetings with our advisory board within a few months of being assembled. Many of these things also occurred during our general meetings with other members. I was on the Board of Directors for the hosting of two Nigeria independence day celebrations. Both events were pretty successful, considering the last minute nature of many elements of the events. Most important details weren’t confirmed until the week of the event and in a couple of cases things weren’t sorted out until the day of the event. Argh! It was my worst nightmare and if I find grey hairs on my head I’ll know why!

I was the door-woman at both events, selling admission tickets. Some things I observed:

  • people complained about the admission fee
  • people said they were told personally that the event was free
  • people were disappointed that we didn’t have a way for people to pay with credit and debit cards (this is a legitimate complaint, it wasn’t specified on our flyers that we’d only be accepting cash)
  • people showed up very (3 hours) late
  • people wanted discounts for buying their tickets later in the evening (since they had missed several hours of the event)
  • one guy refused to pay the fee so he stood by the table where I was selling tickets and watched the event from there
  • some people felt their roles in other Nigerian organizations (locally or in other provinces) or in the community meant they should get a free ticket
  • the president of our local organization would let in people for free, based on a (likely logical) rationale that wasn’t shared with me and drove me and others who were paying nuts.

Our first event was supposed to start at 7:00pm, but the plan was to put a start time of 6:00pm on the program, and indicate that from 6:00-7:00pm, it would be “networking and mingling time”. Nobody was there at 6pm, by 6:30pm there were a few people, and most people showed up after 7:00pm. People received the program at the door, so that’s when they learned that the event really wouldn’t be starting until 7pm. One person came up to me around 6:45pm and said that he had purposely showed up late, hoping the event would start around that time, but was disappointed that it hadn’t. He felt those who arrived on time should be given a prize as a reward for coming on time and it could be used as an incentive to latecomers, and he wanted us to ask the MC to comment on arriving late. I agree that things need to start on time, but we shouldn’t have to have the MC make an announcement to shame people into coming on time (and we all know it wouldn’t work anyway: I wonder what the cure for African Time is.

In the end, both events that I was part of didn’t match the vision we had in our heads, nor did my experience on the Board of Directors. It left such a sour taste in my mouth that I’m reluctant to attend events hosted by this particular group, and I’ve noticed it’s been the same with the others who resigned before me. My dad was disappointed that I decided to resign because he felt that I was bringing value to the association (parents are such great cheerleaders!). I know I was (not to toot my own horn but the role played to my strengths), but it was a decision between my sanity and making a difference. When I resigned late last year, the feeling of relief that washed over me was all the assurance I needed to know I made the right decision for me.

Are you a member (or on the Board) of a local Nigerian association? If so, does the association function well and meet its mandate?

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6 thoughts on “My one-year stint on a local Nigerian association

    • I’m not sure why your comment made me laugh but I think it’s because you managed to convey your disgust with the way some Nigerians run things without saying those exact words!

  1. Were you one of the youngest people on the board? I’m a member of a service organization and while I’m not on its board, I find that oftentimes, there’s a communications gap between generations with neither attempting to better understand each other!

    • I was one of the younger members but not the youngest, but you have a good point. There were communication issues but I think one of the larger problems was clashing personalities: we need(ed) to work on that before working together on other projects.

  2. it is difficult to run any organization, is always chaotic and disorganized, the key is to go through all that with love and passion for your community. It is hard and sometimes we loose faith and hope. Your community is fantastic and I was able to be part of several events. I see happiness and community spirit when I am around your fellas. it is warming to be around you all. is the spirit of Africa alive.

    • I’m glad you enjoy attending African (or Nigerian?) events, Cristina! I agree that there’s happiness and community spirit during the events. My dad would agree with you about letting your passion for the work you’re doing drive you but the negativity and stress was too much for me.

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