If you have just failed your exams, lost your job, or had a setback in your venture, I want you to declare: “#NothingTurnsOnThis. It will not change the outcome concerning my destiny.” Then get back into it, and don’t give up… Believe me, you are not alone.
Most of you know that in 2001, I set up a consortium to bid for one of Nigeria’s first two mobile licenses. We had 22 investors, including ourselves. Each held a stake between 1-10%. This was a huge project and the license alone cost us US$285m. I ran the entire project and provided over 200 people to help set it up.
After we launched the network within the required six months, I had the great privilege of making Nigeria’s first GSM phone call (to the regulator) to say, “We’re live!”
It was meant to be the crowning achievement of everything I yearned to see — so many Africans working together not just to build a network, but also help build a nation. Alas it was not to be.
After less than 12 months, our consortium had a major dispute, even though we had succeeded in setting up the country’s first mobile network. Today is not the day to re-litigate that dispute. For now, just accept that I didn’t agree with some of the shareholders, and they kicked me out of the business and changed the name of the company.
Not long after kicking us out, the majority of our partners decided to sell the business to a group from the Middle East. Although I offered them $1,5bn for their shares they refused. Under our agreement they were required to sell to me. (We call it the right of first refusal).
After failing to get an urgent hearing in Nigeria, we rushed to a court in the U.K. The judge there refused to entertain our request and referred us back to Nigeria! He went so far as to say we had no right to approach a British court: “This matter is for the Nigerian courts. You must go there!”
Our opponents were jubilant.
“See you in Nigeria,” they chimed, “in 10 years!”
“A case like this could take 20 years in most African courts,” said one of my lawyers quietly. “You should consider giving it up.”
As we left the court I did not say a thing. I just got into a cab and went back to my hotel. There I locked myself in my room for several hours, and prayed.
Afterwards I said to my team: “Nothing turns on this. Let’s go back to Nigeria. We shall win there, because the God I serve will give me justice anywhere on the face of this earth.”
It took several years to get judges in Nigeria to begin reviewing our case, but eventually we won, in every court, before Nigerian judges. In the end, after 10+ years in court, an international tribunal comprising a majority of Nigerian judges ordered we be compensated for hundreds of millions of US dollars for the refusal to sell us the company in the first place. It was the highest financial settlement in African business history.
We were paid our money and we invested it in other areas of our business including Kwesé TV, which now boasts Nigeria as its biggest market.
Remember I said: #NothingTurnsOnThis?
The battle in Nigeria, like the battle in Zimbabwe before it, is not the way I would have chosen for the best training for me as a business leader, but in the end, that is what it was. And as my Nigerian friends would loudly declare to me: “We thank God!”
What is happening in your life?
Can’t find a job?
Someone treated you really badly today?
Bank turned down your loan application?
You can get up from whatever situation you find yourself in. You can overcome adversity. You can “speak your truth, even if your voice shakes”…
In the final part of this series I will tell you how the issue returned to the British courts. What happened this time will blow your socks off!
To be continued. . .
Author: Strive Masiyiwa