Friday 24 November 2006

Of service in Nigerian businesses

The old Wazobia

At times, I have the opportunity to avail myself of services of Nigerian businesses, though more because they offer a service; I can rarely find anywhere else.

I however worry about the possibility of those businesses turning a success with the lax attitudes and poor professionalism that exemplifies the owners of those outfits.

Finding myself in Antwerp this weekend, I left my executive suite and traipsed past the exquisite restaurant to a dinghy Nigerian restaurant (New Wazobia) or rather “buka” two streets away to have goat meat pepper soup and possibly some pounded yam and spinach.

For the lack other places to go for Nigerian fare, I have frequented this place with a prayer and great risk to my health; I have doggedly returned despite at least two attributable cases for food poisoning.

Many a time, I have had to ask for a glass rather than drink through a straw and the food is served so unnaturally hot because the stuff gets tossed in a microwave oven and one is at risk of scalding from the food rather than the plates, as one would have with Western type dishes.

Waiting for no waiter

Anyway, I was there this evening took a seat was acknowledged by the regular crowd and nigh on 15 minutes, there was no sign of a waiter and I was done with waiting.

So, I took my coat, hat, scarf and umbrella and left without event.

As I returned to my hotel, the bellboy who was all over like a rash came forward to retrieve the umbrella he offered me on my way out, and I took the opportunity to ask about the restaurant.

I got details of all that was on offer and he offered to get me a reservation whilst I returned to my room to get into something less stuffy. A table at the window, fine red wine, my steak – half-bleeding – utterly succulent, an inspired menu creation that was set on a bed of spinach and bedecked with a slab of foie gras, smiling and helpful staff, live music to boot.

Then I think to myself, why suffer for a taste of home if the service is so atrocious, I would consider it utterly unacceptable in any other place.

World Cup to rotten dump

My experience of Nigerian businesses does not end there, during the Paris World Cup, my cousin arranged that we could watch Nigeria – Bulgaria in Paris, I paid just a few pounds short of a thousand to get the two of us out to Paris on a bus with other Nigerians, a place in the stadium to watch my team and a night in Paris.

As it transpired, we arrived just in time to hear the last chords of the Bulgarian National Anthem, the Nigerian one having gone first, then we finally got our seats.

For excitement, electricity and good times, this was one I really enjoyed, I probably never saw the ball as it passed round the field but in the end, I had no voice with which to speak for hours.

We then gathered back in the bus for our next rendezvous which was on the outskirts of Paris, it took two hours to find which happened to be a Formule 1 Hotel – I could not believe it – it had bunk beds, the shower was literally above the toilet, if you could squeeze into that bath-toi-room-let.

What could have been, amongst our company was a man who had traveled all the way from Nigeria along with quite a few well-to-do career people – the desire to make maximum profit spoilt an otherwise beautiful day.

We did not quibble, we just took a taxi back into the town centre and got ourselves rooms in suitable hotels – if I can get better arrangements elsewhere, Nigerian-owned businesses have a lot of work to do to gain my custom – they just cannot compete if they exude such greed or lack of attention to customer relationships.

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