Saturday 1 December 2012

Former PR Manager Turns Drinks Vendor

About two decades ago, Nathaniel Iyanda, 63, was well known to many petroleum marketers and other key players in the oil and gas sector, who always sought his services as a public relations and advertising expert.
Iyanda was a pioneer member of the Board of Advertisers Association of Nigeria. Until May 1997, he was the Public Relations/Advertising Manager of the defunct Texaco Nigeria Plc (now MRS Plc).

At the peak of his career, he lived in a one-wing duplex in FESTAC Town. And before his exit from Texaco, he was the chairman of a major oil marketers’ public relations committee.
Indeed, it was Iyanda who directed the first and only country-wide public education campaign on the usage of engine oil, which was jointly sponsored by Agip, AP, ELF, Mobil, National, Texaco, Total and Unipetrol.
Now, Iyanda lives in Ibafo, a community on the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway. Gone is the luxury and the comfort that he was once accustomed to. Instead of enjoying retirement with his family, the former PR guru lives from hand-to-mouth and manages to earn a living by distributing beverages to restaurants around the community.
Looking quite frail, Iyanda cuts the picture of anything but the top-notch corporate executive that he used to be. His home is simple and modest. The only giveaway is his diction and in-depth knowledge of the petroleum marketing industry.
“I started working at a young age. After leaving secondary school, I sat for the London CAM Diploma examination in public relations, advertising and marketing. At 23 years, I was working with the Marketing Research Department of the United African Company. That was between1969 and 1975.  After that, I moved to the defunct Texaco, where I spent over 20 years.
“I left Texaco in 1997. The company was downsizing at the time. Actually, what happened was this: the company wanted to let go some senior executives, but it found itself in a dilemma. So, the management came up with this idea of retiring everyone who had worked in the company for over 15 years. That was how I left the company. Many good hands left at the time,” Iyanda recalled.
Although he was paid off, things began to go down the hill from that point.
“I invested about N1.5m in stocks and another N1m in fixed deposits. Although a public relations consulting wasn’t really an accepted practice at the time, I was fortunate to be a guest speaker on the subject at several events. I was even retained by Texaco as an external PR consultant.
“The string of misfortunes began when my contract with Texaco was discontinued. Even as an external consultant, the Managing Director still felt threatened by me and so, I left. After that, I went into multiple streams of businesses; at a time trading in calcium, a raw material used for paints. Then I moved into the sale of beans and maize.
“The calcium trade is uncertain because your profit is dependent on those who pulverize the calcium. If you own a pulverizing machine, then it is much more profitable. My partner, who owned such a machine packed up; as if that was not enough, I was defrauded of N300,000.
“It was tough trying to break into the beans trade. I have discovered that there is a cabal in charge of everything in this country and once you are not a member, you are eventually frustrated out. By 2002, I had hit rock bottom.”
Meanwhile, all through the years, Iyanda had yet to have a child.  Despite the difficulty, he never for once considered breaking up his home on that account. His wife, herself an only child, did not find the situation easy. But the couple held on to their faith and continued to trust in God.
Miraculously, when life had become most difficult for Iyanda, his wife eventually became pregnant.
“We had been married for 27 years before my wife got pregnant. It was not easy waiting all the while, but my parents and my in-laws were staunch Christians. So, they stood by us. In 2003, my wife was delivered of a baby boy. By then, I was broke and had no money. My stocks had been made useless by the crash in the stock market and the fixed deposit account I had was gone because the bank in which the money was saved, failed.  My wife and son were in Ibadan at the time. So, after discussing with her, we decided to sell our home in FESTAC town and move to another place,” Iyanda said.
Armed with the proceeds from the sale, Iyanda moved to Ibafo, purchased a parcel of land and began to build a small house. Despite his financial constraints, the building contractor allegedly duped him of a large sum of money, leaving him with nothing with which to begin life again.
“The plan was to build a small house and start another business with whatever was left, but the building contractor cleaned me out. The news went round the Ibafo community. By the time this house was completed, there was nothing left.
“As God would have it, while we were still in FESTAC Town, my wife  had converted our garage into some kind of store where we sold drinks. So, she suggested that we go into that line of business. That was how we went into partnership with a lady friend at Agege, who is a major distributor of soft drinks. We have been doing that for seven years now but all we get from it is just enough to go by every day. I finally have a child but there is no money to adequately take care of him. Things are so bad that paying school fees is really difficult. Yet, I cannot give him up because we have waited for a child for so long,” Iyanda lamented.
Until help comes his way, Iyanda will continue as a drinks vendor, living each day at a time.

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