For nearly two and half decades, he was the public face of one of the most successful and efficiently run companies in Nigeria. All through that period, he carried on his duties with the quiet demeanor and calm professionalism that was never at variance with the company’s corporate profile.
For a company that has almost complete control of one of the most sought after natural resources on earth, Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Company has acquitted itself creditably compared to organizations in related businesses.
Ever since LNG shipped its first gas in commercial quantities on October 9, 1999, the company has earned billions and billions of dollars in foreign exchange – a tempting amount for unscrupulous execs to divert into private bank accounts. There has never been any such theft or scandal, big surprise in a country where corruption in high profile corporate bodies is as common as the black suit worn by the men running them.
If there had been any such misconduct, Dr. Kudo Eresia-Eke who, until recently, was the GM External Relations, would have assembled a defence team promptly to bring the situation under control. Luckily for him all through his years in service, he didn’t have to perform any such hand-wringing assignment.
For the countless times he stepped up to the podium to speak on behalf of LNG, you would nearly always find him in his trademark bow tie, inscrutable like an Oriental diplomat, unflappable like a self-assured scholar from an Ivy League university as he got on with his business, his modulated voice just a mere notch above a whisper.
Nor was he out of shape physically, if you consider that some other professionals like bankers or politicians in the same cadre would already be spending a fortune consulting with fitness experts to stabilize their weight or follow a dietary regimen. There was none of that for Eresia-Eke who epitomized, to the hilt, the company’s aversion to chest-thumping, except on celebratory occasions such as the acquisition of a new vessel or crowning a new poet laureate or recognizing an exceptional invention by a scientist.
Eresia-Eke became GM, External Relations of NLNG in February 2013 though he joined the company as Manager, Public Affairs 11 years before. Individuals in top managerial positions tend to be too serious about the business of business; they seldom smile; they cut straight to the chase, leaving out irrelevancies. There is the occasional joke, though, and Eresia-Eke is not averse to making light of very serious situations sometimes.
In Rome for a World LNG Summit and Awards Gala Dinner which held in December 2015 , Eresia-Eke broke the ice of formality hanging heavy in the hall. He ended his welcome address by lauding the business possibilities of Nigeria LNG, saying: “Kudos to that. My name is Kudo, so Kudos to you all.”
On another occasion at Sheraton Hotels, Ikeja, during one of the handover of entries for the drama category of the Nigeria Prize for Literature, one of the speakers prefixed the GM’s name with professor instead of doctor. Of course, the error could be forgiven because on that day in question, professors surrounded Eresia-Eke on the dais. But the man himself politely declined, insisting that he is no more than a mere doctor. It got the audience laughing.
On a chartered flight to Abuja for the public presentation to Abubakar Adam Ibrahim in 2016, a reporter was rather taken aback when the military-trim GM stepped aside for the journalist to precede him to the ramp. “No, sir, you have to go first,” the reporter said, after which the GM reluctantly agreed. Such was his humility, a trait that even his former colleagues attest to.
“I worked with him for more than 10 years and I have never heard him say a hurtful word to any of the staff in the department,” says Anne-Marie Palmer-Ikuku, Head, Media Relations at LNG.
At the public presentation of the Nigeria Prize for Literature to Ibrahim two Novembers ago in Abuja, it was Eresia-Eke himself who restated, once again, not only the company’s desire for excellence in Nigeria’s creative space but what the prize has accomplished in its history.
“The prize has helped to improve the standard of production and general publishing of literary works in Nigeria,” he declared. “Nigeria LNG is also pleased to observe that other public-spirited corporate organizations have since followed our footsteps and lead in supporting the development of literature in Nigeria.”
It is customary for successors to certain positions in the corporate world and political office to consult, once in a while, with their predecessors to resolve a particularly thorny issue or seek advice on a problem that just wouldn’t go away. With his record at the NLNG, it is possible that Eresia-Eke’s successor may, from time to time, ask for this or that assistance. It may also never be.
Should it ever happen that the incoming GM, External Relations of NLNG, may one day call the erstwhile GM, saying, “Hello Doctor Eresia-Eke, I have a problem…” The response from the receiving end can only be imagined. With his genial smile ever in place, listening patiently, Eresia-Eke would have responded in that calm voice: “how may I help you?”