By March 15, 2017 High Chief Michael Ajayi will be 60 years old and will be retiring from the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA) having put in 23 years meritoriously. He is leaving the service as a General Manager, Public Affairs. He is a rare breed in the nation’s civil service. You may dislike his gut but certainly not the out come of such guts. He brought the private sector thought process and re-engineering centricism into the public sector and it worked.
Chief Ajayi will be dearly missed by NPA, the media and the stakeholders because he has engraved in them positive things to talk about. One skill he has shown is the ability to manage his boss. He worked with Mallam Mohammed Abdulsalam, Engr. Omar Suleiman, Mallam Habib Abdullahi and Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman, all managing directors of NPA, as GM, Public Affairs. Where many of his predecessors failed he passed, especially in making his bosses reason with him to achieve the goals of his office. The Public Relations department of NPA got so badly stagnated under some PR managers in NPA but Ajayi’s interventionist role always brought respite to it.
According to Ajayi, there is a great difference between a practitioner and a certificate holder in public relations. He has shown this in his discharge of duties as public affairs manager, even when he read Political Science and Public Administration, not Mass Communications or Public Relations. He seems the best any journalist would wish to have because his relationship with them is beyond professional frontiers. He maintains personal and family relationship with them and that creates a bond no journalist would like to break. Weekends he called to share in their families’ joys and moments when there was need. He would demand to speak with their children and wives on phone.
In fact, many journalists unconsciously killed stories they had intended to publish after calling for confirmation. Such is the power of relationship not “Brown Envelope”. One mistake many PR managers make is to think that Money can stop every story from hitting the press. However, everybody needs money but not everybody wants it to stop a story. Everybody cherishes relationship which is priceless. So, Ajayi cultivated and sustained relationships with many of his media friends, most of who served as his eyes and ears at distant places.
He was equally not given to “editing” journalists’ gbalamu a factor associated with many PR managers rather he empowered press men to be productive and self-sustaining. He would defend the privileges of the media before any boss of his, irrespective of how strong or weak the boss is because he knows the consequences of a straying biro and some times deliberate mischief.
The only Ajayi’s closeness to the media before NPA was when he worked in the Directorate of Social Mobilisation (MAMSER) as Principal Political Education Officer and Head of Department of Political Education in Kwara State. His 23 years journey in NPA started upon leaving Kwara Industrial Trust Fund Limited as Branch Manager.
Ajayi’s exit from NPA will leave a big shoe begging to be filled. He repacked the in-house journal and called it Nigerian Ports Today, a bilingual magazine, that became self- funded with time. He turned around the NPA sport centre at Bode Thomas, Surulere, Lagos and it started competing with other numerous event centres in the neighbourhood, by making millions.
As the General Manager, Western Ports, he introduced the truck standardization policy at the port, which not only made money for NPA but emphasized safety and sanity and got the support of the private sector operators such as Dangote Group to fix the bad roads within the Apapa port.
Ajayi has not hidden his post- retirement life. He wants to be the chairman of a political party in Nigeria. He would like to help fix the many woes of the nation-Nigeria because the solutions are just not far-fetched.
We think NPA still needs his services for many things. Read his full interview with MMS Plus, soon.
We wish him happy and peaceful retirement and happy birthday! Congratulations!