Monday, 21 September 2015

Onalo: Unmasking Nigeria’s Mr. Credit

• How He Founded Credit Management In Nigeria

By Tope Templer Olaiya

Prof. Chris Onalo is not your usual Nigerian, who relishes in hugging the limelight, but he is definitely a man adept at multi-tasking. He is one of those very few individuals around who are known to possess more than one business call cards, as he is at present the Registrar/CEO of the Institute of Credit Administration (ICA), President/CEO of the Postgraduate School of Credit and Financial Management which is Nigeria’s frontline credit management higher educational Institution for credit professionals, Managing Director/CEO of Credit Business Services (CBS), Director of Nigerian London Business Forum (NILOBF), and General Overseer of the House of God Fellowship Church (HGF).

While Onalo will go down in history books as the man who saw tomorrow and brought credit management to Nigeria just the same way Mr. Akintola Williams introduced accountancy to the country, the heights attained today began with small steps.

“Life is a journey from the known to the unknown. The unknown; is what makes it riddled with so many uncertainties,” he said while recounting how his voyage to become the doyen of credit management started. “You never can tell what is planned ahead. It is only God that knows that.”
Obviously, like the fabled Andrew at the time, Onalo was tempted to ‘check out’ and return to the United States of America, where he got his training in credit management. “I knew I had to tighten my belt to face up to the task. I didn’t know where it came from, but I suddenly had the power of creativity, resilience, patience and adaptability and all these kept me going when it was tough. Several people were discouraging me and advising that I should change course since our economy will always be cash driven and it will never change in the next 50 years.

“Besides, credit management is not in the educational curriculum nor in the knowledge skills of Nigerian professionals then, you will never read it in any university. It was tough for me. I received rejections from CEOs, executive directors and people who were not thinking beyond their present circumstance. I battled this frustration between 1983 to the early 90s.”

All these sacrifices came at a huge personal cost to ‘Mr. Credit’; one of which was that for most part of his adult life till date, Onalo has found it extremely difficult to keep any savings. “I couldn’t have any savings because I was running a graduate school of credit administration, which name was later changed to Postgraduate School of Credit and Financial Management. I also introduced the first magazine on credit management in Nigeria because it was strange to the media at the time; yet I needed a mass media platform.

“It has taken a lot from me. The struggle is no longer to put food on the table, but rather to institutionalize the virtues of giving, taking, managing and facilitating credit management in our private, public and national life. As a result of these, I have lived most of my adult life without savings. It was a tug of war to build my house and presently, I have no house in my village. If my mother of about 125 years drops dead today, I have no personal house in my village to keep my guests (he laughs).

“Secondly, the ICA, which I singlehandedly founded took me 12 years to scale through the legal processes because some indigenous professional institutes thought the only way to remain relevant was to ensure other professional institutes are not registered.

“This was a major stumbling block, particularly coupled with the fact that you need to be cleared by the office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation before an organization whose name begin with the word “Institute” can be registered in the country,” he added

Today, the Institute of Credit Administration has become a formidable, highly regarded national body for all matters relating to credit management in Nigeria, imparting strongly on business credit stakeholders namely, credit givers, credit takers, credit facilitators and managers of credits, including public institutions which in one way or the other inspired the growth and development of credit economic system in the country.

Now close to his 60s, the only thing Onalo has known and committed his energy to is credit management. He sleeps, wakes, dreams and breathes credit management. With benefit of hindsight, he has seen how dangerous it is to live on a cash and carry system as a nation and from examples of other countries; he could spend hours elucidating on the benefits of a fully developed and robust credit system.

After more than three decades of living his dream as a career credit economist, he was early this year duly acknowledged as the Father of Credit Management in Nigeria and earned his nickname as Mr. Credit, when the London Postgraduate Credit Management College (LPCMC) in collaboration with its affiliate universities across the world appointed Onalo as professor of Credit Management.

In late July, he midwifed the third in the annual series of the United Kingdom (UK)-Nigeria Economic Forum organized by the Nigerian London Business Forum (NILOBF) in Kingsway Hall Hotel, London. With the theme: Partnership for Mutual Benefits, the Metrics that Matter, business managers, political leaders and representatives of strong business interests of the two countries met in a no-holds barred interactive session to espouse on the beneficial bilateral relationships between Nigeria and UK.

The key objective of NILOBF is to promote and attract trade and investments, support or oppose legislation or other policies and measures, capable of affecting trade, investment, and business between Nigeria and the UK, as well as representing the opinion of Nigerian business community on those issues and the economy as a whole.

Success, as defined by Booker Washington, is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life, but by the obstacles, which he has to overcome. It is the obstacles, rather than the successes that define the journey of one of Nigeria’s unsung heroes today.