The date was April 8, 2013. Time stamp 1pm. I was sitting in the reception of one of the most respected companies in Nigeria. Waiting patiently for my appointment with who I considered to be the MD.
A week earlier, MD had seen in the newspapers the press released we issued regarding the 1st Nigeria Photography Expo & Conference. Somewhere in the newspaper article, it was mentioned that one ‘Seun Akisanmi’ was the one organizing the conference that will help escalate the journey of placing Nigerian photography & photographers on the world map. I instantly recognized the number when I saw the missed call just after wednesday church service. I had given MD a photo session 6 months earlier and knew somewhere at the back of my mind that we would meet again.
Meet again we would eventually do. I returned the call and was given an appointment to meet him in his office. He mentioned that he saw the article and wanted to see how he could help sponsor the event to success. I was ecstatic. I was excited. The person I had been trying to get his attention was finally giving me audience.
He would eventually enter the reception 30minutes later and apologized for being late. He went straight to the point. After extending his applause to me for daring such an ambitious feat, he mentioned that he was going to make a VOLUNTARY donation to help make the program a success.
N500,000. I was shocked. I was grateful. At that very moment, that would be the largest “voluntary” donation someone would bring to the NiPHEC table. The last person that dropped his contribution issued out a check of N250k and I was shocked. N500,000 from another person that believed in the NiPHEC dream would eventually increase the shock level to gear 3.
I was quick to let him know how eternally grateful I was for the proposed donation. He was quicker to let me know that he needed a favor from me in exchange for the “voluntary” donation. Little did I know that my shock level was about to get to gear 5.
In exchange for the funds, he’ll appreciate if I place his name as the EXECUTIVE PRODUCER on all NiPHEC publicity materials that will be going out. I told him that was not possible. Without hesitation, I explained that NiPHEC was not a NOLLYWOOD movie (ok, I actually didn’t use the word “NOLLYWOOD”) that’s in need of an Executive Director. I looked over to the side where my assistant was sitting and watched to see the expression on her face. She seemed speechless.
MD insisted that it was a small token I could do for him in exchange for his kind gesture. I reminded him promptly that I thought he said it was a voluntary donation and not a transaction. Looking back at the whole scene now reminded me of the scenario that must have played out when Esau was in need of a FOOD sponsor for his stomach and Jacob was offering ASARO for Esau’s future destiny. It was an Esau moment for me and I wasn’t about to repeat history the Esau way.
I calmly explained to MD that what he was asking for was worth more than N500k. At that moment I was grateful for the negotiation tactics I had learned from Herb Cohen in YOU CAN NEGOTIATE ANYTHING. I reasoned with him that I had invested too much intellectually to have someone pay that amount for what seemed to be the “rights” of the dream. I told him that an appropriate figure for such a title would be more like N10million. He seemed a little surprised that I would dare to decline his offer. He seemed to be someone that didn’t like getting NO for an answer. That day he’ll receive a tough NO he’ll have to swallow.
For over 200 seconds he gave me more reasons why he wasn’t asking me for too much and how the voluntary donation would be beneficial to a cause that had not secured any sponsors. He asked me to go home and think about it before giving a reply. I told him there was nothing to think about. N500k was too small a token to pay for the title of Executive Producer of NiPHEC. He would eventually disburse the funds without getting his request. I would eventually realize that my passion for change in the photography industry was a bigger dream than I had imagined and that no Esau moment would defraud me of my destiny.
Come to think of it, if Esau had been a better negotiator, he would have gotten the plate of porridge for free. At least I got the N500k for free.
I write this not to insult or ridicule MD in any way. In fact, that encounter with MD helped me to realize that the lack of funds is not an excuse for failure. If your dream is big enough, it will attract helpers of destinies that will help fund the projects. MD helped me to realize that the dream of a more professional & appreciated photography industry is more feasible than I thought. And he wanted to get the credit for it. The credit would eventually go to the God that gives the vision. For only HE alone can touch the hearts of those that will help with the PROVISION.
So next time you’re faced with an Esau moment – an employer asking you for sex in exchange for a job or promotion, a contractor asking for a token before he can give you the job, a situation that requires you to tell a small white lie for things to be in your favor – always realize that whatever decision you make will impact generations to come. Sometimes the easiest choice to make could be the most difficult…especially when you’re in dire need of the N500k. I’m still in debt as a result of not getting enough sponsors as I anticipated but I have no regrets that the dreams that are within me will attract the resources that will be necessary to bring them to fruition.
I know my blabbing can seem much atimes but the buttomline message is this: When you encounter your Esau moments (trust me, everyone eventually does), don’t sell your destiny for a plate of porridge.
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