Ex-MTN Contractor Chronicles How MTN Nigeria Is Helping Nigerians

The Nigerian telecommunications industry has continued to expand and thrive. Very few players who stepped in two decades ago have survived. The industry appears to welcome entrants with seemingly open arms but the casualty cases have also been ushered out with very open arms.

One of the industry’s top players, MTN Nigeria celebrates its 18th Anniversary this week and quite a number of conversations were stirred about the company’s impact in Nigeria. The conversations varied from MTN’s contribution to national infrastructure, its life-transforming CRS initiatives, women and youth empowerment programmes as well as some memorable storytelling via numerous classic advertisements,

Ayo Moses, a Nigerian media consultant and content creator, took to Twitter yesterday to share the moving stories of thousands (if not millions) of Nigerians whose lives changed because of the company. Moses who appears to work at a media company, DBS, chronicled his 12-year experience in various states across the country while working as a vendor with MTN Nigeria.

To Moses, the telco firm is simply “one of the best things that happened to Nigeria,” based on his own first-hand experience. A point that many agreed with.

He also spotlighted MTN’s many efforts at economic empowerment for thousands of Nigerians.

“I asked a few of them if they believed, most said No. I remember one of the winners driving out of Protea and no one was stopping him, shouting ‘na real, na real, na real” with tears of joy.’”, he explained about car winners after an event.

He highlighted the MTN Rural Telephony Project, an effort through which the company set up immobile telephone units in rural areas so that families could connect with their loved onesin the cities, the MTN VCT centers set up for HIV/AIDS counselling and support to the Mammography and Dialysis Centre and the National Sickle Cell Centre sponsored by the MTN Foundation and a partnership with Global Business Foundation to teach transferable skills to small and medium scale enterprises.

Somewhere else on Twitter, Chidi Okereke, writer and adman, was reminiscing about stories that reminded Nigerians of better and simpler days. Thousands of social media users remembered the wildly popular Xtracool night call bundle which ensured that “students no longer slept” and other memorable TV commercials that MTN has used over the years to pull us all into storytelling that made us aspire to be more.

Chidi Okereke said the ‘Oh Jerry’ ad is “one of the greatest ads ever made in Nigeria. I am not interested in any arguments!!!,” and a social media user, Collins Uma, adding, “Where is “Mama its a boy!” I loved the excitement in that ad.”  With over 40,000 views on the videos in that thread, the story is still being told.

The thread reminds you that 18 years  no be beans is more than appropriate at this time. Ayo tweeted about numerous medical facilities that have been contributed, “MTN mammography and dialysis centre – this came at the time when access to this equipment was very rare. Or is it the Sickle Cell counselling centres across Nigeria? I remember MTN’s partnership with Global Business Foundation to empower and provide skills to SMEs.”

He could not remember some of the names of the project, but the impact was ingrained in his minds and must be the case with the minds he summarised in each tweet.

Reading Ayo and Chidi’s tweets made me ponder about Nigerian companies’ input in social change and infrastructural development. There is still an incredible amount to be done. I have been fascinated with the brand’s Season of Surprises for over 2 years. It was yesterday that I realized that it has gone on for 4 years!

The act, by responsible corporate organisations, of sharing goodwill and spreading cheer to underserved citizens, goes a long way to alleviate the pain of living in Nigeria of today. One can only wish that more companies adopt MTN’s approach of putting a smile on people’s faces — whether through CSR or some comic advert, and hopefully, the good memories and seasons of surprises continue.

-Adeyemi Folorunso is a writer living in Lagos

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